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I am looking for a linux server distro with a low memory footprint. I usually use Ubuntu but I need something with a smaller footprint in order to run a large Java JVM service inside of it and also run X-windows. Any ideas? The Java service needs to handle a 3GB memory heap and so I require a 64-bit OS and JRE.

I am thinking that ArchLinux is the only one that I can find right now. It uses 250MB out of the box (without X-win). Any better suggestions?

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Why do you need X-windows? Do you actually need a full desktop environment or is it there just for a specific application? – Zoredache Nov 23 '09 at 23:07
Also, why does it really matter? These days memory is cheap, wouldn't it be easier to spend $100 on another 4GB of RAM so you can stick with a distribution that has support? – Zoredache Nov 23 '09 at 23:10

what about debian [ although you might say it's almost ubuntu ] ? but as in the case of ubuntu - it's up to you to disable [or not to install] unnecessary services/features. maybe you can run your app / x in headless mode?

edit: indeed screen seems to be much much wiser and less memory intensive solution - if you dont need actual x's... go console!

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i'd rather avoid needing to uninstall unneeded services. it takes a lot of type to tune a system and when you need to do 100 of them, that makes it impossible... – djangofan Nov 24 '09 at 0:14
Debian will let you install a machine as stripped down as you want. – Bill Weiss Nov 24 '09 at 0:16
@Bill Weiss +1 , absolutely. Bill has the right idea here. Download the amd64 Netinstall disc, choose alternative window manager from the menu; either lxde or xfce and install only the packages you need via aptitude | apt-get. – faultyserver Nov 24 '09 at 0:25
ahh.. thanks for the good info. ill try it. – djangofan Nov 24 '09 at 0:41
@djangofan - as Bill Weiss says - if you go for base install without any additions - you'll have really slim system to which you'll add only what you need. – pQd Nov 24 '09 at 10:46

To add to the other answer:

i want X because my Java server runs in multiple Console sessions and I like to be able to watch and see all the console output when I am logged into the machine with VNC. – dj

Have you tried GNU Screen (part of almost every distro)? It lets you use multiple terminal sessions from one terminal. Switch between multitple sessions, split the screen, save logs etc.. It's really awesome. Might be just what you need. Intro here:

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yes, but I also want remote desktop access to them and so that wont work. – djangofan Nov 24 '09 at 2:00
@djangofan - remotedesktop for what exactly? just to check consoles? or do you have any gui to manage? – pQd Nov 24 '09 at 10:48
yes, i need to be able to type into a java console session and start a web browser from it for management tools... – djangofan Nov 24 '09 at 17:57

If you're comfortable with ubuntu you could try the Ubuntu Server JEOS version. This is a minimal ubuntu server installation, ostensibly targeted at virtual machines but presumably you can install it directly on hw as well.

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interesting suggestion if it will accept the installation of a window manager. i'll take a look at it. – djangofan Nov 24 '09 at 17:58
ubuntu jeos no longer exists. the last one i could find was 8.04 – djangofan Sep 3 '10 at 22:00

I use Puppy Linux's 64 bit distro FatDog 511.

uses default access as root, but browser runs as limited user.

Set up with full server for ISP and Samba.

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

ArchLinux turned out to be exactly what I was looking for as the answer to this question, although it turns out that I eventually ended up using 32-bit CentOS with Gnome also also considered XUbuntu with Xfce because it was fairly lightweight.

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