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Old 09-22-2005, 07:23 AM   #1
slowmind
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Old win98 machine conversion - Where do I even start?


Heyhey,

I'm actually a little scared to even ask, I looked through the threads here and the people asking the "newbie" questions are probably going to giggle when they see this one...

I really don't have any *nix background at all. I'm a systems librarian, which means I can make M$ Word work and get people connected to their network printers and probably not too much else. I've always used Windows computers, I can thrash my way around on a Mac if I have to.

So being a librarian, when I wanted to learn about Linux, I got a book on Red Hat (9.0 I think) that came with installation CD's. I read the first couple of chapters, then stuck the first CD into my old Win98 machine. I muddled through an install, it was simpler than I dared to hope. Now I have a desktop environment that looks sort of similar to a Windows machine. Problems?

1. My machine is too slow. I believe that the Red Hat distro that I installed wanted a minimum of RAM that was more than I had. Since the point of this is to learn rather than spend money, I'd love to hear if there was some other distro that would be recommended for an old clunker that really doesn't have the power to run Red Hat. Note that I don't care about gaming or great speed--but I try to run OpenOffice and have to wait a minute or two for that to just open up. Really impossible to even play with.

2. My machine has no Network Interface Card. I use a DSL connection and I happen to have a second DSL modem, which can connect to a computer via USB or Ethernet. I don't have an ethernet card at this point, and the USB ports...well, remember this was a Win98 machine. I don't know if the USB port will work or how the hell the computer is supposed to even know that I'm trying to use that port to connect to the modem.

3. I'm a complete doofus. (Ok, I guess that one's out of scope for this forum.)

Does anyone have any thoughts? My thanks in advance.

Slowmind
 
Old 09-22-2005, 07:57 AM   #2
johl_1
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don't worry about being new to it all, i was not that long ago. besides, we all gotta learn somewhere. setting up my first linux distro was a slightly drawn out task, but i've finally settled now with mandrake (mandriva) 10.1 it's all v user friendly, and works like a treat on my computer which i have dual booted with windows xp, tho i have to be honest, i rarely use xp these days.

in answer to your question there are a lot of distros of linux out there which can be used on older computers. i recently read an article by a guy who has linux on a range of older computers, even 386s and older. obviously these are cut down versions. my advice to you though, would simply be to look one of the main distros but a few versions older. something like Red Hat 7, SuSE 7 or Mandrake 7. these don't have all the bells and whistles your mainstream distros have nowadays, but it's a place to start. you should still be able to download the ISOs quite freely from either the website archives or a mirror. Just be warned though that these slightly older versions don't have the refined installation process so may be a shade more complicated. I have no experience of the older SuSE or mandrake distros, thought i used to used mandrake 9.1

just have a look around on the internet, red hat 7 i have used a fair bit before and it's pretty decent. Without knowing the spec of your computer i can't say for sure what you need, but given it's a win 98 system, i think rh 7 should work.

i found the iso's you can download as well, http://www.linuxiso.org/distro.php?distro=7 there's a nice copy of red hat 7.3 on there. isn't open source wonderful?
 
Old 09-22-2005, 08:03 AM   #3
F0ul_Olli
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First things first - we have ALL been there, you have a windows machine that works, you would like linux, you try and install, and you end up with a dog with three legs!
Don't worry, its normal!

Firstly, you need to be aware that there is a lot to learn, but don't let it overwhelm you - little steps make the journey shorter (or something like that!)

REDHAT will work on a very old PC, however, there are many of the packages within RH which won't. A common misunderstanding is that the graphical package (Gnome or KDE) is Linux. These, in their newest editions are very pretty, and need a lot of power to make that happen. There is a choice of window managers and Window systems, from Fluxbox to Window Maker, and most of them are much easier on older PC's. The first thing to be aware of is that you should start working with the command line in these circumstances.

The network card issue could be a problem (Linux prefers stand alone devices to devices that use Windows to control them - see "winmodems"), but its better to look at it as an exercise in learning about how Linux works. Linux isn't too bad with USB by today, but I would suggest you read up on how Linux works with devices and peripherals because understanding the theory makes moving on much easier. (put "mount /dev/sda0 "into www.google.com/linux and see what info you can find)

As for practical advice - I would suggest you read up on the subjects above, and go and reinstall RedHat with less options installed - Redhat was the first Linux I used, but that was back with version 5.2 and I would guess things have moved on a lot since then so I can't tell you which options are good and which are not!

Hope this helps a little

F0ul Oli
 
Old 09-22-2005, 08:21 AM   #4
Emmanuel_uk
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Registered: Nov 2004
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Hi,
If you post the details of the config RAM + type of processor (maybe size of hard drive) people may be able to advise which distro to choose.

Personally, I would go for a modern distro (this will be easier to install):
what is taking lots of memory is the desktop manager, especially KDE. But you do not have to install or use KDE, you can use other desktop manager which use much less memory.
Many distros come with a few choice of desktop manager. Somebody
is bound to have some recomendations (like in the previous post)

Also you probably could disable services (that is piece of software) that
are running on your PC (at all time unless you disable them),
but that you actually do not need in a desktop configuration.
That would free some memory.
Also as said in post 2 install less stuffs

---------- added -------------------
my experience: Have converted a 700 MHz pentium III, 256 mb RAM to mandrake 10.1 community edition.
This was a win 98 machine

I added a ethernet card (PCI connection ), the cheapest I could find, brand new, 5, it was suported by linux.
There is lots of chance that an unbranded ethernet card will work.

You are a librarian, then you will not find the dust inside the PC a problem ;-). (sorry bad joke)
when you open it and slot the ethernet (PCI card) into place.
(unplug main; unscrew back of PC, open PC, look for an empty slot that look the right size,
insert card, possibly remove small steel plate from backplate of PC to let the connector
of the ethernet card show through, close pc, replug, et voila.)
Just avoid wearing shoes and clothes that gather a lot of static electricity

I am sure you can learn: you have been a long way already
(do not mean to be patronising. I mean hey, well done, keep going)
Other and I need to know what PC you have

About the ADSL, it is not always easy to setup I hear.
Reason more to use a modern distro, that will do the work for you
Having the ethernet card should make your life easier than usb

By the way, zin98 support of USB was close to 0. Whatever modern distro you
go for will mean you will be able to use USB key drive.

Last edited by Emmanuel_uk; 09-22-2005 at 09:11 AM.
 
Old 09-22-2005, 12:53 PM   #5
Charred
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Re: Old win98 machine conversion - Where do I even start?

slowmind,
Quote:
I'm actually a little scared to even ask, I looked through the threads here and the people asking the "newbie" questions are probably going to giggle when they see this one...

I really don't have any *nix background at all. I'm a systems librarian, which means I can make M$ Word work and get people connected to their network printers and probably not too much else. I've always used Windows computers, I can thrash my way around on a Mac if I have to.
Don't worry about not knowing, we all have to start someplace; as a librarian, you, of all people, should understand that. Apropos, please post your system specs (processor speed, video card, RAM, desktop/laptop, etc.) so we have a place to start helping you from.
Quote:
My machine is too slow. I believe that the Red Hat distro that I installed wanted a minimum of RAM that was more than I had. Since the point of this is to learn rather than spend money, I'd love to hear if there was some other distro that would be recommended for an old clunker that really doesn't have the power to run Red Hat. Note that I don't care about gaming or great speed--but I try to run OpenOffice and have to wait a minute or two for that to just open up. Really impossible to even play with.
Xorg, or XFree (depending on your distribution), either way, it's the thing that makes those pretty windows (a.k.a. Graphical User Interface or GUI) work, requires a lot of RAM, and therefore is what's slowing your computer up. There are some options to ease the strain on your RAM, such as disabling services or switching from a Desktop Environment (such as KDE) to a Window Manager (such as Blackbox or ICEwm), but IMO, adding more RAM is ALWAYS a good idea.

Another option, if you're the adventurous type, is to try one of the more "configuration intensive" distributions, such as Vector, Gentoo, or my personal favorite, Slackware. Some will caution you against this, but if you're not afraid of the command line (and research), these can result in a sense of personal achievement as well as a surprisingly fast system. I put Slackware 10.1 on a PII 400MHz with 64Meg of RAM (with Blackbox as WM), and compared to how it performed under Win98, it's impressively fast. Whatever you decide, RedHat 9 IS rather old.
Quote:
My machine has no Network Interface Card. I use a DSL connection and I happen to have a second DSL modem, which can connect to a computer via USB or Ethernet. I don't have an ethernet card at this point, and the USB ports...well, remember this was a Win98 machine. I don't know if the USB port will work or how the hell the computer is supposed to even know that I'm trying to use that port to connect to the modem.
USB support is not a problem.
Quote:
I'm a complete doofus.
And I'm a PWAC; big deal. The solution is to READ, READ, READ. Here are some starting points:Welcome to LQ!

Last edited by Charred; 09-22-2005 at 01:09 PM.
 
Old 09-22-2005, 11:41 PM   #6
gdivens51
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i'm running Libranet 2.7 Classic on a 233mhz, 128MB ram, old 33mhz speed HDD PC about 10 years old. I recommend this distro, mine is as fast my WinME computer with 192mb ram & 1 Gz processor. At first Linux is frustrating to learn but after awhile u will prefer it to Windows, it is just fun to use. I also use XFCE on this PC which might explain one reason it is fast. Previously i had RH 7.3 using KDE & altho it was satisfactory speed-wise it was not as fast as now. RH 9 was too slow to be acceptable.
 
Old 09-23-2005, 12:02 AM   #7
Electro
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Posts: 6,042

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You can setup your USB xDSL modem if it is supported, but you will also have to setup a firewall which is hard to do when you are first learning Linux. It is easier to use an ethernet based xDSL modem because you can use a router to block incomming requests. The router will do all the hard work for you, so all you need to do is set a few values in Linux. I strongly suggest using a router because it will protect you while also using Windows 98.

The speed of Linux really depends on the hardware and kernel parameters. I have used KDE on a Pentium II 400 MHz with 256 MB of RAM and it was not slow. The Linux distribution that it was using is Mandrake 9. I prefer people to use Mandrake 9 over Mandrake 10 because 10 has several glitches and it depends on the internet for all header packages and extra programs to be installed. In Mandrake 9, all the programs and header packages that you need were on the CD.

On all my Linux systems, I use Xfce4 because I do not care for eye candy. Xfce4 is way over the edge of eye candy for eye candy but I do not like other Window and Desktop manager.

BTW, do not attempt to install WINE in the first few months because you will be ripping your hair out trying to run a program.
 
Old 09-23-2005, 12:19 AM   #8
slackhack
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Registered: Jun 2004
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since you pretty much had no problem getting rh9 set up, i agree with the others that you should jump right to slackware or maybe slackware-based vector, or debian-based libranet is actually pretty good, too, very fast. forget the big bloated distros like mandriva, fedora, ubuntu, etc. those are okay for newer machines, but the convenience of having everything set up for you (if you get even that) will be offset by the bloat.

my guess is that hdparm was not turned on by default with redhat, and you said you were using a windows-like gui, which was either kde or gnome -- both massive system hogs. what you want is to use a slim distro like mentioned above, with a window manager such as fluxbox, icewm, or even xfce4. that will speed things up considerably, and then you can get down to learning the actual OS.
 
Old 09-23-2005, 02:40 AM   #9
Emmanuel_uk
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Registered: Nov 2004
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junpax, next time you post to the wrong thread, just go back
to your post please and edit it (delete the content).
I see you are fine you have started your own thread.
Good luck

Slowmind,

AFAIK openoffice does not come with slackware.
That is why I did not recommend slackware.

Openoffice is quite demanding in terms of memory.
and depending on what use you have of word processing etc
ypu might want to use alternatives maybe

re PC is slow: Have you configured a swap partition?
Post here the result of
fdisk -l
ran from a terminal window

Last edited by Emmanuel_uk; 09-23-2005 at 07:08 AM.
 
Old 09-23-2005, 01:18 PM   #10
Vgui
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I see that someone mentioned Slackware already, but you should also consider looking into Vector Linux. It's Slackware based and optimized for older hardware, but makes some of the "hard" configuration a little easier with automatic setup or GUIs. Definately worth checking out 4.3 or 5.1 standard.
 
Old 09-30-2005, 08:34 PM   #11
slowmind
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Registered: Sep 2005
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Smile

Hi all,

First and foremost, thanks for lots of help and suggestions. Ok, here goes...


johl_1 : I haven't gotten any blank CD's yet. When I do, the idea of burning an ISO sounds great. (When will I be able to walk into a store and get what I need with my good looks?)

Foul_Olli : I like the google.com/linux thing. "mount /dev/sda0 " scared me. But what doesn't scare me isn't worth thinking about, right?

Emmanuel_Uk : I actually managed to disable a lot of services, and it did help. Still not really usable, but it's exciting to do something and see a result! Also, I think I'm just going to have to break down and get a cheap Ethernet card, like you suggest. I'm pretty sure there's an old Voodoo3 graphics card in there that I could pull out - I'm not looking for a gaming machine, here.

I believe the machine is a 233 Mhz. I'll post more specs later, when I'm closer to the thing.

re your second post: I'll look back at the book, I originally set up the rh9 on this machine around christmas time last year but gave up pretty quickly. (It was really slow and I was sitting on a concrete floor. This time I have a chair...) I will try the fdisk -l thing and post it.

Charred : I *am* afraid of the command line, but I'll get there--hopefully soon. I'm reading
The Art of UNIX Programming and feeling the love. Also, I read through some of your suggested reading links, I love the bits about stupid questions.

Slackhack : Thanks for encouragement! also, I'm adding "hdparm" to my list of things I don't know about but will soon.

Vgui :I like the specific mention of versions that might work. Anything that's designed for older hardware sounds good to me.

Finally, the ultimate newbie question: does anyone know my root password? :O I only wish I was kidding. Actually, when I installed rh9 I followed good security practice by choosing a hard to guess password and not writing it down. (You never know when ninjas are going to break into your cellar and hack your toy machine.) I finally remembered the right combination of username and password to get into the GUI (which I believe is KDE, if not I'll post that when I get the rest of the specs). I am unable to remember the root password I chose. I'm wondering if that's going to be a big barrier to tearing down rh9 and installing a different distro. Any thoughts?

Again, many thanks.
Slowmind
 
Old 09-30-2005, 10:13 PM   #12
AnanthaP
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Redhat or any other distro is OK, but please try earlier versions. In Redhat, to load any graphical user interface (you mention open-office) you need a minimum of 128MB memory.

End
 
Old 09-30-2005, 11:14 PM   #13
PaganHippie
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One of the nicer things about Linux in general, and in fact one of the things that attracted me to Linux in the first place, is the fact that there are versions/distros that will run very nicely on older hardware with limited resources. Now, that said, it is also very true that how far you can push your system depends on which Linux you install, and also *largely* on how capable your hardware is.

I've taken some flak for suggesting this before, but I'll stick to my guns: pick a version of Linux that was current around the same time your system was current. That way, you'll have decent hardware support and decent performance, and you're less likely to get overloaded with "neat-o" new features that may ask for more than your hardware has to give.

Personally, I like Slackware for older systems, but installing & configuring (especially older versions of) Slack is much easier when you know a good deal about your hardware at the "I/O port address & Interrupt Request" level.

The bottom line is, use whatever works for you. If "Cooter's Mudflap Linux" installs on your system, recognises your hardware (or at least isn't too hard to configure for it), and performs decently, then use "Cooter's Mudflap Linux." If not, try another distro or version. It's not like it's expensive, and you may learn a lot about computer hardware in the meanwhile. I surely did. YMMV.

Peace....

Last edited by PaganHippie; 09-30-2005 at 11:18 PM.
 
Old 10-01-2005, 01:02 AM   #14
slowmind
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OK, the specs that I know:

AMD - K6 - 2/333Mhz processor
4 bays / 3 slots
64Mb SDRAM
4.3 Gb Hard drive
Voodoo3 video card
The machine itself is an HP Pavilion 4400. As I said, it originally had win98 on it. Also, during the startup process, it does say something about how it's activating swap partitions.

I managed to get a command line (or whatever it's called) by logging in using "failsafe mode." This bypassed the GUI and put me into bash, which seems like a good place to start (I think?).

I'm still working on running fdisk...I seem to find the directory where it lives (i can see fdisk listed when i enter "dir" at /sbin/) but when I type "fdisk" bash tells me this is not a command. Yar.
 
Old 10-01-2005, 02:34 AM   #15
PaganHippie
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Oh-kay....

HP at that time (1998/99) was still very fond of proprietary hardware (that is, things may be a little non-standard), but this still shouldn't be at all beyond your grasp. Take a deep breath....

The '/sbin' directory is reserved for commands usually run as 'root' ('Administrator' in WinNT/2k/XP, no meaningful equivalent in Win9x). Think of 'failsafe mode' in Linux as roughly equivalent to 'safe mode' in Win (that is, you can boot, but your functionality is severely limited; OTOH you can make serious system-related changes if you know what you're doing [which is what this mode is really for, anyway]). 4.3 GB is plenty of room for a very usable Linux system.

An AMD K6 is roughly equivalent to an Intel Pentium Pro/II/early Celeron. If you want to be safe, don't try to install/run anything 'newer' than 'i586' kernels/packages. How much RAM do you have? Whatever it is, increase it as much as you can (sound advice in any OS). A '686' kernel/package *might* work, but I'd stick with earlier ones if they're available (which they usually are).

Are you logging in as 'root'? If not, find out how, as making fundamental system-level changes such as 'fdisk' makes is asking for trouble (or even impossible) if you're not 'root' (and requires considerable caution even when you know exactly what you're doing -- this is where the computer looks for the boot files and all of the data, after all [and yes, I've f***ed my system up very well this way, too {but take heart, no software-induced damage is completely irreparable; you can always re-install from scratch}]). That said, if 'fdisk' is in '/sbin' try, typing '/sbin/fdisk' rather than just 'fdisk' to start it. I must say, though, that Linux fdisk is not for the faint of heart, and if you can find a kinder partition editor, try it instead. There are plenty of them. (Which distro are you working with again? Doesn't it offer you disk partitioning options while installing? Or if not, what happens when you accept the defaults?)

Your video card should be no problem at all for any reasonably recent distro.

Now for the comforting and reassuring part.... On hardware similar to yours, I've successfully installed & used Redhat 5.2 and Slackware 3.5 and found the results to be reasonably speedy & quite usable. (Keep in mind that there was a 3-year gap between my experiments with those versions & my more recent trials; I'm currently running Ubuntu 5.04 & playing with Slackware 10.2; newer revisions/distros should be at least as reasonable as the older ones.) Xwindows-based programs will probably run, but you may find them on the slow side. If you're willing to dispense with graphics-based applications, both lynx and links will get you browsing the WWW (in text-only modes [don't laugh, there are still people using older, donated or salvaged hardware in impoverished nations who rely solely on these apps]); there are scores of email clients for Linux, and networking tasks such as firewalling and routing are computation-forgiving enough that even older i486-based PCs can handle them easily.

Hope I've been of some help....

(Oh, and btw, you're *not* a complete idiot, newbie or not. If you were, you wouldn't have the wit to ask the questions you've asked. So there.)

Last edited by PaganHippie; 10-01-2005 at 02:49 AM.
 
  


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