Linux

Vector Linux: Lightning fast throwback to old-school Linux

Jack Wallen recommends Vector Linux, a fast, flexible, and lightweight distribution that will fit the bill in any situation where system power is an issue.
The title can be somewhat deceiving. When you think of "Old School" you think of out of date, whimsical  technology that most people only look at on occasion. Well, scrap that train of thought when applied to Vector Linux, because Vector is just as useful as nearly any modern platform. That doesn't mean it's for everyone -- but if you long for the days when your Linux distribution didn't eat up your resources and an installed OS contained everything you needed to get through the day, then look no further than Vector Linux 7.0 Standard Edition. You'll wind up with an easy to use, lightweight desktop (Figure A) that is ready to perform like few other distributions.

Figure A

Figure A

The credo of the Vector development team is: Keep it simple, keep it small and let the end user decide what their operating system is going to be. What they have created is one of the finest (if not the finest) light-weight Linux distribution available.

Features:

  • Desktop: XFCE
  • Multimedia: Xine and Mplayer
  • Graphics: GIMP 2.6
  • Office: Abiword, Gnumeric, Epdfview
  • Internet: Firefox, Opera (both with Flash support rolled in), Pidgin
  • Package Management: Slapt-get and Gslapt
  • System administration: Vasm and VasmCC

Hardware requirements:

  • Cpu: Pentium 3 or equivalent or higher
  • Ram: 128mb or higher
  • Hard Disk: 5.0 GB for a full install with optional packages included

Okay, so judging from the two lists above, you should know, straight away, that outside of Firefox and GIMP, Vector doesn't use most of the tools users have grown accustomed to (no LibreOffice, no Thunderbird Email, no modern juke-box-like music player). That doesn't mean you should avoid this distribution. In fact, the tools included actually do a great job of handling the day-to-to tasks.

Who is Vector Linux for?

Power Users: Don't think Vector Linux is a distribution to only be used on older, less powerful hardware. Vector Linux is for anyone that wants to get as much use out of system power as possible. Say, for example, you have a particular application you KNOW will suck down a good amount of your CPU when used (you're crunching numbers or rendering video) -- in that case, why hand over a good amount of system resources for a greedy desktop or features you don't need? In that case, Vector Linux is the perfect solution for your task. Virtual Host: Or, say you want to have a reliable, fast desktop to play host to various guest OSs using either VirtualBox or VMWare. Again, Vector Linux is the ideal candidate. No More GNOME: What about those of you who have officially given up on the GNOME 3/Classic GNOME/Unity/KDE 4 front. If you have reached that point, and you still want a Linux desktop, there are a few solid options -- Vector Linux (and XFCE) is one of the best. Not only do you get a lightweight desktop Linux, you get plenty of applications to discover (or, in some cases, re-discover).

Another option that might appeal to many users is a support option. Currently, Vector offers three types of support:

  • Solution Bank This is a collection of how-to documents created by the developers and community.
  • Community Support The VectorLinux community is very active in supporting users. You will find a helpful forum where you can post your questions and search for answers.

  • Direct Paid Support This is direct support from the VectorLinux experts. You get timely response via email, a ticket number to track progress and support consultant focus until issue is finalized.

I have to say, of all the lightweight Linux distributions I have tried over the years (such as Puppy Linux, Damn Small Linux, and many more), Vector Linux is by far the best. Although Vector doesn't offer the tiny footprint of Puppy, the speed, flexibility, power, and ease you will discover will blow your mind.

If you're looking for an alternative, lightning fast, Linux distribution to try out, make sure you put Vector Linux at the top of your To Be Installed list. You won't regret the choice and you may not look back.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

10 comments
pmshah
pmshah

I have had a little experience with XFCE interface, albeit quite some years ago. It was worse than that on Windows before version 3.1 To be in comfort zone for " Average Joe" it would absolutely need KDE at the minimum.

darkduck
darkduck

It's quite a rare case, I should admit! Thanks for this one.

moriarty the mundane
moriarty the mundane

Been a Network Manager for 11 years and I have played with many distros of Linux and sadly, none of them in my humble opinion will stand up to every day use by the average Joe. You have to have a Geek Interest to live with it. I currently use Ubuntu on a netbook and a laptop, win 2k, 2k3, 2k8 on servers and XP/Vista and Seven in my day to day life. Linux is frankly, the most frustrating! It is really good dont get me wrong I like it, but its just not cohesive enough and easy to use like windows based machines. Please dont Flame me, I just speak from everyday practical experience dealing with about a thousand end users, friends and family! Have a great day... Moriarty

wflagg
wflagg

I've been using Ubuntu for years but really haven't been happy with the last two releases. I tried Fedora on a spare machine but getting either Firefox or Chrome to support various video streams was problematic. I just spent the last 45 minutes running the VL live CD and everything seemed to work right the first time. A nice find!

mekuranda
mekuranda

Like the first poster, I too appreciate the effort you put in and the clear and informative take on such things as OS's - it is a big deal for us in the real world to trial every option and OS out there. You touched on something I have been searching for - Running VMs - I was wondering if you have a desire to run both a Linux distribution or two and a few Windows OS's on the same machine - which Host OS would give the best performance generally,(Linux or Win) or if there are mixed benefits - what are they.... is there a basis for an article here???

lk_bellsouth.net
lk_bellsouth.net

I appreciate the article on Vector Linux very much. Since I am relatively new to the Linux community I was not aware of this distribution. I booted it this afternoon from the "Live" DVD and was amazed. It booted quite rapidly, much more so than a "Live" disk containing Puppy, Linux Mint, Mandriva, or Ubuntu had done on the same unit. It has all the tools necessary to do just about anything that is required. I'm initially impressed. For now it's just fine in its 32-bit format although in the future I would certainly like to see it in 64-bit format at some point. Again, Jack, thanks so much for this and all that you do for all of us. It's sincerely appreciated.

jeslurkin
jeslurkin

...and that someone sees fit to publicize it. Although I have 'supported' them, I haven't gotten around to installing VL (or any other Linux) to this point. Guess I'll order their latest disk and change my lackadaisical ways.

fjp
fjp

I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss Puppy. I use the Quirky variant, and it's fast and neat. Lubuntu is good, too, and runs well on 12-year old hardware. I'll try Vector, though, but it will have to be good!

cjc5447
cjc5447

Vector Linux is only 32 bit at the present. With the emphasis on running on legacy (read: old) hardware, Vector Linux is going to need 32 bit support for some time. There is a 64 bit version called VLocity Linux,which appears to be a separate effort, based on Slackware 64, and having a different team lead. So it would appear that the 64 bit version is not in lockstep with the 32 bit version, and updates wil be released for 32 bit first, then ported over to the 64 bit version. 32 bit operating systems are restricted to 4GB RAM, again this is not a problem yet for it's target users, but eventually you're going to want to run a 64 bit distro on the nice shiny new 64 bit quad core CPU with 16GB RAM.

lk_bellsouth.net
lk_bellsouth.net

To: Moriarty - No flames here, Moriarty. I do understand what you are saying. Most refer to this as a "comfort zone" which all of us including me, have about a myriad of things in life not necessarily limited to computers. Its partially the reason why there are many corporations out there still running XP on the desktop. After all, if it's not "broke" then why fix it, right? The fact that it only has two more years of supported life from MS is totally irrelevant. I, too, have been a very long term MS Windows advocate. My days with MS use began with the earlier versions of MS-DOS. I migrated through each and every version. We now have Windows 8 on the horizon. All during this progression from one MS OS to another I, like you, have played with various versions of Linux. I think that Windows 8 will, in large measure, be shunned by corporate America. There will be too much required to migrate to it in terms of hardware, training, and software adaptation to justify the massive expenditure that will be required. The retail community will stick with Windows 7 which is supported till 2020 or, in some cases, go to Linux of Mac. However, while Mac is an excellent product it is far too expensive and will not enjoy the same growth rate as MS has enjoyed for that reason. As for me, I'll have Windows 7 and Vector running under Virtual Box. It's a lovely combination which I find very interesting and conducive to good productivity. Take care, Moriarty and have a good one.