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Old 04-22-2007, 07:53 PM   #1
mhg
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how to get started to give Linux a try


Hi All,

I have wanted to try Linux for a few years now, but always chicken out. Seems like everything is done with line commands, which I know nothing about.

The first problem is figuring out if I can install Linux on any partition I have. I have read instructions for making a dual-boot machine with XP and Linux, but not familiar enough with partitions and MBR to know how to go about it, even with the instructions, so always stop right there.

All I have ever done with partitions is very simple things when reformatting and re-installing Windows.

I could dig up an old PC (700 mhz, 128mg RAM, maybe 10gig HHD) and try to install on that, but seems a waste of space and time.

Seems like folks that get into Linux really love it, I just donít know how to get started. Once tried a live CD, but was not impressed.

Any guidance for someone that doesnít even know where to start?

Thanks
 
Old 04-22-2007, 08:28 PM   #2
Quakeboy02
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Quote:
I could dig up an old PC (700 mhz, 128mg RAM, maybe 10gig HHD) and try to install on that, but seems a waste of space and time.
Maybe not. That's not a particularly slow machine. The ram is a bit on the small side, but the disk is big enough. Why don't you download the Ubuntu installer, make a DVD from it, and install it on that old machine. That way, if you really just don't like the way linux works, it's no real loss. New users usually bugger things up pretty badly for awhile, so your data on your "real" machine won't be at risk, either. Don't be surprised if it's a bit slow due to the ram size. Just ignore that part of it and get a feel for using linux. Then, if you like it, go for the dual boot, or just move that disk over to your real machine and set that up for dual boot. Along the way, I'd suggest that you make yourself a Knoppix liveDVD, as well as getting a copy of "Super Grub Disk". That last one bailed me out today when I had a grub issue that I just couldn't figure out. It will probably make your switch to dual boot a lot easier if/when you choose to do it.
 
Old 04-22-2007, 08:46 PM   #3
jay73
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First thing you need to do is prepare a partition. Many versions of Linux will allow you to do that during install but I kind of like to do that before, it makes things easier and above all it is less likely to cause accidents with other partitions. If you want to do the same, you should look on the internet for the livecd of Gparted, which is a small Linux distro completely built around partitioning tasks. Just download it to your disk and burn it as an ISO (not as a simple data cd). Before proceeding, be sure to run a few filesystem checks and defrags on your windows XP. Try to move everything as much as possible to the left (you should be able to see a graphical representation of where things are on your disk if you go to control center / administration/ disk management / defragment (or something like that, I haven't seen XP for a while ...). It may also be a good idea to make a back-up of any data you do not want to lose; Gparted is very reliable in my experience but well you never know.
Then boot off the Gparted cd. You will need to right-click the XP partition and select "resize"; the numbers are in MB so you need to remember that 1GB = 1024 MB, so an XP partition of, say, 40GB would be 40x1024 = 40960. Click on "apply" and you will see that the XP partition actually gets shrunk (or it should - a number of people have reported problems when trying to do massive resizing, like from 250GB to 50 or so - in which case resizing may fail; the workaround is to resize in steps - take off 20GB the first time round, then 20 more, etc). In the freed up space, you can now create new partitions. Right-click "unallocated" and make a partition that is twice the size of your amount of RAM (e.g. 512MB RAM = 1024MB partition) and choose "linux-swap" as the format. Then make a second partition that will hold your system files: 5120 to 10240 MB should be fine - if not plenty - for most users, although you may want to add a few GB more if you go for a very very very complete install (which most users simply don't need as I said). Format as ext3 (=very stable) or xfs (=faster but somewhat less stable) as preferred. Then make a third partition that will hold your personal data (files, media, etc). You can make it as big as you want - in fact, you can also skip it altogether as Linux has been able to read and write from/to ntfs for a while now so you could use your XP partition(s) to store your files instead. If you do make the partition, do not forget to format (ext3 or xfs again). Do not forget to click "apply" after each operation.
Exit Gparted and reboot into XP to make certain everything is still functioning. If all is fine, you are ready to install your Linux. Sites like distrowatch.com offer many reviews of Linux distros and they also offer a top 100 of the most popular; any from the top 10 should be fine to start with but absolute beginners may like Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS or Mepis best. They are just more preconfigured than the others so that is so much less to worry about. Download and burn as an ISO, then boot of the cd/dvd. Before doing so, it may be interesting to check google for a tutorial that explains how to install the specific distro you picked, it reduces the risk of having to start over and over because you suddenly see some option that you cannot make any sense of. If you're ready, launch you cd/dvd and just follow the instructions; be sure to pick the proper partitions - you do not want to install over XP. Leave the smallest partition alone (linux-swap), that should be all ready to go. Then select the second partition you made and choose "/" as its mount point. If you also made a data partition, that one should have "/home" as its mount point. You can also (re)format the partitions at this stage; if you used Gparted, that's been taken care off already so there's no need to do it again. When asked, install the bootloader to MBR. The rest should be pretty obvious.

Have fun!

Edit: Quakeboy made some good remarks. But if you're going to use the P3, make sure you donwload the alternative Ubuntu CD; 128MB RAM is not enough to use the regular cd.

Last edited by jay73; 04-22-2007 at 08:49 PM.
 
Old 04-22-2007, 09:22 PM   #4
phantom_cyph
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Ubuntu is a good place to start, but may not be for you. Take a look that the "Take a test" link in my sig to see what distro would be best for you. Another place to look is at Distrowatch.com. As far as the specs, I started off running Fedora Core 5 on my P2, with 256mb of ram and a 12 gig hdd, so your computer is definitely fast enough. If you really want a good, stable, fast OS, check out:

Puppy, DSL (Damn Small Linux), or Austrumi.

(my personal favorite is Austrumi)
 
Old 04-22-2007, 09:24 PM   #5
mhg
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Thanks for the replies.

I keep hearing about Ubuntu, and have it downloaded (7.04). I saw two different versions, a 7.04 and a 6.06 LTS. Will one of those versions work on the old PC?

I very much appreciate your detailed instructions on partitioning. Most of it makes sense from the little I have done. I will need to look for the apps to download.

I will start looking for the Gparted and Super Grub.

Quakeboy02:
Why do you recommend the live DVD of knoppix? Is that the distro you prefer?
Or just a matter of having a live DVD?

The one site I found with a Knoppix download had a long list of files. So I pick an ISO to download?

Thanks for the help.
 
Old 04-22-2007, 09:25 PM   #6
Quakeboy02
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Quote:
But if you're going to use the P3, make sure you donwload the alternative Ubuntu CD; 128MB RAM is not enough to use the regular cd.
Is the alternative CD some stripped down version with an xfce desktop or something like that? If so, I recommend against it for the simple reason that this is an exercise to get him the flavor of Linux, not to get the best performance. It does no good if it's fast but he simply doesn't like it because it only has minimal desktop functionality as compared to gnome or kde. I've run debian/gnome on a P233 laptop with 96M of RAM. It's no fun, but it gave me enough of a flavor of Linux/gnome that I converted completely. But, yes, it will be a bit swappy.
 
Old 04-22-2007, 09:29 PM   #7
Quakeboy02
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Quote:
Quakeboy02:
Why do you recommend the live DVD of knoppix? Is that the distro you prefer?
Or just a matter of having a live DVD?
If you decide to become a Linux user, you WILL eventually need a liveCD unless you don't do anything adventurous. As far as I'm concerned, Knoppix is THE liveCD to have.

http://www.knopper.net/knoppix/index-en.html and download from your closest mirror.
 
Old 04-22-2007, 09:32 PM   #8
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I'd go ahead and dig up that old PC and just do a simple single OS Linux install on it, rather than dual-boot Windows/Linux. With those specs, the old computer will run acceptably. Many Linux distributions like Ubuntu will be sluggish with 128megs of RAM, but it's plenty of RAM for Debian (which is what Ubuntu is based on). Pretty much any Linux distribution can run a lightweight desktop well on 128megs of RAM, but since you're a newbie you'll probably want to start with something more newbie-friendly like GNOME or KDE.

The thing about dual-booting is that it takes time and effort to switch from one OS to the other. With two single-OS computers, you don't have to choose or wait for rebooting (well, except for Windows updates, of course).
 
Old 04-22-2007, 09:41 PM   #9
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Knoppix also comes in handy when you have a friend/relative that has recently had Windows crash on them and need files off their hard drive. It reads NTFS partitions, and I recently gave a copy to my cousin who has a virus infested HDD. Also, for running KDE, it runs quite fast. It is a tool I carry with me anywhere I go (it comes in handy). As far as Ubuntu, 7.04 still has a lot of bugs, I don't think it would be good to start with. 6.06 is kinda old, so I would recommend 6.1 (Edgy). For some reason it is no longer on Ubuntu's site...

Have you checked out LQ's list of downloads/mirrors? It is really good as it offers older versions as well. See here.

Last edited by phantom_cyph; 04-22-2007 at 09:43 PM.
 
Old 04-22-2007, 09:50 PM   #10
mhg
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I have found the Knoppix download mirrors, but still do not know what file/files I need. Do I just download this KNOPPIX_V3.6-2004-08-16-DE.iso and burn it to CD or DVD?

I will see what I can put together for an additional PC to play with. It is a challenge to decide which distro to start with, so many choices, but that is part of the fun, right?

Thanks for so much help. I'm beginning to think I can try this!
 
Old 04-22-2007, 10:02 PM   #11
phantom_cyph
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Try Knoppix 5.1, its the latest version. There are around 400 Linux distros, Distrowatch.com doesn't even list them all.
 
Old 04-22-2007, 10:05 PM   #12
jay73
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Quakeboy:

the alternative cd offers exactly the same, only it uses a text installer by default. That is exactly what makes it better suited for low-mem systems. It is also offers more control over the install process - the regular cd is far more "automated" by comparison (the alternative cd is actually a clone of the Debian text installer).
 
Old 04-22-2007, 10:17 PM   #13
IsaacKuo
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About Knoppix--the "de" version is in German. You'll want that one if you're fluent in German. Otherwise, you'll want the "eng" version. (I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that you understand English, since you're writing/reading English in this thread.)
 
Old 04-23-2007, 08:01 PM   #14
mhg
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Many Thanks.

Also, thanks for the links.

I am leaning towards either Ubuntu or Knoppix, but only from reading through forums etc. It is still a daunting task trying to sort through all the offerings out there. Was it two years ago, maybe more I was reading really good things about Simply Mepis?

Am I correct in thinking that Gnome and KDE are two different desk top environments I will need to choose from? And Ubuntu uses gnome and Knoppix uses KDE? Should I even care at this point?

Is it worth concerning myself much about which distro I try, as long as I get one suitable for a beginner? Will all of them give me a good feel for Linux?

My goal is to eventually have a Linux O/S I can do everything I want to do that I do now with MS (did that make sense?). Is Liinux software written to work with only a specific distro?

Thanks again for all the replies.
 
Old 04-23-2007, 08:16 PM   #15
Quakeboy02
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Knoppix is a liveCD that uses kde. I know nothing about whether or not it can be installed. Ubuntu is a user friendly spinoff of debian. But, debian rules, of course!
 
  


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