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We need to update our webserver (PIII-700MHz and 512Mb RAM) and could not do that without reinstalling the whole system. However my choice to put Ubuntu 9.10 was probably not the best and the machine works very slow now. Actually, we need it just for simple LAPM configuration and we really want to use the old box for this purpose. It used to have old version of Linux Slackware in which I didn't manage to update PHP due to a very complicated non-standard setup.

What would you recommend?


Update

OK, thanks for your answers! Based on them I got an idea that it is possible to avoid loading X11 and other heavy stuff on Ubuntu9.10 and make it running. Actually, I was going to setup Ubuntu Server package, however something went wrong during Ubuntu9.10 installation (at 23%), which I recognized as insufficient resources.

Could you confirm that one can use Ubuntu9.10 with this configuration (PIII-700MHz and 512Mb RAM)?


Final update

I appreciate all answers; thank you, guys, for your help. I have tried to reinstall Ubuntu Server, however, the installation process failed twice. A memory test has discovered that there are failures in the old memory units. After I have replaced them (and also some coolers which has stopped to work in a while - old stuff), I have successfully completed the installation. However, after restart I've got an error message that GRUB cannot find a partition. That was the last drop and I gave up not even trying to find why. We will better order a VPS, as we find out that the IT department in our company is now introducing such service. I am sure that your tips will be needed by other guys.

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Is that the normal Ubuntu 9.10 that you tried, or is that Ubuntu Server? Ubuntu Server is gonna be leaner. –  rubenvdg Apr 9 '10 at 9:50
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For ~7 years, until last December, I had Debian stable/unstable (mixed) running on my home server with Dual-P3-450MHz without a problem. As mentioned by others, just make sure you only install what you really need. –  DaDaDom Apr 9 '10 at 9:54
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ubuntu server will work fine on that - my personal server was a PIII 450 with that much ram for a very long time –  Journeyman Geek Apr 9 '10 at 11:08
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7 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Ubuntu 9.10 server is not an ideal candidate because it is 6 months into an 18 month support cycle.

Better candidates would be the 8.04 LTS Server (3 years support remaining) or better yet, 10.4 LTS, which is coming out soon.

The LTS stands for Long Term Support, which is a good thing for servers you don't want to reinstall on often.

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If you like Ubuntu, I would suggest trying out an appliance from TurnKey Linux: http://www.turnkeylinux.org/. You can get a fully functional lamp server up an running in minutes. They are built on the latest LTS version, currently 8.04.3 and will be updated with the next LTS release. With limited resources you wouldn't want an X environment running, and their appliances have Webmin installed for easy management.

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You could try crunchbang.
It is based on ubuntu but is stripped down and I found it to be quite fast on my netbook.
I am assuming you used the Server edition of Ubuntu, otherwise I would take a look at that because I found it to be quite small in memory and cpu requirements.


Have you considered FreeBSD?
It has a very small footprint and I have used it myself on resource stringent systems before.

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FreeBSD uses really small resources.

Debian is fine too

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Every Linux distro will suit you if you don't run X (and you should not need X running at LAMP server). Disable unnecessarry running services and you will be fine.

Running Slackware could be a pain due to lack of package management (been there). So I'd prefer Debian or CentOS. They both have good package managers and big support communities.

It is another matter if the hardware will be suficient enough to run big MySQL databases (or applications with poorly structured queries) or to hold on a vast number of visitors, but I think it is not in topic asked.

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Slackware does require a higher level skill-set. –  Warner Apr 9 '10 at 13:28
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This is a controversial question and options are going to vary based on your requirements. I answered a similar question here recently:

http://serverfault.com/questions/130211/which-linux-flavour-should-i-use-to-for-my-hosting-server/130222#130222

Most versions of Linux and distributions will run fine with limited resouces. The issues are going to be if you're running applications on them that are resource hungry, such as X11 or MySQL.

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You could try Debian Stable, and only install those packages that you really need on the server. If you need more recent software on Debian Stable, you can check for those packages on lenny-backports.

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