Note to first time readers: this isn’t a Linux blog, but this post is a Linux post. I write about other things too.
As some of you will probably know, I now have a new computer. Ok, it’s not actually new, but hey! It was free!
The computer in question is a ten-year-old Advent 8595.. well, look at it! Six tonnes of Japanese magnificence! It’s not actually a particularly bad spec for a decade old, as it was my Mother’s old CAD machine and was subsequently upgraded regularly.
– 400 MHz Pentium 2 Processor
– Voodoo 4 graphics card
– 8.5 GB HDD
– Some RAM (about 295 MB)
– Two CD drives – one is a ReWriter
– And now I’ve had my way with it, Kubuntu 8.04 Hardy!
Yes, this is now my trusty Linux box. And it works surprisingly well. Even though it has less processing power than my hair it still runs a modern Linux with KDE 4 – KDE 4! – at an impressive speed. and all KDE 4’s lovely graphics are intact. Erm.. apart from the desktop effects. They don’t work. And the screen resolution is stuck at 800×600. But I don’t care. 800×600 is not that much of a PITA and the desktop effects would probably set the motherboard on fire anyway.
Anyway. Who cares? It shows that modern computing doesn’t need to be expensive and you can – legally – get a legacy system and run a modern, clean OS on it for no money at all.
Ok, this doesn’t really apply to me. Every computer I’ve had was a present of some sort, so technically, the cost of these computers to me has been nothing. I’m writing in a general perspective here. A friend of mine had to save up an inordinate amount of money for a PC, so I know some people do buy them, even if they’re my age. I’m writing this How-to for the perspective of someone who needs a computer but is unlikely to get one for a birthday/Christmas and has no money.
HOW TO DO IT
Step 1) Ask around to see if anyone – parents, parents offices, friends, family, friends/family’s offices etc. to see if they’re having a clearout. They may be willing to give you a PC that isn’t used or would just be thrown away anyway. Just be warned they might want to get files off it before they give it to you. Ask about the specs before hand. RAM is always the biggest issue – try and get something with at least 256 MB of RAM at a minimum. If you can’t do that, be ready to either buy some more or scrounge some. HDD space is less of a worry, but try and get something with at least 6 GB.
Step 2) Go to an internet cafe, or, if you want to stick to the no-money-at-all ethos, go to a friends house and obtain a Linux distribution. I heartily recommend Kubuntu ( http://www.kubuntu.org ) because Canonical offer a service by which you can send off for a CD for free – including free P&P. It’s also a relatively easy to use, modern OS with all the drivers you could need – including wireless internet drivers which you really will like. Trying to get the internet to work on a distro with no built in support is a ridiculous catch-22 as the drivers are stored on repositories on the internet. And you’ll never find the right one. It also runs on just about anything, which is good because a free computer is likely to be knackered. I was lucky. If you can’t wait 6 weeks, you can download a CD ISO from Kubuntu’s website and burn it to a CD. Be warned though, your friend might have limited downloads on his ISP and it’s a teensy bit unfair to fill that up, so I suggest doing it before it rolls over, namely at the end of the month. Internet cafe’s may also not take well to you downloading 700 MB on their bandwidth.
Step 3) Ok, so you have your shiny new computer and have a copy of your preferred distro. The next step, assuming the people who gave you the computer have got their important files off first and you do not want to keep anything on there is to format the HDD and install Linux. I might note here that there are alternatives to Linux – such as BSD and Darwin – but there isn’t much difference apart from there being less programs available for the moment, and in BSD’s case, security. All you need to do, with the Kubuntu disk at least, is put the disk in the drive and boot from it. Booting from a CD is normally done by holding down a certain key (normally F11) just after you start your computer. It normally says on the screen after you switch it on. You will wither be taken to a Live CD desktop, or you will have a menu asking you wether you want to go into LiveCD mode or install straight away. A LiveCD is basically running off the CD, and will make no changes to your computer at the moment. When you are ready, you can install the distro either by clicking the install icon on the LiveCD desktop or by choosing install from the startup menu. the install wizard is then pretty self-explainitory. When the installer asks you about partitioning, choose automatic unless you are absolutely sure what you are doing. There’s no point in installing Linux only to find you’ve rendered half the hard disk unusable. Once you’ve sorted all that out, installation will take about half an hour. The screen will probably go black some time in the process. If it does this, wiggle the mouse as that’s the default screensaver coming on.
Once this is done, you’ll have a shiny new Linux computer. Simply restart the computer (your installer may do this for you) and it’ll load up onto a login screen. Log in with the username and password you specified during the install, or, if you wern’t asked for that, log on as either root (password normally root or toor by default) and create yourself an account using the tools provided. This is normally pretty self-explainitory, although instructions can be obtained from the internet if you encounter difficulties.
I heartily recommend following the instructions for installing KDE 4 that are on Kubuntu’s website, if you are using Kubuntu. It is seriously worth it, and it is much better than the KDE 3 that’s included with Hardy. By the time Intrepid comes out though, you won’t need to do this as KDE4 will come with Kubuntu as default.
And there you have it! You now have a working, modern operating system on a computer that can handle it. Cost: FREE.
If you follow this how-to, feedback would be very much appreciated. Commenting on TMSD does not require a login.
All trademarks acknowledged.
By commenting on this site, you give me full permission to copy, repost and edit your comment, unless you are part of the WP team or otherwise administrative.
James Plant is not responsible, to the extent of the law, for any damages that may occur while following this tutorial. All information is provided in good spirit.