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Old 07-09-2006, 02:08 PM   #1
Singkong2005
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Which Linux suits the third world?


Hi.

First some background:

I've been giving thought to the idea of low cost computing for the third world. I'm working on a web page which I hope will be useful to people working in this area, or indeed anyone who is trying to minimise their computing costs: Low cost computer guide (on Appropedia, the wiki site for appropriate technology, sustainability and international development.)

There's a section there titled Linux.

Note that this isn't meant to compete with the "$100 laptop" project by Negroponte - it's meant to be broader than just laptops. And my hope is to make a really clear online resource for people, rather than actually make computers myself.

Just to explain where I'm coming from - I'm a water engineer and a member of Engineers Without Borders (Australia), with an interest in appropriate technology, which is about solving problems using the available resources. So you can guess why I'm interested in Linux for a third world setting.

Personally I'm changing to Linux after 15 years on Windows (currently using Puppy Linux but it's crashing and having other hiccups, and I'm considering other options). So please be patient with my questions - I've been trying to figure things out, but I'm still at the bottom of the learning curve.

So, here's the question: What are the best options for a Linux distro in a third world setting? I've had a try at comparing the options at the website mentioned above, but would greatly appreciate the perspectives of people who know Linux well.

The wish list for a distro:
* Free
* Usability and documentation. (Many users will have limited computer skills and very limited English. Videos/flash tutorials are especially good , and could be easily translated).
* An active wiki, (to enable people like me to help build & translate the documentation).
* Low resource use - works on old or very low cost computers. The lower the better, as long as it doesn't mean major sacrifices in usability.
* Low maintenance (used by people who cannot afford or do not have access to frequent technical assistance).

Preferences:
* Any additional applications are interchangable with other related distros. E.g . If the distro is Slackware-based, I could just download the Slackware version of Opera and use it. This is apparently not the case with Puppy.
* Should it run from HD or LiveCD? Best to have both options? I've had some crashes with PuppyLinux on LiveCD - I'm not sure what caused it, but I wonder, is LiveCD inherently less stable?
* Distros that load into fully into RAM are nice and fast, which is valuable on older systems. Though ideally that same distro will still run automatically even if there's not enough RAM to do the fully loading thing.

What do you suggest? I've drawn some conclusions already. (E.g. the documentation for DSL is just not adequate. I'm moderately technically competent, but as a complete Linux newbie, I couldn't make sense of DSL's documentation. Puppy was much clearer.)

Check out what I've done so far - as mentioned, it's at the website (google Singkong2005 computer) You can edit that page (it's a wiki), or respond on this forum.

Btw, I'm don't know any programming languages, so I won't be able to contribute much on the technical side. But whatever distro seems most suitable, I plan to contribute to usability through learning it, helping build documentation on the wiki, and also by doing user-testing whenever I get the chance.

I look forward to reading your suggestions, whether for distros or changes to the wish list. Thanks in advance!

Last edited by Singkong2005; 12-18-2006 at 02:04 AM. Reason: direct links, not google instructions
 
Old 07-09-2006, 03:05 PM   #2
XavierP
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I moved this thread to Linux-News, as it seems to be more of a press release than anything. This is a worthwhile project and I wish you, and it, well for the future.

If you are working primarily on out of date hardware, I would suggest Debian and Slackware. Both are very very configurable and give you control over what goes on from the beginning.
 
Old 07-10-2006, 08:19 AM   #3
vees
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Hi Singkong2005,

It sounds like you have a very good project here and I wish you good luck.

I would reccommend the Kanotix (http://www.kanotix.com/) distribution for the following reasons:

1) you can use it BOTH as a live-CD AND as a very easy hard-disk install

2) if you install it you end up having something almost exactly similar to installing Debian-Sid which gives you access to 18000+ applications (taken either from the Internet or from CDs/DVDs)

3) Kanotix comes with a simple and useful manual in three languages: http://linux.kopporama.de/km_downloads.html

4) Kanotix comes with a very good support IRC channel and has just opened a Wiki

5) Kanotix' creator Jörg Schirottke (aka 'Kano') might be willing to work out a special version of Kanotix for you since he writes this on the Kanotix intro document which pops open each time you load the live-CD: If you need special features in a customized CD, contact me (master@kanotix.de) for details.

For a full review of Kanotix see: http://os.newsforge.com/article.pl?sid=06/03/08/1833211

However, Kanotix might be too resource-intensive for you. I use with without any problems whatsoever on a 500MHz machine with 128 RAM, but your computers might be older ones Pentium/PentiumPro -types. Kanotix is NOT designed with old hardware as a priority and this shows in many choices made (KDE desktop, OpenOffice suite, etc.).

For really old hardware use DSL (Damn Small Linux) (http://www.damnsmalllinux.org/) which is an awesome distro packing everything you need into only the 50MB of a credit-card sized mini-CD. It does also comes with a FANTASTIC "myDSL extensions" repository (http://distro.ibiblio.org/pub/linux/...nsmall/mydsl/). And it does have a very good documentation: http://www.spidertools.com/cgi-bin/c...atstr=HOME:dsl (for a review of that book see here: http://www.linux.com/article.pl?sid=06/04/24/215211)

Also DSL comes with a kernel 2.4 which might be better for your needs.

Lastly, there is always Debian itself - "the mother of all distros" ;-) It is developed by over 1000 maintainers, it has 18000+ packages, it is as stable and secure as BSD and, last but not least, it is free both in the sense of "no costs" and in the sense of "freedom".

The LAST thing you want is depending on a commercial distro and some board of directors making choices for you. Debian is 100% community based, community oriented, and community run.

For older hardware you can make a 'lean and clean' install of Debian as Debian is the opposite of the bloatware that all too many distros have become. I call it 'slimware'. You can use backports, older verions (like Woody) and you can even run Debian on ELEVEN different architectures including Apple hardware.

Oh - it is also the 2nd most used and the fastest growing distro!

The neat thing is that since both Kanotix and DSL are Debian based, you do not have to make an either/or choice. I use all three and they require the same set of skills. Which of the three you choose will depend on your hardware and purpose, but all three share a fundamental same basis and have the same 'feel'.

I sincerely don't believe you can find this anywhere else!

Good luck,

VS

PS: there is another very popular Debian-based distro out there which I am sure you have heard plenty about: Ubuntu. Although it is very popular, I would reccommend avoiding it like the plague. It is a power hog, totally bloated distro, it is *unbelievably* slow and it does not use Debian repositories. Oh, and the last version is really buggy. Stay away!!

PPS: Puppy Linux is not Debian based, and that in itself is good enough reason to stay away from it. I am not bashing any other distro, but compiling applications is just not something you want to do, as for using dotpop just look at the discussion here http://www.murga.org/~puppy/viewtopic.php?t=5533 should convince you to stay away from it. Compare this with the Debian way: you do once 'apt-get update' and then if you want to install, say, something called 'KillerOffice' all you need to do is 'apt-get install KillerOffice' and everything else will be done for you automatically, all dependencies will be automatically installed in the right order. The neat thing is that both Kanotix and DSL share this ability to use APT. And since you like documentations, here is an APT Howto: http://www.debian.org/doc/manuals/apt-howto/

Last edited by vees; 07-10-2006 at 08:47 AM.
 
Old 07-11-2006, 08:54 PM   #4
Singkong2005
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Thanks heaps for those very helpful responses. I've looked at them a few times in the last couple of days, thinking about what to ask next.

A friend who knows a little bit about Linux installed Xubuntu on my hard drive shortly after my first post. I've realised that the best thing for me to do is to use a somewhat heavier, user-friendly version for a while until I know more about Linux, and then I'll be in a better position to try lighter versions, and to ask better questions. So I'll probably use Xubuntu for a bit, and then in a week I'll look at installing Kanotix (or rather, Debian-Sid) so I have a dual-boot.

I should also mention - I'm not looking for a single answer, so all these comments are helpful. Someone in, say, Indonesia who already has a PII with 128MB of RAM will probably want a different solution from someone using a 486 with 32MB RAM.

XavierP - Slackware sounds good from a technical point of view, but Debian is probably the better option in terms of a large community, and extensive documentation - would that be right?


Vees - thanks for such extensive comments.

Re Xubuntu: Would you apply all the same criticisms to Xubuntu as you do to Ubuntu?

Xubuntu doesn't seem too bloated, from what I can see - like Kanotix it runs off a LiveCD which also installs.

Xubuntu has XFCE as the GUI - which I gather makes it smaller and faster than standard Ubuntu. It seems lightning fast - but I'm only running a few programs, (Opera with about 12 tabs open, Firefox with 2 tabs). I'm used to running Windows XP on this machine, (a relatively fast 2.2Ghz, AMD Athlon, 512 MB RAM) so it's wonderful. I don't know how well Xubuntu would run on an older machine.

I haven't had major problems and bugs haven't put me off yet (but like I said, I'm used to Windows). Although I understand that Debian is far more stable and bug-free.

I like the language support, which is very valuable for third-world settings. An impressive list of languages is offered at installation - I don't know how complete the translations are, but I checked the first few installation windows for Indonesian (which I can speak) and it looked good. Also the extensive How-tos, and the active wiki and forums are big pluses.

Note, I'm not trying to buy into a Debian vs Ubuntu debate, about which is better - it seems there's no question about Debian's strengths. But Xubuntu does seem to have advantages which could potentially tip the balance as a suitable choice for a newbie in a non-English speaking setting... or am I misjudging Debian?

Re Debian-Sid: I gather this is buggier than the stable release of Debian, and is "targeted at Debian developers for building packages to be uploaded to unstable, and other Debian users that know Debian well in general, master Debian package management, are good for reporting bugs, want to help the Debian project, and have some machines on which they don't depend." (Wikipedia.) Is that as daunting as it sounds? How would it compare for bugginess (and usability) with Xubuntu?

Perhaps I should look at a "'lean and clean' install of Debian" rather than installing Debian-Syd with the Kanotix LiveCD. How newbie friendly would this option be?

Re DSL - I understand now the advantage of being based on Debian. As the documentation is in book form, I suspect that it isn't a great solution for an individual who wants something straightforward to use, but it might be good for a technically minded person managing a number of older computers.


I also had the thought to look up an Indonesian language Linux forum. I'll ask there as well - it'll be interesting to get their perspective, as they're likely to have had experience with running on older or cheaper machines.

Thanks again!
 
Old 07-18-2006, 09:26 AM   #5
michapma
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Singkong2005
Xubuntu doesn't seem too bloated, from what I can see - like Kanotix it runs off a LiveCD which also installs.

Xubuntu has XFCE as the GUI - which I gather makes it smaller and faster than standard Ubuntu. It seems lightning fast - but I'm only running a few programs, (Opera with about 12 tabs open, Firefox with 2 tabs). I'm used to running Windows XP on this machine, (a relatively fast 2.2Ghz, AMD Athlon, 512 MB RAM) so it's wonderful. I don't know how well Xubuntu would run on an older machine.
It depends on the hardware. XFCE probably won't run on the 486 with 32 MB of RAM you mention. Windows managers like Fluxbox or Window Maker might not even make it. For such hardware you will have to take very special measures. For example:
http://www.ipt.ntnu.no/~knutb/linux486/linux486.html

If I were you, I would not limit the choice for users with PII machines based on the possibility of others with a 486. You might offer two or more solutions based on hardware.

As a further note on Xubuntu, for the Xubuntu 6.06 beta:
Quote:
* to run the live Desktop CD a minimum of 128M of RAM is required
* to install to disk using the Desktop CD installer, a root partition of at least 1.2G is required
For more recent systems like your 2.2-GHz machine, Xubuntu or even Ubuntu would be fine.

By comparison, Debian's minimum requirements:
Quote:
You must have at least 32MB of memory and 110MB of hard disk space. For a minimal console-based system (all standard packages), 250MB is required. If you want to install a reasonable amount of software, including the X Window System, and some development programs and libraries, you'll need at least 400MB. For a more or less complete desktop system, you'll need a few gigabytes.

Quote:
Note, I'm not trying to buy into a Debian vs Ubuntu debate, about which is better - it seems there's no question about Debian's strengths. But Xubuntu does seem to have advantages which could potentially tip the balance as a suitable choice for a newbie in a non-English speaking setting... or am I misjudging Debian?
I will try to provide some counterpoints for you, since I have used Debian but not Xubuntu. Debian language support (documentation): http://www.debian.org/international/
I count 25 languages (minus one for Esperanto). Many are works in progress, but at least the installation menus and input devices (keyboard support) are available in a wide variety of languages.

Besides installation and configuration, perhaps one of the more important issues to consider in Xubuntu/Ubuntu vs. Debian considerations is the package repositories. Debian stable is going to be far more stable, X/Ubuntu is good but more on the experimental side. They are proving themselves, but there is more risk involved. You should try them yourself, although you will never be aware from your own testing all the many issues that will be encountered by a large user base!

Keep also in mind whether these machines will have network access, as that can also make a difference. For example, you wrote: "Low maintenance (used by people who cannot afford or do not have access to frequent technical assistance)" I think Debian has a clear advantage here in terms of documentation available. And Debian stable is going to peform in a very stable manner for a long time.

Quote:
Re Debian-Sid: I gather this is buggier than the stable release of Debian, and is "targeted at Debian developers for building packages to be uploaded to unstable, and other Debian users that know Debian well in general, master Debian package management, are good for reporting bugs, want to help the Debian project, and have some machines on which they don't depend." (Wikipedia.) Is that as daunting as it sounds?
Short version: Yes.

Quote:
How would it compare for bugginess (and usability) with Xubuntu?
It would certainly exceed Xubuntu in bugginess, and probably not in usability.

Quote:
Perhaps I should look at a "'lean and clean' install of Debian" rather than installing Debian-Syd with the Kanotix LiveCD. How newbie friendly would this option be?
User-friendliness, in the sense of ease of installation, is not on the side of a basic Debian installation. (Unless of course the user can't get Xubuntu to work on their machine.) The easiest installation imaginable is one where you have to make almost no decisions: click like 2 or 3 times and enter a username and password. I think the Xandros installation is something like that. But this does not give you the flexibility you need for older hardware. Plus, if the user has no idea about system administration, it can become a huge security risk. (Think of all the Windows machines out there where the users are always running under the administrator account.)

To get a feel for Debian installation, I would try to get your hands on an old laptop or other piece of hardware where you can wipe the hard-drive. Or, use your hardware with a clean hard-drive. If you are confident with multi-booting, you can use your current hard-drive.

Then go here: http://www.debian.org/distrib/
(Note that you can install from CD/DVD or do a net installation.)

...and here: http://www.debian.org/releases/stable/installmanual

Try installing Debian using only the base installation. You will be booting into the command line interface. Then start installing packages following this thread:
http://www.linuxquestions.org/questi...d.php?t=224547
(Use the APT-HOWTO mentioned there.)

Post your unsolvable questions here: http://www.linuxquestions.org/questi...splay.php?f=26


All of that will seem a bit overwhelming for the average computer user. But it would be good for you to go through, to get a feel for installation issues and difficulty. It is possible to compile Debian installation CDs that make decisions for the user, similar to what X/Ubuntu does. That would simplify installation for the inexperienced. It would also be fairly simple to keep the standard Debian distribution and create a step-by-step walkthrough, advising the user what decisions to make.

As mentioned elsewhere I think, it is possible to use older Debian distributions, such as Woody. This could be installed without network, by CD for example, and any time new packages are needed, the appropriate CD just needs to be placed in the drive. This is not really a solution for old machines without CD-ROMS. The number of packages in Debian is large, so it requires a lot of storage. But you will have this problem with any distro.


You may want to have a look at this article:
http://www.linux.com/article.pl?sid=06/02/13/1854251
 
Old 07-19-2006, 06:37 AM   #6
XavierP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Singkong2005
XavierP - Slackware sounds good from a technical point of view, but Debian is probably the better option in terms of a large community, and extensive documentation - would that be right?
In terms of sheer number of prepackaged apps, Debian would be the one with the bigger resources. As far as the community for Slackware goes, you're in it! LQ is the official (and recognised by Patrick) Slackware forum, so community support rocks here!

Depending on your needs and your hardware, either one would be great. Slackware has very very few automatic configuration scripts, it's all done by hand. Debian has apt - which is a very mature application.
 
Old 08-22-2006, 08:32 AM   #7
juanctes
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Thumbs up Nice Project! (From the third world)

Hey Singkong2005, I’m from Corrientes, Argentina (North East of Arg. search in google earth to know more ). I whish u luck and success on your project.
I´m only a Slackware/knoppix user not an expert, and cant help u very much in technical things.
But let me tell u that from the technical aspect I’m 99% sure you’ll succeed, here u have lot of help and as far as i can see you´ll migth end up with a nice Low-resource Friendly-configurable Distro. But at least in Argentina you´ll have to face three major problems, characteristics from 3rd world people.
First: Microsoft.
Microsoft is doing a tricky business here with the government with a project called "Mi PC" http://www.programamipc.com.ar/
http://www.clarin.com/diario/2005/04...ad/s-04104.htm
(Exercise your spanish)
that allow restricted income people to buy in 40 pays their first Windows PC (they will end pays twice the price but in affordable way). Besides there is a project to license all public institution’s PCs that are currently using Windows (unlicensed).
The result of this is that we are going to lose a LOT of money in benefit of Microsoft and two or three Politicians.
Second: Ignorance.
At least here, Linux is not a much known word, and people who know about Linux´s existence thinks of it as an un-understandable OS. Even in my university (system engineering) there are mates that thinks that Linux is difficult, most of them "would" like to learn linux, few devote time to it (university takes time, I think that 14-17 year guys are more likely to have enough time to learn it, I´m 23).
And there is a third problem: PUBLICITY. How do you plan to make your project known around here? I mean most of people that read this is already Linux oriented. How are you going to take your ambitious project to common people?
If u need something and think i can help from my position, I´ll be glad to help u MyEmail: juanmf-Gmail.com

Last edited by juanctes; 08-22-2006 at 08:34 AM.
 
Old 09-02-2006, 08:00 PM   #8
everal
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Hey.

First I must say that I AM at third world. I've born in Brazil and I still live here. Some people would say that Brazil isn't exactly a good example of third world, specially who likes the word BRIC (Brazil, India, China). By myself, watching the news, where they got a kid when that was going to work, cut off his arms and legs, and burned it, and that was done by the police, and in a big city (Rio de Janeiro) , I prefer say that we are still 4th world, and going quickly to 5th world.

Second, I've recently worked with VERY poor kids from 'favelas', in a BIG non profit organization, with money from A LOT of multinationals, including one from computers community, banks, airlines, and etc.

So lets go: 1st rule: don't look back. To each golden heart person working with this, there are like 10 profiting and exploring the kids. If you believe on it, just go on.

Then, about linux, I saw a very, very, very simple thing: take the distr with more material in the native language. Just that.

You see, we distr use to try, and try and try again, then read, read, read some more, go to forums and etc. Anything of this is possible if don't understand a word of the stuff you are supposed to use. Mostly of the very poors ones, those that will need your help more, they have problems with their own language, so it makes a computer be something from another world.

That was maybe the best thing Bill Gates (yes, the devil itself) said about popular and low price computers. I can't remember the exactly words, but make a point talking about the real world of those persons: families that live with LESS then 1 dollar a day.

That is something you must stop and think about.

Because it means that maybe you will have a good computer, by less then 100 dollars, in a place where there is no electricity...


In another words: the distro will be no problem. Any of the good ones can make it, and maybe even the bad ones.

Good luck.
 
Old 09-05-2006, 05:45 AM   #9
firestomper41
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Have you had a look @ vector linux, as this is a slackware based distro that is specifically designed to run on older hardware? It has most apps that you would use for everyday tasks, like internet, email music, and officed productivity.

www.vectorlinux.com

Good luck with your project

Last edited by firestomper41; 09-05-2006 at 05:48 AM.
 
Old 09-15-2006, 03:42 AM   #10
Singkong2005
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User groups; best distros for "unsupported" users

Thanks again for all the suggestions - I take them on board, and will try to incorporate this info into the Appropedia "Low cost computer guide." (But remember it's a wiki, so feel free to add directly to the page yourself.)

Re Vector Linux, which is Slackware-based... my semi-geeky friend who helps me with Linux suggests that Slackware-based distros are probably very difficult for newbies, based on his experience with Zenwalk Linux. (He does really like Zenwalk, but it was a bit of a challenge to set up on his old laptop.) Is this fair?

My impression is that it's very important to have good support, so finding a local Linux Users Group is very important. That is probably the most important step; the LUG can then help with choosing a distro that they are able to help support.

If someone is new to Linux and does not have a nearby LUG, and doesn't even have a friend who understands Linux, then it seems to me that most forms of Linux are too difficult. So in these cases I would definitely recommend Ubuntu (due to its usability and emphasis on multilingual support), in spite of whatever disadvantages that might have, compared to the leaner and more stable Debian or Slackware based distros. For a computer that is too basic for Ubuntu, and again where there is no support, I might recommend Puppy Linux as being easier than other slim distros. This is far from ideal, but at least it's a way for newbies to get started in Linux.

It's good to have some input from developing countries, as well:
Quote:
Originally Posted by juanctes
PUBLICITY. How do you plan to make your project known around here? I mean most of people that read this is already Linux oriented. How are you going to take your ambitious project to common people?
I hope that it will get more attention through being on Appropedia, which I am helping to promote among people who are interested in international development and sustainability. I will also continue to contact relevant groups such as those working on ICT4D (ICT 4 Development), e.g. Engineers Without Borders' ICT4D projects.

I hope that those who speak both English and another language will let people in their communities know about this page, and possibly help translate it. (We can make other pages, in other languages, on Appropedia. I speak Indonesian, so I will make an effort to let people know in Indonesian communities, e.g. through LUG's forum.

Bottom line - I cannot take it by myself to the common people of the entire world. But I hope to go part of the way, so those who are connected to those communities in any way can then pass on the knowledge. Hopefully they will pass back knowledge to us as well, by improving this wiki page, to make it a better and more relevant resource.

Feedback welcome, as always!
Singkong2005
 
Old 09-18-2006, 06:40 AM   #11
fadelhomsi
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I am from Syria, which is considered a third world country,
I see that there is no different, because here we have pcs and laptops that can run the most of the
dirtors, but I see that the best distro is the distri that provide good support for multimedia and winmodem and more languages like Arabic,
thanks
 
Old 09-19-2006, 04:23 AM   #12
kozuch82
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Ubuntu Linux definitely.
 
Old 09-19-2006, 04:55 PM   #13
ctkroeker
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The average Paraguayan "Campesino" doesn't even know what a Computer is, in the city's they are used quite a bit though. Generally most people here have old win95 boxes, if they have a little more money, maybe something like a Pentium3. Only the "Rich" people can afford the newest computers, and hardly anyone worry's about the software, it's usually pirated. It's been said that 99% of software, music, DVD's, etc is ilegal and can be bought for a coupl of bucks on the street, although that is slowly changing now and I have been seeing more of Linux lately.
 
Old 09-20-2006, 03:47 AM   #14
kalleanka
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Puppylinux since you can run it without a harddisk(cd or usb etc) and with a "stoneage" computer.

Its small so tho download ower a old modem is not a problem.

This system flyes on a pentium III since its all in ram.
 
Old 09-21-2006, 06:52 PM   #15
thorn168
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Singkong2006,

Vector 5.1 standard is just as easy as ubuntu to install and use. I would even go so far as to say it is easier then using Windows.

However, OS choice is really less of a worry for you and your friends then is hardware failure. Computers that are 5+ years old will have hardware issues independent of your particular choice in software.

(Off topic point of order comment re: Third world

The term third world is a cold war era phrase adopted by countries that chose not to align themselves with either the West (the US and its allies) or the East ( USSR, China and their allies. Your usage of the term implies that any country that lacks a certain level "Wealth" is to be considered "Third world". While in general many non-aligned nations did not enjoy the "wealth" that other nations who did make alliances with either the East or the West did, that does not mean that all "Third world" nations are poor or undeveloped. Thus I disagree with your usage of the term as stated to mean undeveloped and poor.)
 
  


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