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Old 05-18-2006, 06:35 PM   #1
LQ Newbie
Registered: May 2006
Posts: 2

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which linux for me?

I'm about to receive a new laptop in the mail and as it will be secondary PC, I thought it would be fun to try linux. My question is the obvious one: which distribution should I try?
The laptop is an old one. The relevant specs are:
Dell Latitude C400
P3 1.2ghz,
512mb RAM
30gb HDD
Intel 830M Graphics chip w/ 48mb video memory

What I'm looking for in a distribution is

1) ease of use: I'm not an idjit, but I am also not a hard-core computer geek. (in other words, it has to be GUI and make for a relatively easy adjustment for a lifetime windows user).

2) fast/light: all I want to run on this laptop is office software and maybe the occational media file (i.e. some music). Oh and I also want to get a wireless NIC card for a bit of web browsing. No fancy applications though. it's an old machine and I want to get it running as smoothly and quickly as possible.

3)free w/ reasonably large and supportive community.

Right. Anyone have any ideas? I was thinking about Fedora. But not sure which core/test. Should I just go with the latest one? Any other distributions I should think about?
Thanks a bunch (in advance)!! This community is pretty freakin' impressive! I'm sure I'll be back with other, even more obvious questions. Cheers!
Old 05-18-2006, 06:44 PM   #2
LQ Guru
Registered: Dec 2005
Location: Somewhere on the String
Distribution: Debian Wheezy (x86)
Posts: 6,094

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You seem to have a pretty new laptop comparatively. Most any of the general purpose distros will suit your needs. The usual recommendations to newbies are PCLinuxOS, Mandriva, Ubuntu, and Fedora.

You can take the quizes in my signature to see if anything suits you best...

Additionally, leave 10GB extra space on your hard drive and install more than one...
Old 05-18-2006, 06:54 PM   #3
Registered: Dec 2002
Location: St Louis, MO
Distribution: Arch Linux
Posts: 99

Rep: Reputation: 15
Hi Marker

There are I'm sure lots of people with lots of opinions. I would give Ubuntu a shot. Its a one CD download, so it's not huge. It gives you a nice GUI (Gnome), Open Office etc and a nice set of other software without being monsterous. I don't actually remember how big it is installed, but I seem to remember it was like 2.5gb. It's been a while. It is a free distro. It configured everything I had perfectly including scanner and printer.

If you try Fedora, get the latest I guess. I havent used Fedora, ever... LOL. I used Red Hat Linux (precursor to Fedora) for quite a while and it was a nice distro IMO.

Wireless, well I've configured it, but it wasn't as simple as it should have been. I guess it depends on the card that you have. Drivers are the big issue here, or at least it was.

There are a lot of really nice/smart people here that are willing to help. I am sure more will post on this topic. This is a regular topic here on the boards but everyone is unique.

Good luck
Old 05-18-2006, 08:22 PM   #4
Senior Member
Registered: Nov 2003
Location: Perth, Western Australia
Distribution: Ubuntu, Debian, Various using VMWare
Posts: 2,088

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3rd for Ubuntu.

1) That computer is definately not old. Old is a 486 with 4Mb RAM and 1Gb HDD .

2) Most Ubuntu config is graphical. There are a few times with any distro that it may be easier to use the command line instead of the GUI, but most things can be done using the GUI. The installer is not GUI, but is similar to the 1st stage of the Windows install.

3) Check out for support, or here for that matter.

I hope this helps
Old 05-18-2006, 08:45 PM   #5
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Registered: Apr 2005
Location: OZ
Distribution: Debian Sid
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Go with PCLinuxOS. The install will take you about 20 minutes. It comes with all the cool multimedia plugins and apps already installed. Unlike Ubuntu where you have to spend an hour installing things like Flash, Java and codecs.

It also works as a LiveCD so you can try it out and make sure it works before you use it.

It runs great on my Dell C600 with a PIII and 256mb ram, even with the ATI Rage video card.

If you have any problems installing or configuring it head over to the wiki :
PCLinuxOS New User Guide: The PCLinuxOS New User Guide Wiki

or the forum

Last edited by craigevil; 05-18-2006 at 08:46 PM.
Old 05-19-2006, 10:35 AM   #6
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Registered: May 2006
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First of all, thank you so much! Wow! Really kind of you all.
I've been looking at Ubuntu and I looks right to me.
I'm a bit unsure about which version of the distro to install (and also unsure whether or not this actually matters in the end).
I've read good things in the Ubuntu forums about compatibility between my laptop and the new (or upcoming) Dapper Drake release. But as it has not been "officially released" I'm a bit hesitant. Should I stick with the (old) 5.10 version or go with the new (dapper drake) version? If I install the new version in a pre-release form, will I have to reinstall when the official release becomes available or will I just be able to update? Sorry for so many questions. Just want to try to start as well as I can. Once more, thank you so much for all your help and advice!
Old 05-19-2006, 11:08 AM   #7
Registered: Oct 2003
Location: Carmarthen, Wales
Distribution: Ubuntu and whatever is new kid on the block
Posts: 70

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There are a host of LiveCD distros out there which would give you a flavour of Linux without installing and your machine should run most very easily.

On the Ubuntu front Dapper won't be finalised for a few weeks yet, so my advice is to get Breezy and install that to be going on with.

Just have a go and have some fun
Old 05-19-2006, 11:27 AM   #8
Registered: Aug 2005
Location: Lancashire (United Kingdom)
Distribution: Debian Etch, on 686 machine.
Posts: 509

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i havent tried ubutnu/kubutnu for mroe then 5 minuites but apparently it has good support for laptops, so give that a shot, like soemone else mentioned give pclinuxos a shot, its great. Its 1 cd its packaed to the brim with software, its all setup, the control centre isnt screwed up like mandrivas (i know its actually mandrivas control centre but it works stright off, you dont get asked to download something so you can set up your firewall because its already been installed).

yep so pclinuxos or ubutnu/kubuntu
Old 05-19-2006, 12:05 PM   #9
Registered: Apr 2006
Location: New Hampshire, USA
Distribution: Mandriva - Kubuntu - FC4 - Mepis
Posts: 35

Rep: Reputation: 15

Well - Kubuntu is fine as are a lot of others. In terms of versions - you usually want the latest stable version (ie - not prerelease). The only caveat is machines that have some strange quirk - in which case you find the one that works ;-)

When starting from scratch, I also recommend live CDs to find what you like and don't - you can get these for a couple of bucks (I mostly use but there are a lot of good ones, another that comes to mind is Experiment while you have an empty machine! Later it will be harder.

Good luck and Peace ...
Old 05-19-2006, 12:52 PM   #10
Registered: May 2006
Location: Atlanta
Distribution: WinXP, Ubuntu
Posts: 64

Rep: Reputation: 15
You can also download and burn the ISOs for free. THat is what I do.

Anyways, my recomendations would be
PCLinuxOS (Kinda like WinXP in a few ways)
Ubuntu (Easy change from Windows)
Suse (this one is a bit more diffucult to use)
Red Hat (huge support community)

And btw, your computer is NOT old. Im running damn small linux on a truely old machine. P2 266MHz, 128RAM, 1.5GB hd, some generic video card, i dont even know, or care what it is

Any of the above distros should work just fine with you computer. They all automatically detect your hardware, so there is usually no need for hunting for drivers.


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