elive is Linux distribution based on Debian using the Enlightenment Desktop engine. This article will detail the choices made in selecting elive as the appropriate operating system for older machines.
Project Aim / Test machine
I had a personal project of choosing an appropriate operating system for an ancient Gateway Core Solo laptop. It is a Pentium II - 300 mhz with 256MB RAM with a DVD/CD reader and a 20GB hard drive. Specs are decent and most of the distributions listed on Distrowatch.com would be capable enough of running on these specs. The list includes: DSL Linux, VectorLinux, Crunchbang, among others. Some of the newer distributions would not install and would return errors along the lines of CPU not supported; requiring a Pentium III processor and above. The troublesome factor for many distributions was the graphic card. In this case a Neomagic 128XD. Interestingly enough, the first operating systems I tried were Windows XP, where I was able to install everything successfully except for the video card and Windows 2000 where I had a similar issue. In addition, Windows 2000 just had an "aged look".
Speed versus look
This brings up the next point. It seems that with old machines the choice is either to install an older operating system and lose out on newer versions of applications and have an older look versus installing a newer operating system turtle slow.
The last time I experienced Enlightenment 17 was on a powerbook g4. This is using Yellow Dog Linux 6.2. I had such a good experience where Enlightenment didn't waste the excellent display of the powerbook g4. And since it was not an Intel processor based machine Snow Leopard and more current operating systems were out of the question. Enlightenment is not the same as the MAC OS X desktop. It has a dock bar as well (no zooming icons); Enlightenment is very clean and light and will not disappoint even the most refined desktop critic.
I believe Enlightenment E17 is a wonderful solution to this dilemma. It can make any old machine look brand new; even with a screen resolution of 1024x768 and unsupported graphic cards. Enlightenment has little shiny graphic on-screen elements (e.g. stars in the sky that glimmer). The window borders also have a great polished look. Running this on an ancient machine may also serve as the next topic of discussion for friends that are interested in beauty and speed on older hardware.
The foundation of the operating system gives the user a very stable back-end and access to very large number of downloadable packages.
It has been a great experience working with the live cd version of enlightenment on my machine. Some wonderful experiences include: using the built-in trackpad and USB mouse at the same time, pretty graphics, stable system, easy wifi-connection to public, hidden, open, and encrypted wifi hot spots. Linux is great for techies; however, connecting to a wifi connection shouldn't be a project in itself.
I would highly recommend using elive live or installed on your old ancient machines. This test was also to look at options for my project of setting up computers to benefit those less fortunate and would not otherwise have Internet access.