Question Linux/unbunto on old laptop

Nailroth

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I have an old laptop that i'm going to reinstall an os on and use for when i'm helping friends and family with their computer issues as my main computer is not portable. It is an old computer roughly 10 years but it works fine a tiny bit slow but it works for what it's suppose to do for me. But i wonder if it's worth going with linux/unbunto on it instead of windows 10 as far as i know linux and unbunto is light weight compared to windows so it might become faster with those OS instead of windows. But i know really nothing about these OS.
I have watched a few videos about linux and from the videos it does not seem to be as complicated as it looks at first glance once you get into it. there is also several guides i'm told how to set everything up.
What do you guys that know about linux and unbunto say?
 

R_1

Judicious
Herald
I would suggest mint linux with one of the lightweight DM like xfce. I run mint with cinnamon on my desktop as my second OS.
then there is puppy. I love puppy linux
puppy is fast the entire OS runs from RAM

mint linux and versions of puppy are ubuntu linux based and share the same apps.
 
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Satan-IR

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One 'safe' way of starting to work with and learn Linux is installing the distro of your choice like Ubunto in a Virtual Machine environment on Windows.

You can take snapshots/images of the VM at any stage so if anything goes wrong you can restore it to the working state by a few clicks. Without accidental harm to host machine's (Windows here) file and OS such as booting data.

I have used VirtualBox by Oracle and it's free and pretty straightforward and easy to learn.

The lightest Linux distro I've seen is Puppy Linux. It can even run smoothly in a live session (without installation) in the RAM as big as 1GB.
 

Nailroth

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Is running it in VM just to start learning or should i run vm on the laptop? as i doubt the laptop will be able to handle that. If it's just for testing stability and learning it then ill do it on the main computer as it can handle running double OS load while the laptop won't.
Puppy running on ram might be hard on the laptop as it's just 4gb 1333 so quite terrible ram. Or is it lightweight enough for that to not matter?
 
I use Linux Mint as my low-memory OS. It's fairly lightweight (512 MB minimum, 1 GB recommended - My Plex server runs Mint in 1 GB). It's advantage is that it's based on the Ubuntu distribution - they take the latest Ubuntu release and mod it to their liking. This means that you can install any Ubuntu packages with little to no hassle. You can think of packages as installers for apps. A package designed for your distro will know where all the config files and libraries are located, and so is basically a drop-in installation. (Ubuntu itself is based on Debian, so in a pinch you can use Debian's packages.)

Without a package, you may need to manually config the app with the locations for the config files and libraries for your particular Linux distro. You may even need to compile it from source code yourself. There's nothing wrong with that, and it's a good learning experience. I used to do it all the time when I was younger. But as I've gotten older, real life things like family have become more important than playing around with Linux. So I usually just want to set up stuff and have it work with the least amount of time and effort on my part. Which means the apps I want to use have to be available pre-packaged. Meaning I tend to stick to the bigger distros (higher chance of having the packages I want).

I looked over Puppy Linux's description. I like their concept of a distro which requires minimal hardware. But its history is a mess.

http://puppylinux.com/family-tree.html

It seems like their latest versions are based on Ubuntu, so you could install Ubuntu packages. However, the fact that they're switching their base every few years could lead to problems in the future. If in a few years if you wish to upgrade your Puppy Linux installation to the latest version, but they've changed their base distro yet again, it may require you completely reinstall from scratch rather than upgrade. That's fine if you're doing this to learn, but may not be optimal if you're trying to set up family with a simple-to-use-and-maintain system. (Course if the hardware is 10 years old, you may simply end up replacing it in a few years, making a reinstall moot.) Maybe one of the folks who use it can chime in on how consistent long-term support is.
 

Mandark

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Is running it in VM just to start learning or should i run vm on the laptop? as i doubt the laptop will be able to handle that. If it's just for testing stability and learning it then ill do it on the main computer as it can handle running double OS load while the laptop won't.
Puppy running on ram might be hard on the laptop as it's just 4gb 1333 so quite terrible ram. Or is it lightweight enough for that to not matter?
EDIT
your laptop being 10 yrs old at least will probably not support running VMs, so you would want to install Ubuntu on the box.

you should be fine no matter what lightweight distro you choose. deepin is also pretty cool
 
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R_1

Judicious
Herald
the entire puppy OS ISO is under 400megs. systems with 512megs ram will be fine, 4GB ram will make puppy feel like it running on a farm.
for the whole OS to load to RAM you need the boot trigger, otherwise it will load a minimalist amount to ram, applications may take longer to load as they will need to be extracted from the iso and added to ram as needed.
I prefer to load the whole OS into RAM if I have the space.

if you want to try puppy first load it in a VM on another machine, one with more oomph so you can familiarize yourself with the OS and either decide for or against. it is a live OS so just booting it is non destructive unless you really try to damage something you cannot hurt by making a stick and booting it up on the desired device.

you can even choose the OS to RAM from the live version. puppy will ask if you want to save anything at the end, then it will ask where, and whether to ask again or just repeat.
 
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Satan-IR

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you might say it's Puppy (Linux) Love... lol, I need to check that out in a vm
Try it @Mandark if you haven't already. It's fun and it's the choice for some data recovery and salvaging files from a broken Windows installation as it resides in the memory and does no write on the storage, therefore, not a single bit is overwritten.

As for the laptop not being able to run VM @Nailroth yes it might not work with old system and possible lack of CPU virtualization support might make things more complicated in terms of CPU instructions and 32/64 bit OS etc.

However, running distros like Mint and Puppy that actually reside in the memory and run from there there's no sharing between host/guest of system resources, it's just Puppy, for example, occupying 512MB of a 4096MB RAM space.
 
As a Linux noobie I chose Lubuntu.
Similar to windows interface.
Lots of available apps. With a click and install interface. no typing commands needed.
And an easyway to install Nvidia,Intel,AMD drivers without knowing how to download and install packages.
It can also be ran fron USB drive if wanted or installed.
4 gig of ram is plenty for either case.
Low spec for Linux is 1 gig or less.
 

mikeebb

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Nov 2, 2014
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Having just done that ... because I replaced the spinning rust in a ASUS U52F (Arrandale i5, 4G RAM) with a bigger SSD ... the real question is whether you want to dual-boot or not. I went for dual-boot. In that case, install Windows first (I did a clean install from media) and get everything working there (plan on an hour or more spelunking in the settings to lock things down more or less, from a clean install, plus installing any applications you want). Then use disk management to shrink the Windows partition to make space for Linux (I had the luxury of a 1TB SSD (one of those 1TB Sandisks that Tom's advertised last week) so I gave Linux 350GB; the old hard disk gave each about 250GB).

If you're installing Linux only hopefully you skipped to here. Then install the Linux of your choice (I used Mint 19 MATE). A well-behaved one will ask if you want to go side-by-side with Windows and install a good compromise package of root, swap, and home for dual-boot if you so choose. Full control over how everything is allocated is also available. Both sides work fine, and the SSD is so much faster than the old disk that it's like a new computer. Mint installs most of the basic stuff you would want (Libreoffice, Firefox, VLC, Thunderbird, etc.) that in Windows you have to install separately and fight with the system to make default over the MS junk.

BTW, Intel eventually did issue microcode updates for my ancient i5, so both Windows and Linux run it fully patched for the initial Spectre variants and Meltdown.

As far as speed is concerned, before the SSD, Linux took much longer to start up than Windows 10 Home, and had occasional hangs in operation. But overall it worked OK. With the SSD, both start up very quickly. Windows seems to shut down more quickly. In operation, they're similarly fast, but Windows needs more RAM for the system - Windows 10 1809 uses about 1/2 of my installed RAM (3.6GB available), while Mint 19 uses about 1/4. For some applications, that might make a difference between just being able to start it and actually using it.

The one annoyance that I haven't gotten fixed yet - the registry patch that is recommended for Windows doesn't work in mine - is that Linux uses UTC time and adjusts for the timezone in software, while Windows wants local time in the computer's RTC. Several other approaches are out there, including having Linux use a local-time clock (need to hunt that down again). Otherwise, it's interesting comparing the systems on the SSD - both are very peppy now, so it's almost a tossup - except, which one is open source?
 

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