Where to begin

Hi all. I’m a total newbie, so apologies in advance if I breach protocols.

I want to break free of the Gate’s monopoly (who doesn’t?!) but am at a bit of a loss as to which distribution(s) to try.
I have a media centre PC (Phillips Freevents 1400) with a second HDD and dual monitors (one is widescreen) currently running XP which I use for various home and office tasks, including watching and recording TV (UK freeview). I can’t dump windows completely (as yet) because I need to access several progs and files set up over many years. So, I need the option of running a dual system from start up (Linux/Windows) AND something like WINE to allow access to windows software/files.

Can anyone advise me as to the best distributions to try please.

Thanks in advance.

Let the battle commence!

As you have probably found out there are thousands of distros available to you.

As a beginner I would recommend LinuxMint. It is easy to use and comes with many applications pre-installed as well as including a lot of required drivers so you video, sound etc will work ‘out-of-the-box’.

This is just the first distro I recommend because I know it is designed for beginners. You can of course try Ubuntu (and it’s various flavours), Fedora or Debian.

When installing the above distros they will offer the choice of dual-booting. They will set everything up for you, so you don’t get confused and/or mess up your system.

I hope this is helpful enough for you to get started. If you require any assistance on installing/setting up/ANYTHING then feel free to get back to us.

Hi Green-Bean and welcome to the forum :slight_smile:

With the need for easy setup of dual monitors I’d have to advise Ubuntu … it is also the distribution you’ll find the most help/tutorials for.

Why not take it for a test drive first … Ubuntu (and pretty much all Linux distros) can be booted to a working desktop from a CD (LiveCD) or a USB stick (LiveUSB) without making any changes to the hard drive … though it will obviously be slower from a CD/USB, it will give you an idea what to expect.

If you decide you like it … we can help with the dual boot setup.

To be any more specific about distro choice you’d need to tell us a little about the hardware used in the Philips … specifically CPU, amount of RAM and Graphics card.

Even better if you can describe your usage patterns.

If you need help with creating a LiveCD/LiveUSB, or any other questions … just ask :slight_smile:

Welcome to the forum Green-Bean.

I would recommend you take Ubuntu for a test drive too, more so because it has become the most popular amongst Linux distributions and has a lot of support.

Ubuntu Download Page

The latest version of Ubuntu, 12.04 (code name: Precise Pangolin), is the newest LTS release of Ubuntu. LTS being Long Term Support.

As previously asked, it would be easier to be more specific about which distro choice you should pick if you can list your hardware and usage patterns.

If for some reason your on limited hardware, I’d advise you go with PeppermintOS Two.

PeppermintOS Two is a light-weight, super-fast & cloud-based distro. To give you an idea how just how fast it is, on a sole install it will boot up in 10 seconds and shutdown in 4 seconds.

PeppermintOS 2 website

Any further questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. :slight_smile:

All the best.

Thanks guys for all the useful input. I’m trying a few distros and starting to get the feela as it were…

The PC is a Pentium 4 base (3GHz) with 2GB RAM and a 2 sets of USB busses to power all my peripherals (I think I will need to ask about drivers later). The Graphics card is - I think - a RADEON 9250. That is to say I think it’s the G-card as it shows up in XP device manager as “Display Adaptor” - but that’s probably just windows double speak to confuse people.

Tried ubuntu and a couple of the gnu distros run from CD but found that the desktops did not quite fit the screen properly (on the same settings used in windows). Is this just because it is not installed on HDD or is it my card/drivers?


Long way to go but a good journey. Thanks again for all your help. Any more advice would be greedily lapped up.

I’m afraid ATI dropped support for the Radeon 9250 in their Linux proprietary drivers quite some time ago … it WILL work (because of the open source driver) but don’t expect things like 3D effects, higher resolutions, multi monitor support, etc. to be as good as it would have been with the old ATI proprietary Linux driver (which before you ask … no cannot be installed, it won’t work with newer versions of the Xorg server).

That said I have no idea what drivers the LiveCD you wwere using was loading … and there may be better ones, or updated versions that would only become available once installed (you can’t update a CD :wink: )

I suppose you could boot the LiveCD open a terminal, and post the output from:

sudo lshw -C display

Then we’ll be able to see which driver the LiveCD is loading … but my advice would be to get a newer Graphics card … preferably an nVidia one, their drivers have better support for multi monitor setups (amongst other things).

Sometimes when you install Ubuntu, the additional drivers program will offer the EXPERIMENTAL 3D open-source drivers.

The drivers can be very unstable, but it does offer a solution for higher resolutions, 3D effects, and the like, but they are experimental after all.

Like Mark, I’d advise you get a NVIDIA card as NVIDIA supports Linux directly and the drivers are really stable. (On a 9500GS M atm).

but my advice would be to get a newer Graphics card .. preferably an nVidia one
When you are advocating a replacement graphics card please bear in mind that the MB might only support AGP cards, which are a bit more difficult to come by. On my desktop I am using a ATI Radeon 9600 (RV350 chipset) with the radeon driver which is working OK in LMDE (xfce) and Salix LXDE.

@SeZo … (without looking) I think the 9250 is also an RV350 … does your card have 2 outputs, and if so, how well is multiple monitors supported in the open source “radeon” driver ?

Yes it has 2 outputs, but never tried (never needed to) in dual monitor set up. :slight_smile:

When I said it is working OK, meaning I did not experience any trouble similar to Green-Bean:

Tried ubuntu and a couple of the gnu distros run from CD but found that the desktops did not quite fit the screen properly

I could be wrong, but I thought the clue was in “desktops” … I thought he was having problems only when using dual monitors.

I figured it was a problem with dual resolutions … maybe ?

Hello All.

You’ve certainly given me loads to think about. I think I’ll have to potter on with the empirical “suck it and see” method. Since these distros are quite easy to uninstall, there’s nothing to lose in trying this driver with that version. I have found in the past (with XP) that sometimes a completely different driver will work (depending on the parts source for the device). I’ll certainly give the RV350 one a try.

Thanks again.

I'll certainly give the RV350 one a try.
Point to note that the RV350 is the chipset which applies to cards Radeon (9500 — 9800, X300 — X600, X1050)

It appears that the Radeon 9250 is fitted with the R200 series chipset.

The “suck it and see” method might work but you could get more advice if you can supply more details.
Please boot into one of the live distros and from the terminal (as Mark suggested) post the result of:

lshw -C display

or bit more specific:

lspci -v | grep VGA

Also if you could find out if your motherboard supports PCI-Express or AGP (my guess is AGP)
This would change the options you have.

Also to point out that the radeon (open source) driver has only limited 3d capabilities.

These days I tend to be a fan of PeppermintOS Two (though Three will be ot some time around the end of May) … it’s based on Ubuntu 11.04 (Three will be based on 12.04 LTS), but uses the MUCH lighter LXDE desktop environment.

Dunno how well multiple monitors are supported … Mad Penguin seemed to have problems setting them up, yet someone else (can’t remember who) had no issues with a monitor and an LCD TV, beyond having to install ARandR to configure them.

They were both AFAIK using different graphics cards (Intel, and nVidia IIRC), so who know what will happen with an ATI card.

But worth a looksee … Peppermint is VERY quick, and light on system resources.

Tutorial for installing here, if you’re interested (obviously miss out the Acer Aspire One specific bits, stages 10 & 11):
and to tell the truth, it may be best waiting for Peppermint Three … just thought I’d throw my current favourite distro into the mix :wink:

@ SeZo … Ahh, my mistake, I thought it was the RV350 chip too :-[

@ Green-Bean … See SeZo’s response above … if it’s an RV200 chipset, I’d give serious consideration to replacing it (I had an RV200 chip in an old laptop, it was rubbish in Linux, though there were things that you could do to improve it slightly … it was also a while ago, so the open source “radeon” driver may have improved lately)… but no harm in the “suck it and see” method first :slight_smile:

IIRC, Ubuntu 8.10 was the last version of Ubuntu that the proprietary ATI drivers for the 9250 worked with … and I wouldn’t advise going back to that :o … since then ATI haven’t released any new drivers.

Peppermint 3 is due out early June actually, and boy I cannot wait. I like Gnome-Shell, but it’s too fat for my laptop, I need something that’s slim & fast. It’s also my favourite distro now too.


June ?

And you’re getting your info from where exactly ?

The only reference I’ve seen from the devs, is in post 6 here:

They’re quite active on their Facebook page, and they said it will be released around early June, in a comment on there.

EDIT: 1300 posts! Yey!

Ahh … the one place I wouldn’t look :slight_smile: