Super Basic Linux Installation on super weak mini computer

So I bought HP T520 Flexible Thin client - it’s a mini computer with APU that is basically 2 1.2-1.4 GHz Jaguar cores + unknown Radeon GPU and mobile DDR3. Currently it’s in it’s most basic form - without OS, with 4 GB of RAM (there is 8 on the way) and 16 GB of Storage (there is 32 GB on the way, might be friday might be monday). Anyway - this is computer on which I plan to train for my 5950X (my first DIY build in 18 years - I’m excited and nervous as heck). I plan to use 16 GB SSD for Linux with some space left for storage obviously. 32 GB is for Windows 7 (?) or maybe Windows XP. After all I want to mostly play and capture that play: “Need For Speed: Road Challenge/High Stakes” and “Need For Speed: Porsche 2000”.

I assume that 16 GB of storage means that I should try some lightweight linux. I’ve read “Super Easy basic Linux starter guide”, but
a) some things changed since 2014
b) I’m gonna need probably bootable Linux distro to install it for good - I used to do this, but that was years ago (for tails, I had an .iso image saved if I needed to go dark) and I’ve heard for example that Ubuntu is now bad etc. (weird things the rumors, huh?)
c) I’ll need 2 types of programs - some for allowing for drawing (i’m using my screen that is also a very good graphics tablet - XP-PEN Artist 22R Pro) and some to even try to run this old games, maybe without a virtualization first - 2 x 1.2 GHz cores don’t give me confidence that virtualization losses might be negligible.

I’ll also try to make a review of that PC - kind of as a small joke towards Patrick from STH, who has whole series on such PC’s. But I need to know what to install to even bench it, though I managed to open it yesterday (and hence new for certain what types of SSD it’s capable of handling).

So my goals for the next couple of days is to choose which Linux I will be using (that is where your help expertise comes in), install said distro, learn basics of Linux and for now that is all. Heck - some parts won’t arrive for that PC until Monday. Also gaming, drawing and making video can wait. It’s important that I learn basics.

Thank You everyone - Funny Punch.

If beneath my comment is my PC specs - those are what components I have and plan to DIY into 1 PC in next weeks. Also using 2 SSD’s for Linux and Windows - as Wendell suggested yesterday in Moore’s Law is Dead channel comment section, where I happened to catch him when using me real name.

Current specs - Ryzen 2700, Gigabyte Aorus AX370-Gaming K5. 16 GB of 2 x 8 GB 16-17-17-36-69-1T 3000 MT/s and RX 580 8GB. iiyama ProLite B2409HDS - 1080p monitor that is LCD, but without LED’s - it was bought couple of years before LED’s became popular for background lighting on Monitors.

Thank You from the bottom of my heart for any help. Links to videos how to do such and such and stuff like this.

Funny Punch.

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Can be installed to disk or run from memory with persistence on flash. It uses musl instead of the gnu libc. It is smaller but more strict therefore some software might not work. I remember chromium working. Not sure about the type of software that is used for drawing. They do have Krita and Gimp under their package catalog so I guess it works.

Other options would be Void Linux which is very similar to Alpine but with GlibC options and OpenBSD if you can step away from Linux.

Now, those distros won’t run Steam because of the LIBC issue but nowadays you can install Steam from Flatpaks: Flathub—An app store and build service for Linux

OpenBSD will probably not run any games without some serious black magic.

Thank You. I’m mostly looking for Linux Distro that won’t have problems on weak 2 core, with 4 GB (probably 3, since I forced the GPU to use 1 GB) of RAM and on 16GB SSD. As mostly training thing (so I don’t have to run from sticks, because my next PC (case just arrived) will use the same thing, just on a much larger scale and with option of booting either Linux or Windows.

But I must get good in Linux first.

And steam is not important exactly, since those games aren’t there. I have original CD’s. And their images.

So feel free to give me “full linux”. It just has to work decently on this machine and leave me (not counting page file) 4 to 8 GB of space. Ideally half of that for the special apps (drawing or those games etc.) and half of that for those drawings for example.

I’ll try alpine. Don’t know what the difference between musl and gnu libc (apart that they sound like compiler libraries) are? I’m literally a complete noob and have been reading a lot of “introductions” to Linux. Sadly most of them are 10+ years old.

Thank You for your kind and useful reply,

Funny Punch

When it comes to starting out in Linux, I think it is more important to first figure out what Desktop Environment (DE) you find comfortable, and then work on which distribution (distro) provides that DE with the packages and support you need. I don’t recommend my favorite distro, since you probably won’t like the DE. It would run fine and you can do a minimal install with just a browser and basic utilities to save drive space, but most people dislike the DE, so I generally don’t recommend it. I’m purposely omitting names so people don’t try to turn this into another unhelpful X vs Y debate that like every other new Linux user thread on the internet.

There are many drawing applications available, so it’s just a matter of seeking them out and trying them until you find a good fit, just like with DE’s. Again, omitting names as per above. You can find threads here of people more experienced in that area and check out what they use.

If you already have a desktop or laptop and a USB drive to run a live distro from, then try that out with different DE’s. Pick a major distro provider and just get a feel for a few different desktops. Watch some YouTube videos if you have no way of running a live distro. Once you have settled on a DE you find usable, then you can pick a specific distro. That machine is 64 bit and modern enough than nearly anything you choose should work, and not take up too much drive space or RAM. Even DE’s that were once considered heavy aren’t too bloated for a machine with 4GB of RAM. Since you want to play older (PC? Playstation?) games, those games ran on little RAM, and even with emulation the RAM shouldn’t be the issue.

You probably want to check out WINE or whatever emulators you want to use and see if the games work properly. If no one has gotten a particular game running perfectly on any machine, then it surely won’t work on a thin client either. Here’s a link for one of the games mentioned, you can search around there to see how well other games in WINE are working:

Need for Speed 4 High Stakes

Yeah. I tried going with “super-system” but “light-weight” DE. Didn’t work that well (didn’t manage to even install it honestly - so many questions when it comes to making partition, should have left it on automatic). It takes a lot of time for system to respond - I know that is mostly because it runs from USB, but even slimmed down Fedora might not be the best choice for this PC. From what I read however the choice is either big DE (like KDE Plasma) with tons of bugs, or lighter things (like Xfce) that aren’t that easy to operate. For the sake of finally installing the system on this PC I will go with some lighter Distro (I don’t have much luck finding those - there is tons of stuff about lightweight DE’s, but most Distro’s I see are “comfortable” ones like Fedora or Ubuntu or Manjaro. Lighter stuff is only for specialized work. In OSINT people used Kali from my memory) and try the Xfce. I gave it a go with Fedora running of USB and I managed to do some things. Though I still have no idea why it didn’t let me access SSD - probably it wasn’t formatted, but that is purely my guess.

If I run into any problems with installation (I might actually try Ubuntu, just to see how fast it works, heck even Fedora (slimmed down version from memory) worked pretty well when it didn’t have to call to USB for help). And as much as it will be a pain, I will definitely go with Xfce. It is a little barebones and IDK if they support it anymore, but I can figure things out on 3rd or 6th try usually. So it isn’t as murderous. Anyway, I will ask for help if I run into problems and can’t figure out a solution on my own and through googling.

Thanks for everyone’s help so far,

P.S. On Thursday 8 GB of RAM arrives. As well as 2nd larger SSD. Ultimate Power awaits :wink:

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Everything XFCE (most prominently Manjaro) always made me feel I overbought memory. I have an old desktop and I had to find a more lightweight OS a year ago. With 8GB and I got like 600-700MB utilization after boot (can’t remember what packages I click on install) and it worked out really well.

But you can really tweak things down with some minimalist desktop environment and building everything from scratch with Arch. I’ve seen htop screenshots with <300MB while having a full desktop environment loaded and running.

I’d avoid using SSD as swap as you inevitably run out of memory at some point. SSD endurance strain on regular swap usage can be significant.

There are also things to compress your memory like zram, which may extend your memory at the cost of CPU cycles instead of swapping.


Weird. Of all the distros listed, even big one like Fedora and Ubuntu, Manjaro was called the most resource intensive. Though to be fair it was on Plasma KDE page.

Also machine supports 2 physical sizes of SSD’s. I can find plenty of 2242 (though 2230 and 2280 are most abundant), but almost none 2260.

Of course this is on Polish version of ebay/AliExpress, but still.

Well, I wouldn’t assume that. Typing this on Kubuntu 22.04, and KDE + Firefox is less than 4 GB, and the stuff I typically use for work (including a java app) loaded up for my work is about 5 GB. So 8 GB is enough and 16 plenty.

After 2014 KDE plasma (aka KDE 5) reduced memory usage drastically, though it is creeping up gradually.

The only software that pushes this system past 8 GB is a 4 GB Windows 10 VM (qemu/kvm ). But 16 GB is still plenty.

This is shipped to run Windows 7 embedded or ThinPro, which itself a is a disguised linux platform.

This easy to overthink. It’s not as slow as might be thought (compared to a pi, for example) - try a couple more live images at the friendlier level of install, and if you get that far see if they run well enough.

I’ve ran these before, on older thin HP thin clients. If you can’t get through an installer with the defaults I can arrange a test to run on this hardware.

I almost don't want to recommend specific distributions, but reading above, linux mint, or one of the ubuntu flavours (xubuntu, ubuntu mate, kubuntu*) live usb's might be an approach to try before the more technical ones like void or alpine.

just pick the screenshot of the desktop you like best to try first.

* to echo jlittle - don’t discount kde if you think that’s it. I guarantee I ran this on something far slower recently.