Elive is a Linux distribution based on Debian which has an excellent implementation of the Clarification office environment. It is a self-proclaimed distribution that does not target a particular type of user, but is primarily intended for use on very old computers. The default ISO image is 32 bit and installs with Linux 3.16 by default. It just uses a hair of over 160MB of RAM and works beautifully with a processor core and no 3D acceleration. this allows Elive to brag about being able to turn a 15 year old computer into a high performance computer, and I honestly believe that. In this Elive Review, we will discuss the performance of the system, its usability, and why it may or may not be the distribution for you.
When you first start up, you are greeted with a rather spartan office, but you quickly realize that things are not as simple as they seem. Things immediately seem very fast, even in a very limited virtual machine like I have. I gave him access to a core of my processor and 1 GB of RAM without 3D acceleration, and although he gave me a quick warning about it, I was able to easily work on the desktop and find my way .
Some elements of the desktop feel a bit more retro than usual, things like the icon theme having an iPod for Rhythmbox and the appearance of the desktop context menu, but you get used to it pretty quickly and find your way around . I could absolutely see it being comfortable and nostalgic on an older machine, and maybe I should just dig up my old 2005 Dell Inspiron 6000 and try it out.
Overall, the installation process was slightly overwhelming. If you saw my opinion on EndeavourOS, I criticized their installer for their treatment of the Swap space. I also have slightly negative things about the Elive installer.
When you open the installer for the first time, you are greeted with a screen that is not exactly clear on what to do. Just click OK and continue. However, for those who are not advanced users, I suggest checking the box “Guided help during installation”. Leave the other two checked so that you still have choices. Then click on one of the two main options to find out if it is allowed to take the full disc or if you try to boot twice.
Then choose your partitioning scheme, choosing between automatic, a GParted window, a more advanced menu or an option to find out if you have pre-partitioned your disk. You can get a useful prompt like I did to confirm that I wanted to erase my entire drive and install Elive. Pleasant.
The file system selector was quite confusing. Although I know the difference between ext4 and reiserfs, the choice to present these two options is mystifying. My suggestion is to use ext4. After choosing your FS, choose your encryption preference and the installation starts.
After installation, configure your installed system. This is where I feel very critical of the installer. In the hands of anyone, except an advanced user, the options offered here are likely to overwhelm and confuse the user. You have to deselect the things you don’t want in your system. I understand why the choices are so, but there are a lot of things to do after a “successful” installation of your system. There are 6 “Additional Options” menus that you must navigate to access the last part of the installation. This seems excessive, and I think these could logically be organized into a few groups to have a menu with a few check boxes.
Performance and user experience
Once the system is installed, the performance is incredible. With a desktop environment as complete and efficient as Enlightenment, I would expect nothing less. Enlightenment lives somewhere in the middle of tiled window managers and lightweight desktop environments like XFCE in terms of system resource usage, and this particular implementation has been highly optimized to run on computers about as old as you could have in your house. Nothing feels sacrificed either. I feel like I’m using the DE that I want XFCE or LXDE to be. It’s really a treat to experience.
The user experience is a bit “overwhelmed by choice”. I feel like I have so much to do to learn and personalize that I’ll be sucked into an endless void of Elite, but that’s sort of the beauty of it. I could absolutely see a world in which you install this on a 15 year old laptop or an 11 year old desktop computer and have fun for hours, just happy to see the machine on which you played games while growing up again.
That said, I would not recommend Elive to a beginner. Not far. It comes with Zsh as the default shell, the choices and customization options are almost endless, and it’s old enough that Linux 3.16 living in our new world can get a little weird. However, there are a lot of great things about it, and if you are so keen, there is a fairly lively community and a lot of really great documentation at your disposal to find out more.
I have a few machines that could absolutely benefit from Live installed on an upgraded SSD. I would wholeheartedly recommend it to a retro PC lover who is looking to keep his old machine alive and forever.
Be sure to check out other performance-oriented Linux articles and learn how to speed up your Linux desktop with Compton, check out an Arch Linux review, and find 4 of the best web browsers for Linux.
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