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Old 04-28-2010, 09:44 PM   #1
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Is Linux right for me?

Here's my situation. I'm a relatively advanced Windows user (XP still though) and my sister has bought herself a new laptop. She was going to throw away her old one, but I snagged it for myself. It's an Asus A2500H got to be about 3-4 years old now. It has all sorts of issues and runs horribly slow. Anyway, I've been looking into fixing it up, and as I don't need to keep anything on the hard drive I was just going to re format it. Then came the question of which OS to install, and I've been reading a bit about Linux. I know I haven't asked any questions yet so here they are:

- Firstly, is it even possible considering the CD drive is broken? Can you install Linux from a USB stick or an SD card or anything?

- From what I've read there's a bunch of different "distributions" of linux but I don't quite get exactly what the deal is with this, I know it's something I could read further on but if someone could summarise it succinctly that would be great. Am I right in saying there's a core OS that is Linux and then different people have moulded and shaped it into different ...things? Versions? Am I vaguely close?

- The main reason I'd be thinking of installing Linux would be to speed up the machine and eliminate the malware this machine seems to attract. Do you think Linux would noticeably speed up this old thing?

- I understand that you have to learn Linux from the ground up and that it won't be like windows. This is really the first place I've come so I haven't done much research yet. If I just want Linux for the above reasons and I'm not going to do anything hugely advanced, just browse the internet and use open office and so on, is it going to be too much hassle, or will it relatively straightforward to set up something for those simple purposes.

Feel free to direct me to other threads or articles or sites or whatever.
Old 04-28-2010, 10:49 PM   #2
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- From what I've read there's a bunch of different "distributions" of linux but I don't quite get exactly what the deal is with this, I know it's something I could read further on but if someone could summarise it succinctly that would be great. Am I right in saying there's a core OS that is Linux and then different people have moulded and shaped it into different ...things? Versions? Am I vaguely close?
Electric_Hollow, I can answer this question. It's true that there are a lot of distros to choose from. Some people seem to think that's a bad thing. But it's really very nice to have so many choices, especially considering the wide variety of hardware out in the world.

When it comes to trying various Live CDs (or in your case a bootable USB stick...and yes, it can be done that way), you'll be able to see which one might work best with your laptop's hardware before you install it. The three distros that I've had the most success with have been Linux Mint, Ubuntu, and Mandriva. Generally, if one doesn't work another one will. At the very least it's always fun to try them out.

You don't have to learn Linux from the ground up. Truly you don't. No more than you had to learn Windows from the ground up. I did have to learn some new software, but having used a lot of cross-platform FOSS software prior to switching, it wasn't too bad.

I am not a programmer or a technically inclined person, in fact, I'm one of that much-maligned group of people that are not supposed to be able to use Linux (I'm a grandmother), but I can install and use a GNU/Linux based distro. You can do it too.

The best thing to keep in mind is that Linux isn't Windows (that's a good thing, but it can be frustrating at first). The hardest thing I had to overcome was my old "Windows way of thinking". Defragging, anti-virus updates, anti-malware, anti-this, anti-that...I didn't realise how paranoid a Windows user can become until I got away from it all. I've been using Ubuntu, full-time, on my work machine for 3 years now. I'll never go back.

On my spare machines I try out other distros. I've recently installed Debian and had a great time with it. I'm also learning about virtualbox and trying out some desktop customizations. None of it is because I *have* to. It's because I want to. Once you get past the initial "getting-used-to-it" stage, you'll have fun.

The best way to learn is to just do it. Give it a try, and if you have problems come here to the forums and ask for help. These are great people here, as well as on the Ubuntu forums. You won't have to get through it alone.

By the way, hello and welcome!
Old 04-28-2010, 11:11 PM   #3
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I agree that you can easily learn using Virtual Machines but they need to be on rather new systems to be of any use.

I'd pop over to for how-to's on making usb flash drive installs. Then many can be used in turn to install to a real hard disk.

Can remove hd and install that way but be careful you don't bork the wrong hard drive. Safe is live usb.

Might play with or for gpxe network boot's. Kind of slow on dsl to boot.

The selection of linux is not normally a speed choice. Windows, BeOS, Qnx may still be faster but don't say that here.

A 3 year old computer ought to be good enough for you to see what it is like though.

If you know concepts of windows then you can learn linux. The names have basically been changed.

There used to be some online linux deals that one could access like using a web browser.

See for the top 25 or so for starts.
Old 04-28-2010, 11:31 PM   #4
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It is possible to install Linux from a USB drive, but it is a little more complicated. I've never done it myself. It may be worth the $30 to buy a new CD drive for it, if it's just a standard sort of slim CD drive.

A distribution is just kind of like a linux 'model'. If you don't mind car analogies, it is kind of like a certain model of car. Toyota makes Avalons, Camrys, Priuses (Priusi/Prii?), Honda makes Accords, Civics, and so on. So there are different 'models' or distributions of linux. Some of the most popular (you might try for a good place to start) are Ubuntu, Debian, Red Hat, Fedora, SUSE, Slackware, Mint, Puppy, and Mandriva. Some of the easiest to pick up in that list include Ubuntu, Mint and Mandriva. Just like cars, you sometimes have to test drive a distro to see if you like it.

It is definitely possible that you could have a speedy laptop if you install linux, but that can depend on the distribution you choose. Some of them are resource hogs, or bloated. If you want one which is lite, they are around (Puppy is one of my favorites, also DSL). Something more full-featured will, of course, use more computer, but should be much less than XP.

You definitely DON'T have to learn linux from the ground up. If you can partition your hard drive and install Windows, you should have no trouble installing linux. It's easy to use, too. Most of the ones I've listed install without trouble or pain, and mostly just work, and have easy to use GUIs.

As one who has tried a goodly number of distributions, I can say that some are easy, some are middle of the road, some are difficult. I started with Red Hat, which was middle of the road for the time, moved to SUSE, Caldera, back to Red Hat, Corel, then to Mandrake, Ubuntu, Puppy, DSL, and on and on. It was kind of like test driving cars. I had to find one that just seemed to fit. Maybe it will be easier for some people who just don't care that much. Finally I settled on Debian.

Pitfalls to look out for: Sometimes linux people are grumpy. (Sorry, but it's true.) They expect you to put in your fair share of blood, sweat, and tears. This forum is one of the better ones I've seen, probably in the top three, both in level of knowledge, and politeness.

There will come a time when you will nuke your hard drive accidentally, or type the wrong command and have no idea how to fix it. It will happen. It's okay.

There is sometimes a steep learning curve. It's only as steep as you want it to be. If you are okay messing with Windows, you'll probably do okay. The key is don't give up, keep trying.

Bottom line: Try Ubuntu (the Ubuntu forum is also in the top three, IMO) if you want to install, Puppy if you want to try, DSL if you want to boot from USB, and Debian if you want to get down to business.

Last edited by bcwagne; 04-28-2010 at 11:32 PM. Reason: Needed to add
Old 04-28-2010, 11:35 PM   #5
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Smile Easier than you think!

Hello Electric Hollow
I totally agree with iccar, Just give it a try. You could download the Ubuntu Live CD on your XP system then use the USB Creator to make your own bootable USB which you could try out and take it from there. If you don't like it you can shut down, remove the USB and your back to that messed up Windows System, or if you like just install it. Check out Ubuntu's website for tons of info , you could also try out Distrowatch , for CD's, DVD's, and USB's available for low, low prices.

Welcome and have some fun!

P.S. I only recommend Ubuntu and Distrowatch because I think it's so easy. There are many others.
Old 04-28-2010, 11:45 PM   #6
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Linux will probably be great on your machine (Hard to say for sure without knowing Hardware) Most people seem to have problems with touchpads, sound, and wireless devices on laptops, so you may check the HCL on the forums. In my experience, it's the Windows Power Users who have the hardest time switching, but it can be done ... I was once a windows power user... It does take some time and patience, though. Anyway, good luck with your install and as jccar said, the forums here are great. As far as what distro to choose, I would say any of the top 10 would be fine on distrowatch
Old 04-28-2010, 11:46 PM   #7
Registered: Dec 2009
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Linux works

I am above average with Win XP as well although a slow learner. I have installed Debian lenny,Xandros 4.5 OCE (based on debian etch) and WXP pro on my home computer. Set it up to boot any of these. Other than the occasional need to boot XP for proprietary CadCam software, I NEVER boot the annoying Win XP pro. Yes there were some set up challenges with both linux distros but the LQ forums got me through them with the most curtious help imaginable. Try that with WIN XP.........HAAA

Significant benifits I find
System boots significantly faster, System never locks......ever, multiple monitors a breeze to set up, so far no maitenance like disc defrag, registry optimization and the like, No rediculous registry to get messed up, start and stop GUI like old win 3.1 or just go to one of many terminals for a prompt, Several GUI to choose from, email programs like Ice Dove so very easy to set up unlike "outlook", Icedove imports all your .pst file info easely. Short cut and menu bars don't magicly get introduced to your browser with out authoriation, I have never got a virus and I do not run an anti virus program and have been to some rather schetchy places (dam, I am going to pay for that one!!!) The FREE equivilents to MS Excell,word,etc are all as good or better and files interchagable. Just gobbs and gobbs of free programs to use downloadable form varous sources.
FYI, there was a point I almost gave up in the first few weeks.........please don't, it will prove most rewarding. Jon

Last edited by Elixer; 04-28-2010 at 11:50 PM.
Old 04-29-2010, 12:23 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Electric_Hollow View Post
- Firstly, is it even possible considering the CD drive is broken? Can you install Linux from a USB stick or an SD card or anything?
If your bios supports booting from those devices, then yes you can install this way.

Am I right in saying there's a core OS that is Linux and then different people have moulded and shaped it into different ...things? Versions? Am I vaguely close?
No, very wrong. Linux is the kernel of the operating system. Different people have packaged the linux kernel with a bunch of userland programs (many from the GNU project), to create various "Linux Distributions". Apart from the different selection of software distributions also differ in philosophy, tweaks applied to software, packaging system, lower level daemon setup, and "default" programs and guis among other things.

- The main reason I'd be thinking of installing Linux would be to speed up the machine and eliminate the malware this machine seems to attract. Do you think Linux would noticeably speed up this old thing?
That depends on how slow it is now.

- I understand that you have to learn Linux from the ground up and that it won't be like windows
That's basically incorrect too. There are a number of distributions that are totally geared towards complete newbs: Ubuntu springs to mind. It is my understanding that distros like Ubuntu are just as "easy" to use/learn as Windows. One apparent stumbling block for some windows to linux converts is that they become confused when they discover that some things are done slightly differently. However, I suspect that the transition would not be that different to changing from windows to OSX, or similar.


Old 04-29-2010, 12:30 AM   #9
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Before actually trying to install it, you could try a LiveDVD distro like KNOPPIX, and see if you like it, if you have a huge USB memory and a USB bootable BIOS, you can safely try it with it.

With linux, viruses and malware, are nothing to worry about.
And if it's speed what you want, with the thousands of different programs existent, you can easily find one that suits your need. If it's only speed what you want, you could also try DSL (damn small linux), a 50Mb distro with lots of programs that run fast as hell.

There are several linux tutorials in here too, read a bit about the main differences, etc.
Old 04-29-2010, 12:31 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Electric_Hollow View Post
Is Linux right for me?
0 members found this post helpful.
Old 04-29-2010, 12:35 AM   #11
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The easiest way to make a bootable usb key is to use unetbootin:


The bios needs to be able to boot from usb.

Old 04-29-2010, 12:50 AM   #12
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Wow so many quick responses! Thanks to all of you! I think I understand how it works now, and it doesn't seem as hard as I initially thought.

So I'm going to give it a go, I already have a PC and since the laptop was free and I don't have any files on it, it doesn't really matter what I do to it.

I've discovered a website which has a handy program to install the live cds onto a usb. If my laptop allows boot from usb I'm going to have a play with Ubuntu first and see how I go!

I'll keep you all updated, again thankyou so much for your quick and helpful responses!
Old 04-29-2010, 12:52 AM   #13
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Well I don't really have anymore to add on the front of if you should try linux, personally I would say it is a no brainer.
As to the booting a live/install version from a thumb drive, as answered above, the answer is yes as long as the machine's BIOS supports this.

What i did wan to add was an alternate way to accomplish this with a very nice windows based app (so you can do it from your current machine)
called "unetbootin". Just go the this address:, and click the big button with "(for Windows)" written on it.
It is not an installable program it is an executable that runs as soon as you double click it.
Once you have this application just follow these steps:
1. Download the image (iso) of whichever distribution (explanations of what they are above) takes your fancy
2. Run the downloaded app, it will be called something like - unetbootin-windows-436.exe - the last 3 digits will change with newer versions
3. Select the radio button next to Diskimage and then browse for the iso downloaded in step 1
4. Make sure correct USB device is selected in the drive section and press OK

I have used it several times to try multiple distros (usually live versions)

Old 04-29-2010, 01:11 AM   #14
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If you are going with Ubuntu I would recommend Ubuntu 9.04 rather than Ubuntu 9.10, I seen so many people having different troubles with the new version i.e. 9.10 of Ubuntu as compared to the previous one i.e. 9.04 !
Old 04-29-2010, 01:32 AM   #15
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I think that a good metaphor for how Linux is organized, and therefore how to understand it, is to consider the Earth.

The Earth is made of layers. In the middle, you have a core, which is a distinct region. Outside the core, you have the mantle, which again is a distinct region, and above the mantle you have the crust - yet another distinct region.

In Linux (properly, GNU/Linux) at the core is the kernel -and it is the kernel that is properly called "Linux". This is the base of the system - the core of the system.

Above the kernel are more distinct layers of software - and these layers ARE distinct. The next layer up, roughly speaking, are the daemons - which in Windows-speak are "services". Above the daemon layer are user applications, such as web browsers, multimedia players, word processors, etc.

Now, the thing to remember is that these layers ARE distinct. And, while components in one layer will generally talk to components of other layers, every component is entire unto itself and interacts only in specific well-defined ways with other parts of the system.

Every distribution has the Linux kernel at its core. If it doesn't have the Linux kernel, it isn't Linux. But above the core, when you start talking about daemons and userspace applications, every distribution is different. For any function in a GNU/Linux system, there are many alternative programs that will provide the desired capability, and different distributions use different programs. There are a lot of similarities because in some cases there are clear "best choices", but there are many many different permutation available due to the large number of different programs available.

So, each distribution is distinct unto itself and unlike other distributions.

A primary advantage to this architecture is its modularity. If you don't like a particular functionality, you can remove it and replace it with some other program that provides the required capability. Also, though programs in Linux DO crash, in almost every circumstance such a crash does not bring down the entire system because each program exists only in its layer and when it dies it therefore doesn't affect most other programs and certainly doesn't affect the kernel. Thus, a properly configured and working Linux system very seldom crashes.

In comparison, when looking at Microsoft Windows, rather than envisioning the Earth, or a golf ball, or an onion, or similarly layered structures, you should think of a plate of spaghetti.

Windows, by design, is all tangled up. This was a marketing decision made to compel users to do things the "Microsoft Way". Buy Microsoft Office because it works best with Windows - because only Microsoft understands how the various strands of spaghetti run through the system. You can't remove Internet Explorer because that pulls on too many strands of spaghetti and brings the system down.

The major cause of the dreaded blue screen of death is THIS program doing something wrong, and bringing down THAT program over there because of the intertwining of functionality.

The implications of these differences in architecture are quite profound and may take you awhile to get your head around. But, once you do grasp the implications and get used to it, you'll find that many things in Linux are easier than they are in Windows (particularly repairing the system) because of this modularity.


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