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row4food's avatar

Any tips or helpful resources for converting a Windows machine to Linux?

Asked by row4food (3039points) February 6th, 2008

i grew up with PCs (back to windows 3.1, i think), but i switched to mac about 2 years ago. i have my old dell desktop just sitting around. it has been turned on twice since the mbp arrived. i have decided to convert the dell to a linux machine, more as a learning tool but potentially some sort of music server.

now that i’m out of school i’d like to keep learning new things. (i am a graphic designer working at/for an IT training center and i think some of it has rubbed off on me)

i’m not sure where to start and i have a lot to learn. what is the best course of action? do i wipe the current disk clean? there really is nothing on it that i would ever need again, or that i haven’t already archived elsewhere.

i’ve had friends suggest ubuntu, fedora, and suselinux.

the dell has a pentium4 2.2GHz 60GB hd with 768MB of 2.19GHz RAM. oh, and a usb wireless adapter.

any suggestions will help :-D


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9 Answers

ishotthesheriff's avatar

man you’ve got it made. that machine sounds perfect for linux…. especially with the usb wireless adapter (you don’t have to worry about getting drivers for a pci adapter . . ndiswrapper, etc..)
i’ll leave it to the more knowledgeable linux geeks to help you out more, but you def should have fun with that machine.
i’ve personally only used ubuntu, and suselinux some at work (i’m a technician for an IT department. . and a graphic designer haha. i like you!)
um… when (taking the ubuntu course…) installing the flavor you can format/partition the hd however you please. i mean if you don’t need anything on there why not? start clean!

i know some other people around here can help you out tons more. but goodluck and have fun with that thing


phoenyx's avatar

I’d recommend Ubuntu. It has a great community for beginners and is a great distro to start with.

I’d also recommend installing Ubuntu with Windows as a dual-boot system. The Ubuntu installer can walk you through the process (it helps if you defragment your Windows side first). You can mount your Windows partition and read the files from Linux. You also would still have the option of booting to Windows if you needed to. (I’ve found the odd occasion when I still need Windows, but do almost everything in Linux now).

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cwilbur's avatar

Both Ubuntu and Fedora come with “live disk” versions—you boot off of a CD, and it doesn’t require you to wipe the hard disk drive. When you’re ready, you can trigger a permanent installation from the live disk version.

I use Ubuntu at work, because I downloaded both Ubuntu and Fedora, and the IT department here has no preference for “unsupported user workstations”—and I wound up with Ubuntu, because I installed it first and it was good enough.

@phoenyx: if row4food has another machine, I’d recommend not dual-booting. It’s just one more thing that can go wrong and get screwed up. It’s a good intermediate step for people who aren’t sure about the Linux thing, though.

VoodooLogic's avatar

Not my Ubuntu blog, but seems geared towards new users

Vincentt's avatar

I’d ask your friends whether they can set aside their personal preferences and recommend one distribution that they think fits you best.

For example, if you’re the type to try out a lot of different applications, then Ubuntu has most applications available.

However, Fedora and OpenSUSE probably also have their benefits, and I think your friends would be the best persons to be able to weigh those out against eachother based on your preferences.

Then, once there’s a distribution that is most likely to suit you, it is quite easy to find a guide on how to install it (e.g. on the official websites). Especially if you don’t mind removing everything currently on the machine, combined with your specifications, my guess is that it’ll be incredibly easy and you’ll be dawdling in the wonderful world of open source soon enough ;-)

And of course, if you run into specific problems, you can always ask here.

By the way, if you could describe the type of computer user you are here then we could also try and give you some advice on which distribution is right for you.

row4food's avatar

i installed ubuntu last night… right over the top of everything windows. (i figure i won’t need it, and if i do, i still have the discs.)

i’m at the point where i can’t get it to connect to the network at my house with my usb wireless adapter. thinking about taking it downstairs to hardwire it for the time being. it’s an older 802.11b router, with a wep passphrase. i’m usually not too bad at getting an internet connection working. ( i have set up- with some instructions from a friend- a hidden wireless network in the ethernet-only-hotel our team was staying in for a training trip…brought an airport, configured my mac and 4 pc’s to connect to it for the week. i was then given the title ‘team geek’ :-p )

as far as what type of computer user i am…i would say that i’m somewhere between a beginner and intermediate. i work all day with computers now, as it is part of my job as a graphic designer. i would like to gain a better understanding of what goes on inside the machine that helps me make my living. i figure, what’s better than learning a new operating system on a machine that doesn’t really have anything better to do and is not my primary computer.

i can install RAM, and i have somewhat of a good grasp on the ideas and some terminology. i can troubleshoot minor issues on my own, and medium ones with the help of google ;-)

i know next to nothing about coding and terminal commands…is there a good book i can get to introduce me to this? (i’m more familiar with the gui than the behind-the-scenes…hence the art degree in visual communication)

what kind of virus protection am i looking at? do i need software? (i admit that i run nothing besides the built-in firewall on the macbookpro :! )

hopefully i’ll have more time this weekend to play around with it.

thanks for all your advice thus far. you’ve all been a great help!


Vincentt's avatar

As for connecting the network – I don’t know where you got stuck. Have you found the icon in the top right-hand corner? If that one didn’t work, people often have more success selecting “Manual configuration” in the menu there.

I think, judging by your description, that Ubuntu will work out fine, but I have next to no experience with the other distributions.

As for the terminal commands and coding: you don’t really need that. However, whenever you have a question, most guides on the internet just tell you to enter something (into a terminal) because it’s much quicker to explain (or because they are hard core terminal lovers).
In those cases, however, I would ask someone (perhaps here at Fluther :)) to explain what exactly the command does.
Personally, I’m really a GUI-type-of-guy, but have learnt my way around the terminal a little bit because of all those tutorials. When I ask a question, however, I mostly mention that I prefer using GUI actions.

You don’t really need virus protection (unless it makes you feel better), a firewall is built into Ubuntu, but if you feel you need to configure it then you need an application (such as Firestarter) for that.

Ubuntu comes with software for most common tasks, if you need anything more considering your specific needs you can use Applications->Add/Remove… to install software, it’s incredibly easy.

By the way, now that I’m at it: I suppose you’ll want support for MP3 playback and Flash videos and the likes, which cannot be installed by default because of legal issues (e.g. you need to pay money for it, while Ubuntu is free of charge). For that, use the mentioned Add/Remove.. application to install “Ubuntu Restricted Extras”. Then I think you’ll have a solid basic setup :)

VoodooLogic's avatar

for upgrading your Ubuntu later. ;)

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