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Hi Linux gurus, I spent the entire first quarter of this year trying to upgrade my 8 XP machines to similar Win7 before MS ceased support, and I really need ...
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  1. #1
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    Bootable Read-only


    Hi Linux gurus,

    I spent the entire first quarter of this year trying to upgrade my 8 XP machines to similar Win7 before MS ceased support, and I really need to cut the MS umbilical cord ASAP before it strangles me.

    I am retired, and on limited income and can't afford to throw out my 8 existing perfectly good pentium 1G ram machines just to keep Bill Gates the richest man in the world, so I've been looking into alternative operating systems, and inevitably keep coming back to one or other flavour of Linux. Trouble is, although I was a Win2K MSCE, I know absolutely zilch about Linux, so I would very much appreciate some advice from those in the know, ie: you guys.

    I'm too long in the tooth to be learning a whole new realm of command line programs and their options, so I'd be looking for something light with a relatively non-complex installation and GUI, and which I can keep using safely and with confidence without all the ever-growing MS type security vulnerabilities.

    To that end, I was wondering if perhap there's a Linux flavour available that I can install as read-only to avoid malware, perhaps a CD bootable version which I can install read-only on a bootable USB mem stick, and just have a small writable partition for data and any essential dynamic files.
    All I really need for the moment is web-browsing, document editing and media playing, although something with Visio type capability would be a nice bonus.

    Is this feasable with any of the Linux's?

  2. #2
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    Any distro with a live CD will aloow you to use the system in live mode. You can't make changes and have them "stick" though (in general). For a great out of the box linux, I suggest MX-14 as it works, has a great support forum, and will run on older hardware. Read about it here:

    MX-14 "Symbiosis" | Mepis Community

    This system does allow you to make a USB with persistence to save your stuff...

  3. #3
    Penguin of trust elija's Avatar
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    There is very little Linux malware in the wild and all (I think) distributions maintain their own tested repositories of software; think of them as app stores that have been around for decades. If you stick to installing software from those you should be OK in that regard. What makes the difference in terms of lightness in the Linux world is the desktop environment or window manager used. A good compromise between lightness and friendliness is the Xfce desktop.

    If you have a decent Internet connection then I would try a few different ones out rather than just taking my word for it. In no particular order have a look at

    Xubuntu (the distro I currently run)
    Linux Mint Xfce (Although it may be worth waiting for version 17 to appear as it is an LTS).
    Linux Mint Mate edition which is not quite as light but should run just fine on XP level machines
    Fedora Xfce (if you feel like living nearer to the bleeding edge)

    Also have a look at the beginner distro poll we run here.
    What do we want?
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    When do we want 'em?
    Doesn't really matter does it!?


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    Thanks for the speedy reply guys.
    Having checked out the beginner distro poll as suggested, it looks like there's much downloading and testing in front of me, so I shall start with the first suggestion of MK14 and just see where I end up - but already, seeing the availability of the likes of LibreOffice in the demo, I feel optimistic that I'll be able to get to some place I'll be happy with without too much pain.

    A couple of initial questions...

    Are apps fairly universal, or usually specific to the Linux flavour?

    And what is the situation regarding things like printer drivers and other peripherals across the different flavours? (I have to ask seeing as almost every different flavour of Windows requires different drivers for almost every device!)

  5. #5
    Penguin of trust elija's Avatar
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    Most drivers should be installed as modules. If required they will be loaded by the kernel. The only drivers that probably won't be available automatically are certain proprietary graphics drivers (nvidia and ati) and certain wireless drivers due to licensing issues. Usually they will available in the repositories so you can manually install them. In the Ubuntu family and derivatives such as Mint, it is as simpole as using the hardware drivers application which will download and install them for you.

    I've never had a problem with printer drivers but I guess how well supported they are would depend on the brand.
    What do we want?
    Time machines!

    When do we want 'em?
    Doesn't really matter does it!?


    The Fifth Continent

  6. #6
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    If you're going with MX-14 and you have any issues, log on to the support forum. They are extremely helpful folks and generally talk plain english...

  7. #7
    Linux Engineer hazel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Electroguard View Post
    Are apps fairly universal, or usually specific to the Linux flavour?
    No, any Linux program should run on any distro providing that its dependencies are satisfied. Dependencies are libraries, etc, that the program needs to use. Because Linux libraries are free software, any program can legally use them, so they are distributed as separate packages. Your distro's package manager will check the dependencies of any app you ask for and it will download and install any that aren't already there.

    When it comes to graphical apps, they will run on any desktop but they sometimes look ugly when not running natively (for example Gnome apps on a KDE desktop). Desktops are actually independent of the distro they run on so, if you want to use a lot of apps from a particular desktop, it's probably best to install that desktop in place of of the default one.
    "I'm just a little old lady; don't try to dazzle me with jargon!"
    www.hrussman.entadsl.com

  8. #8
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    Firstly, I need to thank you - it's all too easy for those 'on high' to inadvertantly patronise lesser mortals, yet not one of you said "we call it distro, not a flavour". That may seem a minor point, but to a tentative 'migrant' unaware of strange language and customs, it can mean the difference between being encouraged on, or embarassed away.
    This MS luddite was encouraged enough to discover in just 1 day that Linux is indeed the way to go, even though the exact route may not yet be clear. I've been busy following up on the advice, and seen that every 'flavour' I've tried offers the concrete solidity of a Live distro bootable from a single ISO file, and can therefore be simply powered off after use if necessary, unlike Win7 which takes an age just to close (on a good day... take a holiday if waiting for it to install updates before switching off), else it makes you suffer at next boot. That's an important consideration when subject to frequent ELCB power outages during thunder storms like I suffer here in France (I've had to shut down twice for an hour while doing this - I've only got one UPS, which is on my server).

    Through the eyes of a complete novice I have seen that 'Light' and 'Mint' distros offer effective Windows similarity, MX14 offers a wide range of 'novice' benefits and support, some distros come with a lot more apps than others, and none of the 5 recommended distros (I saw mention of Lite in the poll) gave me any hassle or reason to avoid them.

    I started by running the ISOs as virtual CDS in VMware, but ended up putting them all on a single bootable USB memstick using 'Easy2Boot' which gives the ability to create a menu automatically of the bootable ISOs. I was then able to boot each distro in turn and then reboot out of it and up into the next, which is a good quick way for someone with a bad memory to do comparisons, and also showed up the difference in boot times.

    As for-warned, the most Windows-like distro 'Light' took twice as long to boot as most of the others ... but at only 1.5 minutes (of which 10 seconds was Easy2Boot loading time, and another 10secs for Live boot-through timeout) compared very favourably to Win7, especially considering it was booting ISO images from USB2 mem stick.

    I've given all this feedback not just to show that your advice was appreciated and not wasted, but also as a way of trying to contribute in some small way myself, by perhaps helping other 'migrants' to more easily see the differences between the woods and trees from the perspective of a fellow newbie's eyes.

    With that in mind, and knowing that newbies are first directed here to the coffee lounge, I'd like to ask recommendations for anti-virus and firewall protection to keep such important newbie matters in this same thread. Likewise, if there's a relatively simple overview about persistence which might help explain the pros and cons of the various types?, and does equivalent functionality exist for other distros as is provided by MX14 to enable creation of updated Live ISO's to incorporate apps and configuration changes etc from a hd instal?
    I'll fully understand if you'd prefer these questions asked elsewhere, but bearing in mind I'm even asking such things just 1 day after entering this new world should show it's not due to laziness - I just thought that if this newbie needs to ask these questions, then perhaps it's a good opportunity for other newbies to be able to benefit from what might hopefully be seen as a convenient overview starting thread for pilgrims.

  9. #9
    Linux Engineer hazel's Avatar
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    You only need an antivirus if you are on a network that includes Windows machines or you regularly share files with Windows users. In that case use ClamAV. Linux has a built-in firewall called iptables, which you can activate (some distros have it activated by default), but you only really need it if you are running server programs. I don't use it and people here will tell you that I'm fairly paranoid.
    "I'm just a little old lady; don't try to dazzle me with jargon!"
    www.hrussman.entadsl.com

  10. #10
    Penguin of trust elija's Avatar
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    I do use Clam AV as I have Windows using friends (hangs head in shame) but one gotcha with it is that it doesn't do real time scanning so I have a cron job (scheduled task in the Windwoes* world) that runs a scan at 1am and 1pm every day.

    * sometimes I can't help myself.
    What do we want?
    Time machines!

    When do we want 'em?
    Doesn't really matter does it!?


    The Fifth Continent

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