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Old computer..Can I install Linux?

Discussion in 'Computers' started by Mikestony, Jan 2, 2014.

  1. Mikestony

    Mikestony ~30% Carbon Black ±
    Moderator Thread Starter

    Hey all!
    I just ran across an old Dell Inspirion 1505 laptop computer that I didn't know what to do with.
    I managed to wipe it and restore it to its original state.
    • Windows XP Media Center Edition. Version 2002 Service Pack 2
    • Genuine Intel CPU T2300 @1.66Ghz
    • 980MHz, 1.99 GB of RAM

    Then I thought, "Hey, why not find out if I can put some sort of Linux OS on it?"

    Now, I am not that familiar with computers, not to mention Linux, but a few questions:
    1. Is the hardware good enough for a Linux OS?
    2. Where do I start?
    3. What the heck is a Distro?
    4. What can I do with Linux?
    5. Is it worth it?
    6. Why do I ask so many questions?
    7. What other specs do you need to know?

    Is the computer worth anything to anyone? It's at least 8 years old.
    It's a fleeting thought, so, who knows how far I'll take this:)

    Thanks to all;)

  2. lunatic59

    lunatic59 Moderati ergo sum

    The answer is "let's get your geek on."

    You can run Linux on much less than that and run it well. Any PC that could run XP will run Linux, so we've no need to worry about that.

    I guess you start by looking at the major distros ... a distro is really just geek-speak for distribution package. It's like a rom, so to speak, just a collection of files used to install the OS. The biggies would be fedora (A red Hat variant), Ubuntu, Linux Mint, SuSe and I'm sure moody and arg will list a few more.

    What you will find on most of the sites is a place to download an .iso image from which you burn a CD, DVD or create a live USB installer. We'll get to that later.

    You can do pretty much anything with Linux that you can with a Windows PC or a Mac. It's certainly worth it, both for the experience and to keep older PC's productive.

    How much disk space do you have on that thing?
    argedion, Joelgp83 and Mikestony like this.
  3. Mikestony

    Mikestony ~30% Carbon Black ±
    Moderator Thread Starter

    I have heard of Ubuntu and if they are like roms, so to speak, I would assume there are some minor differences in them all, but basically do the same thing?

    I have, according to the computer management screen, on (C: ) 105.54 GB free space of 111.78 GB total.

    Now, I have heard of dual booting, but I wouldn't care if I got rid of windows altogether.

    Would Linux be akin to AOSP roms, in the fact they have a smaller memory footprint?
    Whereas windows would be akin to a manufacturer overlay such as TouchWiz, or Sense?

    Is there a recommendation overall, on which Distro is the best? Easiest? Smoothest? etc?

    Being as Linux is very closely related to the Android Platform, what advantage would it have in communicating, or running commands to/from the Android device?

    Is Mikestony going to throw his arms up in frustration trying to do this?
    argedion and Joelgp83 like this.
  4. big_z

    big_z Android Enthusiast

    I have seen circa-2008 versions of Ubuntu be laggy on older hardware, but we're talking 700MHz Durons and the like (circa 2000 hardware). I would try Ubuntu first, it's probably the easiest, but you may have to move to something lighter. Mint might be OK too. I had better luck with straight Debian on that Duron (Mint wasn't around back then).

    My main Ubuntu partition is on a 120GB SSD and it's only used 33GB (22 of which are in my home directory), so that 120GB drive should be plenty.

    If you want to analogize Android to Linux, I'd say the proper way would be:

    • Linux is to Android what Windows is to Windows Mobile, or Mac OSX is to iOS.

    • Distros are to Linux what Cyanogenmod and the other ROMs are to Android.

    • Overlays and Launchers (Touchwiz, Sense, etc) are to Android what desktop environments are to Linux. Common desktop environments in Linux are Gnome, KDE, Unity (sorta), and Xfce.
    Ask 10 people which distro to use, and you'll get 11 different answers. Ask which desktop environment to use, and you'll get 11 "I hate X, but it's better than Y" answers. I use Unity. I don't get the hate for it. I don't love it but I don't hate it either. I would be a bit surprised to see Unity run on that system though.

    Normally when you download a distro it won't give you a desktop environment choice; that's ok, just roll with it and see if you like it. Other times the distro may have variations on the name or the image you download, and those may be on a different release schedule than the "main" distro.

    MTP (the only method of phone sync that Google supports now) sucks in Linux, in my opinion. I haven't tried the adb commands but I think those will work fairly well.

    If I were to recommend a distro for you it would either be mainline Ubuntu or, if it's too laggy, Xubuntu (Ubuntu with the Xfce desktop environment).
  5. Mikestony

    Mikestony ~30% Carbon Black ±
    Moderator Thread Starter

    Wow, thanks big-z:)

    That's a bit to take in for tonight...I gotta take this slow and perhaps start messing with the distros.

    So a distro will install Linux. I run that for a little bit, then decide on an environment, correct?

    Unless, as you indicated, I go for both with XUbuntu.
  6. Rxpert83

    Rxpert83 Dr. Feelgood

    I'm no Linux expert but here's my 2c...

    Most articles you read on the subject will suggest people coming from a different OS starting with Ubuntu because "that's what's easiest".

    I started there too, but there's a bit of a learning curve to any new OS. Don't let that shy you away. Embrace the chaos :)

    At any rate, there's plenty of knowledgeable and helpful folk on these forums as you already know. They'll have you building android from source in no time ;)

    I run mint now, and quite like it. Honestly couldn't tell you what my desktop environment is lol
    Mikestony likes this.
  7. saptech

    saptech Android Expert

    I would say try one or all of these. They should offer a LiveCD or DVD. A LiveCD mean you can burn it to a disc and run it from the cd/dvd drive, the complete OS. Keep in mind it will run slower then you may like but once you install it, it should be just fine.

    Lubuntu, is based on Ubuntu but with a lightweight desktop environment (LXDM).
    lubuntu | lightweight, fast, easier

    Puppy Linux
    Puppy Linux Community Home - Getting Started


    Burn one or all on a cd and run it from the disc to test first, if possible, they do offer the choice to install on the hard drive also.

    Keep in mind that linux is quite different then Windows, so there will be a new learning curve involved.

    Go for it!!!
    Mikestony and Joelgp83 like this.
  8. Joelgp83

    Joelgp83 Android Enthusiast

    Ubuntu13.10's implementation of libmtp seems fairly stable in my experience. Also, the adb commands are in the standard repos now. Both fastboot and adb. :D
    Mikestony likes this.
  9. lunatic59

    lunatic59 Moderati ergo sum

    Mike, if I might try to make your head explode for a moment ... Here's what I think you should do, if you've got the bandwidth ...

    Assuming for a moment that a.) your laptop will run only 32-bit and b.) its BIOS will permit booting from a USB device, download these distros:

    Ubuntu 12.04 - it's the long term support release and not that much different from 13.10, especially on older hardware. It will give you the Unity desktop environment (I'm a h8r of Unity, BTW).

    Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon This is a Debian based distro with a Gnome-like environment. Coming from XP you might find this a bit easier to navigate at first.

    Fedora 20 - I find Fedora to be a little too focused on being an enterprise-like desktop even though it is Gnome. I always seem to gravitate back to mint.

    Open SuSe - OpenSuse is the free user distro based on the SUSE Enterprise package, just like Fedora is based on Red Hat Enterprise. Just another one tor try if you want.

    Then download LiveUSB-Creator and get yourself a couple of 8GB USB sticks.

    You download the distro, use the utility to create a bootable USB stick (you can burn a DVD and boot from that too, but it runs better from USB) and then boot to each distro to try it out. Once you decide on a distro, then you can install it right from the USB stick for either a dual boot with XP or wipe out the XP partition entirely, which is always a good thing. ;)

    Don't worry, we'll be standing by with the oxygen and coffee. :D
    Mikestony likes this.
  10. Mikestony

    Mikestony ~30% Carbon Black ±
    Moderator Thread Starter

    Oh, all these new terms LOL...kinda reminds me when I first started with Android phones and rooting :p

    Anyways, thanks for the info there Luna, I'll give it a go tonight or this weekend when time and the snow permits :D
  11. big_z

    big_z Android Enthusiast

    It's possible to switch desktop environments after an install without performing a reinstall. If everything works right it's actually pretty easy. I wouldn't recommend it to a novice though because if something goes wrong you may have to wrestle with the command line trying to get the window system reconfigured and that's no fun.

    My recommendation is that if you want or need to switch environments, you should just reinstall from an image that has the environment you want.

    13.10 is definitely better for MTP than 12.04 LTS. In 12.04 I just flat out couldn't get it to work, either on my LTEvo or my Note 3. In 13.10 sometimes the first attempt fails, so I have to unplug and replug the phone. Even then, only the Nautilus interface works at all, and Nautilus is notorious for being flaky on unusual file systems, including MTP, Samba, and I've even had problems with NFS. Banshee claims to support syncing to MTP but it just locks up on me if I have it running when I plug my phone in. Rhythmbox doesn't work much better.
    Mikestony likes this.
  12. argedion

    argedion The TechnoFrog

    My suggestion here Mike is to try a few different distro's and see what works best for your system and for you. Also you may want to start using cross platform programs to make the switch easier. TAKE YOUR TIME learn ask questions and check out the distro forums. We have the Linux Thread here to so feel free to ask in there as well. I personally use OpenSuse I hate Ubuntu.

    Check out the different desktops to see what you like best. I am currently on KDE and like it now. Gnome is good but I personally don't like the change between Gnome 2x and Gnome 3 and above. there is also XFCE and LXDE. Those are the major Desktops but there are others like flluxbox, and enlighten. Pm me if you need any help. I'll try to be around to help as much as I can.
    El Presidente and Mikestony like this.
  13. El Presidente

    El Presidente Beware The Milky Pirate!
    VIP Member

    Great thread Mike.

    I just picked up a 2nd netbook so I'm thinking of doing something very similar. :)
    Mikestony likes this.
  14. argedion

    argedion The TechnoFrog

    Same goes for you if you need me just pm and I will help as much as possible.. :)
    Mikestony and El Presidente like this.
  15. lunatic59

    lunatic59 Moderati ergo sum

    So here's a little something for you to consider:

    I'm sure you've seen various posts where I've talked about my new Asus Ultrabook. My old laptop is an Acer 4810TZ which still worked but was getting a little too old school for my tastes. 1.3 GHx Core 2 Duo processor, upgraded to 8 GB ram and put a 240GB SS HD in to replace the old 5400 RPM clunker it shipped with.

    I used to dual boot Win7 and Ubuntu 13.10 (kept Ubuntu current as the updates were released) but when I switched the old drive for the new one and only cloned the windows partition. I decided to put Linux Mint 16 on to dual boot with Win7.

    From booting the laptop with a live USB install to reboot into the fully installed desktop it took exactly 9 minutes.

    There are a couple of caveats. First, I was using a Live USB stick, not a DVD. USB is much faster on the read/writes. Second, prior to the install I had already shrunk the Windows partition so that the Linux installer didn't have to repartition the HD. Finally, i was installing to a very fast SSD.
    argedion and Mikestony like this.
  16. Joelgp83

    Joelgp83 Android Enthusiast

    9 minutes? Geez, that's quick. How long did the Windows partition clone take?
  17. lunatic59

    lunatic59 Moderati ergo sum

    I used gParted to make a copy of the partition from a 5400 rpm Samsung disk to an SSD. The partition was about 160 GB. I think it took about 45 minutes, but that's just a guess.
  18. Joelgp83

    Joelgp83 Android Enthusiast

    That sounds quick if it was over USB. A little slow for SATA connections, though.:p
  19. lunatic59

    lunatic59 Moderati ergo sum

    Definitely USB 2.
  20. Mikestony

    Mikestony ~30% Carbon Black ±
    Moderator Thread Starter

    Messing with this old computer all weekend and I can't even get it to see my router much less connect to the Internet :banghead:
    I REALLY want to get this going but getting really frustrated
    Can I put the os on the USB stick via another computer then boot the old computer with it?
    In other words does the old computer need to be connected to the Internet?
  21. psionandy

    psionandy Extreme Android User

    I'm dabbling in Linux at the moment and this is the way I'm playing with all these distros.

    1) from a windows PC visit YUMI – Multiboot USB Creator | USB Pen Drive Linux
    and download yumi. Save it to the desktop, plug in your usb stick and run yumi
    2) from the menu in yumi, pick the distro you want to try, (you can pick as many as you want, but one at a time) and follow the instructions. For many of them it will help you download the .iso file.
    3) when you've selected the Iso it will download it to the stick, and update the boot menu on the stick.

    4) plug the usb stick into the machine you want to intsall linux on, and boot... You'll get to pick which linux you want.

    You can run linux from the stick, or install it. I'm using it as a way of trying lots of distros, and when I've decided which I like best, I'll probably end up installing that one (for me, and mother in law, and Aunt Gertrude etc....)

    Some versions of linux will update themselves while it installs, but you don't need to be connected to the internet to install them.
    Mikestony likes this.
  22. lunatic59

    lunatic59 Moderati ergo sum

    As long as your old computer is able to boot from USB media, sure. However, depending on the age and BIOS, some may not permit booting from USB so you'd have to burn a DVD or *shudder* a CD-ROM. ;)

    Nope. But, once you are installed, you'll need an internet connection to get apps and updates.
    Mikestony likes this.
  23. argedion

    argedion The TechnoFrog

    Mike you should always try if possible to run the live environments first. Reason I recommend this is that it will be easier to find out what is working and what is not. What distro did you try? or is the problem a Windows issue?
    Mikestony likes this.
  24. big_z

    big_z Android Enthusiast

    Are you wired or wireless? I have found wireless networking drivers in Linux to be a giant pain in the ass but others on this forum have disagreed with me.

    If you are wireless, I would recommend disconnecting the wireless adapter (whether USB or an internal card) and using a wired connection instead for the initial install. Even if it means putting the computer, monitor, keyboard and mouse on the floor in a closet somewhere and sitting on the floor with it, do that first. Get the system up and running. Then plug in your wireless card and see if your package system will install new drivers for it.
    Mikestony likes this.
  25. Joelgp83

    Joelgp83 Android Enthusiast

    No. In fact, every time I've loaded linux on someone's computer I've used sticks created by my system, not the theirs.:D
    Mikestony and argedion like this.

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