The winner: Slitaz 9/10

We hope you've seen that the world of light distros is more exciting than you may have imagined. Choosing the right one depends on the hardware you want to run it on and what you want to use it for.

The Ubuntu-based distros are interesting, particularly the nascent Lubuntu, mainly because they have a tiny footprint but offer the promise of installing anything from the vast Ubuntu multiverse. However, we were looking for a a distro to work painlessly in a cramped hardware environment.

Honourable mentions must go to DSL and Tiny Core at this point, which have clambered into the territory of the minuscule. It's amazing how usable a system can be that takes up less space on your drive than your holiday pictures. Puppy Linux and Unity were both easy to use, although the latter was a bit more polished (and bigger).

There can be only one winner in the context of our Roundup, and it should be Slitaz. It's fast, easy on memory, and comes with a considered selection of apps. Not being able to install new software easily apart from stuff in the Slitaz package format is one of the few drawbacks, but for a fast, lightweight desktop it's hard to beat.

Slitaz

All the versions tested here either install from a live version or have live versions available, so check that your hardware's compatible before you install. It's not always the case that the biggest distros are the most compatible – it varies, although those tested here should provide basic functionality (some sort of graphics, keyboard, mouse and wired network).

If your target is a laptop, you might be in for all sorts of difficulties. Many laptop parts aren't what they seem to be, at least as far as kernel drivers go.

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First published in Linux Format Issue 130

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