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Old 09-20-2004, 07:20 AM   #1
rogerdean
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Registered: Sep 2004
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fast easy distro for an old man with an old laptop


hello folks
i'm finally retiring my old laptop from active service and putting it out to grass with my already retired father. but it has clunked along far too slowly with anything beyond win98 and i'm looking to set him up with linux.

it's an ibm thinkpad 240, with celeron 333 and 128mb ram. there's a 6gb disc and the built in lucent winmodem. nothing else attaches, not even a printer. so it's not complex but it'll need a distro tailored to older hardware

the sticking point is dad. he's far from a techy, and gets worried by computers asking him questions. he needs the net (firefox?), a cuddly email client and openoffice. amd a simple mp3 player would be nice.

so what can people suggest? what's the best compromise between newish apps, oldish hardware and advanced age user? i'm a newbie too so please don't go over my head!

many thanks
roger
 
Old 09-20-2004, 07:35 AM   #2
theYinYeti
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I've got an older laptop. On it, I put:

- Mandrake9.1. Said to be the most newbie-friendly distribution. Indeed, hotplug, control-panel, and things like it make it a good distro, IMO.
I tried installing Mdk10, but install CDs gave perl errors on my old laptop (P150MMX, Toshiba 300CDS). 9.1 install was easy.

- Matchbox (I use v.0.6.2). This very light, but nice, window manager has a very simple concept: every window is fullscreen. Switching window is done from a drop-down menu on the "title-bar". A panel at bottom is here for giving time, APM status, a menu, and app-launchers. If you want to learn more, go to http://matchbox.handhelds.org

- ROX. This file-manager is fast and easy to use. It is good-looking and at the same time light on resources.

- Netscape Communicator 4.8. I use this for all mail/web/news... but remember my laptop is *real* old. Yours being a little newer/faster, try and use a Mozilla-based product if you can. Evolution is also very nice for mail.

- For your information, OpenOffice.org *can* run on my laptop (32MB RAM, 2GB hard drive), and relatively fast, after it has loaded. But the loading itself takes a long time. It will surely be better in your case. You may want to use wmoo as a wrapper for OO.o, because it makes sure a OO is always in the background, making documents' loading much faster.

I hope this helps.

Yves.
 
Old 09-20-2004, 07:38 AM   #3
Bruce Hill
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You could try DeliLinux - I believe it comes with OOo,
and Amigo Linux has a forum here now, and is good
for older comps with such hardware. And then you
could just install Slackware and add OOo and setup
for your father with either Fluxbox with some click
icons, or another wm/de. We also have a new distro
here called Buffalo Linux that has some stuff like you
want in the distro and the install only seems to be
one CD. I d/led it today and will try it on my test box,
which is an old laptop.

Whatever you install, set it up for your Dad so that all
he has to do is click Firefox, maybe Thuderbird for mail,
and OOo and don't make him be a sysadmin.
 
Old 09-20-2004, 08:52 AM   #4
theonebeyond
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Have you tried damnsmalllinux?
 
Old 09-20-2004, 10:26 AM   #5
rogerdean
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thanks all for the input

matchbox catches my eye. but (here we go) do i understand that it sits on top of a linux distro, as a lightweight alternative to gnome and kde? if so, what should go underneath it? does it matter? wouldn't sticking mandrake 10 on the machine defeat the purpose?

secondly, from where do i get matchbox? i'm used only to rpms, so anything more complex will tax the brain... i see downloads of some sort at the matchdox site but i don't know what they are

and just to get you all going, am i not really better off settling for windows me and going to the pub? i really want to do linux but if it's going to take me a month i can't justify that. is there a reference book aimed at my level and my sort of questions?

ta
roger
 
Old 09-20-2004, 10:37 AM   #6
Bruce Hill
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Matchbox is cute, but it looks like it would work you into a frenzy. ;-)

Why not checkout the Distro Reviews section here at LQ?

I think you would be fine putting DamnSmall Linux on there, and then giving
him Firefox-0.9.3 (which is easier to install than W98SE), Thunderbird for
email, OOo for his Office Suite, and XMMS for playing mp3s.

To be quite honest, if installing that is too much work for you, then you would
NEVER get W98 (and all the subsequent drivers) installed again. You could
even install Slackware-10.0, Firefox, Thunderbird, and OOo in less time than
it would take to install and patch (not counting tweaking) ANY Windoze OS,
and he would have something more stable, and faster, without you ever
having to worry about him getting a worm, virus, or trojan.

Your only problem may be that stinking winmodem, but you could always
spend $15 USD and get him a better external modem. Whatever you do,
make sure you check out which distro will support it before you install.
Heck, I'll bet something like Mandrake 10 Official will handle that modem,
and it already has everything else you want "right out of the box."

Hey, it's your Dad, and if you really care about him, spend a little time and
setup a nice comp for him.
 
Old 09-20-2004, 11:33 AM   #7
theYinYeti
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Quote:
Originally posted by rogerdean matchbox catches my eye. but (here we go) do i understand that it sits on top of a linux distro, as a lightweight alternative to gnome and kde? if so, what should go underneath it? does it matter? wouldn't sticking mandrake 10 on the machine defeat the purpose?
You understand perfectly. However, installing Mdk10 wouldn't defeat the purpose, as installing XP would. Such is Linux: as light as you want, or as eye-candy as you want. Your choice.
Linux has two main usage modes: at the console, or in a X11-compliant window manager (the graphical desktop). The latter goes on top of the former. And Matchbox is such a window manager, but aimed at small configs, such as yours.

Quote:
secondly, from where do i get matchbox? i'm used only to rpms, so anything more complex will tax the brain... i see downloads of some sort at the matchdox site but i don't know what they are
I see. Here, there's a problem. Matchbox is very well packaged, so compiling it is easy. But where version 0.6.2 (which I use) is stable and in one package, latest (0.8.3) is less stable (I just tried) and in many packages. So I suggest you take 0.6.2. I can send you the source if it is less than 1MB and if you want. Then I can guide you step by step.

Quote:
settling for windows me and going to the pub?
IMO, no. Because the windows version you'll have to settle for will be very old. With Mandrake, I can plug to my laptop's USB port the scanner I bought two years ago, and I could even plug the digital camera I bought this year, which would then be auto-detected, and auto-mounted (this means it would auto-appear like a drive, sort of...). That's because even though I only installed light and small apps, I still get Mandrake's latest integration (recent kernel, recent hardware compatibility, recent bug- or security-fixes).

Yves.
 
Old 09-20-2004, 01:57 PM   #8
halo14
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I would recommend installing SuSE Linux Personal Edition 9.1... I have an old e-machine PC running the 9.1 Professional... but I'm sure he doesn't need all that...

My machine is a Celeron 466 MHz with 256 MB RAM... and it runs it okay... Just be conscious when installing and only install OpenOffice, and the things he'll need.. SuSE is VERY user friendly.. and granted KDE will a little slower on 128 MB RAM.. it will be okay.. and I think he'll be pleasantly surprised...

Good Luck...

BTW - You could always try a coule different distros out before you give it to him.. and that way you wan better judge the suitability for your old-man...
 
Old 09-22-2004, 03:03 PM   #9
rogerdean
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two promising ways forward. i'd love to try matchbox with the help kindly offered, and damnsmall looks fun. but dad's got a job and gone to romania, laptop and all, so i'm stymied for the next few months. gratitude eh.
well, here's mine: many many thanks all
roger
 
Old 09-23-2004, 05:48 AM   #10
theYinYeti
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You're welcome!

(News: on Matchbox site, they obviously saw that latest version was harder to install: they released a do-it-all shell script, that takes care of all compilings in the good order)

Yves.
 
Old 09-23-2004, 06:03 AM   #11
Bruce Hill
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Quote:
Originally posted by theYinYeti
(News: on Matchbox site, they obviously saw that latest version was harder to install: they released a do-it-all shell script, that takes care of all compilings in the good order)

Yves.
Nice to see that. I wouldn't say "too hard," but maybe as they
say where I grew up, "too much sugar for a dime." Glad to here
they've got a script. I got an old laptop I'll try that on.
 
Old 09-23-2004, 11:48 AM   #12
rogerdean
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Talking

well, after going through the decision process i'm now too into this linux lark to let it go. so theYinYeti i'd like to take up your matchbox offer! i've put mandrake 10 onto my thinkpad x31. what's next?
r
 
Old 09-24-2004, 04:07 AM   #13
theYinYeti
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Hi,

I suggest we do the steps by PM (LQ's Personal Message), so as not to fill up the boards with unnecessary details. Then when all is done, we post a summary to LQ. What do you think?

First question is: what version of Matchbox do you want to try?
* 0.6.2:
++ Easy to install. Only 1 tarball. Takes "debian-style" menu entries, as Mandrake does, so that Mb's menu is the same as Gnome's.
-- A bit old. No more evolution. No more applets for it (currently, there is: sound volume, APM status, CPU/MEM status, configurable app launcher, clock).

* 0.8.x:
++ Steps were taken so that install should now also be easy. Current, so maintained. Desktop is plug-in-based, so eg: there's a xine-based video-browser plug-in, and also a image-browser plug-in (I tried none of those).
-- Takes ".desktop-style" menu entries, unlike Mandrake; but I've seen an option (environment variable to set) so that "debian-style" menu entries are read: I'll have to try.

PM me your choice, and also your email adress if you want to go with 0.6.2.

Note that 0.6.2 is so small, and so easy and fast to install, that you may choose to try this one to get a feeling of the product. And if you like it, you may then switch to the newer 0.8.

Yves.
 
Old 09-24-2004, 04:21 AM   #14
Bruce Hill
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Quote:
Originally posted by theYinYeti
Hi,

I suggest we do the steps by PM (LQ's Personal Message), so as not to fill up the boards with unnecessary details. Then when all is done, we post a summary to LQ. What do you think?

PM me your choice,

Yves.
I've installed matchbox-window-manager-0.8.3.tar.bz2
but when I click your PM button I get....
Quote:
theYinYeti has chosen not to receive private messages or may not be allowed to receive private messages. Therefore you may not send your message to him/her.
 
Old 09-24-2004, 05:20 AM   #15
vectordrake
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On a similarly powered desktop system, I ran KDE 2.2 on Debian Woody quite easily, with room to spare. Why don't you try Debian for your dad. Its easy to install and packages are just an apt-get (or synaptic) away. Gnome 2.6will feel a lot like Windows to him. Or you could install XFCE4.That machine is more than capable. Do him a favor, though.Install Opera as well as Firefox.On that machine any mozilla-based browser will slug to action, while Opera will race! (eliminate the main bar and the ad becomes a thin strip!)
 
  


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