Plant’s Linux Adventure and How To Get A Linux Computer For Free

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.

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 ( ) 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.

-James Plant.

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.

By James Plant Posted in Uncategorized

A Quick Heads Up

Yeah, Hey. Never got around to that article about the flying. It’s coming, I tells ya’.

Anyway, If you’re bored, have a look at my latest programming project.


By James Plant Posted in Uncategorized

I am, for the sake of the word, bamboozled.

Holy. I’ve just looked in my email inbox and I’ve found that some bored little sod has sent 15 ‘Reset password’ messages to me..


No. I can’t explain. They must have known that that would cause me no inconvenience at all because I get far too much email otherwise.. but.. do they/you really have nothing better to do???

I am really lost for words. You people must be desperate. I.. well. My word, you must have no life to even bother..

I normally don’t use Emoticons on my site, but my thoughts can only be explained with ‘ o_O ‘.

Bloody hell. Parents, get these people some friends so they can actually go out at some time this summer, rather than wasting their life on my site thinking, “I know, it’ll really cheese him off if I SUBSCRIBE TO HIS RSS AND WRITE SOME SWEAR WORDS IN THE COMMENTS BOX ROFLFLLAMALOFLALMAO” and leaving me thinking, for the sake of the phrase, “WTF”.


Egh. Well, that’s left me feeling sorry for those people. Anyway. I’ll have a post for you sometime soon about the gliding today. How Brooks managed to not fit into his flying suit when he’s the size of a Jelly Baby I will never know. Even I managed to fit into one and I’m as tall as an office block.

Oh, and current affairs too. I hear Jade Goody has cervical cancer. Not a nice thing, as much as I don’t like her.

PS>> Ah, I see now. You thought it would reset my password didn’t you? Well, news for you. It doesn’t.

Text and images © James Plant 2008

All trademarks acknowledged

By commenting on this site you give me and other TMSD writers full rights to copy, edit and display your writings on this site, unless you are part of the WP team or otherwise administritive.

By James Plant Posted in Uncategorized

I’ve seen more dead bodies than you!

Well, I’m back from a spiffy holiday on the boat. Said holiday was actually only in Manchester, as it’s not our main holiday this year, but it was spiffy nonetheless. And yes, I have seen some real dead bodies.

Ok, I should probably treat the owners of the bodies with some respect. They were actually part of a museum exhibition. This exhibition has been incredibly controversial, and you’ve probably heard of it. It’s called ‘Gunther von Hagen’s Body Worlds 4 – The Original Exhibiton of Real Human Bodies’, and it’s currently on display (until tomorrow) in the Museum Of Science and Industry in Manchester. Ah, MOSI, how many times I’ve been there on every single school trip. And how strange it is that they have a new logo every single time I go.

Anyway, back on topic. The exhibits there are, as the name suggests, real Human remains which have been preserved by a process known as ‘Plastination’ (Water and Lipid compounds are replaced by a polymer). It is fascinating, and the first thing that’ll strike you is just how small everything is. Kidneys are about half the size of your fist, brains are about the size of both fists together (yes, fists are a useful tool in anatomy) and also intestines look nothing like they do in the textbooks. They’re just a bunch of tubes that are about twice the thickness of a garden hose, kind of like headphones look when they get tangled up in your pocket.


So, away from that subject, Let’s move forward to yesterday. The Squadron Barbecue, which, with the addition of parents, felt like a recipe for disaster. Apparently the squadron raised ‘just over a hunded quid’ which will apparently go towards some new sports equipment. Hopefully some other way of dividing up teams. Wearing Hi-Vis vests makes us look like a walking bus.

Well, I’m done for now.


PS. To the chap who keeps commenting; Of course you’re a guy. Every girl I know likes me. QED.


Text and images Copyright James Plant, 2008

All trademarks acknowledged.

By commenting on this site you give me and other TMSD writers full rights to copy, edit and display your writings on this site, unless you are part of the WP team or otherwise administritive.

By James Plant Posted in Uncategorized

A worthy website

Go there, go there now. It’s seriously funny.

NB: I apologise, erm, loyal fans? For the lack of updates for a while. Recent events have left me without material, and if I’m honest little motivation to write for TMSD. I’m also on holiday next week, so nothing then either.

This is NOT me quitting writing for TMSD. I just don’t have anything to write about at the moment as I’ve done nothing these past two days but mope around the house drinking far too much Red Bull and watching re-runs of Top Gear.

Ah, well.


PS. For those who care, I did find a ‘paint brochure’. And the Squadron got £7000 from the Lottery. Hurrah and so.

PPS. Someone commented – I only read the first line of his post bfore I canned it, but I can glean from that that he doesn’t know what he’s doing. There doesn’t have to be a flag comments option, I simply EMAIL THE WP PEOPLE. Plus I can bet you haven’t gone pro.

All trademarks acknowledged.

By James Plant Posted in Uncategorized

The Unsolvable Mystery of ’64’..

Well, after some brief research and a little thought, it turns out that the slump this past week was for a very simple reason: everyone’s buggered off on holiday. This week and the next two are forecast by some to be a very low week of internet traffic worldwide. Hurrah, so people still like me it would appear.

Even so, that has been forced home by the fact that hit rates have suddenly leapt back up to their previous levels. Hurrah indeed. My Spamgrinder is telling me that I have had at least one new automatically-flagged message. I haven’t read it, and have no intention of doing so, but was apparently written by somebody with the email address ‘’ (O RLY?), so I can tell, because of their sponging off me by mimicing my sayings, exactly who they are. Various restrictions stop me from telling you who they are, but I can tell you I’m pretty sure he has pasty white skin.


Anyway, to business.

Well, cadets was rather down on Friday, because of everyone’s buggering off on holiday. I was, strangely, appointed head of Aircraft Modelling, a position I promptly surrendered when I read Debbie’s notes on the (what was it? A B-25 I think..) and found they made no sense as I have no idea how far the model is in terms of completion.

Mmm… pork scratchings..

Back on subject – Having not the slightest clue what was going on, I dug out the box for my Tucano kit – which has been sitting unmade for quite some time due to other priorities. I can now safely say that the instructions for the Revell Tucano kit are absolutely useless. Really. When I came to paint the parts, it told me to paint the inside of the cockpit in ’64’. And that’s it. So I ask now,


It turns out that ’64’ is simply the paint number I need for the cockpit. The Humbrol paint number. A disheartening thought when you find the paint box does not contain a ’64’ or anything particularly close. So I’m going to have to go down to the model shop and get a paint brochure.

Can you think of anything less interesting than a brochure for paint?

Me neither.


Anyway, let’s spool forward to Monday the fourth of August. I’m sitting here after a nice walk, with a packet of pork scratchings and a can of ‘Emerge’ which I got because it was cheap and is jammed full of caffiene. My personal game project is going well, even more well when a nice chap named Felix offered to make me some custom music for it after I asked him about using his Modules. Nice guy. Give him a medal, I say.

I’ve spent quite a while at home, although I have also been out rather a lot this last week, I’m having today off. And I have come to a conclusion: the internet is horrible.

HOW MANY TIMES do we have to go on a page and see people typing things on the internet in textspeak? What is the point? I can see why shorthand might be useful on a phone, where you don’t have a proper keyboard (unless you have a really good phone) but even if you have a half decent phone…

Whoa.. It is completely silent in here.. The lappy’s fan’s just turned off and it’s gone eerily quiet..

Little distraction there. Anyway, even if you have a half decent phone, predictive text means you can use actual english instead of leaving out all the vowels and spelling everything in numbers. I must be the only person in the world to use apostrophes in text messages. Text speak doesn’t even save money – when was the last time you wrote a text long enough for it to go onto a second one? Thought so.

Anyway, on the internet, where you have a full keyboard unless you have an ex-school laptop completely berefit of keys except for F, Q and the Hash key, you really have no excuse for Text speak, and will somebody PLEASE explain to me what the hell |_3375|>3@k (Leetspeak) is for? It has no purpose except to make it completely unreadable. And what, pray, is the point of making your website completely illegible? You see these people with their Tripod pages going OMFG L333T IS DA BOM YA RLY and you just think, what an idiot. And why do people say ‘wut’? It actually takes longer than writing ‘what’ because you have to move your hands further. That’s why these people say OMGGGG MY SYTE HAS 19 HITS I PWN U ALLLLLL and again, they look like utter pillocks. My website may not be on the Alexa top 100 but I get on average 8 hits a day which is better than most websites run by a Fifteen-year-old. And I think it’s entirely due to 1) people seem to like my humourous take on things as they keep returning and 2) I actually use English with proper grammar*. That’s why Tripod pages with OMFG on them are unpopular, but there’s another reason. They’re written either by Noobs, or Chavs. While some people at least teach Noobs what to do, nobody likes Chavs. Only other Chavs like Chavs, and if you group Chavs into a single entity, you could say that indeed, nobody likes Chavs.

That was a long paragraph.

Well, I’m out of Emerge and pork scratchings now, which is probably a good thing, because who knows? If I eat too many of those I could turn into a fat guy. Egh.

-James Plant

 PS. Did we get the funding for the new buses?

* It’s probably also because this is just about the only WP blog that isn’t either ‘744 reasons why YOU should vote Obama’ or ‘Look at these cool pictures of explosions I found!!!’

STOP PRESS: Turns out that the reason there were no hits was, in addition to what’s above, because I hadn’t updated in ages and had slipped down WP’s list. Whoops.

Copyright James Plant 2008

All trademarks acknowledged

Plagarize and Die!

By James Plant Posted in Uncategorized

Some rekindling to do…

Well, something’s gone wrong. Over the last week or so I’ve had absolutely no hits at all. How unusual.

I can see what’s going on here. If I have that post about 3D modelling at the top of the page, people will think ‘OH NO I’m on a nerd site!’ and scuttle off. So, I’m going to make some posty fun for you when something actually happens.


Maybe it was my theory of so-called ‘Chavs’?



By James Plant Posted in Uncategorized