About three days ago, a reader asked me to just write a short Debian install guide for a PowerPC system with a very small hard drive. A guide isn't even needed. All you need to know are a couple basic steps and you'll have a nice lightweight Debian install, with a very small drive footprint.
The light and small footprint factors are very complimentary indeed. The PowerPC systems with the smallest drives are generally the slowest ones. Their small drive actually forces you to make the right OS choice if you want any semblance of performance.
While this type of install is most beneficial to the slowest of PowerPC hardware, it can also have a good benefit on productivity with the fastest of hardware. I keep it light no matter what OS or hardware I use, and I see the benefits all round with everything I use. If you have any G3 or a slower G4, then you should at least give this method a test drive on your machine.
Here are the very simple steps to getting an ultra-light Debian install. One that is actually lighter than Puppy Linux, and just about any Linux with a GUI. For PowerPC users, this is the absolute best method to get the most out of your hardware on Linux. This is easily the best route to take for a slower machine you want to dedicate to internet use.
I am going to use Debian stable (Jessie) in this install.
Download the Netinstall ISO image
Burn the image to a CD and boot it by holding down C. At the Yaboot prompt, press enter or return to start the install.
When shown the options of what to install, deselect everything (even the GUI) but utilities at the very bottom. Laptop users will also see a preselected option called "Laptop"; you will obviously want this selected for best hardware support.
The reason I say to deselect the GUI, even though these options are extended in the Jessie installer, is that installing a GUI from the Debian installer adds a lot of extra software packages that you may not want. Installing the GUI manually afterward gives you just the GUI itself, without all the extras like LibreOffice, Gimp etc. Remember, this is supposed to be a light install.
Once it reboots you need to login as root with root/root pass you chose at install.
Once you have logged in as root, simply type the following:
apt-get install lxde
It will default to getting it from the same mirror you chose for the Debian install.
When the LXDE install is done type:
It will then boot to a GUI login screen for LXDE. Login with your user account.
Install whatever else you desire once logged into LXDE with your user account. When you install this way you get no extra apps at all; not even Iceweasel, which is Debian's fork of Firefox. It's not exactly lightweight, but is needed for the times when you need a heavily standardized experience. It just works when the lightweight browsers need config.
Fire up the "LXTerminal" and type su to give install privileges to your user account. After you enter your root password type:
apt-get install iceweasel
Then simply keep using apt-get to install whatever else you desire. Once the terminal is done an install you can simply tap the up arrow and get your last command. Then you simply just replace the package name to keep installing everything else. Jennifer didn't want office software or anything, just the OS and browser.
Other things I recommend installing for basic internet and system use:
- sylpheed (lightweight email client)
- luakit (lightweight webkit based browser)
- xxxterm (lightweight webkit based browser)
- transmission (lightweight bit torrent client)
- pidgin (multi-protocol instant messenger)
- netatalk (package for networking with Mac OS systems)
- synaptic (gui for apt) (useful when you have a need but don't know package names)
- hardinfo (system profiler-like app with benchmarks)
- kupfer (very powerful but light app/document launcher)
If you also want some music on the system, I would try either 'rhythmbox' or 'audacious'.
Thats about it. If you want LibreOffice, GIMP and all the other stuff that installs with the other Debian images then just use one of them. The purpose of this install method is to stay light. You could easily get by on 128 MB RAM with the install I just took a brisk pace through.
You also get Openbox with LXDE, so you can still take advantage of all the configuration possibilities that Dan the PPC Luddite offers on his blog, along with Urukrama's guide.
If you need any other details about the install then just ask in comments and I will add them. I wrote this quickly without much time to spare. Debian is very easy to install. Just follow the onscreen instructions and you'll be fine.
Keep in mind that this install is designed around the idea of Debian being the only OS for a dedicated, lightweight and secure system. I made this as simple and direct as possible. Use your oldest/slowest PowerPC hardware first to see the true value of light.
When I do the exact above type of install, I am left with a Debian LXDE setup that only uses about 49-54 MB RAM after login. You really can't beat that for a modern OS. It would even be hard to beat that if you went back 5-10 years.