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Running GNOME with 128 MB RAM - Painfully slow?

So I have a very low end system which has 128 MB of RAM and a 486 based x86 processor. After installing GNOME on Lenny, as soon as I launch firefox, opera or any other relatively intensive application the system comes to a crawl and becomes slow and sluggish. The system load increase up tp 5, the CPU usage also shoots up to 25% and things become painfully slow to operate i.e. become less responsive.
Is there some kind of min. system requirements for running GNOME? Are there any tricks to make the system more responsive? Would adding swap help? Right now my system does not have any swap partition.
Anybody's input who has expereince running GNOME on a low end system like this would be helpful.

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