Linux conversion old XP laptop...

Discussion in 'Technical Corner' started by Bell206, Oct 31, 2019.

  1. Bell206

    Bell206 Pattern Altitude

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    As I plan to switch to a Linux based laptop once my Windows 8.1 Pro sunsets in a few years, I though I'd start my Linux practice by converting an old Dell XPS with XP installed. My geek nephew will be helping with my future computer, but he just started a new IT job and thought I could try this part on my own.

    Considering the XPS specs below, what version (distribution) of Linux would work best with this this laptop; and, is there a good tutorial out there on how to install Linux and remove the Windows OS?

    OS Name Microsoft Windows XP Professional
    Version 5.1.2600 Service Pack 2 Build 2600
    OS Manufacturer Microsoft Corporation
    System Manufacturer Dell Inc.
    System Model MXC051
    System Type X86-based PC
    Processor x86 Family 6 Model 13 Stepping 8 GenuineIntel ~1729 Mhz
    BIOS Version/Date Dell Inc. A03, 1/1/2006
    SMBIOS Version 2.3
    Windows Directory C:\WINDOWS
    System Directory C:\WINDOWS\system32
    Boot Device \Device\HarddiskVolume2
    Locale United States
    Hardware Abstraction Layer Version = "5.1.2600.2562 (xpsp.040919-1030)"
    Time Zone Central Standard Time
    Total Physical Memory 2,048.00 MB
    Available Physical Memory 1.58 GB
    Total Virtual Memory 2.00 GB
    Available Virtual Memory 1.96 GB
    Page File Space 3.84 GB
    Page File C:\pagefile.sys
     
  2. RJM62

    RJM62 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Single-core 32-bit Pentium M and 2 GB of RAM, huh?

    Maybe Debian 32-bit. It's pretty efficient.

    I suggest trying a live image first to see if it runs. The files on that page ending with .iso can be burned to a DVD or used to make a bootable USB that won't touch the installed system unless you want it to.

    It will be slooooooow running on DVD or USB < 3.0, but at least you'll know whether it's worth installing. If it runs okay (other than being slooooooow), there should be a link or icon that says something along the lines of "Install to Hard Drive" that you can click, and it will guide you through the installation. Basically you want it to remove the installed OS and take over the whole disk.

    Rich
     
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  3. Chip Sylverne

    Chip Sylverne En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Fear is the poison of our lives.
    I believe that any Ubuntu distro later than 14.04 requires a 64 bit processor. That said, it's no longer supported, but you can get archived support files that solve most issues. Ubuntu is great stuff, been using it for years now, and also keep an XP virtual machine for legacy programs. But be forewarned, no Linux distro is plug and play. As the saying goes, Ubuntu is only free if you don't value your time. Sharpen your Google fu, as support is, well, open source too.

    14.04 will run fine on your machine. Rich makes a good suggestion, download a live boot and try it first.

    Edit: I stand corrected. 16.04 has a 32 bit distro. That's the latest I would go, anything after that at 32 bit will be frustratingly slow. I'm using 16.10 on a 32bit machine, and it works fine,
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2019
  4. Bell206

    Bell206 Pattern Altitude

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    Went with the free live image with the LXDE GUI due to size and it seems to be functioning. At least after I remembered copying image files is different than other files o_O. I think I will go ahead and install it all the way but the Debian docs are a bit confusing on component drivers. If I read it correctly, I should be able to correct any issues with wifi, etc once I completely install Debian 10, however just looking for additional input before I jump off the cliff. Thanks again.
    I plan to experiment with various "distros" but had to start somewhere so went with the Debian suggestion above. Thanks.
     
  5. MuseChaser

    MuseChaser Line Up and Wait

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    I have no idea what distribution I used, but I was able to easily and successfully install Linux on an ancient Asus Eeee XP Netbook, as well as on an eMachines desktop from the early Win 7 years in a dual boot config (can choose Win 7 or Linux upon startup). Yes, you can dig deep into Linux if you want to, but I didn't find it any more difficult than installing any other operating system. I think you'll like it. If some of the software I use for music recording and writing (Samplitude and Sibelius) were available for Linux, I'd probably be typing on my last Windows machine right now. I've tried some of the open source alternatives for Linux, but they were either extremely complex to set up with outside gear (the audio recording programs) or extremely UNintuitive compared to Sibelius (at least for me). Other than that, I'm a big fan of Linux.
     
  6. asicer

    asicer En-Route

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    They all use the same kernel, same shells and similar packages so unless you have a specially tuned distro (e.g. Puppy) there isn't a huge difference from a performance standpoint. Sounds like you're a Linux newbie, so the most popular (Ubuntu) will probably give you the most help.
     
  7. RJM62

    RJM62 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    What specific WiFi device?

    On a machine that old, I doubt there will be a problem. Finding drivers for bleeding-edge hardware is more of a problem than finding drivers for old hardware in Linux.

    Rich
     
  8. MooneyDriver78

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    Don’t get the popular desktop managers (mate, gnome, etc), they will slow you down...Xfce is design for limited hardware. Obviously 32 bit. Also put “/home” on its own partition, makes upgrading/reinstalling easy, you don’t have to restore your files.


    Tom
     
  9. Chip Sylverne

    Chip Sylverne En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Yeah, I don't know about that. Going from windows to a command- line only may induce catatonia. The Gnome desktop is pretty resource light. The newer Ubuntu automatically sets up the partitions so system files are separated. It does make systemupdates easy. Oh, that too. Once you get your system stable, don't just accept automatic updates, you never know what the update will break. BTDT. Make sure you have a good backup.

    You also want to get familiar with package manager like apt-get, apt-get update etc. Will make your life much easier. Until you get used to it, file permissions may cost you a few grey hairs too.

    Don't be surprised if your browser video drivers don't work. Because of legal issues, you may get a "mime not supported" message. You'll probably have to get 3rd party drivers. Don't despair, they're available in the legacy repositories.

    Linux is terrific, but it takes some getting used to.

    One last thought. If you use Chrome, it's not supported in 32bit, nor are Android Development Tools, though you can get a legacy version of ADT if you look hard enough.
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2019
  10. MooneyDriver78

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    My old laptop would struggle with VLC and gnome. Xfce is not commandline, it’s just windows without all the animations, previews, etc


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
  11. RJM62

    RJM62 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    32-bit Ubuntu is no longer supported.

    Rich
     
  12. Bell206

    Bell206 Pattern Altitude

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    After reading some more I'm not concerned about any driver. It looks like I can fix any issues. Once I install Debian 10 I plan to play/learn then look at some other distros provided this laptop can run them. I also have a Toshiba netbook I'd like to convert and make it a portable service manual collection. Right now the XPS is running better than expected via the live DVD image.
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2019
  13. Bell206

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    Only with installing it on my own computers. Been around it for years but never really had to work with it. Would have switched earlier but had various 3rd party requirements that needed a Windows platform.
     
  14. RJM62

    RJM62 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    What is Nubian 10?

    Rich
     
  15. Bell206

    Bell206 Pattern Altitude

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    Correction. Debian 10. Don't know how that happened but fixed it.
     
  16. RJM62

    RJM62 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Ah, okay. I thought it might be a Sudanese distro.

    Rich
     
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  17. Bell206

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    Part 2: With the XPS up and running on Debian 10, I thought I'd convert my other old computer: a Toshiba netbook. This one will be specifically used as a portable depository of PDF service/mx manuals of all colors and flavors. With such a limited requirement, I was looking at Puppy Linux and Tiny Core. Are there any pros/cons to either in this situation? Or a favorite? Below are the netbook specs. Thanks again for the input.

    OS Name Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition
    Version 5.1.2600 Service Pack 3 Build 2600
    OS Manufacturer Microsoft Corporation
    System Name TOSHIBA-USER
    System Manufacturer TOSHIBA
    System Model TOSHIBA NB305
    System Type X86-based PC
    Processor x86 Family 6 Model 28 Stepping 10 GenuineIntel ~1662 Mhz
    BIOS Version/Date TOSHIBA V1.40, 3/16/2010
    SMBIOS Version 2.5
    Windows Directory C:\WINDOWS
    System Directory C:\WINDOWS\system32
    Boot Device \Device\HarddiskVolume1
    Locale United States
    Hardware Abstraction Layer Version = "5.1.2600.5512 (xpsp.080413-2111)"
    Time Zone Pacific Standard Time
    Total Physical Memory 2,048.00 MB
    Available Physical Memory 1.56 GB
    Total Virtual Memory 2.00 GB
    Available Virtual Memory 1.95 GB
    Page File Space 3.84 GB
    Page File C:\pagefile.sys
     
  18. asicer

    asicer En-Route

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    Ubuntu 16.04.6 LTS is still supported.

    Probably a moot point as it sounds like the OP is already on the Debian route.
     
  19. Chip Sylverne

    Chip Sylverne En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Fear is the poison of our lives.

    32 bit support desktop support went away with 17.10. I think 16.04 gets support until 2021. I made the mistake of upgrading from 16.04 to 16.10.
     
  20. asicer

    asicer En-Route

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    Sounds like you went with the mainline instead of LTS (Long Term Support).
     
  21. Chip Sylverne

    Chip Sylverne En-Route PoA Supporter

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    I started with 14.04 LTS and when that went eol I hit an automatic update to 16.04, then foolishly updated again to a development package because I wanted some little thing that made absolutely no sense in hindsight. Did it without checking my backup for valid first (stupid, stupid, stupid) 16.10 broke just about everything including virtualbox, libs, the works. Fortunately it was just system stuff, all my data was OK. After a day or two of sorting it out and getting everything back stable, I decided never again to accept an update, just keep what I have until I upgrade the hardware to a 64 bit machine then go with 18.04 LTS. Live boot saved my sanity.
     
  22. RJM62

    RJM62 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I have no experience with Puppy or Tiny Core. But in the situation you describe, that would be enough reason for me to give them a try.

    Rich
     
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  23. asicer

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    You'll want more RAM. Default behavior is that Puppy copies the filesystem to ramdisk on startup and then commits the ramdisk to mass storage on shutdown. If you want a pagefile, you'll need to do a bit of hacking.