Computer Saga Installing LInux on an Xp Machine.

Durhamville, NY(Zone 5b)

My back ground so you can interpret my biases and skills. I'm not a computer nerd by any imagination.

The first computer I ever used was a Digital Equipment Corporation PDP11. I have no idea what the machine actually looked like because it wasn't at the high school, but at a consortium location (BOCES). Its login shell was a BASIC interpreter. I have no idea what operating system it used. It had a mechanical teletype terminal with punched paper tape for back up. It printed 10 charaters per second There was also a new dot matrix printer which could print 30 characters per second. A cassette tape was used for back up. Each account had 500 characters of storage. This was 1976 to '79.

There was a few miscellaneous computers up to the mid 80's when I had an account on a Dec VAX machine whose OS was VAX/VMS. The next college I went to had an IBM something that was UNIX plus a bunch of computers everywhere. I did word processing on an Apple Mac. I had keys to the room that had the good one. It had TWO floppy drives. That was much superior to the Mac with one drive because you could leave the OS floppy in one and use the other and if you were coping a disk you put the one to be copied in one drive and the one you were coping to in the other and didn't have to switch disks multiple times to make a copy.

I also worked on a one off system that did computer vision. It was built with all wire wrap circuits. There was also an IRI (I think) vision system which used a language called Forth. It was a stack based language and prone to small errors being hard to find. I once spent 2 days trying to find what turned out to be a missing comma.

The first computer I owned was a Dell lap top with windows 98 that turned out to be a lemon. The OS worked alright, the laptop itself had a string of hardware failures that has turned me off to Dell every since. I built a tower in 2002 and I spent a lot of time making sure I had hardware that would work with Linux. I made it a dual boot machine with windows 98 and SuSE 8.0 That was the computer that I referred to in another thread were some combination of the power supply, hard drive and motherboard failed taking out the other two. I'm talking about smoke and flame rolling out the power supply type failure.

There's been several computers since. Some mine and some work ones. Mine have always been dual boot machines with Windows 98 and SuSE 10.0 then Xp and SuSE 11.2. I've also used Knoppix 5 point something on a work laptop to do my own work and I've tried Ubuntu 10.04 as a live CD.

The system I've booted the most often in the last ten years has been the Linux one, but by no means the only one. I've used the Windows system mostly for two reasons. One is I play Civilization periodically. The other is that I've had scanners and printers that just plan worked better under windows than they did in Linux. The two that come to mind are an Epson printer that had head cleaning utilities under windows that the linux driver didn't have and I had a Poloroid film scanner that had a lot of software for windows. I don't remember if I couldn't get it to work under Linux or if the interface was poor. I also had a device for profiling a monitor that was WIndows 98 based.

Durhamville, NY(Zone 5b)

The Story begins.
I bought a computer from the neighbor for $35 about a year ago and it's sat in the corner since. I've been using a laptop. So what prompted me to get it out and use it? My laptop has been launched on the floor a few times by one cat or another. The screen has various vertical lines that are on the left side and the DVD drive doesn't work anymore. I've been plugging a monitor into it to make it easier to use. It was also the week I stepped on a nail and wanted a sit down job.

I get the computer out and hook the monitor, keyboard, mouse and ethernet cable to it and boot it up. Xp comes right up and finds the new mouse, keyboard, and monitor, installs what it wants and does the reboot thing. Xp comes up and is happy except that it wants to install the CD drive. I let it and it reboots again. I try to use the DVD or CD drive but neither work. Try other disks, nothing. Light goes on in head which says "I know what's wrong." I turn the computer off and go to bed. It's late and I'll find a screw driver in the morning.

The next morning I waiting for a phone call so I find a screw drive and take the side panels off. Just as I suspected, both the CD and DVD are set to master and the BIOS can't tell them apart. I reach in and move one jumper to what should be the slave position and boot the system up. Sure enough, problem solved. I install Civ II and play for a while.

I also download the iso for Linux Mint Maya, the latest version, but I have no burner software on Xp to burn it to a DVD. I boot Ubuntu from it's live CD and try to burn from there. It's a no go. So I reboot from my Knoppix live DVD figuring it might have more software than the CD. I still can't burn a DVD from the live CD. The software comes up but I can't get it to recognize that I've switched from the live DVD to the DVD to be burned.

On to the next plan. Install Linux on a partition so I can burn a DVD to try Linux Mint and also other Distros( Linux term for a distribution. There are many.)

I have two hard drives I wanted to install, one to use for Linux partitions and one as storage. It alsohas files on it I want to access. I disconnect the CD drive in order to get another IDE connector and install the two drives, put my Ubuntu live/ install CD in and hit the power button. It turns on and boots to Ubuntu. I had previously gone into the BIOS to make sure that it was set to boot from the CD. I web surf some, explore the windows interface some. The windows that Ubuntu uses is Gnome and I've always used KDE, which I've generally prefered.

I've booted this CD up a few times and my general impression has been that I didn't like it. This time I wanted to spend a little more time with it to decide if the reason I didn't like it was because it was different or because there was something I really didn't like. It's set up like an Apple with the min. max and close buttons on the top left side of the window. I didn't have that much problem getting use to it, but I have used an Apple a little. I don't think it's an improvement, just different. The one negative is that it takes more mouse movement to reach than button on the right. For me it not a factor to cause me not to use the OS. It is a factor that would cause me to did around in the setting to see if I could change it without recompiling GNOME.

One of the features that I like most about KDE is that I can have multiple virtual desk tops. I believe it's possible in Gnome also, but I haven't used it enough to figure out how,

The other problem with a new system is that I'm moving from a system that I've put a lot of time into making adjustments that make it feel right to me and a new system doesn't have them. It's like getting into a vehicle you haven't driven before. It takes a while to get the seat and the mirrors adjusted just right.

Maybe I should back up for a minute. The way a windows system works on a *nix ( common nomenclature meaning the various Unix like operating systems. Usually Unix, Linux, FreeDSD and sometimes Apple OS X) system is that the GUI (graphical user interface) lays on top of the OS. This means that you can use different ones. The standard ones have more or less been Gnome and KDE. There is also others like Icewm and Xfce just to name two more. Some of these projects have had groups go off in their own directions. Linux Mint and Ubuntu have done this. It's referred to as a fork. I think the Gnome project has become more like roman candle than a fork though. There seem to be projects that have gone all over the place.

Continuing on with installing Linux on this computer. I decide that I'll give Ubuntu a shot even if it is a couple of versions old. Once I got it installed my intention was to download newer versions of Mint, Ubuntu, SuSE, and one other KDE oriented version. One to be determined. I copy my old home directory of the smaller HD onto one of the partitions of the larger. Neither are big by todays standard, but I own them and they are big enough to play with four Linux partitions and use the other one for storage and leave the one the computer came with alone. This may have been a mistake as you will see later.

I click on the install button and it starts asking me to give it information and make a few choices. Since I've installed Operating systems before none of them are out of line. The installer want to your time zone, your name and so forth. One screen proposes a partitioning scheme, but you can edit it. I did because I wanted to install four Linux systems and I had drives that where already partitioned and had information on them. If you don't accept the default, it also asks you how to format each partitions.

You can accept the default if you have nothing on you computer or you have a windows partition(s) that it will shrink. If you are shrinking a partition make sure you have a BACKUP of all the data on the partitions your are changing. It won't make any changes to the drives until you get to the end and say OK to install. If you cancel at any time before that it does nothing.

I go through the screens and it doesn't give me lots of options as to what programs I want installed. SuSE gives many options, but more on that later. It starts to install gets part way and fails. From the message it gives me I suspect a bad spot in the disk. So much for this attempt. Oh well I'll install another system and download a new disk with the newest version so no big deal.

I'm going to bed now and will edit this for typos and thinkos tomorrow as well as continue the story. I'm too tire to make sense now.

This message was edited Jun 10, 2012 8:20 AM

Durhamville, NY(Zone 5b)

The Next Round.

Since Ubuntu didn't install and I still want to burn Mint to a DVD, I dig out my SuSE 11.2 disk. They are purchased disks. I was on dial up when I bought them and there was no way I way going to be able to download a CD let alone a DVD. I put the disk in and boot the system.

I've installed various versions of SuSE which means that I'm familiar with the screens, questions and options it provides. Again it proposes a partition set up based on what is there. I go to the edit option to change some of the formatting selections. I also need to check on what options it has picked. The Ubuntu install had gotten this far and the disks didn't need to be repartitioned or formatted. I also got into the screen were you can change what programs it will install. I change a few but don't mess with it much, because as soon as I get a working Linux partition I plan on upgrading SuSE. It gives me options as to what boot loader I want to use and asks should it merge it with an existing one. That's a nice touch, but I leave it alone because the only other system I have installed is Windows Xp and I know it will pick that up OK. It installs with out a problem. I don't have a printer or scanner on this computer right now so I don't know how well it would have done with them.

I boot SuSE up. The first thing I do is adjust font sizes on the system. I have a fairly high resolution monitor and the default fonts are always too small to read easily. This is when I discover something. This version is buggier on the tower than it is on my lap top.

On the laptop Mozilla crashes on a regular basis and the system is prone to locking up. I have to turn the computer off by the power button and reboot it. It also loses the sound when it goes into hibernate mode and the only cure I've found is to reboot. Restarting the sound driver doesn't help. One thing about the journaled file systems that Linux uses, they are tolerant of being powered down that way.

Mozilla on SuSE 11.2 is so crash prone that I couldn't get it to run long enough to download the newest version of SuSE which is 10 hours long. I went to Sea Monkey. It is based on the same underlying software but isn't quite as buggy. I also wasn't trying to do anything else with it.

It seems to be a memory issue. This tower has half the memory that my laptop does, although it has a faster processor. I like to have half a dozen tabs open at any one time and this seems to make the problem worse. Web pages that have a lot of scripts also seem to make it worse.

Since this version has identical issues to my laptop, it's bugs in the software and not a hardware problem. Failing hardware or over heating is what I thought the problem on the laptop was.

In the process of the downloading, I killed my bigger of the two hard drives. The one I had copied the data from the smaller one on. I said earlier that it turned out to be a mistake. This is why. I'm hoping that by putting the drive in a zip lock bag and putting it in the freezer overnight I can get it to run long enough to retrieve some of the information off it. First, though, I need to figure out what I have backed up and what I don't. I don't think there is anything on there that's the end of the world if I have lost it.

I did accomplish what i set out to do though and that was to burn Linux Mint to a DVD. I had downloaded it in Windows Xp.

Next MInt not something I want to find on my pillow.

This message was edited Jun 10, 2012 4:25 PM

Rottweil, Germany

Hi Doug, I admire your perseverance. The way I did it ( it = burn a LINUX distro to a CD or DVD ) goes as follows:

If you still have one (1) single functioning computer left (that the cats didn't ruin) with 1 harddrive, 1 CDRom drive and 1 Windows (irrespective of version but not 3.0, 3.11 or 95) on it, then download "burn4free" from this link:
Using Windows installer, install the program. Reboot. Then shove a blank CD or DVD into your CDRom drive and burn the distro of your choice onto your blank CD or DVD. Linux Mint without codecs will fit onto a CD and Linux Mint with codecs and flash player will fit onto a DVD with plenty of space left. Then use this CD or DVD to install onto a hard drive. No going into partitions or formatting necessary. LINUX will take care of that by itself. You will only be asked, what time zone and which password (if any) you wish.

Rottweil, Germany

Ok, I am using LINUX for 3 years now. Right now, as I am sitting here, I have, here in the building, 6 computers, 5 of them on LINUX, 1 still on Windows (Vista-I think). I am no computer wizard, I tried various distros. Up to now, I do favour the Ubuntu variety. With me, all of them installed and worked - on any computer, and I have no preferences whether they be Gnome, KDE, XFCE or whatever - they all work fine with me.

One, I'm really in love with at present, is the Oneiric Ocelot, a wonderful piece of software that leaves nothing to want. With any and all of them I am on the internet, I can write letters, I use the printer and I scan documents. I take them to my lectures at university and I use beamers on them - in huge auditoriums to large groups of students (50). If I had any problems with LINUX, I would tell you now! But I haven't. Libre Office or Open Office is standard on most LINUXes, I do presentations with them. They open MSOffice etc. I installed proprietary software on all of my LINUXes (Softmaker Office from Germany). They all work. All of them. I have my "Terminplaner", a German proprietary Windows software installed on LINUX under WINE. It works. Not that I needed to. LINUX got their own "calenders", only I am used to the "Terminplaner" and I am too lazy to write all my appointments over to another calender - any calender.

LINUX got excellent screenshot programs as standard - a feature I couldn't live without. They work. They work excellently.
As browsers I use Firefox and Google Chrome, I could use Sea Monkey if I wanted to or half a dozen other ones. But I don't need to. They all work. Every time. All the time.

I never ever had one (1) single "crash". I don't know, what a "crash" or a "blue screen" is. I haven't seen one since I turned my back on Windows. I don't know, what a virus looks like anymore, because I haven't encountered one since I turned my back on Windows. I haven't spent a cent on any software since I turned my back on Windows. What can I say? Should I say now: "Linux is a pile of....."?
I can't, because I am having wonderful experiences with LINUX - and I don't even know one thing about LINUX. I wouldn't know a "port" from the ass-end of a horse - that's how much I know. All I know : it works fine with me - on the cheapest of computers, the low end of them. Even the net-books, the ones with no CDRom drive in them because they are too small, I got LINUX on them and I boot them from a 2GB stick on which I loaded the distro of my choice.

I am actually enjoying life now, before I had to worry about Windows when I came home from work.

As far as Knoppix and SUSE are concerned, Doug, I favour them the least, but that's only my own personal choice. Suse, I wasn't able to load on the computer of my choice and Knoppix is too "fidgety" for my liking. Another one I don't appreciate is the "Puppy" range of Linuxes. But one I like very much (for various reasons) is FEDORA.

But as I said, these are personal choices and preferences, stemming from experiences with them and from the tasks expected.

Durhamville, NY(Zone 5b)

Good Morning Kowari. Thanks for reading my post. I'll continue it in a while. Right now I'm trying to get my garden in and I'm about 2 weeks behind. That comes from a combination, of equipment(things needing repair), weather (it rained almost every day for two weeks, You can't plow mud. ), and stepping on a nail didn't help. I'm talking about an inch deep into the back of my heal, swollen foot from an infection and the doctor talking about the hospital for intravenous antibiotics. With no insurance I was looking for an outpatient option for that!

I have another chapter to write to come up to current, but that will only put me half way through the story. I think I'm going to buy a hard drive and some more memory for the tower.
Right now I'm primarily using my laptop because my email, and garden information is there, and I'm not willing to move my email over until I get the tower settled.

Edited to add:
I'm trying to write it in semi chronological order, but I also want to use each version some before I decide to either adopt it or chuck it. I've used SuSE and KDE for 10 years and with the other window managers and desktops I'm going to have a learning curve, Until I learn how to adjust them so that they are comfortable for me to use I don't think it is fair to say I don't like a set up. Crashes, slowness to the point of being unusable, I can make fairly quick calls on. Once I finish the next chapter I'm going to give a summation of my impressions to that point.

This message was edited Jun 12, 2012 7:07 AM

Rottweil, Germany

Hi Doug, could you enlighten me, what is actually an XP machine ? On all of my computers there are labels stuck on them, saying designed for Win7 or Vista or XP. Yet I persuaded them without much ado to accept Linux in every which version. And what did I say before about sticks with Linux on? There they are:
for 9.95 $ - nearly as little or as much as you would pay for an empty stick.....

Durhamville, NY(Zone 5b)

An Xp machine is a term I use for a computer that has windows Xp installed on it where the brand is otherwise unknown or unimportant. The Motherboard is an ECS 848p-a, it has 1 gig of ram installed. Basic specs are 3 gig Intel Pentium 4, 2 memory slots for 184 pin DDR 400 memory. Practically that means a max of 2gig. If I remember correctly it has a Nvidia Geforce MX4000 video card. I'm not on that computer and I'd have to shut this one down and move my accessories to it to check. It has the normal 2 channels for 4 IDE devices and two Sata channels. It came with a 80GiB Western Digital hard drive with 2 partitions formated as NTFS for the installed Windows Xp. To that I added another 40 GiB Western Digital HD and a 80 GiB Matrox HD. This is the one that is now dead. It's still in the computer, but I have the power unplugged from it. The computer won't post with it powered up. Right now I thinking about buying a HD and 2 gig of memory for it.

Durhamville, NY(Zone 5b)

Mint - Not something you want to find on your pillow.

OK, I finally have the latest version of Mint (Maya) on a disk and I'm ready to install it on a partition on my tower. I put the DVD in the tray and turn the computer on. It loads the installer and asks where I am and a couple of other questions. It brings up the disk partitioner like the others and proposes a set up which is basically what I have. I do have to tell it where to mount root as I have SuSE 11.2 installed on the first partition of the second drive. If you have nothing or just a Windows setup you can let it do it's thing. It continues on. It doesn't give me any options about what programs to install, not something I like, but I can live with it. One thing it didn't give me was an option to merge grub menus like SUSE did. I'm a little worried, but I figure it will figure out what operating systems I have and list them and I'll be alright. One option some of these install programs gives an option for is how long to wait before booting the default system. The setting it starts out with is 8 seconds. I change that to 20 seconds. I find I don't have to keep my eye glued to the screen to prevent myself from missing the boot menu. Somewhere in here is asks for an user name and pass work. SuSE s the only one that Asks for a Root password. Root is the Administrative account on a *nix system. Ubuntu and related distros like Mint don't set up a separate root.

It begins it's install and I'm expecting it to be don't in a few minutes. about 5 minutes in I get my first annoying surprise. I had left the ethernet cable plugged in and to my annoyance it has to play ET and phone home to download something. I don't know what it would have done if it hadn't been hooked to the Internet. Twenty five minutes later it has gotten what it wants and continues installing Mint. I'm not a happy camper and I'm thinking this is shades of Microsoft. The next time I install an OS I'm unplugging the ethernet cable.

With Mint installed I boot the computer up and, to my eyes bugging out, horror and amazement, Mint has replaced the nice looking version of grub that SuSE had installed with the ugliest text based menu I've seen since my days in high school and the dot matrix line printer.

Let me take a minute and explain grub. It's a boot loader. With Windows the boot loader is out of sight because MS Windows will only admit to knowing about one OS and the concept that it actually has to share the computer is foreign to it. The only time you see it is if you want to start the computer in safe mode, then you see the boot loader menu.

With Linux, particularly on a dual boot system, you'll see the boot menu every time you turn the computer on.

What does the boot loader do? It's the first program that the computer loads after running through it's BIOS. It's a very small set of instructions whose job is to load a bigger program that knows what code it needs to read off the disk and put into memory so the computer actually works. This is what you experience when you are setting there waiting for the computer to boot and be ready to use. You just don't realize that it has multiple steps. The installer knows how to set it up. The menu that Mint installed consists of
Mint safe Mode
Memory Test
Another Memory Test
SuSE safe Mode
Windows Xp

The actual options are much wordier than that, but that is what it boils done too.

I pick Mint and let the computer finish booting to the login screen. I enter my user name, hot enter and then it asks for my password. I've used the same user name on all the versions I've installed. At least that way I can remember it.

Then to just finish the whole experience off the rest of the bucket of ice cold ugliness gets dumped on my head. The windows manager on this version of Mint is called Mate and it's default theme is just plain disturbingly ugly. The whole thing is medium gray with the Mint logo in the middle and the letters LinuxMint running from the center of the screen toward the lower right hand corner. I'll attach a screen shot from the LinuxMint website if I can.

OK first things first, It's time to figure out how to change the font size so that I can actually read stuff with out taking my glasses off and leaving nose prints on the monitor. With that figured out, it's time figure out how to get something on the desktop besides what's there.

With those two things out of the way it's time to do some things on it. I open Mozilla and get on the web. I open three or four tabs and I discover that this thing is painfully slow at switching from one tab to the next. I'm talking slow enough that you think the computer has locked up. It hasn't, but it's slow enough to make using the browser a painful experience. I look at a couple of things, but nothing is obvious. SuSE isn't this slow, nor is MS window XP. but Mozilla on LinuxMint is slow enough , not loading, but trying to change tabs as to make it useless.

Tomorrow or the next day I'll summarize my thought to this point. I use Linux and in fact SuSE is what I'm booted into as I write this, but it isn't without its problems and pitfalls, just as Windows isn't. It has thing I like and things I don't like. My comments on what is ugly looking may be my personal bias.

Thumbnail by Doug9345
Rottweil, Germany

Well Doug, youíre a brave man and took a step in the right direction. Perhaps not quite the same steps that I would have taken, but Armstongs words come to mind :))

First of all, Mint will load completely into your memory. On my computer, that takes about 4 minutes. You may test it there, you canít of course, save a letter or something like that, because it canít write it to your installation disk.

Once youíre happy with it, you can press the Ąinstall to hard diskď button. It might ask you, to install next to something else or use all the hard disk for itself. I usually go for that option. If you install it next to another one or two, itís a bit like having two or three women in the same household with 1(one) man, there might be some kind of trouble :)), (just joking). If I wasnít happy with it after installation, I would wipe it then with my SUSE or WINDOWS. I had different versions of MINT install from 5 to 15 Minutes.

Naturally it will not allow you to chose which programs to install, Windows will also not ask you whether you like to install the Media Player or Internet Explorer etc. WINDOWS will not even allow you to NOT install NORTON or whatever and even uninstalling it later, is a major chore. Mint comes as a package and you can add or remove the programs to your liking after installation.

I actually shortened the boot screen to 3 seconds because I never had to use MemTest of SafeMode since I turned my back on Windows. In those days - I booted almost as often into safe mode as I did into the operating system.

Mint asks to be on the ethernet during installation but does not insist on it. I installed it off the net without problems.

I had to chuckle and giggle, however, about your description of the grey Mint desktop :)) and I am still giggling, because I actually thought the screen to be very attractive although despite the attractiveness I still changed it.

Thumbnail by kowari
Rottweil, Germany

HI Doug, been wallowing in the mud, or has the rain eased? Just because of you (just joking), I reformatted my hard drive of the computer I am using now to write this to you, I deleted "LUNINUX", which I had on there for almost a couple of years - day and night - it was on, and I installed VERTEX OS 4, an oneiric ozelot version of Ubuntu. Right from start, and I don't even go into details like boot loaders or dual systems, I am writing these lines from my new system, the oneiric ozelot and EVERYTHING works - no firefox crashing, no blue or black screens or any other colour. I enclosed a screenshot and you will notice, that even my "Terminplaner" is back there again.......I also noticed, that your Mint screenshot is dated August 27, I suppose that is last year's?

This message was edited Jun 17, 2012 11:12 AM

Thumbnail by kowari
Durhamville, NY(Zone 5b)

It's stopped raining and I've been trying to get my garden in and equipment repaired. I haven't had time to mess with my computer. I'm thinking about buying a new hard drive and more memory for it. The screen shot was off the Mint web site from the latest version. It is exactly what the desk top looked like installed.

Maybe tonight I'll sum up my impressions and like and don't likes to date. Remember I'm not a new Linux user and I've developed some definite likes and dislikes for it. I'm also trying different versions to see if there is a version I like better.

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