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Old 07-09-2017, 08:55 PM   #1
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Will this older computer work for me?

Hello everybody!

I have an older computer I want to install Linux on... I have a few questions before I move forward...

Right now the computer just has onboard VGA for the monitor.. I was thinking of adding
a video card for dual monitor support (and eliminate using the VGA port)

Will these specs be ok for this setup?

If so, I'm looking on recommendations for a vide card and monitors that have the best support for Linux.

I only need this computer for working on spreadsheets, browsing the internet, etc... all light work, so the card and monitors don't have to be crazy.

Right now, the only Linux device I use is a raspberry Pi. Which works pretty well for editing spreadsheets. The only problem I'm having with the Pi is that I can't get my Brother printer to work as they don't have any drivers available for ARM based systems... hopefully this new setup will work for me... I was thinking I'll install CUPS on the eMachines so I'll be able to print from the Pi.

I'm also looking for recommendations on which distro to install... I have read that Ubuntu has the best support and is most user friendly for new users...

Any recommendations and tips/ideas are greatly appreciated

Old 07-09-2017, 09:12 PM   #2
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With 2GB RAM, you might want to increase the RAM or use a lighter-weight desktop such as LXDE or Enlightenment or possibly a window manager such as Fluxbox.

The GUI environment, not the distro, is the primary issue here.

Lubuntu is a Ubuntu spin that comes with LXDE already installed. Bohdi comes with the lightweight Enlightenment desktop. SalixOS is also a nice lighter-weight distro. I've used all three and they work quite nicely.

Of course, you could install something like Mint MATE, then install a lightweight desktop or window manager and use it instead of the default. I've also done that successfully on older computers I wanted to give to my kids.
Old 07-09-2017, 09:18 PM   #3
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I could see using an old computer for what you want and Linux should have something for you. I'm a big fan of reusing before recycling.

Don't know why you'd complicate things with a new card in an old machine though. As an old machine, something could fail tomorrow or not for years. Like putting pretty new rims on your rusty old Pinto. Noce project but don't waste money on it.

They had dual support back then. I'm sure you don't need a card. Players of Descent in the late 80s played with multiple screens.

And you may look into Ubu's little brother Puppy. Doesn't sound like you need all the bells and whistles of Ubu and Puppy is way smaller and thus much faster on old hardware.
Old 07-09-2017, 10:09 PM   #4
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I second the use of puppy. Tahrpup has everything you mentioned, preinstalled. Plus it uses the Ubuntu repo so there's no shortage of software. You'll easily be able to run puppy on ram.
Old 07-10-2017, 04:26 AM   #5
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I recently installed ElemOS to Pentium Dual Core with 1.5GB RAM, it works fine as of this moment.

The motherboard is Asus.

With regards to the graphic card, I am not sure which chipset is readily available for the current Kernel but try looking for a graphic card with Nvidia chipset.
Old 07-10-2017, 06:05 AM   #6
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I would recommend against something like Puppy. 2GB of RAM is plenty for Debian with XFCE4. Xubuntu apparently eats up more RAM out-of-box than Debian with XFCE4, so maybe not that. Many of my computers have less than 2GB of RAM, and they all run Debian with XFCE4.

That CPU can support a 64 bit OS (amd64, rather than x86). I would go with 64 bit in case you want to use Chrome - Google has stopped supporting Chrome on 32 bit (both Firefox and Chromium are still available in 32 bit).

Since you're using a Raspberry Pi, chances are you're using Raspbian. As such, you'll be familiar with Debian and could use the same tools and methods to administer both computers. That said, Ubuntu's not so different once you mentally get used to the way Ubuntu does sudo (which is not even installed on Debian by default).

As for getting a video card - just get something cheap and old; my own preference is ATI/AMD, but any nVidia card old enough to use the open source nv driver well is fine also. I'd also go with something fanless just because it's less noise and one less thing to potentially fail. Fortunately, the same PCI Express slot standard has been used for video cards for well over a decade so you'll most likely be able to reuse the video card in a newer computer later.
Old 07-10-2017, 06:17 AM   #7
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as IsaacKuo says, no need to use any special low memory usage desktop environment or even distri like puppy
specs are enough to run any average todays distribution
Old 07-10-2017, 06:20 AM   #8
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Celeron with 2Gb of RAM?
It will be painfully slow at web browsing, even with lightweight distro like Antix.

Last edited by Teufel; 07-10-2017 at 06:22 AM.
Old 07-10-2017, 10:58 AM   #9
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Hi KMCarpenter,

I apologize in advance for most likely contributing to a bit of a debate that is going on here concerning the relative performance of the system you have. Some members feel it is powerful enough for most common linux distros and desktop environments, others, not.

I have made a bit if a hobby of resurrecting old hardware with linux, so here is my 2 cents:

- Your system is definitely *capable* of running pretty well anything linux. That said, your tolerance (or not) for slow response time will likely be the most important determining factor.

- The 2 objectives you mention (web browsing and spreadsheet use) can be intensive RAM consumers. As previously mentioned, the choice of desktop environment is the most important one for optimizing memory usage. LXDE was mentioned and it is my DE of choice, even on faster machines, simply because I like simple, lean environments.

- My understanding is that you are looking for a user-friendly solution. If this is correct, some of the above suggestions are quite appropriate, in my opinion (ex. Lubuntu or most any common distro with LXDE). This said ....

- I will side with the members that have recommended Puppy ... I have used it extensively in the past and, although I have moved on to Arch/LXDE for all my needs (both lightweight and otherwise, with the appropriate level of customization), Puppy is an excellent all-in-one solution for a user looking for an easy to use and (very !) lightweight environment.

Old 07-10-2017, 09:51 PM   #10
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I greatly appreciate all these replies!

Thank you all for the recommendations on flavors I should look into... at this point I'm more worried about the hardware... once I purchase the two monitors and video card.... there's no going back... I can always change the flavor of Linux at no cost..

I'm sorry it took so long for me to reply... I've been very busy working... I'd elaborate more now but I can't keep my eyes open!!

Again... the replies are extremely appreciated.
Old 07-10-2017, 09:51 PM   #11
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Also, I'll be reviewing each flavor listed.. thanks again
Old 07-11-2017, 12:00 PM   #12
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According to the published specification, that computer (specially made for Walmart) was supplied with 1GB, upgradable to 2GB, so you can't add any more memory. That may be why they installed the 32-bit version of Vista.

You will be able to run anything on that: I wouldn't advise a heavyweight desktop like KDE, Unity, or Gnome, but you certainly don't need some ultra-light window manager. I'd recommend MX Linux: Debian with a lighter GUI.

As far as the graphics card is concerned, you have got a PCIe socket, which I think is x16 — look at it and compare it with the pictures on Wikipedia, if in doubt. I believe you need to turn off the integrated graphics from BIOS to get it used.
Old 07-11-2017, 02:31 PM   #13
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A few other things you may want to consider. Emachines has a deserved reputation of being a very low quality bargain basement builder. They use the cheapest parts they can get away with such as Bestec power supplies which are the lowest of the low. I would not spend one penny updating any emachines computer; it's just not worth it. As far as adding a graphics card, if you have one laying around go ahead and give it a try. I wouldn't go out and invest in one. Also, your psu may not be able to handle a graphics card update. The Bestec power supplies typically used by emachines are notoriously unreliable and when they go, they have the nasty habit of taking out other components. Also, as previously noted, that cpu should be 64 bit capable. However, the motherboard may or may not support 64 bit. I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't.
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Old 07-11-2017, 03:11 PM   #14
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I've got one eMachines still going strong after well over a decade. I also have a sizable collection of ex-eMachines that I have acquired over the years. Their computer cases are kind of nice homes for mini-ATX motherboards from various other computers. Like HP Pavillions and Sony Vaios...but those other makers liked to use weird power supplies. So when those power supplies died, I stuck their motherboards in dead eMachines cases. Those eMachines cases combine the mini-ATX mobo form factor with a full size standard ATX power supply.

If this eMachines computer is still healthy and functional after nearly a decade, I'd bet it's going to be fine for a while.

(I exaggerate slightly...I have at least two eMachines computers that are still functional. But only one of them is in constant use.)
Old 07-11-2017, 05:09 PM   #15
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Will these specs be ok for this setup?
There are only three lines of relevant text information in that crappy cellphone picture. You could have easily typed out those three lines instead of lazily providing a bad picture.

Let me do it for you.

Processor: Intel Celeron CPU E1200 @ 1.6GHz
Memory (RAM): 2.00 GB
System type: 32-bit Operating System

See that wasn't that hard and its not even my post.

If you want help from volunteers you need to put some effort into your posts. It is much easier for volunteers to read what I typed and what you definitely should have than to have to download a crappy picture and read from it.

Don't know why you'd complicate things with a new card in an old machine though. As an old machine, something could fail tomorrow or not for years. Like putting pretty new rims on your rusty old Pinto. Noce project but don't waste money on it.
If the machine fails tomorrow a modest new card could of course still be used in a future build. They aren't welding it into the old machine. It is a reusable component.

Also the rusty Pinto and new rims is a bad analogy as that would only be cosmetic. A new card would greatly improve the performance of an old machine.

There is one major advantage to having a separate card and that is the video RAM. Even a modest $60 NVidia GT 730 has 2 GB of video RAM, as much as the computer itself. With a slow processor and only 2GB RAM a card like this would allow video information (buffers) to be offloaded to the card as well as speeding up the graphics. There would be more of the 2GB RAM available for actually running programs.

Last edited by tofino_surfer; 07-11-2017 at 05:10 PM.


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