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Linux for Beginner?

Old 23rd May 2014, 23:48
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Linux for Beginner?

I'm refurbing an old laptop (the HD died) so I've got a blank slate to start with. I've been wanting to give linux a try so I thought this might be a good time. Some info on what I've got and what I need to do-

-40 gig HD on a Compac N600c (hope the space is enough; no comments on the antique please- it's just a knock-about and back-up machine!)
-Internet conjnection will be through old PCMCIA D-Link card (I have the driver file downloaded here but will it work with Linux?)

-What I do is surf the internet, email, and darn little else. I would like to use a chat client (currently use Pidgin but can use others). I want to have the usual 'accessories' working like javascript, flash player, adobe reader etc so that web pages work properly. Later on maybe a small Open Office software suite but I hardly use spreadsheets or the other stuff; just would be nice to have. Machine had wired mouse and external monitor ports, would like them to work. Also has the stock CD/DVD reader (guessing I'll need drivers for that).

-About me: I did with DOS way back in the day (forgotten all of that), was conversant with W98/ME/and XP as far as configuring things to work the way I wanted. No knowledge of any programming language, writing macros or anything like that. Maybe slightly more than stupid with this stuff but certainly not a whiz-kid. I think the average ten year old knows more than I do about computers these days!

What I'd like to start with is some kind of tutorial on Linux- Ubuntu seems the way to go- or is it? I prefer pics and text to watching videos; I understand and retain data better that way.

So can anyone recommend a site where I can begin to learn the most basic basics of installing and using Linux for my uses? Google is flooding me with so much I'm getting lost.
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Old 24th May 2014, 03:12
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Linux MINT is a friendly face on Ubuntu for people coming from the Windows world. I use the Mint MATE (Mat-Tay) desktop.

I find that the versions of Mint I want to run REQUIRE that one must be able to boot from a DVD or USB flash drive. This could well rule out your old machine.

512 MB of RAM is the minimum recommended - 1 GB is suggested.

"Everyone" will recommend that you run Linux from a "live" DVD/flash drive to make certain that your hardware is adequate. Operation from a USB flash drive is MUCH faster than from an optical disk. You'll find that most "friendly" distributions of Linux are too large to fit on a CD. They include most of the software you'll want like an Office suite, scanner and printer drivers, etc.

I have found that the oldest hand-me-down PCs really aren't suitable for Ubuntu/Mint.

People will say that other versions of Linux will run on lesser hardware ... but I think you are interested in a widely-used version. Ubuntu claims to have the largest number of users, and the Mint version ("Ubuntu inside") comes in next.

Last edited by seacue; 24th May 2014 at 03:38.
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Old 24th May 2014, 05:00
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Since you know the Ubuntu name, it's as good a place to start as anywhere. You can always decide later whether it's too big/slow/ugly/not quite right for you and install something else, since there's no cost involved. Try this: It's written by Ubuntu community members, and is a downloadable PDF.
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Old 24th May 2014, 07:27
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Since you know the Ubuntu name, it's as good a place to start as anywhere.
Agree with Bushfiva here.

Ignore what people like seacue tell you about their preference for some minor linux distro that nobody's ever heard of.

Why ? Because you're a beginner. You want a well supported distro with a bit of history behind it... Ubuntu has been around for a while now, you'll have no difficulty finding people in the community to hold your hand (whether on here, the "official" Ubuntu forums or elsewhere)... and there's little risk of Ubuntu being abandoned as a project any time soon.

Basically now is not the right time to start choosing your distro.... you can do that later. For now, you want the biggest and most widely adopted you can find. Ubuntu, Fedora and SUSE are the "big three" .... and probably in that order as well.

Now seacue will probably come back here and try to tell you how MINT is "based on Ubuntu"... but the fact is the further you go away from the source, the more quirks and individual ways of doing things you introduce to a system.... which is something a beginner really doesn't need to deal with .... once you've cut your teeth on one of the main distributions, then you can poke around the smaller distros and see if they suit you better.

As for where to start ? Well, its Linux ... so to some degree you're going to have to jump in on the deep end and accept the learning curve that you've taken on, its not particularly difficult on Ubuntu, but there are many things that Linux does differently to Windows, and it all depends how deeply you want to get into it (i.e. whether you wish to acknowledge the presence of a command line and the "real" operating system behind the pretty GUI). Maybe the link Bushfiva suggested, maybe one of the "For Dummies" books....or maybe just pure luck and solid determination ...... whatever suits your learning style.

Last edited by mixture; 24th May 2014 at 07:43.
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Old 24th May 2014, 08:25
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I like fedora personally.

And there are plenty of "perfect fedora desktop" step by step tutorials.

Just miss out all the software your not interested in.

Fedora Project - Get Fedora: Desktops, Other Formats, Spins, Cloud Images, ARM or Secondary Arches.

Linux Today - The Perfect Desktop - Fedora 18 XFCE

Will give you step by step guides to all the main flavours.
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Old 24th May 2014, 08:44
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A vote for Linux Mint

I started looking into Linux a year or so ago on the run-up to the death of XP, as I have 3 old machines that used XP and were not really capable of upgrading. With help from my brother-in-law, I went for Debian on one machine, and played around with that for a while. Subsequently, for the other two I went for Linux Mint Debian Cinnamon, which installed more easily and recognised more of the components without intervention from me.
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Old 24th May 2014, 09:53
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Mint is hardly a minor Linux distro - it has the biggest number of hits on Distrowatch, 3724 against Ubuntuís 2240!

Iíve found it very stable and pleasant to use with no hardware recognition problems.

For older hardware it is hard to do better than VectorLinux (Slackware based)


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Old 24th May 2014, 09:59
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While Mxxxx implies that he has never heard of "minor" distributions like Linux Mint, Mint is the second-most common version of Linux today. Being based on Ubuntu, it has a wide range of downloadable applications. Ubuntu books can offer some background for Mint, and there is a 50-page downloadable "Getting Started" PDF for Mint. I'll post the exact title when I return home. To my mind, Ubuntu suffers from the MS disease, drastically changing the human interface just to be changing it, not to be friendlier, etc.

While I haven't tried it, Red Hat makes good money supporting a commercial version of Linux. Their free version is Fedora.
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Old 24th May 2014, 17:05
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Whilst not wishing to undermine Mixture's undoubted expertise, I would ask if he has ever used or seen Linux Mint Mate.

I have moved on from Windows XP in the past few months, using Android, Linux Mint Mate (On three old laptops) and Windows 8.1 on a new HP Laptop.
The machine of I usually use is my Acer Extensa 5220 running 64 bit Linux Mint 13, it does most things "straight out of the box". Though the Broadcom WiFi was a bit of a problem, but that is common on all Linux distros and I haven't yet cracked networking machines with dynamic IP addressing.

After years of using Windows XP, I find that it is similar, but different to XP. By this I mean it is obviously not XP, but I feel comfortable using it and things seem to work if you use XP logic. HP printers are just a matter of plugging in and HPLIP does it all and in under a minute you are asked if you want to print a test page.

There seems to be an equivalent for most things from XP, Thunderbird for Outlook Express, Banshee for Media Player, Libre Office for Microsoft Office etc within the standard Linux Mint Download, and the Synaptic Package Manager hasn't failed to find other things for me yet.

I would agree with Seacue, papabravowhiskey and Mac the Knife on this one.

Having a quick look at the Specs (American) for your Compac N600c, it has 2 USB ports and a DVD ROM drive, so loading so be achievable. The stopper will be RAM, my ThikPad T41 with 512MB can be quite slow, but it does work. The specs I saw for your machine said it will only support a max of 384MB.
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Old 24th May 2014, 18:29
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I put Linux Mint 16 (Petra) onto a Compaq Evo N610c not long ago. The spec. is 1.8GHz single-core, with 1GB RAM. I have a D-Link DWL-G650 wifi adapter that was found and configured by the OS, so I was quite impressed by that.

I've installed Libre Office (or rather it was installed in the setup routine), and I can browse the web and do some rudimentary office-type work.

It's certainly not fast, but it's not impossibly / glacially slow. I have to say that it's noticeably slower at doing the above than the equivalent Windows XP & Office XP installation it ran throughout its working life (2002 - 2008).

But it won't run Win 7, so Linux is an improvement over that!

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Old 24th May 2014, 19:38
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Mint is hardly a minor Linux distro - it has the biggest number of hits on Distrowatch, 3724 against Ubuntu’s 2240!
I wouldn't trust Distrowatch's numbers.... I think there's very little doubt that Ubuntu trumps Mint on adoption..... Ubuntu has all the business server and desktop users to start with that Mint doesn't, before you add on their home user base with is almost certainly larger than Mint's.
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Old 25th May 2014, 04:09
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I'd go for Mint too, and for an older machine, probably the XFCE edition so as not to slow things down with fancy graphics. If you can wait a few more weeks, they ought to have the Mint 17 version of that available, with support to 2019.
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Old 25th May 2014, 08:06
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Seriously, VectorLinux is a good choice for an old machine - try it if the fat distros feel a bit slow. It is an old and very well established distro based on Patrick Volkerding's Slackware, which is known to be a bit conservative and very stable.

Slackware is a bit of a purists distro and can be somewhat tedious if you are not familiar with Linux and the command line - VectorLinux just makes it easy.

Lean, mean and fast on older hardware (and still looks good)


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Old 25th May 2014, 09:46
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Wow, a lot more responses and info than I expected I had heard of Ubuntu being relatively easy to learn and work with, but I'd never heard of Mint, and it seems to have some advantages over Ubuntu for my old machine. I did a RAM upgrade on it a few years ago but was advised that I shouldn't max it out because it might make it unstable. It's going to be a learning tool so the slowest component is probably going to be me for quite a long time. Now that I know where to look and what to look for I should be able to find whatever I need from here on my own, but if I get stuck I now know where to ask for advice!

Many Thanks to All
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Old 25th May 2014, 10:54
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A few days ago I promised a 50-page PDF "Getting Started ..." for LinuxMint. My memory was its usual poor self. The title is "Official User Guide Linux Mint" I have the Mate version.

This is available in a number of languages. I use Mint 13, a LTS (Long Term Support) version. The next LTS version will be 17, to be issued this May (they say). The LTS versions are based on Ubuntu LTS versions.

About the first half of the "Guide" involves downloading and installing Mint. Don't let that frighten you. The rest involves actual use.

Since I had been using the Firefox browser and Thunderbird email for a long time, transition to Linux did not require relearning for these applications.

Most recent versions of Linux (including Ubuntu & Mint) come with the LibreOffice suite. This uses the open source code base of OpenOffice, which I have used for years. So there was essentially no learning required going from OpenOffice to LibreOffice. All the application names (word processor, spreadsheet, etc) are the same and the file extensions are the same. Since OpenOffice is "open source", the LibreOffice people could take the code without legal problems. Generally, the word processor, spreadsheet, etc, etc, of Open/LibreOffice can directly produce PDF without the need for other applications. Their defaults are the ISO standard ODF formats which MS "x" processors (docx...) can generally read - and the Open/Libre applications can read and write MS DOC, DOCX, etc., files.

A comparison, for what it's worth....

Last edited by seacue; 25th May 2014 at 12:46. Reason: Added link at end.
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Old 26th May 2014, 04:15
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Originally Posted by mixture View Post
I wouldn't trust Distrowatch's numbers.... I think there's very little doubt that Ubuntu trumps Mint on adoption..... Ubuntu has all the business server and desktop users to start with that Mint doesn't, before you add on their home user base with is almost certainly larger than Mint's.
Mint is where many of us Ubuntu users went after Ubuntu decided to push their netbook interface onto those who run Linux on 24" monitors.

And, I will admit, it was a pretty good netbook interface. But a lousy one for big screens.

Mint 17 is just coming out, which will be supported for several years. However, a distro designed specifically for older and slower machines may make sense. Looks like I have 1.6GB in use in Mint 16 with a dozen Firefox windows, Thunderbird and LibreOffice running, and a DVD playing in VLC.

Oh, and everyone I know who runs a business server or desktop on Linux is using Red Hat or a derivative (CentOS, Scientific Linux, etc). But I'm sure some run Ubuntu for the newest and shiniest apps.
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Old 10th Jun 2014, 08:13
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Hi Sawman,

Just my 2p worth.

With Linux there are two key decisions you have to make:

1. Which desktop you want; and

2. Which 'package manager'.

This is a flame hot topic in the linux community, but ultimately a matter of personal taste. For what its worth, I am most comfortable with Cinnamon, which comes natively with mint, but I use it with CENTOS. The main desktops are Gnome (used to use, but ditched), KDE, XFCE and Cinnamon
As an aside:
While I haven't tried it, Red Hat makes good money supporting a commercial version of Linux. Their free version is Fedora.
I disagree: Fedora is the community research version of Red Hat and as such is replaced every six months. CENTOS IS the Red hat commercial version just without the branding, as such it is supported over longer replacement cycles.

Package manager:
This is the major difference between flavours of linux. Most software in linux is installed using a package manager, which takes care of all dependencies and conflicts. Debian/ubuntu use apt (command line)/ Synaptic (GUI) whereas Fedora/CENTOS use rpm/yum.

Fedora/centos tend to have a larger ram/disk space requirement than the debian and relatives so that may be the better option in your particular case. I would definately echo the 'try the live usb option'. That will quickly identify if the distribution can identify all your peripherials like network cards etc.



Last edited by ExGrunt; 12th Jun 2014 at 09:58.
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Old 10th Jun 2014, 15:57
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I've used Mint 13 (Mate) succesfully on a number of machines, for a low-end example, this MSI U100. But I'm having very poor luck when I try to use Mint 17 (Mate). Either it hangs during loading of a live flash drive, or or..... The touted "friendlyness" seems to have been lost - at least as far as installation.
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Old 10th Jun 2014, 19:11
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With VectorLinux your MSI U100 will fly.

It really is a very good distro for that sort of machine (which will never perform well with any of the later Ubuntus or Mints)

"A voice crying in the wilderness"


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Old 12th Jun 2014, 15:28
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Ubuntu is a good choice for getting started with Linux. There are better distributions for desktops, servers or people who want to tinker. But since Ubuntu is based on Debian, its a good starting point to lean that if at some point you want to go 'full geek' and pull up a command line. If not, it may serve you as your final O/S for the foreseeable future.

Ubuntu is Bantu for 'I don't know how to configure Debian'.
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