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Can I have some advice please?

Started by Helen Pixels, February 09, 2022, 04:10:06 PM

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Helen Pixels

So, should I buy several small USB sticks to try each of these versions and find out what is most compatible with my computer (by trying it before the install to make sure there are no hardware incompatibilities or it's not too heavy on CPU or RAM usage?) That way might be best so I know what is safe to install.

I could also use the 'try it' option to find out exactly what software is available for each, because there is no point in installing something if there isn't software available for what I want my computer to actually be able to do (make videos and upload to youtube, and run RPG Maker) From what I have seen on youtube, the desktop itself is often customisable so that I can alter some settings to make it feel more windows-like in layout (like, having a start button equivalent). So it's not like I am expecting my fairly modest laptop to suddenly become all powerful, of course not, it's hardware would still be limited no matter what OS I run... BUT, I do want something that runs stable on my hardware, that has a good selection of apps to install for my needs, allows me to connect to the internet...etc. So really some pretty basic stuff with some little extras.

BTW... if you want to stop a stubborn program from running, do you still CTRL-ALT-DEL and get a task manager equivalent, or is there some other keyboard shortcut?

I also LOVE, from what I've seen on youtube, how I won't have to go to a load of websites first to download apps or install drivers. You have access to it all right away... mind blown. It's just so different. I should be able to create these install sticks, my system is not yet at the point in it's cycle where it is totally crippled just yet.

Keith

QuoteBTW... if you want to stop a stubborn program from running, do you still CTRL-ALT-DEL and get a task manager equivalent, or is there some other keyboard shortcut?
I've installed on my top panel an icon for stopping a stuck application.  Can't remember what it's called just now. 
I click the icon then click on the offending application window and it goes away.  Easy.  It's Linux. 

Keith


DavidMcCann

Keith's tool is called Xkill. When you run it, the cursor becomes a skill and crossbones — click on a window and the program is shut down. Ctrl-Alt-Backspace will end the current session and take you back to a log-in screen. In some distros Ctrl-Alt-Delete is available, but it causes a reboot.

4 GB is ample for Linux. I have that on my desktop. At the moment I have a browser and word-processor running under the Xfce desktop. 1 GB is being used for the software, 1 GB for buffering and caching, and 2 GB are free. As for hardware incompatibility, almost the only time that happens these days is when the computer is much newer than the distro and has the very latest chips, or when the computer is as old as my 2002 laptop.

I wouldn't get a bundle of USB's — it would take for ever to evaluate the distros. If you go to http://distrowatch.com/, you can look up the various distros and read actual users' reviews. Some are silly, but the general trend is worth noting — if the average vote is at least 8/10 , it's not going to be bad. I'd try Mint, as a couple of us have advised — I've tried the current version and liked it. Never having owned a Windows computer I can't make a comparison, but one reviewer said the Cinnamon version of Mint is more like Windows 10 and the Mate version is more like Windows 7.

If you do have any problems, it's easier to get help than to switch to another distro, where you will probably have a different problem. Tinkering can become addictive: https://xkcd.com/456/

Helen Pixels

From what I've seen on youtube and some of you have said here, it might be worth me comparing just two distros: either Ubuntu or Mint Cinnamon. It might be less confusing that way. I never realized that there would be such an enormous choice on offer. I knew that a few versions existed, but, I thought maybe it would be about 5-10 different ones, not literally hundreds. I mean, in the windows world there are few actual choices, right now it is between 7, 8.1, 10 and the upcoming 11, they stopped supporting previous versions a while back, and Windows 8.1 seems to be highly unstable and buggy after updates and I wouldn't wish it on an anyone. If anyone told me they wanted windows 8.1 I would tell them to try something else, get 7 if they seriously wanted windows.

I've never used anything but windows, and it's taken a lot of hassle to get me to realize I might have been needlessly fighting my computer because the OS is not fit for purpose. It isn't even like I am careless with my computer, I've always been diligent about making sure I have antivirus, that I defragment at least weekly, that I clear out junk, keep all software and drivers up to date...etc, and still it becomes unusable.

I can get a 4GB usb drive to use for burning the disc image EXTREMELY cheaply, but you know what else I found, I found a high speed 1 or 2TB USB drive for £5.99 - £6.18 on e-bay! I've also researched online and it's said that these kind of devices can serve as external hard drives. The crazy part is that even the smaller of these has four times what my actual inbuilt hard drive has. I do have 2 USB ports, so I can use a little 4GB to burn the disk image to, and the big fast one as my linux hard drive. Literally a pocket sized hard drive! I thought I'd have to get some big bulky thing, but it's tiny! Sometimes the advances in technology amaze me.






steve57

Yes, comparing just two would be a sensible thing to do, things may well just get confusing otherwise. As you say, for choice there are hundreds to choose from, but for distros that are genuinely suitable for complete beginners it probably does come down to only 5-10.

Technically speaking Windows choices no longer include 7, as that isn't supported anymore, and it looks like an awful lot of PC's won't be able to run 11. I've never used 8, but if I remember correctly didn't it get a lot of bad press from the day it was launched?

A 4GB USB stick will be fine for trying out Mint or Ubuntu. I suggest you try that for a start, then cross other bridges when you get to them.


Helen Pixels

#20
I didn't know that they'd stopped supporting 7, that's a shame because that was actually half decent despite the usual bloat.

Windows 8 got bad rap from the beginning because of the horrible GUI, I mean, they totally screwed up the start menu to the point that it looked as if it was designed for a touchscreen pad rather than an actual PC. Bear in mind, it's entire userbase was accustommed to a layout that had not really changed much (apart from nicer looking graphics) since 1995. But, I think as time went on and more people were using it for longer, people realized that there was more wrong with it than a wonky interface. It's inherently more unstable, loaded with rubbish that people don't ask for (like, it comes with the ultra CPU hogging McAfee antivirus for a start), I prefer to use a free alternative iObit antimalware, there is a paid version of this which automates a lot of stuff, but for the sake of clicking a few buttons I prefer the free one. I mean, why not just give customers bare bones windows and let them choose what they would like to install? Makes more sense to me.

Like I said, I think I will end up using either mint or ubuntu, and I'll have USB as the first boot priority, so windows only loads when the usb is removed. That way I won't need to be hopping into bios every time I decide which OS to use. There are people other than me who use the computer, who might prefer to continue using windows because it's what they know, neither of them have any idea what a bios is, let alone how to use it, therefore it I want to make it as simple as possible (in fact they don't know much apart from how to google stuff and play a couple of browser games).

Rich J

#21
Hi Helen and a belated welcome to the forum from me!  I'm Rich (in name only :() one of the helpers on here.

A few years ago, I was exactly where you are now and was asking the same questions.  I, too went through the process of trying out various versions of Linux before settling on Mint and I've stuck with it ever since.  The change from Windows, for me, was really borne out of frustration that, here I was spending loads of money, only to find further down the road that I didn't really own anything, I was merely a licensee (a renter) of the software I'd 'purchased', that I couldn't modify it to suit my circumstances nor pass it on when I'd tired of it.  And every so often, said software was made redundant and I'd need to 'upgrade' to the next 'best thing' in order to keep up!  Changing to Linux completely altered that scenario. 

Without going into too much detail, (there's plenty around the 'net if you wish to find it) what you have to remember is that Microsoft is a commercial company dedicated to making money - and credit to them - they've been very good at it!  Linux isn't a company - in fact isn't an entity at all - it's an association of like-minded people who collaborate to produce an operating system, or distro (short for distribution) in varying guises, that is free to use, add to, delete from, modify and change for other versions and pass on to others without any recourse to licences* or permissions or payment.  Crazy notion, eh?  (I bet that went down well on your side of the pond!!)  From the start, Linux was and still is, designed to be secure, so no need for antiviruses and the like - a simple (included) firewall will suffice.  So, where to start?

Ok, there will a learning curve but it's nothing like it was back in the day and reading what you have written and the way you express yourself, I believe that you will cope with it very well.

Firstly, jot down the items that you use the most to keep a focus on what you require from your operating system.  We are all different and you will end up with a distro that will be unique to you - another crazy notion - and it's easy to get bogged down if you're not careful as there is sooooo much choice out there!

Then, read up a bit on the various distros which already contain the bulk of the software you need.  No one may have everything you require but - as already stated - it is easy to add in more software later.  Distros may be designed by a single individual or by teams of up to hundreds and tend to reflect what they consider important - so bear that in mind too - you can change anything you like later for a more suitable alternative.

I would advise that, in the short-term, stick to a distro that is more 'mainstream' in that it has more users, will be more rounded and polished and there will be a larger 'pool' of advice to draw from.  ;)

As said, my preference has always been Mint (and even then I'm not on the very latest version) and one last point - given your system specs, should you choose Mint, go for the MATE (pronounced MAR-TAY) version over Cinnamon.  MATE is less resource-hungry and is more 'Windows'-like in appearance which does help the new user when first migrating.

Hope this helps, take your time and come back with as many queries as you like - all questions are valid!

Rich

EDIT: * Google GNU License for info on this.

Helen Pixels

Hi Rich, thanks for your response. In terms of what I require, it's my understanding that the distros have repositories for various software for me to explore, and that I should be able to get hold of windows equivalents for most things (like there is a Linux version of Krita I can use, which probably works the same way it does on Windows), and there is video editing software, I don't need a super powerful resource hungry one, just one that will allow me to stip clips, marry some music to the visuals, and combine the lot into a single mp4 for upload to youtube. So really I only need a very rudimentary video editor.

Now onto the more complex stuff: I got RPG Maker VX Ace, which is exclusively a windows program which runs through steam. I know WINE can run standalone .exe files, but I don't know if this is going to be the case when the program runs through steam. Therefore I might be better off getting virtual box and emulating some previous version of windows that can run on lower spec computers (so that at least half my RAM and processing power is still available to the host system and not the emulated one), and run it through that. VX Ace was from 2012, so emulated windows NT would be a sensible choice. Steam of course requires internet access, and I've watched on youtube that virtual machines can connect to the internet (safely, because you can always shut down and even delete virtual machines without ever risking your main OS). I can use RPG Maker in there, which is the only instance in which I will actually need a windows program from the looks of things. If I can get it running in simulated windows NT, or wine, I will be happy.

Oh, and I am with you about the whole windows liscence thing, you think you buy windows, but you don't, you're really long term renting it. The more I have researched into it, the less and less I like Microsoft for some of their choices. They bloat up your OS from day one with rubbish you don't want or need, when really it would be nice to be asked if I want dozens of stupid little games and shopping buttons before just installing them. My answer would be no thank you. Then they install Microsoft office, want it or not, which leads me to uninstalling it (and much of the other bloatware) and installing what I do want. In all it takes me approximately one and a half days to debloat, install all updates, defragment the hard drive, and set up things how I would like them. Some of it could be avoided if they asked me what I wanted in the first place. I also didn't realize until recently that Microsoft can access any windows computer at any time, which is actually an invasion of privacy. While I've nothing to hide, I don't see why microsoft would really need to see what I am doing online. Me doing pixel art and making youtube tutorials on making tilesets in various styles for RPG Maker can't be that interesting to those guys. More worryingly, if they can do this, so can hackers, and you can bet that wouldn't want the data for the purposes of advertising.

But, getting back to which distro I'd go for, it really depends. I will be taking a look at some, but NOT TOO MANY, otherwise I am going to confuse myself. As long as I can get the software I need to do what I need, and get on with the work I want to do on my computer without random freezes and crashes, then I will be happy. From what I understand, Linux distros tend to be extremely stable. As long as it supports NVIDIA graphics drivers it should be fine (I know Ubuntu does).

You know, I am really glad I made my way to this forum instead of just asking people on some other place for help with my malfunctioning windows 8.1, because you've all been really helpful and insightful. I suspected it was time to look for different solutions to my computer problems, and this fix, changing my OS, will likely be a permanent fix.

Helen Pixels

#23
UPDATE: I have placed an order for my USB sticks from e-bay, and I should recieve them by the end of the week. In the meantime I am learning about virtualbox, I've set myself the challenge of getting windows 98 SE to run within it, just to see how it is done. Even on my buggy 8.1, I should be able to do this fairly easily as the RAM and processor requirements for this OS are so low, literally I could give it what would have been extremely high spec for a computer running 98 back in the day and still not strain my host resources. This will help me learn about virtualbox and be a practice run for me getting another OS working inside of it. I'll be needing NT or higher for RPG Maker, but 98 SE would be a nice addition to run old DOS based games.

Edit: I have Win 98 SE working, love virtualbox and will definitely use it when I migrate to Linux.


Rich J

For my two penn'orth, you are welcome!

Just a thought - as 'dual-booting' has been mentioned and you are new to Linux - rather than go that route first-off, which can be a bit daunting for a newbie, is there a chance for you to acquire another machine?  Perhaps a family member or friend has an unused laptop gathering dust?  A loan machine from work maybe?

If so, it might be better to start afresh with a stand-alone where you can install a fresh copy of your chosen distro, play with it, make mistakes, (you will!) all the time protecting your work machine from harm.  Once you feel competent, then you can wipe your Windows lappie and install Linux on that.

Linux will run happily alongside Windows and 'see' its files - sadly the opposite isn't true.  In order to dual-boot, it is critical that the installation steps are carried out to the letter, which is ok if followed, but one mis-step can screw the whole lot and you're getting deep into data recovery and so on.  I'm not trying to scare you here, nor put you off Linux, just speaking from my own experiences!  Linux is such a good system - you can go from the full-blown 'all bells and whistles' distro, all the way down to something that is so light, it fits easily on to a USB stick, lives in your pocket, plugs into any computer with a USB drive, does your work then, when unplugged, leaves no footprint.  Infinitely adaptable.

You're correct in that .exe files will not run in Linux and some people install an emulator to cope with this.  Not really a good idea security-wise, in my opinion.  The idea is to get away from the colander that is Windows and use the sealed container that is Linux!  If you do need to send files from Linux to Windows, Linux has a neat trick which (from memory) Windows doesn't have, or didn't the last time I used it (many years ago).  A simple example -

In Linux, let's say you produce a letter using Libre Office Writer. It saves with a .odt suffix.  You attach it to an email and send to your friend who can't open it.  They complain!  You simply right-click on the closed document icon, left-click on rename and replace the .odt bit with .doc or .docx.  Linux automatically re-formats the document which then can be read by Windows.  Neat - re-send, job done.   Of course, you would only do this once - for future documents, you simply save it as .doc or whatever, Linux does that too!

I've never used music or video software of any kind so can't comment if similar tricks are available but suspect that many will have a universal format (like PDF's have) that can be read by anything.

Good luck with your new adventure!

Rich


Helen Pixels

Oh no, I'm NOT going to be partitioning the hard drive and doing that kind of dual boot, that is just asking for trouble. The sort of dual boot I am doing is running Linux entirely from a 2TB USB flash drive, leaving my windows HDD untouched. This is for two reasons: dual booting two totally different operating systems from the same hard drive can cause serious problems, serious enough to leave the computer unusable (I've heard of horror stories including the bios being wiped, don't know how exactly someone accomplished that, but apparently it's a risk, and without bios you can't really do anything with that machine ever again). It CAN go right, but I won't take that risk. Secondly, even if the install went correctly on that one hard drive, there is nothing to say that a windows update couldn't wipe out Linux and leave me with a corrupted partition. I don't want that to happen either. So, I am well aware of the risks, and I am taking steps to completely mitigate them. And finally, I am none too sure about the health of my hard drive.

All I am going to be doing, is installing Linux on the flash drive, and changing the bios settings so that the computer looks for boot information from my USB device first. That way, if it's there, I will get Linux, if it is not, it will then look to the (empty) CD ROM, and finally, look to my HDD which contains Windows 8.1. So which system I boot into depends on if the USB flash is in the port or not. I don't have much money to play with, so I cannot at this time afford a second machine. This option seemed like the most sensible one and the best of both worlds (in total it has cost me only £10 to order what I need to set this up). It protects both the Linux and the Windows installations by keeping them seperate, but using the same machine, and it means I can still use my computer in Linux if the hard drive containing windows fails completely, as it may. Ultimately, I'm saving myself a huge headache and quite a lot of money.

Now, as for the work I will be doing in emulated windows. I'm making a small computer game to sell on steam, and the program I am using is Windows exclusive. I know it to be virus free, so the risk is lower than you think IF you're careful and you know what you're doing. If the virtual machine got infected somehow, I could always delete it and Linux would not be touched. Even with the bidirectional file sharing enabled, that simply allows me to bring my work, such as pdf images back and forth between the emulated environment and the host system depending on where it needs to be. Most of the traffic will be going from Linux to Windows. I can do my pixel art in Linux, only transfering it to emulated Windows when it is ready to be added to RPG Maker. The ONLY traffic going the other way will be the final .exe file when the game is completed and ready for upload. So, I won't be irresponsible with it. But, I might even do that upload from inside the virtual machine, so the traffic may end up one directional.

I am going to be exploring what software you have on offer in the repositories, I suspect that RPG maker might be the only program I need an emulation for. As for other emulations, such as the one I set up earlier for Windows 98SE, can be doing from my windows hard drive, my system easily has enough RAM and processor power to support what would have been a top of the range computer back in the day, without straining my system. I plan to use this simulation for DOS based games, which should run just as they would had I really been using an old computer with Windows 98, perhaps even better. It's not much good for anything else, you can't even get online with it it's so old, because the internet setup assumes you're using a dial up modem and asks for information on what brand of modem it is! That said, even if I could, I suspect the ancient incarnation of internet explorer wouldn't display modern webpages correctly.

Oh, and thanks for the info on Libre Office, I'll remember to make sure I save anything like that as .docx, that way if I have to send anything to someone else, they'll be able to get it to display correctly in MS Word.