SliTaz Linux: A Mini or Lightweight Linux for Old Computers

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SliTaz Linux (3 out of 5)

Since I first wrote about SliTaz on my blog, this mini Linux distro has come along way, earning a lot of buzz when Tuxradar rated it as the best lightweight Linux out there. Unfortunately, it has yet to overcome the issues I presented in my original post, making me unable to recommend it over Puppy Linux as the best Linux for old computers.

  1. Positive Reviews: Obviously, Tuxradar loves SliTaz, but reviews listed on Distrowatch do not seem to back up Tuxradar’s lofty opinion. Jun Auza considers SliTaz 2.0 “prematurely released,” and Dedoimedo says it’s “inadequate for laptops.” Others argue that it’s great as a backup system, but not for everyday use. Don’t get me wrong: all reviewers recognize that SliTaz is a miraculous distro for its size, but it does not get the nearly unanimous praise that some other distros get, making it a challenge to wholeheartedly recommend it. In this area, there’s little change from my previous assessment.
  2. Technical Issues: The first release had known problems with Flash and wireless support, and, unfortunately, they still seem to be issues with the newest one as well. Dedoimedo calls multimedia the “Achilles’ heel” of SliTaz and was still unable to get Flash working. Wireless connectivity was also a problem for both Dedoimedo and Linuxologist. To this, I’ll add the fact that SliTaz did not support my monitor resolution out of the box, another issue many others have had. The wiki made it seem easy to address this problem, but none of the tips worked for my computer. I haven’t had any of these problems with Puppy Linux 3 or 4, though I’ll admit version 5 only works at low resolution in Vesa.
  3. Better Than the Best? Speaking of Puppy Linux, does SliTaz have anything to offer over this superb lightweight distro other than its minuscule size? Tuxradar seems to think so, praising SliTaz’s repository of over 1,000 items while complaining about Puppy Linux’s limited library. However, the recent release of Puppy Linux 5 has opened up the entire realm of Ubuntu software to Puppy users, and more options will be coming in future builds. Dedoimedo, which reviewed both distros, clearly prefers Puppy Linux, particularly since “everything (wireless, multimedia) works out of the box.”

SliTaz is an admirable effort from a team of smart, hard-working developers. Unlike other distros, SliTaz is not riddled with glitches and does what it was designed to do very well. Unfortunately, its appeal is rather limited. For those who want a lightweight distro that’s likely to work as-is, it’s hard to beat Puppy Linux. If you want an absolutely barebones distro that you build from the ground up, Tiny Core Linux, even smaller than SliTaz, is designed just for this purpose.

As an everyday operating system, SliTaz is for the few users out there who just so happen to have the hardware that SliTaz supports (i.e., older desktops with smaller screens) and whose software interests align with the developers (i.e., limited multimedia, barebones browser). Otherwise, use SliTaz as most reviewers suggest: as a tiny but powerful backup distro that can help restore and repair other computers.