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Old 11-26-2007, 01:17 PM   #1
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Where do I put LINUX, CD or Memory Stick?

To start, I am no computer geek so have no idea what all the "technical" terms that are used in half the articles I have read on this site. I have been online since the mid 80's, and with luck could change a memory board without a total disaster occuring. But that is about it. I do not do programming, nor can I understand half of what I see in the mass of numbers and letters. I wish to use LINUX on two different computers. Comp 1 is a compaq salvaged from a company call center so the disc drive reads but you can't write to it, it has a 12G HD. Comp 2 is a compaq Presario, older model, with a 40G HD. Both computers are running Windows XP with SP2. I understand I will have to partition parts of both HDs for the running of Linux, but first I have to get a copy of the LINUX operating system. Now my big question, something that seems to be akin to a classified top secret, is how big, generally, are the operating systems? 50K, 20 M or even 10 G? None of the writings I have plowed thru have even given a hint of the file size. The reason I ask is that I would like to know if I could just download the OS to a 2G memory stick and just move it back and forth between my computers; or should I burn the OS to a single disc and use that to trade back and forth? If so, then my plan would be to partition 1/4 to 1/3 of the resident HDs to use when I am using LINUX, if this is possible.
Any suggestions, even though they may be to go back to my VIC 20, will be welcome.
THX : AlaskanWolf
Old 11-26-2007, 01:49 PM   #2
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Well most of the Linux distros you find these days come on a DVD - Not a CD
So I guess you would not be able to use them on either PC.

Background: In simple terms ( i.e some of detail NOT included )
If you buy a copy of Windows then you do not buy the operating system on disc. What you buy is a disc on which there is a smallish program ( the installer ) and Windows as a huge number of compressed files.

You start the installer by putting it in you DVD Drive and booting your computer with it set in the Bios to try running a program from the DVD BEFORE it tries to run what is already on the Hard Disc.

The installer often gives you the choice of upgrading or trashing what's on
the PC. If it's windows then it ignores anything else anyway and will probably just overwrite it unless it is another version of Windows.

With Linux you get the choices above AND the chance to share the disc with Windows. This will proceed according to what you choose.

But you can also get a Live distro in many cases. What happens here is that you start the computer with the disc in the drive and it will run Linux directly off it WITHOUT TOUCHING WHAT IS ALREADY ON THE P.C. That way it runs more slowly and there are a few limitations but you can at least try it out.

Your idea about having it on a USB stick cannot be done directly. It has to be installed there and if your P.C doesn't have the choice of booting directly from the stick it will still not work.

Some distros are small enough to put onto a CD and run from it. I am writing this on an old laptop ( Fujitsu 780Tx - 64Meg Ram ) The distro is Puppy Linux. You need to download it and burn it in the right way so that it is bootable not just saved like photos, mp3 files etc.
( You burning program should have that option )

This is good for what it is but does not have the modern - Very Large - programs because of the size restriction.

If you want to know more or anything clarifying let me know.
Old 11-26-2007, 02:08 PM   #3
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The answer to "how big an operating system is" varies. I've read somewhere that a self-built Linux (like LFS = Linux From Scratch) can make a minimal Apache web server fit in a few megabytes (<=5MB if I remember right), but on the other hand nowadays' biggest distributions that ship on a DVD or several CDs do take several gigabytes of harddisk space if "everything" (every package available on the installation media = several mediaplayers, several office suites, ...) is installed. I think a desktop operating system that isn't either minimal nor maximal fits today around 2-3 gigabytes. That means you'll get a candy desktop, nice software for your daily tasks, but not all the possible software you could think of. With some selections it may get lower than that, but if you just pick up the defaults during install (or install Ubuntu, in which case you don't need to think about package selections during install - it installs a default set that can be changed afterwards with a graphical "Add/Remove" tool), it'll probably be a couple gigabytes.

A harddisk-installed operating system is always faster than a "live" OS, run off a CD or a memory stick, that isn't "installed". Not sure how fast those are that are installed onto a USB 2.0 connected external disk, but probably they won't be any faster than a "traditional" harddisk-installed one is. If the machines are really oldish, this can cause a serious performance hit. Try and see..

For getting a Linux operating system, you either order a "ready" cd (shipping costs) or download a disc image (a large file, usually around 700MB for a CD image, or a few gigabytes for a DVD image - some distributions offer several CDs = several image files, but on some of them you can get away with using only the first disc = minimal amount of applications installed, and after the setup fetch the rest of the software off the web with a package managing program) and burn the image onto a CD-R(W) or a DVD+-R(W). Then you boot your machine with this CD/DVD, and the installer starts. The installer probably lets you choose to partition the disk automatically or manually, and may have several options. If you use a "live" CD, it is not installed, it runs directly off the CD when booted off it, but is slower (at least the boot process). For writing the downloaded image file(s) (usually .iso files) onto a disc I strongly recommend a Windows program called ImgBurn, it's small, free of charge and very easy to use (launch the program, click Open... -button, search the image .iso file and click a button to start writing).

It is possible to install the OS onto a 2GB disk I think, but it might prove (slightly) more difficult than onto the real harddisk. Note that your machine's BIOS needs to be able to boot off the USB device for that to work - not every machine, especially older ones, can do that. Instructions for such installation are usually available on the distribution's website (documentation), or maybe here at LQ. If you don't understand some techie talk, just ask a more frendly explanation
Old 11-26-2007, 03:34 PM   #4
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Hello and welcome!

I just want to clarify one thing: The term Linux is used somewhat sloppily and can mean several things:

- Correctly, it should probably mean the Linux kernel, and that, depending on a few other things is probably a few megabytes, but is on its own pretty useless

- Often its taken to mean something like the Kernel + GNU Utilities (which at least give you a command line - no real apps, but you could at least do something with the gnu utils) and that adds a few more megabytes

- Most frequently, people mean something like 'the size of particular/ some specific Linux distro. Now this is a 'how long is a piece of string' question. Some distros are particularly small (see DSL, Puppy and others) - but they struggle to be particularly small, and omit all of the real heavyweight apps. The Ubuntus (Ubuntu, kubuntu, xubuntu and anything else that matches the string *buntu) cut a bit of a middle way in that they are nowhere near as small as the previously mentioned distros, but only have the few 'big hitter' apps included and so still manage a version that will fit on a single CD (although DVD versions exist too). And then there are the real 'do everything' distros - SuSE, RedHat, Debian (and derivatives): these tend to be enormous on disk, but you get the choice of how much or how little you install.

So, not only is it impossible to give a simple answer because of the variety of distros, there isn't even a simple answer for, say, RedHat, because you can alter it by an order of magnitude by install-time options. (And then there's the question of whether you mean size on the install media or size on your hard disk which are usually different by, say, a factor of two.)

In your position, I would try one of the 'small, lightweight' distros (DSL, Puppy come to mind) and see how you get on. There will be information on their website about how to proceed for the specific distro (look at for the homepage of any popular distro...there are quite a few, so don't try to read all).

As an alternative, try something that will fit on one CD such as *buntu or knoppix, mepis. (All of those have 'Live CD' versions that you can run from the CD itself - slow, but a good way of getting your feet wet...Knoppix is focused on running as a live CD/DVD (the Knoppix Live CD is a bit old now, as Knoppix has grown bigger than a single CD, for the others the live CD is intended as a taster.)
Old 11-26-2007, 10:47 PM   #5
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I would like to clarify things even more, most "distributions" (there is no one linux operating system, distributions are various bundles of software and the linux kernel that greatly vary )(all that I've tried) can be installed with one standard cd (the installed size varies) all of the extra space others talk about are for software packages that can later be downloaded and installed using a package manager. Some distributions have their all of their software packages on cd/dvd (online too of course) which is why you end up with a dvd or more than one cd.

Last edited by g2g591; 11-26-2007 at 10:51 PM.


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