Im­proved per­for­mance

Lean, op­ti­mised dis­tri­bu­tions aren’t just meant for re­viv­ing old hard­ware – they also make sense on newer, mod­ern com­put­ers

Linux User & Developer - - Feature -

Ex­tract ev­ery gram of per­for­mance from your ev­ery­day desk­top.

ear­lier we men­tioned that main­stream dis­tri­bu­tions are all

about cov­er­age and range. They are de­signed to be use­ful to a large num­ber of peo­ple. The down­side to this ap­proach is that they’re bloated with lots of un­nec­es­sary com­po­nents that might make them lethar­gic and slow on your hard­ware. This is ex­actly where slimmed-down dis­tri­bu­tions help you make best use of the avail­able re­sources.

Get a ridicu­lously fast desk­top

One of the best op­tions for ac­cel­er­at­ing reg­u­lar desk­top Linux tasks is Linux Lite (www.lin­uxli­teos.com). The lat­est ver­sion is built us­ing pack­ages from the Ubuntu

18.04 re­lease and uses the Xfce desk­top with aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing mod­i­fi­ca­tions.

The distri­bu­tion of­fers a good com­pro­mise be­tween speed and func­tion­al­ity, and ex­poses all use­ful desk­top fea­tures while still be­ing re­spon­sive and fast. The distri­bu­tion will work blaz­ingly well on any­thing with a pro­ces­sor faster than 1.5GHz and 1GB or more of RAM.

Linux Lite looks and feels like a reg­u­lar main­stream distri­bu­tion. Its list of pre­in­stalled pro­grams doesn’t in­clude any of the tra­di­tional light­weight apps and is in­stead brim­ming with the usual sus­pects such as GIMP, Fire­fox, VLC and Li­breOf­fice. On top of the this you can also eas­ily pull in other pop­u­lar pro­grams such as Kodi, Skype, Steam, Spo­tify and more us­ing the cus­tom Lite Soft­ware ap­pli­ca­tion. In fact, the distri­bu­tion in­cludes sev­eral home­brewed Lite-branded tools for in­ter­act­ing and cus­tomis­ing var­i­ous as­pects of the desk­top and the in­stal­la­tion.

There’s a welcome screen that en­ables users to in­stall up­dates and driv­ers, and set up a backup re­store point, a pro­gram to help up­grade to the lat­est re­lease, and an­other to man­age users. One of the most use­ful ones is Lite Tweaks, which helps users with com­mon ad­min tasks. You can use it to free up mem­ory, re­move older ker­nels and in­stall new ones. It also in­cludes some per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing tweaks such as in­stalling and en­abling zRAM and Preload.

An­other such lean distri­bu­tion is MX Linux (https://mxlinux.org), which is based on De­bian Sta­ble and is a joint ef­fort be­tween the an­tiX and MEPIS com­mu­ni­ties. Its clean,

icon­less Xfce desk­top dis­plays ba­sic sys­tem in­for­ma­tion via an at­trac­tive Conky dis­play. The USP of MX Linux is its user-friend­li­ness and an ar­ray of cus­tomi­sa­tion tools. Some of its note­wor­thy MX-branded tools are a snap­shot tool for mak­ing bootable ISO images of the work­ing in­stal­la­tion, and a re­mas­ter tool to cre­ate your own cus­tomised ver­sion of the distri­bu­tion. The desk­top boots to a welcome screen that con­tains use­ful links to com­mon tweaks and the distri­bu­tion’s cus­tom set of tools. Like

Linux Lite, MX Linux comes with a host of main­stream apps, many of which have been back-ported from De­bian Test­ing.

Run en­tirely from RAM

An­other way to speed up a con­tem­po­rary com­puter is to run the op­er­at­ing sys­tem en­tirely from its RAM, which has a much higher I/O rate than a hard disk. Once the distri­bu­tion has copied it­self to mem­ory, app launches are sev­eral times faster than with a tra­di­tional hard disk in­stal­la­tion. The real trick here, how­ever, is to find such a distri­bu­tion that’s op­ti­mised to live in RAM yet which still pro­vides you with a com­plete desk­top en­vi­ron­ment.

One such distri­bu­tion is SliTaz (www.slitaz. org), which has been chug­ging along for over a decade now. The rolling re­lease distri­bu­tion has a sta­ble and a de­vel­op­men­tal ver­sion. It takes up less than 100MB RAM and yet of­fers a graph­i­cal desk­top (along with some op­tional desk­top ef­fects), in­cludes web browsers, au­dio and video play­ers, sev­eral code ed­i­tors and more, and you can in­stall oth­ers us­ing its graph­i­cal pack­age man­ager. The distri­bu­tion also has a bunch of cus­tom tools such as SliTazPanel with which you can ad­min­is­ter all as­pects of the sys­tem. SliTaz is built with home-brewed tools known as cooku­tils and uses BusyBox for many of its core func­tions. You can also an­chor SliTaz to your hard disk and Win­dows users can host it in­side a directory with­out par­ti­tion­ing their disks. The distri­bu­tion is avail­able for both 32-bit and 64-bit plat­forms. If you aren’t averse to read­ing through some doc­u­men­ta­tion and learn­ing new tools,

SliTaz is an ex­cel­lent op­tion for pow­er­ing a com­puter from RAM.

An­other es­o­teric op­tion that’s again op­ti­mised to run en­tirely from RAM is AUSTRUMI (http://cyti.lat­gola.lv/ru­uni).

This Slack­ware-based distri­bu­tion is only avail­able for 64-bit com­put­ers. Un­like SliTaz, AUSTRUMI’s boot menu gives you the op­tion to eject the Live medium af­ter it has copied it­self to RAM. There’s also an­other op­tion to keep the Live medium in place, which helps the distri­bu­tion per­form on machines with less than 1GB of RAM.

AUSTRUMI doesn’t use a full-blown desk­top en­vi­ron­ment and in­stead re­lies on a cus­tomised in­stance of the FVWM win­dow man­ager that of­fers sev­eral tweak­able op­tions. The distri­bu­tion uses an au­to­matic wall­pa­per switcher and ships with sev­eral dif­fer­ent themes. Un­like its RAM-only lean peers, AUSTRUMI’s live en­vi­ron­ment in­cludes reg­u­lar pro­duc­tiv­ity apps such as Fire­fox, GIMP and even Li­breOf­fice.

An­other way to speed up a con­tem­po­rary com­puter is to run the op­er­at­ing sys­tem from RAM, with a much higher I/O rate than a disk

above SliTaz is op­ti­mised to live in RAM and is easy to main­tain since it’s a rolling re­lease

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