7 Modern Operating Systems for old Computers
Modern Operating Systems for old Computers
Modern Free Software for old Hardware

In the world of free soft­ware there is not only one software for numerous application areas. Often several alternatives are offered, including extremely lean programs. Strict selection of such lightweight li­bra­ries, win­dow man­ag­ers (com­par­i­son), and applications results in a performance-optimized overall system, which on the one hand covers everyday tasks and on the other hand is of interest for many educational sectors. Especially for institutions that only have small financial means, but still want to get maximum performance out of old and very old hardware, with up-to-date, modern and constantly maintained software. Entire IT infrastructures can thus be built from used hardware, including servers at the in­tra­net level.

The large number of Linux dis­tri­bu­tions is due in particular to the specialization in application purposes and occupational sectors. With regard to old hardware, this means that you can use the maximum power of your older computer. There are numerous gradations with regard to the respective total computing power consumption of the different Linux operating systems. Select the most suitable distribution for you, and then put together lightweight application programs according to your requirements and taste.

Combine old Computers with new Hardware

Collections of free, alternative driver programs, such as the printer driver collection Gutenprint<7a>, enable the parallel operation of current peripheral devices (printers, scanners, etc.) together with old computers. Internet use is also possible. If the motherboard of an old computer does not have an integrated network card, it can be made Internet compatible by purchasing a separate network card. USB network cards are available for old laptops. In general, almost all types of adapters are available, in many directions. They also allow you to use modern storage media, such as memory card readers (SD memory cards, USB mass storage devices, etc.); USB hubs are also available. The technical expansion and customization options are very flexible.

Internal hard disks can be replaced by new models with much larger storage capacities, and SSDs can also be installed for SATA and IDE connections: By using solid-state disks, the loading of the operating system, programs and data is greatly accelerated. SSDs are inexpensive and available in a variety of sizes. The use of a factory fresh hard disk, internal or/and external (USB and others), upgrades the computer system.

A large Selection of fast and lightweight Application Programs
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You also have many powerful alternatives to choose from when selecting programs, which run smoothly and quickly on older computers. Instead of Firefox, you can use the free Chrome variant Chromium, for example, or other, even more lightweight, fast web page readers such as Xombrero. Use ad block filters to stop power-consuming, unnecessary animations. “Comparison of lightweight web browsers”.

Email for private and business use: Use a local email program on your home computer instead of CPU-intensive web­mail if you are working with an older or very old computer, or if your Internet connection is slow or data transfer volume is limited. You save both computing power and online time. In contrast to webmail, this way of handling electronic mail also represents professional e-mail management under both protocols, IMAP and POP.

If you want a Personal Information Manager, first test whether your computer is suitable for the use of “Evolution” (official site), the often fully-fledged alternative to Microsoft Outlook. Other e-mail programs can be modularly equipped with similar functionalities, via extensions and plugins.

Get an overview of: “Category:Free email software”, “Comparison of email clients”, “Category:Free personal information managers”, “Category:Free calendaring software”.

The local email program Claws Mail (WP-article) is an excellent, lightweight alternative to Mozilla Thunderbird. All these programs can be easily tested and downloaded for free. The Lubuntu package manager gives you access to all programs for Ubuntu.

Teletype Message: From the very beginning, communication services have been a central part of the Unix world. Free instant messaging programs, such as Pidgin, can handle numerous communication protocols, including the XMPP protocol suitable for Internet telephony. Further information: “Category:Free instant messaging clients”, “Ex­ten­sible Mes­sa­ging and Presence Pro­to­col”, “Ca­te­go­ry:Free XMPP clients”.

Office software: The slim, high-performance word processor Abiword, together with the spreadsheet program Gnumeric and free PDF applications, provides a good alternative for many basic office tasks such as writing letters, articles, brochures, scientific papers and other types of documents. Further Information: “Ca­te­go­ry:Free word pro­ces­sors”, “Ca­te­go­ry:Free spread­­sheet soft­ware”, “Ca­te­go­ry:Free of­fice soft­­ware”, “Ca­te­go­ry:Open-source of­fice suites”, “Ca­te­go­ry:Free ac­coun­ting soft­ware”, “Ca­te­go­ry:Free plot­ting soft­ware”, “Cat­e­go­ry:Calendaring software”.

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Graphics: mtPaint is an excellent lightweight image editing software for the post-processing of photos, scanned images and documents, and for the creation of graphics. Its scope of performance is considerable and also includes the layer technique. Instructions: The mtPaint Handbook. mtpaint, XPaint and other free graphics applicationsy are also suitable for creating and editing screenshots.

If you need more graphics functionality, install the meanwhile CMYK-supporting GIMP image editing program. From the huge repertoire of free software packages you can install and uninstall any program fully automatically and try out how fast and fluid it runs on your older computer.

Diagrams, schematic and technical drawings, as well as circuit and printed circuit board designs are predominantly designed with vector graphics based programs. Also in these areas several lightweight alternatives are available, for example the free vector graphics program xfig. Overviews: “Category:Free vector graphics editors”, “Category:Free diagramming software”, “Category:Free electronic design automation software”, “Category:Free computer-aided design software”.

Practical File Management: Classic “drag and drop” of files is of course also possible under free operating systems. The powerful lightweight programs PCMan File Manager (pre-installed), ROX-Filer and Thunar stand out from the crowd of free graphical file managers due to their low resource requirements.

Free operating system distributions are traditionally excellent for learning programming. Java is supported by the free GNU Compiler Collection and the free OpenJDK. The popular, universal Python is also almost always pre-installed. By default, a large number of software and tools are included, including free text editors and network-relevant programs. They form a good basis for information technology teaching and training at educational institutions.

Learning Languages
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Even without Internet access, you can benefit from the possibilities of the computer when learning a language. Download free or free learning materials from public Internet places and save them on a USB stick.

Even video films from Internet video portals such as Youtube can be downloaded and saved and then watched at home on your computer, for example with the free add-on “Video DownloadHelper”, or with the free program “XVideoServiceThief”, with a corresponding extension for the Internet browser Chromium, or with another software. Ask the staff of your Internet cafe or other institution about the possibility of making certain basic extensions available for web browsers. Use free dictionaries and translation tools, some of which are also available in a free offline version, e.g. Beolingus and and QuickDic.

E-Letters can be created on your home computer, for example as an extensive illustrated text document file, which you later simply attach to the e-mail, or whose text you copy into the e-mail body. Sound files for texts can also be recorded at home on the computer. Overview of free software audio recorders: WP article “Category:Free audio editors”. In the Internet café you then take your prepared message and send your letter together with the audio file by e-mail to your language penpal. You can also download the message and sound file sent to you from your pen pal's e-mail account, save it on your USB stick and listen to it on your home computer.

Numerous resource-saving free programs are also available for MS-Windows, so that you can also use this operating system optimized for older computers, with a self-assembled selection of lightweight application programs that run smoothly and fast. However, Microsoft's security update deployment ends after a certain period of time. Modern free lightweight operating systems for old hardware, on the other hand, are constantly maintained and updated, especially for old computers.

Advanced users can check which daemons or system services are started when the computer boots, and then disable any unnecessary programs that run in the background by default.

Powerful Free Mathematics Software, also for old computers

Schools today use powerful specialized calculators. Independent of this, it is of great advantage to know the basic functions of a free com­put­er algebra system if one wants to check the solutions of complex equations and other mathematical problems with the help of the computer or illustrate them with graphs and three-dimensional graphics, in school operations, in education, in study, in science and in general in everyday working life. The Python-based Saga interfaces with a number of long-standing, mature free mathematics programs, making it a powerful, universally applicable computer algebra system. However, its resource requirements are not insignificant, which probably makes it not always performant enough on very old computer systems despite its platform-independence.

SymPy, on the other hand, is 100 % Python-based and therefore as platform-independent as possible. Together with Pyglet, it forms a modern, well-maintained computer algebra system that covers all elementary functions for mathematics teaching. Thus, even for very old computer systems and for financially weak educational institutions, a powerful, free and free mathematics software is available worldwide. Sympy is used by numerous universities, including the Mathematical Institute of Freiburg University.

Sources of information: Offical site of SymPy, doc­u­men­ta­tion, Frequently Asked Questions, WP-article “SymPy”, web presence of Pyglet.

Knowledge of Python notation is an advantage. Python (official site) is an easy to learn, universally applicable scripting and programming language that is supported in many subject areas worldwide. A large number of software programs offer Python interfaces and it can also be used server-side for functions of webpages.

Free programs for teaching and education: “Ca­te­go­ry:Free edu­ca­tional soft­ware”, “Por­tal:Free soft­ware”.

Operating System and Distribution Overviews

Xubuntu, equipped with the desktop interface XFCE, and Lubuntu with the user interface LXDE, are official Ubuntu derivatives (Debian-based). Ubuntu operating systems have the highest level of user comfort and full automation. Xubuntu is relatively resource-friendly. The first-class Lubuntu consumes considerably less computing power and memory. Since both operating systems are available free of charge, you can try out which distribution is more suitable for you.

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Lubuntu information: Official site">Official website Lubuntu.net, WP-article “Lubuntu”, pre-installed standard application programs, OSnews article from 01 March 2011 “Lubuntu: Finally a Lightweight Ubuntu!”, Linux magazine article from 09 September 2011 “Lubuntu: Floats Like a Butterfly, Stings Like a Bee”

“Operating sy­stems for really, really old com­pu­ters”, lists a very comprehensive list of specialized Linux distributions, “Lightweight Linux Distributions” contains further central references.

The operating system Con­no­chaetOSConnochaetOS is developed especially for very old computers. The included standard program collection includes application software for all basic computer tasks: Word processing, spreadsheet, web page reader (browser), e-mail program etc. (official news section).

News excerpt (Announcements) for the current operating system version 14.2, which was released on August 26, 2016, added additional hyperlinks to the text: “[...] As always it contains only free/​libre software as defined by the Free Software Foundation (FSF). We are now using our own deblobbed Linux kernel, named "kernel-free" based on the de-blobbing mechanism done by Debian GNU/​Linux. ConnochaetOS contains:

In our slack-n-free repo we provide the current versions of Iceape [renamed Internet ap­pli­ca­tion suite SeaMonkey (Browser, E-Mail, et al)] and Icedove, the brand-new qt5-​web­engine based web browsers qupzilla and otter-​browser and libreoffice 5.1.4 [...]”

Article about ConnochaetOS (June 04, 2015): “ConnochaetOS Makes Slackware Truly Free and a Bit Easier”, Jack M. Germain.

Another powerful operating system is Delicate-Linux is De­li­cate-​Li­nux: title page, (further website), forum, De­li­cate-​Wi­ki.

In addition to the graphical “desktop environments” and application programs, Linux distributions also contain “text mode software” with a “text-based user interface” as standard. They are extremely powerful and belong to the preferred tools of many users, administrators, IT professionals and scientists.

Websites and recommended articles about text mode programs: „automatisch.cc :: freie Text­mode-Soft­ware”Websites about text mode “Con­sole app­li­ca­tion”„Text-based (compu­ting)”“Shell (com­pu­ting)”“Command-line interface” An excellent introduction: Floss Ma­nu­al “In­tro­duc­tion to the Com­mand Line” “GNU Screen”“Computer terminal”.

Introductory Articles on Specialized Distributions for old Computers

Various organisations are committed to promoting educational equality, using free software and used hardware, for example “Free Geek” in the U.S.A.

Free Software traditionally enjoys outstanding international language support, including free operating systems.

Screenshot of Lubuntu 12.04

For almost every area there are several different application programs for one and the same task. The programs shown here are only a small part of the thousands of free applications available for Lubuntu (GNU/Linux or Unix/BSD software).

A small selection of office applications.
Text shown in Abiword word processor:
Text processing programs offer extremely
extensive design possibilities, whose
effective use a longer training period
is required. Long-term stable software
proves to be advantageous here.
(Operating system) platform independence 
and the mastery of a truly 
open, suitable for archiving
document formats are further 
central criteria for use in 
heterogeneous corporate networks and administration.'

Office applications: Word processing Abiword, spreadsheet Gnumeric, calendaring software Osmo, calculator Galculator.

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