Linux can be configured to run on a wide range of hardware platforms, from single-board 386 industrial controllers through high-end Pentium and AMD processors, and on to SPARC's, IBM mainframes and the latest 64-bit microprocessors. However, the low-end platforms cannot efficiently support complex applications. As a general guide:
- A machine with less than a 120MHz Pentium and 32MB of RAM cannot run X-Windows at usable speed. It can still run Linux, but only with text-mode applications.
- If you want a Windows-type Graphical User Environment (GUE or GUI) the minimum is a 120MHz processor, 32MB of RAM, and a 1.2GB hard disk drive (HDD). This class of machine cannot run the latest GUE Desktops such as KDE and Gnome. Instead, either switch to an earlier distro such as Mandrake 6.2, use one of the excellent light-weight Desktops such as Xfce, or use a light-weight Window Manager (Blackbox, Fluxbox etc.) with light-weight applications.
- Machines with at least an 800MHz CPU, 64MB of RAM and a 2GB HDD run KDE, Gnome, Open Office and other heavy-duty environments and applications satisfactorily.
- The more RAM the better up to about 512MB. A machine for daily semi-professional use should have a 1GB or better CPU, 256MB of RAM, and at least a 4GB HDD.
CDROM's, DVD's and burners
Linux supports all ATAPI (IDE) CDROM drives, and some of the older configurations in which the CDROM connected to the sound card. ATAPI drives connect to the HDD ribbon cable and "look like" a HDD to the OS, thereby making them simple to support and enabling them to be used as boot devices. CD burners and DVD drives are also supported, but software drivers can be a few months behind the mainstream market. For most users this is not a problem, since it is generally unwise to purchase the very latest technology, and better to wait until any early bugs have been identified and fixed. A number of websites maintain up-to-date information on all aspects of Linux development, and those who need to use the latest equipment should avail themselves of the information so available. See the Links Page for more information.
Printers, scanners and faxes
The situation with these peripherals is much the same as with CD's and DVD's. For comprehensive information, see www.linuxprinting.org
Digital cameras, videocams and webcams
Again, much the same as for other peripherals, but even more dependent upon driver availability. Check the Net for details of any equipment of which you're uncertain.
Sound, music and MIDI
Linux has a huge range of sound and music applications. See www.linux-sound.org for a comprehensive list.
Linux is the OS par excellence for networking applications. Check the Networking-Overview-HOWTO for details.