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Old 05-20-2009, 09:08 AM   #1
linuxfanboy
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Question Preparing to switch to linux, bunch of silly questions


OK you got me. I'm in the process of setting up my computer as dual boot. In the past few weeks Ive read quite a bit about linux, about switching from windows and listened to few podcasts. I cant wait to try a bunch of distros

There are a few questions that I couldnt find an answer for in online guides, prolly cos they seem obvious to people who've been using linux and theyre bit silly. Also I have a few concerns re hardware compatibility cos Im using old machine.

ram question...

My desktop is 5-6 years old technology. Still looks like linux distros dont need much. Thinking of going with ubuntu 9.04 first. My ram is only 256 mb, but Im well over the other requirements.

Will the live cd run at 256mb? Ubuntu site says it needs 384mb, but does that mean it wont run at all below 384mb it or it will just run bad?

Also the 384mb that ubuntu needs to run compiz effects, what does that mean? Does it mean it will eat up 384mb so if you wanna run other programs and games you'll need 384mb + what the game needs? Or is it just an estimate of how much it needs to run properly with games/programs included in there...

How much does ubuntu 9.04 use without running any programs, when it starts up?

I'll prolly end up getting more RAM if I can get linux distros to work on my hardware.

graphic card question...

I have one of the dreaded ati cards unfortunately and its as old as the system, 5-6 years. Having listened to few podcasts, thing that stuck me was when one of the linux outlaws guys burned his ati card by installing drivers from the ati site itself lol.

How can I avoid that? What are the chances of that happening? Is there risk if I just use ubuntu's cd? That cd comes with ready drivers in it...are those more stable then the crap ati writes?

The fact the card is old, is that plus cos drivers for it have been around a while or minus cos well....its old and weak?

Because the machine is this old, if I lose any important part like the cpu or the graphic card Im better off buying new computer then buying parts for the old. Unfortunately I'm not in a position to afford a new pc at this stage, hence my paranoia about this.

fan question

Ive got this persistent problem with the fan, dont know if its cos the machine is old or smth else. Whenever I start it up, I hear this loud sound or about 10-20 secs. Like the fan is working franatically or smth. It seems to happen when I turn the computer off for like hour or smth. If I just turn it off and then on again in few mins It usually doesnt happen.

I monitor the fan and it seems to run pretty stable after those first 20 secs.

During heavy gaming (or buggy games i dont know which) times when the cpu maxes out at 100 or close to it, I see the fan has increased its speed somewhat to counter the heat.

I use a program that monitors its speed but I havent configured it change up/down the RPMs. What changes the RPMs? Is it Windows or smth pre-configured on on the motherboard? If its the windows that controls this, does linux have smth similar to control the fan? Do I have to install drivers to get this function to work on linux?

Basically will it be ok to try out few distros with this fan problem or maybe it could escalate the problem and burn up elements in the computer? If smth goes wrong with linux and it doesnt work properly how long will I have before the system burns up lol

That should be all. I'll write more if I can think of smth. Thanks for the help in advance.

Last edited by linuxfanboy; 05-20-2009 at 09:12 AM.
 
Old 05-20-2009, 09:21 AM   #2
bitpicker
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That's not enough RAM. The live CD may start, but it will probably be very sluggish. For installation you will probably have to use the alternate install CD with its text-based setup.

Compiz is for 3D effects, and you can definitely forget them with that little RAM. But that also means you don't have to use any proprietary drivers for your graphics card, so it doesn't matter it's ATI.

As for the fan, if it fails to work the OS doesn't matter. I don't think trying Linux is going to increase the risk of failure.

Robin
 
Old 05-20-2009, 10:03 AM   #3
j1alu
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the smaller distributions would run fine with 256MB:
http://featherlinux.berlios.de/
http://www.damnsmalllinux.org/
http://www.vectorlinux.com/
and others.
you might also check knoppix which now seems to come with lxde as (a lightweight)
desktop-environment. the version i downloaded from here came with lxde:
http://knopper.net/knoppix-mirrors/index-en.html

else you could install a small window-manager like e16, icewm or fluxbox after installation of the OS and would be well-off with your amount of Ram.

greetings

post-edit: as its mentioned in the next post heres the
link to puppy
http://www.puppylinux.com/
which is really very good (in my opinion)

Last edited by j1alu; 05-20-2009 at 11:23 AM.
 
Old 05-20-2009, 10:55 AM   #4
i92guboj
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Quote:
Originally Posted by linuxfanboy View Post
My desktop is 5-6 years old technology. Still looks like linux distros dont need much. Thinking of going with ubuntu 9.04 first. My ram is only 256 mb, but Im well over the other requirements.
Ram is actually one of the requirements that you should take more seriously when talking about linux. There are distros that can run well under 256, and even with 64 or 32 mb or ram. It all comes down to what applications you want to use. I am sure that it's possible to make ubuntu work with that, but don't expect it to be painless, and much less for a newcomer. I suggest you to try other distros. In addition to the ones that the poster above said, you can try puppy linux.

Ubuntu might work, but don't expect a good performance once the system starts swapping to disk because it lacks ram. If your box supports it, seriously, upgrade. Buy more ram, it will be only a few €'s or $$ if you can afford it.

Quote:
Also the 384mb that ubuntu needs to run compiz effects, what does that mean?
Compiz does fancy things which are useless. You can perfectly live without that. To get an idea what the compiz thing is about just search for compiz in youtube.

Quote:
Does it mean it will eat up 384mb so if you wanna run other programs and games you'll need 384mb + what the game needs? Or is it just an estimate of how much it needs to run properly with games/programs included in there...
Which games? Obviously you won't need the same to play chess or tic-tac-toe than to play doom3 or a newer game).

Quote:
I have one of the dreaded ati cards unfortunately and its as old as the system, 5-6 years. Having listened to few podcasts, thing that stuck me was when one of the linux outlaws guys burned his ati card by installing drivers from the ati site itself lol.
ATi cards are a mystery, they sometimes work ok but most users always have problems when using the propietary drivers, they are not the most stable thing. However, you can worry about that later. It might be tricky to set it up to work with hardware acceleration but it should be possible. That your card is old might actually be an advantage because maybe it works right with the open source driver (radeon or radeonhd) instead of the buggy closed one (fglrx).

In any case, your hardware is not going to explode because of linux. It might just explode because it's old though.

Quote:
fan question

Ive got this persistent problem with the fan, dont know if its cos the machine is old or smth else. Whenever I start it up, I hear this loud sound or about 10-20 secs. Like the fan is working franatically or smth. It seems to happen when I turn the computer off for like hour or smth. If I just turn it off and then on again in few mins It usually doesnt happen.

I monitor the fan and it seems to run pretty stable after those first 20 secs.

During heavy gaming (or buggy games i dont know which) times when the cpu maxes out at 100 or close to it, I see the fan has increased its speed somewhat to counter the heat.

I use a program that monitors its speed but I havent configured it change up/down the RPMs. What changes the RPMs? Is it Windows or smth pre-configured on on the motherboard? If its the windows that controls this, does linux have smth similar to control the fan? Do I have to install drivers to get this function to work on linux?
Linux is pretty good at power management nowadays (though the newest hardware can be tricky for hibernation and the like). As long as your hardware support power throttling of any kind, that should work in linux as well. However, the hardware must support it.

In any case, you should monitor the temperatures, and not just the fan speed.
 
Old 05-20-2009, 10:57 AM   #5
TuxSurfer
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You will have problems with the latest Ubunut 9.04 with only 256mb of ram. Like bitpicker said, you could do alternate text install and install Xubuntu (XFCE) or possibly download the ISO of an earlier release, maybe 8.04? I would definitely upgrade my RAM if at all possible before an install, RAM is very inexpensive right now so I would max out my box if possible then install with no worries. Ubuntu may have drivers for your older ATI card already in the repositories.

As for your fan, it almost sounds like you may have a fan controller for a variable speed that may be controlled by your previous OS or the BIOS. We have an older eMachine in the office that does and it MAX's out the fan at first (cold) boot. I guess it's just a fan test or something at boot. If you have had the ability to monitor your fan and it seems fine and you have not had any issues with your system overheating I wouldn't worry about it. Be advised, however, that Ubuntu's default install may not vary your fan's speed and it may run at full RPM all the time if it's not controlled by the BIOS.
 
Old 05-20-2009, 11:21 AM   #6
ceantuco
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Hi Linuxfanboy! Welcome to LQ! I suggest you get more ram : www.crucial.com has good deals. get at least 256MB more or but a 512MB to have a total of 768MB. good luck! About the fan, it might have dirt on it. Open up your pc, clean it up then try removing the fan then remove the sticker on it and apply some LUB. It would really help!
good luck!
 
Old 05-20-2009, 12:33 PM   #7
linuxfanboy
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All good replies, thanks.

At i92guboj

Regarding the 384mb....what i meant was is that how much ubuntu will spend without programs/games, so if you say start up a game that wants 200mb ram, ur total usage will go up to 584mb...

or is the number just guess estimate of how much ram you need for the system to work properly in day to day work, including programs etc...

About the fan, yes the program monitors temperatures too. Whats power throttling?

at tuxsurfer

How can I see what controls the fan speed? I use winblows xp atm. I monitor the speed with a program but I havent configured it to mess with the fan. Ive installed ati control center or whatever its called but thats for the graphic card so it shouldnt mess with the fan. The other installed programs have even less to do with fan speed...Is it hidden service in xp...is it smwhere in the bios?

Also I cant find an option in my bios to shutdown the computer if tempetures go over certain level which is a bummer. I could use smth like that just in case.

I thought ubuntu loads its on bios grub? Or is that a boot loader...what does that do? Guess that cant manipulate fan speed lol.

Are programs for monitoring/controlling fans easy to find on linux? Can you recommend some?

to all regarding distros

Looks like trying 904 is bad idea. I might try ubuntu 804 or 704 instead, to see how my hardware matches up with ubuntu....if no major conflicts I'll get some more ram so I can use 904. Does that make sense or are they too different to matter?

Thanks again.
 
Old 05-20-2009, 12:53 PM   #8
i92guboj
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Quote:
Originally Posted by linuxfanboy View Post
All good replies, thanks.

At i92guboj

Regarding the 384mb....what i meant was is that how much ubuntu will spend without programs/games, so if you say start up a game that wants 200mb ram, ur total usage will go up to 584mb...
It depends on the concrete programs you use. I have no personal experience with ubuntu, so an ubuntu user might be able to answer that better than me. But from my experience with linux in general, and for what I know about ubuntu, I think that 256mb is really not enough if you expect a good performance. Turning off desktop effects and using lighter programs might help though (for example, don't use firefox which is a beast).

About gaming, it depends on the games really. Last generation games won't run with that amount of ram, even if your linux distro took only 10 mb of ram.

Quote:
About the fan, yes the program monitors temperatures too. Whats power throttling?
Power throttling are technologies that are aimed to reduce the power consumption. For example, lowering the cpu frequency when the computer is iddle. If your hardware supports that then linux should use it. That in turn should reduce the ran speed because less power is less heat.

The fan speed is not configurable via software. If it was it would be trivial for a virus for example to blow up your cpu by stopping it. The fan will run faster or slower depending on the heat. And that's the way it MUST be.

Quote:
Also I cant find an option in my bios to shutdown the computer if tempetures go over certain level which is a bummer. I could use smth like that just in case.
Sure that linux can do that. You can script almost anything imaginable. However I have no idea if ubuntu incorporates this functionality by default. Nowadays we rely on BIOSes to do that.

Quote:
I thought ubuntu loads its on bios grub? Or is that a boot loader...what does that do?
The boot loader is the responsible for loading the OS you want to boot. Grub is just a bootloader and it's only purpose is to boot a given OS. It can present you a menu so you can choose what OS to boot, and have many of them installed.

Quote:
Guess that cant manipulate fan speed lol.
As said, manipulating fan by yourself would only give you the power to break your hardware in an irrecoverable manner.

Quote:
Are programs for monitoring/controlling fans easy to find on linux? Can you recommend some?
lm_sensors and a lot of variants, conky, gkrellm, superkaramba or plasma applets, adesklets, gdesklets, mbmon (and variants), and a plethora of so called windowmaker dosckapps. There are many more, these are just from memory.

To control the speed of your cpu you need specific support on the hardware side. If you have that, then search for "cpufreq" which is what linux uses nowadays to handle that.

Quote:
Looks like trying 904 is bad idea. I might try ubuntu 804 or 704 instead, to see how my hardware matches up with ubuntu....if no major conflicts I'll get some more ram so I can use 904. Does that make sense or are they too different to matter?
They can be quite different, but the more important thing is "support". I have no idea if previous versions are still supported and updated (at least for security patches). You might be better choosing another distro that is lighter but is updated regularly.
 
Old 05-20-2009, 02:16 PM   #9
Fred Caro
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linux on old mechine

yes use a light version of linux , upgrade the ram but watch the speeds, make sure they match if using more than one stick.
regarding the fan, please don't take offence but when was the last time you cleaned it? They can become clogged with dust, hence the noise, or it might be catching on a lead but that should be obvious.Auto shutdown and temp control is usually done by the bios which you could upgrade but this is VERY risky.

roy.
 
Old 05-20-2009, 03:19 PM   #10
TuxSurfer
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You can probably get by with 256mb of RAM if you do a text based install and install a lighter WM like XFCE (Xubuntu variant) and don't use special effects like Compiz. The install CD which is a LiveCD requires more RAM because running an OS Live from CD requires more RAM. This is especially true with the latest default live Ubuntu because Compiz effects are loaded and available to the "Live User". I recommend if you do not want to spend the cash on memory now then to go ahead and download a previous version of Ubuntu or try another Linux variant like j1alu mentioned. As for the fan, I think i92guboj summed that up nicely. If you have not had a problems with overheating I would not worry about the fan.

Have fun and Welcome to LQ!
 
Old 05-25-2009, 04:22 AM   #11
bitpicker
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Quote:
Originally Posted by linuxfanboy View Post
Regarding the 384mb....what i meant was is that how much ubuntu will spend without programs/games, so if you say start up a game that wants 200mb ram, ur total usage will go up to 584mb...

or is the number just guess estimate of how much ram you need for the system to work properly in day to day work, including programs etc...
The 384 MB is a prerequisite for installation using the normal graphical installation method. I have seen installs fail because of too little RAM.

To give you an idea, I am using Xubuntu 9.04 (the Ubuntu version with XFce which is supposed to use less memory than standanrd Ubuntu). I have 768 MB of RAM. I have compositing enabled because I am using gdesklets (which also means that parts of Gnome are loaded as well), but no compiz. During system boot available RAM goes down to about 510 MB of RAM, when the system is fully booted and set up it has about 540 MB of free RAM left. So the system as such with a fully loaded session but no started applications already uses about 230 MB of RAM all by itself. At this point there is no swapping yet.

On a system with only 256 MB you can be sure that heavy swapping is already going on at this point. This will delay the boot process. Furthermore, XFce does not load the Gnome and KDE libraries by default which are necessary to run applications developed for either of these desktop environments. As soon as you load such an application the appropriate libraries are loaded as well. It has been shown that as soon as you use Gnome or KDE applications the memory consumption of XFce is no better than that of Gnome or KDE anymore - large parts of those environments are running anyway at that point.

So with only 256 MB of RAM you will waste much time waiting for memory to be swapped in and out. This also goes for lightweight distros such as Puppy or Vector the moment you want to use the typical, usually Gnome or KDE based applications. Yes, you can type a letter with Abiword, but do you really want to stay away from Open Office forever?

Robin
 
Old 05-26-2009, 04:06 AM   #12
Fred Caro
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ram/fan

You can run XP with service pack 3 on 256mb of ram but Debian 4 (slim version) will run much faster. In other words an amount of the programs will automatically load into the Ram the more of 'em the more space taken up.Also make sure the file system is in a healthy state.
 
  


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