Friday, April 10, 2009

Using Ubuntu on a Diet

A lot of us out there love Ubuntu. Its stable, has regular releases, and is maintained by an army of volunteers. Its probably the most popular distribution out there. I've been using it since late 2007, and have been quite happy with it. I'm currently running many servers off Ubuntu at my work (, ), in fact if a customer asks for Linux on their server, it gets Ubuntu unless they say otherwise. Personally, I run Ubuntu on both of my laptops, my daughter's netbook, my personal server/workstation, my Media Center, and a Desktop.

I've been using Linux for some time now, so I'm pretty a pretty experienced Linux admin. Ubuntu, and by extension Xubuntu, just works and its great, however I wanted to get more under the hood, so to speak. I wanted to see if I could run Ubuntu on as little as possible. I really didn't have a clue what I was getting into! Its really amazing how much Ubuntu does in the background.

What inspired me to "get lean" on Ubuntu was my Compaq Presario 700 laptop. I love this laptop, and have had it for many many years. The thing will not quit. Since then I've gotten an Acer Aspire Gemstone, but I really don't want to abandon hardware that still works. It has a 500 mhz Athlon processor, and 256 megs of RAM. Part of that ram is eaten up by the video, however, so its official reading of free is 230. I've tried Xubuntu 8.10 on this, however with all the extra services that have to run with the desktop environment, I run out of RAM after running Firefox for a while. Its really not Xubuntu's fault, its mainly Firefox eating up all the RAM, but its still a problem when you go from Firefox to something else. Mainly the machine just slows down, but I felt I could get better preformance out of the laptop if I trim some background stuff down.

This blog will be covering, in as much detail as possible, my exploits into this mad experiement in Ubuntu. Eventually this blog will also expand into other areas of Ubuntu and Linux, and will become a blog about setting yourself free from the desktop, and getting deep under the hood of Ubuntu, and what makes it tick. For starters, however, we will focus in detail how to make Ubuntu scream.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Arthur H. Johnson II is a Linux systems administrator, who has been using Linux 1996. Other than the occasional wine or virtualbox to run the unavoidable win32 application, he has been Microsoft free since 1998. He has been a Ubuntu advocate and user since version 7.04. Arthur has worked for numerous companies supporting the venerable operating system, and has been a constant advocate since he discovered the penguin, even running a Linux Users Group for five years. He is currently employed with Beach Communications supporting their and companies, building, deploying, and maintaining servers and supporting customers.


  1. One thing I started looking for today is a lightweight RSS reader. I have been using Liferea for quite some time. It uses about 25 MB RAM. I subscribe to about a dozen feeds. I can't seem to find anything lighter than Liferea, however. My only other options seem to be command-line.

    I also tried straw, but that uses about 27MB RAM.

  2. Awesome, this is exactly what I was looking for. I have a dual-boot Ubuntu/XP but have found myself using Windows lately simply because it's faster, which is awful. I'll definitely be trying this out in the near future.

    By the way, you have an email address I can contact you at in case I have a (minute) question?