First time for Linux... I guess

I don’t have a computer at home. I was recently given a Pentium 4 Dell that just needs a hard drive and now I will have one, finally.

But since it is hard driveless, I will need a new OS, and since I don’t feel like buying a copy of Windows, the guy who gave me the computer told me to get Linux and it would be free.
So I looked up Linux, and there are many options. Do you guys have one to recommend? I am pretty crafty so I think I can figure it out okay. Just need to know which one would be best, and where and how to get it.

All I plan on doing with this computer is email, SDMB, and simple websurfin’.


As a noob, you should probably use Ubuntu. You can initially run it directly from the CD (although it’ll be slow) to establish whether it works for you, then install to the hard disk if it does.

Definitely Ubuntu.

Yep, Ubuntu is the way to go.

Download and burn the installation CD, pop it in the computer and fire it up, then install. For basic stuff like email and web browsing it’s just as easy to use as Windows, with email client, Firefox web browser, and OpenOffice software already installed. It will play music no problem, and with a few simple installations will play DVDs and just about any other kind of video.

It should recognize all your hardware (monitors, optical drives, etc.) without a problem, although you might need to download new drivers for some of them. The only thing that i’ve ever had to spend time configuring was my dual-monitor set-up, and even that was relatively easy.

The Ubuntu forums are great if you need any help or advice.

I’m pretty new to the whole Linux thing myself, but my PC at home’s got Linux Mint on it, which I think is pretty much Ubuntu but with some extras and pre-configured stuff (and a few of their own tools). Was really easy to get up and running for someone with not much clue what they’re doing.

I’d suggest giving that or Ubuntu a try and see how you like it (the forums for both also seem like a really good source of support and newbie questions - and any solutions for Ubuntu stuff pretty much apply to mint too). You can get it as a LiveCD and boot up directly off the CD to see how you like it before you actually choose to install, so definitely give a few LiveCDs a try for any distros you’re thinking about.

I think the final release of the new Ubuntu (9.10) comes out in a couple of days, so might be worth giving that a try (new Mint I think will be out a couple weeks after that).

So when I burn the ISO of Ubuntu on the CD, it will run from the CD or will I have to install it to run it? I would like to play with it at work, but I don’t really want to F up my work computer by installing a secondary OS… you know what I mean, Vern(s)?

Yeah you should be able to just boot from CD, and it will just boot up into a linux environment. To actually install (from what I remember) I think there’s an install icon on the desktop when you’re running from the cd.

I recently came across and recommended this article to someone else interested in Linux (they were looking at CentOS, in particular). I found the article very informative and mostly accurate.

Another site you may find useful is Distrowatch, although it can be overwhelming.

Yes, Ubuntu is a LiveCD, so you can run it without changing your computer (assuming your PC/BIOS supports booting from the CD drive).

I just came in to this thread to see if anyone had mentioned Mint yet. I haven’t used it myself (I use Ubuntu), but my understanding is that it is pretty much just Ubuntu, but easier for a noob. I assume some things will work or work better out of the “box”.

Another thing to consider is printing. Not all printers work well or at all with linux. Off the top of my head, Lexmark=bad but HP=good.

But here is the thing… Linux is free. You might as well try out a couple different types first and see if they work for you. If they don’t - you aren’t out any money.

Definitely start with Ubuntu. Though I’ll note that if regular Ubuntu feels a bit sluggish on that Pentium 4, I’d recommend reinstalling XUbuntu instead – it uses a lighter weight window manager so it’s a bit snappier on older computers.

Edit: And don’t be afraid to just install a flavor, play around with it, and then install another one (wiping out the first one).

Well here I am running Ubuntu 9.4 on my work computer from the CD. You know, its not to shabby. Its able to see all of my work documents and make them work no problem. I have noticed though that it doesn’t want to play any of my music or anything like that. Is that something that won’t work with this?

Ubuntu is great for a first time starting out, especially since the CD will let you run without installing.

If you’re technical at all and would prefer something more “workstation” than “desktop”, or find that you prefer absolute stability to having the latest whatsits, I can also wholeheartedly recommend CentOS–it’s essentially Red Hat Enterprise with the copyrighted and trademarked bits filed off.

Ubuntu has problems with that kind of thing. Of course you can fiddle with it and make it work, but I think that is exactly the type of thing that Mint excels at - playing mp3 and video out of the “box”.

Digital Stimulus, I read your article. It was pretty good. Worth a read.

It might depend on what kind of sound devices you have–to be perfectly honest, audio and flash are two of the more finicky things with Linux.

Also, depending on your settings, Ubuntu might not install MP3 software by default since there is technically no completely open implementation of the MP3 codec (assuming my brain is telling me accurate implementation) and so you’d have to install it deliberately.

Yeah that was one of the things that made me choose Mint over Ubuntu - it has all sorts of codecs already installed, so one less thing to think about when trying to get set up. I don’t think I had to do anything on mine to get music/video working after install.

Mint seems good (as far as I can tell) if you want one that “just works” for a lot of stuff out of the box - might be a good choice to go with until you get familiar with using Linux and spot another distro that might suit you better overall (but by then you know how to configure a bit better).

I am typing this out on Mint, and listening to Frank Sinatra at the same time. I think this one is the winner.

I was reading on how to install the codecs from the command line on Ubuntu and Xubuntu, and I am not familiar with that style of command line syntax. I am assuming it is Unix. I only know OS/390 and DOS, but I can follow what it is doing. I figure I will use Mint 7.0 Universal. If this bogs down the P4, I will probably go with Xubuntu and manually mount the codecs on there (oh look at me, I sound so confident.)
I do have a question for the Linux Peeps out there though, are there any Windows or DOS emulators for Linux?

Wine is a windows emulator.
Dosemu is a DOS emulator.

You can also run VMware which makes a “virtual machine” in your linux box running whatever OS you choose.

Wine. I don’t have much experience with it myself (I just dual boot and run Windows apps in Windows), but I know it’s pretty robust. Google should yield many useful tutorials.

Edit: ::shakes fist at engineer_comp_geek for being faster and better::

Depending on your needs you’re probably better off running Windows in a virtual machine or dual booting.

His need is to not buy Windows: You lose the internets. :wink: