Trying out raw Debian on an old Laptop

So I was given an old Celeron M laptop (XP era, 500MB RAM) and decided to try Debian Stretch out on it. The default Debian netinst installer does NOT include proprietary wireless firmware packages... seriously? Practicality needs to beat purity there. The machine can't boot from USB, and my very last CD-R was used up burning the netinst installer... duh. Anyway, luckily the machine had a hard-wired connection, so once I dug out a patch-cable I wired it up to get the installation done. However, the installer had a crazy-jumpy trackpad, so I unintentionally clicked on "Continue" on the tasksel page (the one that chooses desktop environments) and it wound up installing Debian-default desktop.

Debian/Gnome desktop was able to run, but was painfully slow as soon as there was any program running (even a terminal), so e.g. alt-tabbing to Firefox would take 15-20s as the swap partition went crazy. So I installed plasma, but it wasn't able to start at all (surprising, as it's fairly light-feeling on my modern machines, but I suppose they do have 8-16GB of RAM). Then went for LXQt, which at least can pull up Firefox and a Terminal without falling into the swap-of-death.

Anyway, LXQt does seem like a good choice for making an old laptop usable as a kids-noodling-around machine.


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