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1937 posts

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# 19183 8-Feb-2008 18:06
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On impulse, I spent probably more than I should have on a replacement desktop PC:

AMD64 3000+ Desktop computer @ 2.0Ghz
Asus K8V-X ATX motherboard
1GB DDR RAM
Asus Readon A9550TD AGP 128MB
120GB hard drive
DVD-RW

For $210. Too much? Just right?

Anyway, part of the reason I wanted the upgrade was that it leaves the way for my old desktop PC to become a Linux box!

Pentium II-400Mhz
Asus P2B motherboard
384Mb RAM PC100
10Gb HDD
20Gb HDD
16Mb AGP Graphics card (MSI I think)

Some questions in no particular order.

Ubuntu? Vixta?
This will eventually become my son's first computer and I would like somehow to create a user for him that won't allow him to "break" it. Brilliant if I could make it so that his user couldn't access the control panel.

Software - I searched for linux educational software and found a bunch of free programs for Linux. Know any good sites for a primary school kid?

Drivers - Will I need anything special for the above configuration? I would like to install a wireless network card but note that there can be huge issues with drivers. What's the best/cheapest way to get one? I am going to presume that the $1 cards on TradeMe are highly unlikely to work in Linux?

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  # 109349 8-Feb-2008 20:51
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Ok guys, no offense but I'm really going to need all the help I can get when doing this scary install - is there a more active Linux forum community you might suggest for me based on the information I've provided? Thanks.

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  # 109360 8-Feb-2008 21:23
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No offence, but seriously - two hours wait on a Friday night at dinner time and you are complaining about no response and looking a new website? The great thing about this community is that most of us are normal people, with jobs, families and social lives...

Check out Edubuntu. Set up normal users, and dont give them the root password. Put Windows on your old box, and Linux on the new one - the new box will fly like the wind then,







 
 
 
 


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  # 109366 8-Feb-2008 21:54
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tonyhughes: Put Windows on your old box, and Linux on the new one - the new box will fly like the wind then,

Yeah that would be very true (Ubuntu ran pretty fast on my PIII), but he said he wanted on his old PII.

The range of Ubuntu linux distributions are very popular and have been refined to be very usable for the last few releases (even though the latest one really screws up, which I haven't bothered with). They ship free to anywhere (except Xubuntu), and by free I mean ABSOLUTELY free - I've been using it for the last 3 years!

With most old components, Linux has great support. Drivers should be in a good selection for those, but for new ones, you might need to do some research. So those cheap $1 ones don't necessarily have bad driver support, but I do have to say Wireless management has only recently started to become usable to the general user. You may just need support from the Geekzone community and the plentiful Ubuntu forums around (ubuntuforums.org... etc.)




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  # 109368 8-Feb-2008 22:10
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Sorry tony, I really wasn't annoyed. The fact that people here have lives was in fact the reason I did ask for an alternative forum (in addition to GZ) where I could get answers at 3am or 6pm on a Friday night. As much as I tried to come across as not being annoyed, it obviously didn't work. Oh well.

The only Windows that the old box will run is 2000, which is fine but it's coming up to end of life so security-wise might not be the best idea. Furthermore it's for my primary school-aged son and software support for Windows 2000 is even worse than for Linux in terms of educational software.

Is there any free basic "Image" software for Linux that would allow me to image the drive after I'm happy with an install? I'm the type that is a serial clean OS reinstaller, and hate having to do it manually each time.

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  # 109370 8-Feb-2008 22:24
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You could just boot from a Live CD (like Ubuntu) and use dd. It's pretty simple, but it's very powerful as well.

If you want something more GUI-ish, PartImage basically does the same thing - and makes it easier to use multi-disc imaging... etc.

But you don't really need to ask us - you can look into the repositories, where they contain thousands of software which you can install. Ubuntu use the .deb install system and also base themselves on the apt system, but Synaptic is used for a graphic interface. Easy to search, use, and install software.




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  # 109385 9-Feb-2008 00:15
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dd is great. I used it a few times to restore a unix image from within windows.

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  # 109401 9-Feb-2008 07:24
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I would also recommend Ubuntu. As a previous poster pointed out: A lot of work has been put into it to make it usable for everyone.

Installing the OS and additional software is very, very easy. I wrote something about that once on my blog here and here.

You will find that the need to do clean re-installs of the OS is much less under Linux than under Windows. It doesn't deteriorate as Windows tends to do. Especially if the only user of the system has limited administrative privileges, which is what you are aiming for. It might be a good idea to place the /home directory (where all the data for all the users live) in a separate partition, so that if you want to do a clean OS install, you can do that without having to re-image the drive.

Generally, once a new Ubuntu version comes out (every 6 months) you will be informed and the 'update manager' application will tell you about it. You can see an 'upgrade' button appear. Click it and the OS upgrades itself, no need to re-image or do a fresh re-install.

As far as limiting rights for particular users: In the various control panels you can set exactly what each user is allowed to do.

Lastly, congratulations about giving your child an alternative to Windows as their first computer. It's not necessary to train our children in how to use one particular vendor's products. They will get exposed to this sooner or later anyway. It's good if they know that there are alternatives and different ways of doing things. And besides, why do we want to train them to be just users anyway, when they should really learn about technology, rather than just products. It's a bit of a sore subject for me and I tend to get on my soap-box whenever it comes up. I wrote about it before here and here.


 
 
 
 


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  # 109403 9-Feb-2008 07:57
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LiveCDs are great in many respects, its great to hve them on hand for when friends/families systems get corrupted/wont boot etc - at the very least they can can boot to Ubuntu or Knoppix or whatever, and get their important work done.

To the OP - of course you will put linux on the older box, its a shame for linux that this is a typical scenario, because many people put a full blown distro running lots of services by default (if they installled everything), and then say "linux is slower than windows" with windows running on their 3GHz machine with 1 or 2GB of RAM.

Default Gnome/KDE look and run beautifully on a modern fast machine/big LCD.

There are lots of educationally oriented Linux distros around, and as the others have talked about, lots of ways to get lots of free software easiily.

Good luck.









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  # 109411 9-Feb-2008 08:54
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With the basic hardware listed above, will up to date distros of Linux have all the basic drivers for me (including for the MSI 16Mb AGP graphics card?). Or should I go looking now for a driver in anticipation?

Ubuntu was the distro I was looking at already but wanted to make sure I wasn't missing out on an obviously better option. I will definitely look at Edubuntu too.

Having previously installed Ubuntu on a Pentium 133Mhz laptop with 64Mb RAM (which ran "ok"), I strongly suspect that the PII-400 should run it fine for our purposes.

P.S. What's meant by the term "Live CD"? Is that a bootable CD that boots Linux when you want to, but if you leave it out the HDD installed OS (eg. Windows) boots?

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  # 109412 9-Feb-2008 08:58
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It should be fine.




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  # 109415 9-Feb-2008 09:22
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P.S. What's meant by the term "Live CD"? Is that a bootable CD that boots Linux when you want to, but if you leave it out the HDD installed OS (eg. Windows) boots?


Yes.

Typically, once you boot from a Live CD, you also have the option to commence the actual install on the hard drive, if you wish to do so. Note that when you run from a Live CD, most things will feel quite a bit more sluggish, since reading in data from the CD is much slower than from a hard drive. So, the performance you 'feel' when running from a Live CD is not necessarily an indication of how the system will perform once properly installed.

Also, when running from a Live CD, some restricted drivers (for example for wireless or garphics) may not be available. Just something to keep in mind...



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  # 109429 9-Feb-2008 10:06
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Is it advisable for me to run the Live CD before attempting an installation? ie. Will running the Live CD prior to install give me any information that will be useful to the installation about drivers, etc.?

I have a 2nd HDD that is in NTFS format that I save files to currently (Windows 2000 on the 1st HDD). Can Linux read it? If not, what's the best action? I presume that I can't convert it to FAT32 without losing all the data on the drive?

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  # 109430 9-Feb-2008 10:11
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ahmad: Is it advisable for me to run the Live CD before attempting an installation? ie. Will running the Live CD prior to install give me any information that will be useful to the installation about drivers, etc.?

It can, like graphics. But unless they don't have any drivers or patches, they can be resolved post-install (although it may require you to learn the insides about how the system works - in my case of the graphics: the X.Org xorg.conf file)

ahmad: I have a 2nd HDD that is in NTFS format that I save files to currently (Windows 2000 on the 1st HDD). Can Linux read it? If not, what's the best action? I presume that I can't convert it to FAT32 without losing all the data on the drive?

You can read but not write by default. There are tools you can install so you can write to it, but it's usually best not to touch NTFS content.




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  # 109433 9-Feb-2008 10:26
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Reading and writing from/to NTFS partitions is very straight forward. See here: http://www.ubuntugeek.com/widows-ntfs-partitions-readwrite-support-made-easy-in-ubuntu-feisty.html

As far as the Live CD question is concerned: It's not a matter of being advisable to run it before installing or not. In reality, if you install the normal Ubuntu distro you in fact have to run the Live CD. You can initiate the install only after you have booted into the Live CD.

Don't worry too much about the graphics drivers. If the Live CD shows you a screen with proper screen resolution set, then you will be good even after the install. The installation of special graphics drivers is usually only needed if you want to take advantage of the card's 3D capabilities. Ubuntu comes with a standard generic graphics driver, which works on most graphics cards right out of the box. You may not have 3D acceleration, but you should still be able to perform all the normal desktop work.

Also, installing graphics drivers has become much easier. There are still cases where you may have to touch config files, but for the most part, Ubuntu will just tell you if it found a 'restricted' driver for your graphic card and will ask you if you want to use it. One click and you are done. And if all else fails, a backup of the relevant config files is made so that it can be quickly restored back to the default settings.




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  # 109437 9-Feb-2008 10:46
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Ok so it appears that NTFS is a breeze under Linux - given the choice, should I transfer all the files from the NTFS hdd to the Linux partition, format the drive FAT32, and transfer back? ie. Will Linux like it more if the drives are FAT32? If there are no advantages to NTFS, I might as well, I guess.

P.S. I keep asking about drivers because I do NOT want to have to work through lines of code that I see in Linux forums in reply to people who have had driver issues.

Sorry for being a crybaby but that sort of stuff really really scares me.

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