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Old 08-03-2015, 06:21 PM   #1
gnomonklater
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Which Linux OS to use for newbie on 3 different computers?


Hello folks!
I have made the decision, after much thought, to go open source. Over the past few years, I've heard more and more about Linux, and how happy all the users are who run it, and well, I don't need to elaborate on this. I am sick of MS and want to make the break. I have 3 laptops I want to put Linux on, but I don't know where to begin, and I don't want to get something that may be more than I need, is difficult to figure out, or stresses the limitations of my computer(s). I seek advice from you.

The first laptop I want to put Linux on is an old Dell Inspiron 1200, which only has 248mb ram and used to run XP. I see there are 50 os OS's, so where do I begin? I don't want to go ultra basic, like with Puppy, or something like that, which I am certain will work, but I'd like to go a little more upscale than that. Any good suggestions? This laptop is being given to my 3-year old daughter to begin learning computing on, so the OS shouldn't be too clunky or complicate. In addition, since this is my first introduction to Linux, I want something fairly easy to figure out so I can move on to more complicated and upscale with my other two computers. One other laptop, a Dell Inspiron 8600, has 2gb ram and also ran XP, but I think it is currently running a 32bit OS, but I believe can handle 64 bit, not sure though. I want to put a beefier Linux OS on it. Presently I am thinking about Ubuntu 64 bit for it. I also have an HP Pavilion that has 4gb ram, and is 64 bit with Win7, and I want to put Ubuntu, 64 bit on it.

I feel like an alcoholic, admitting that I have used MS all these years, but I want to stop. I need help. I can't wait to get on board with Linux, but want to do all this carefully, and don't want to break anything. I am ready to totally commit to Linux on the old XP laptops, but will run it concurrent with Win7 on my newer laptop until I get comfy with it, so I'll install Ubuntu with Wubi.

Please give me good advice. I can't handle trolling or smarminess. I am just looking for some good soul to advise me and welcome me to Linux.

Thanks
 
Old 08-03-2015, 06:59 PM   #2
wagscat123
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You're not using any Windows 8 stickered machine, so Secure Boot is not a problem for you.

On Ubuntu, it'll run fine with 2GB of RAM, although 32-bit will use less RAM. The main difference between 32-bit and 64-bit is 64-bit lets you use more than 4GB of RAM, so for your XP-era laptop, 32-bit may be better. If you want to use a more lightweight version of Ubuntu, Lubuntu has the same core as Ubuntu but uses the more lightweight LXDE environment, so you would use less resources yet still be able to use many of the same programs. This still might be a bit heavy for just 248MB of RAM, and on that machine may want to use a lightweight browser.

On the Linux only machines, you can tell the Ubuntu installer to use the whole hard disk for Linux, and for the installer there will be an option that will let you keep Windows and will shrink it for you so there's space for Linux. Also, if you don't want to upgrade every six. months, install the 14.04 LTS

Welcome to Linux, learning it for me has been fun and opened doors for me career-wise.

Last edited by wagscat123; 08-03-2015 at 07:03 PM.
 
Old 08-03-2015, 08:07 PM   #3
gnomonklater
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Thanks Wagscat! Just the kind of help I was hoping for. I will likely just use the 32 bit OS on the weaker computers for ease and performance, but I'm going 64 on the newer computer. I'm not crazy about doing an upgrade every six months either, so is the 14.04 LTS a version of Ubuntu I can install that will prevent me from having to do the upgrades, or is that something separate? One thing that boggles my mind is all the different iterations of a particular OS as well as all the different OS's altogether. A lot to sort through, and yes, I should take the time to go through all of it as the learning experience would be more meaningful in the long run, but I'm trying to save some time right now and just get OS's going on the machines, figuring that I'll learn it as I go, but not to the extent that I need to study every possible OS at this point. Lubuntu seems like a good suggestion for the weakest computer. What would you recommend for a lightweight browser to go with that? Again, sorry, but this is all incredibly new to me and I don't know jack at this point.

As a former Marylander and land surveyor, I used to spend a lot of time up on the Mason-Dixon line recovering monuments. Beautiful area. Ate once at the Road Kill Cafe.
 
Old 08-03-2015, 08:21 PM   #4
frankbell
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If you can add RAM to the Dell Inspiron 1200, you will find it well worth the investment. Finding detailed specs is difficult, probably because of the age of the machine, but, according to this, it is upgradeable to at least 1GB RAM.

I'm generally inclined to recommend Mint over Ubuntu, all other things equal, because I cannot abide Unity, but that's just me. If you search LQ, you will find many threads asking "what's a good starter distro," and as many opinions as their are posters to the threads.
 
Old 08-03-2015, 09:00 PM   #5
Timothy Miller
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frankbell View Post
If you can add RAM to the Dell Inspiron 1200, you will find it well worth the investment. Finding detailed specs is difficult, probably because of the age of the machine, but, according to this, it is upgradeable to at least 1GB RAM.

I'm generally inclined to recommend Mint over Ubuntu, all other things equal, because I cannot abide Unity, but that's just me. If you search LQ, you will find many threads asking "what's a good starter distro," and as many opinions as their are posters to the threads.
1.25 is the max for the 1200 (1x1 GB + 1x256 MB). Realistically, get 2 512's from ebay for fairly cheap and it'll run about as good as you're going to get. Maybe look into a small (64 GB) or so SSD, and it'll actually run rather well despite it's age, as the SSD really helps hide some of the other hardware limitations.
 
Old 08-03-2015, 09:24 PM   #6
wagscat123
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Amen on the RAM - having 1 GB on a machine that old makes things as comfortable as Ubuntu MATE or XFCE able to run pretty well, as well as being able to run Firefox or Chrome.

I just went with Ubuntu as that's what you thought of, but you might want to try some live CDs of some major distros (Distrowatch's http://distrowatch.com/dwres.php?resource=major is a good reference for what mainstream distros there are to try) before you settle on one. You could also do Mint Cinnamon on your two more powerful machines, and with a RAM upgrade do Mint MATE on your Inspiron 1200, or create nice setups with distros such as Fedora or openSUSE. Note Mint is similar at the core to Ubuntu, so you if you do some with Mint and some with Ubuntu, you save relearning for anything beyond the more superficial GUI.

With picking a distro, sticking to the Distrowatch list's easy and middle road distros is a good idea for starters, but you can probably do just as fine with Ubuntu or Mint and using their family of distros, or perhaps Fedora, Mageia, or openSUSE. All of Mint's releases are LTS (Long term support) based on Ubuntu's LTS, while the other 3 mentioned have support cycles of 18 months - 2 years or so.

Rule #1 about Linux - it's all about choice. At LQ there's someone fluent in just about any distro.

Last edited by wagscat123; 08-03-2015 at 09:26 PM.
 
Old 08-03-2015, 09:50 PM   #7
gnomonklater
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This is exactly the kind of support I am looking for. Perfect. I started digging into going open source, but once I did, it was pretty daunting seeing all the different varieties. I am guessing that they are all pretty much the same thing just given different looks and feels by different developers, and naturally, after having only one choice for so many years, to suddenly have so many makes it difficult to decide. I don't want to be installing/uninstalling all the time just because I didn't ask enough questions initially or get some help figuring all this out. But with what you have said, it seems I was on the right path with what I was considering. With certain limitations, is it merely a matter of choosing this one over that one, or are there more criteria I need to consider as far as Debian over Fedora over openSUSE over Mageia over Ubuntu? Don't laugh if I didn't say any of that right. I don't know the differences yet. I'm willing to just pick something and go with it, but like I said, why install Puppy when I already know that Ubuntu is more like what I am looking for? I like all of the great advice and suggestions about increasing the RAM for the 1200. Didn't even think of that. And I think that just to be on the safe side, I'll put the 32 bit on the 8600, 2gb RAM. On the Pavilion 4gb RAM, I'm going with 64 bit. I'm not totally relying on you good folks to tell me everything either. I am doing some research, but there is a lot of it, so it is helpful when you guys cut through a lot of the basics for me. Thanks!
 
Old 08-03-2015, 10:52 PM   #8
syg00
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Absolutely you must have more RAM for the Inspiron 1200. That laptop was configured with minimal video RAM and a Windows (only) driver increased it at boot by allocating system RAM. The Linux i915 driver now also handles that, but the video will be a weak point.
Not sure about Unity (the Ubuntu desktop), but I'll bet gnome 3 and Cinnamon (on Mint) won't run at all. I used to be able to get slack running ok, but Ubuntu even 10 years ago was a bit much for the one work gave me.

Last edited by syg00; 08-03-2015 at 10:52 PM. Reason: added 1200
 
Old 08-03-2015, 10:59 PM   #9
Timothy Miller
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Gnome3 definitely won't run on that. Cinnamon MIGHT, but won't run very well if you can get it to run. Something like LXDE or LXQT should run quite well. I keep meaning to try out LXQT, but always forget.
 
Old 08-04-2015, 12:04 AM   #10
wagscat123
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In addition to distros, there's also Desktop environments - MATE, GNOME 3, Cinnamon, KDE Plasma, XFCE, LXDE, and some other lightweight and obscure ones. Different distros will have similar looks and interfaces if they're using the same desktop environment. Fedora is the basis Red Hat and often has the latest and greatest technologies on it to play with, openSUSE is the basis (although it's shifting) for SUSE Linux Enterprise and is known for its easy system configuration tool YaST and is a compromise between latest and greatest and slow but stable, and Mageia is similar to openSUSE in terms of the configuration tools and intermediate freshness of packages. Ubuntu was started as an easy to install and up-to-date Debian and has evolved into a OS X-like experience that is widely used and has several variatns, one of which is Mint, which tries to use Ubuntu as a base but uses traditional XP/7-GUIs. Ubuntu has different variants (in short) with different DEs, while Mint, openSUSE, Fedora, and Mageia typically have multiple DEs within the same distro.

The biggest ways distros vary are package management and installation. Ubuntu and Mint pretty much use the same installer, while openSUSE, Fedora, and Mageia have each have their own ones that let you set more options but are more similar. Ubuntu and Mint also use Debian packages and apt-get to install packages, while Mageia, openSUSE, and Fedora use RPM files with their own tools (openSUSE and Fedora use zypper and dnf, respectively).

Live CDs are kinda like testing a car before buying it. You can put Linux on a DVD and give it a go on a fairly powerful machine to see how you like it, and try different distros and DEs to see which most suits your fancy.
 
Old 08-04-2015, 08:31 AM   #11
wesaus32
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Maybe on your older models, if you wanted to run a version of Ubuntu, why not give Lubuntu a try (http://lubuntu.net/)
 
Old 08-04-2015, 08:56 AM   #12
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On my old Latitude C840 that died about a month ago, I had Ubuntu 12.04 Unity 2D on it and it ran just fine...until the video card gave out. Unity and GNOME are similar in many ways.

Before that, I had Mint 17.1 MATE. Again, that ran just fine. Before that, I think I had Fedora 17 KDE, and that was a little sluggish especially when I was multitasking. Before that, probably Fedora 13, which ran just fine.

Here's the exact specs from it's service tag, but I did upgrade the processor to a 2Ghz P4 and added an extra 512MB RAM. Had a 5400 RPM 40GB HDD.
 
Old 08-04-2015, 09:50 AM   #13
gnomonklater
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Again, awesome suggestions and observations here. Wagscat, you gave a good comparison of the different OS's, particularly as they might fit my needs, which has helped me sort out also the differences between Red Hat vs. Debian and why I might pick one over the other, as well as sorting out which particular OS within a system I might want to choose. It is looking now like I really need to ramp the RAM in the oldest, weakest computer, which I can do for around $20, thanks frankbell! I should surely be able to run the Lubuntu there. I think I am going to scale down with the Inspiron 8600, and though it was mentioned I could do the 64 bit, I'm likely going to go with the 32 bit for it. I found, and downloaded the 14.04 LTS version of Ubuntu, which I tried to install in the 8600, but have had problems with the install. It's probably good I did, though. I read horror stories of attempting that crashing their computers, screen blackouts, etc. No doubt that is a result of other problems, but I keep getting an error that appears to be a result of not having the iso file in the same folder as the Wubi.exe. I'm struggling with that too. As I said, this is all new to me, so I am hunting and pecking at this point. I am slowing down a bit, trying to learn more as I go, looking before I leap, and trying to prevent breaking anything. That would surely defeat the purpose. I don't want to bail on this whole endeavor just because I got impatient. I embarrassingly admit that I got too accustomed to the relative ease of dealing with MS all these years, so I am trying to teach my brain how to walk again with all this, and although I am up for the challenge, I want to be cautious and I want to do it right. Once I get more comfortable with everything, have mastered just getting an OS installed, upgraded systems, and relaxed a little bit, I know I won't look back. Getting to this new place is proving not as easy I thought, however. Please keep your observations and suggestions coming though, as every time I read a new post, I am learning something. Thanks to you all.
 
Old 08-04-2015, 09:55 AM   #14
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You may want to take a look at Slackware.

In any case, you really do want to replace the RAM strip with at least a gig, maybe even up to 2G if you can find a strip in your Inspiron 1200; RAM is cheap and you ought to be able to find something.

Slackware comes with Xfce, a smaller more efficient window manager than KDE (which comes with Slackware) or (for sure) Gnome, both of which are memory and processor hogs by comparison. Xfce is a clean interface, easy to manage and provides pretty much every feature you would want without the eye candy that you really don't need.

Slackware comes in two versions, 32-bit and 64-bit (you can install 32-bit Slackware on a 64-bit box although you really want to install 64-bit on a 64-bit box and 32-bit on a 32-bit box).

You do a full install in ether case and there is very little you would need to add. All the tools are there, it's easy to set up and configure and it runs just fine on a laptop (I have 64-bit Slackware on a Dell Inspiron 1750). I also have a couple of Dell Dimension 8400's (oldies but goodies), 32-bitters that I use as data base servers (one MySQL, the other PostgreSQL) and a Dell Optiplex 780 (64-bit) that is my primary work system.

Slackware is fast, efficient, stable and reliable. Might be a little learning curve but that's going to true no matter what distribution you choose; that's what LQ is here for.

Do one box, see what you think and don't be shy about asking questions (at the Slackware forum).

Hope this helps some.

Last edited by tronayne; 08-04-2015 at 09:57 AM.
 
Old 08-04-2015, 11:14 AM   #15
Timothy Miller
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tronayne View Post
You may want to take a look at Slackware.

In any case, you really do want to replace the RAM strip with at least a gig, maybe even up to 2G if you can find a strip in your Inspiron 1200; RAM is cheap and you ought to be able to find something.
His hardware doesn't support 2G of ram, 1.25 is the max that motherboard chipset will recognize on the 1200.
 
  


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