Linux distro recommendation for XP PCs

Discussion in 'all things UNIX' started by Wendi, Oct 1, 2016.

  1. Wendi

    Wendi Registered Member

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    We have several Dell Dimension PCs with WinXP in our computer classroom that I would like to convert to Linux boxes in order to introduce our student Windows users to Linux. These x86 PCs have a 2GHz Pentium 4, 2GB RAM, 80GB HDD and CD-writer. They also have a Matrox AGP video card.

    Are there any distros that can support and work well with these PCs?
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2016
  2. Gullible Jones

    Gullible Jones Registered Member

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    Any i686-compatible distro running XFCE. Matrox cards are not well supported AFAIK, and probably can't handle 3D effects; so Unity, Gnome 3, and KDE/Plasma are basically out.

    Xubuntu LTS, or Debian Testing with XFCE, would probably be good. Also the Fedora XFCE spin, though it's more annoying to maintain.
     
  3. Wendi

    Wendi Registered Member

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    Thanks for your reply. As Xubuntu LTS is 'mainstream' it appeals to me, but how can I determine if it supports Matrox cards?
     
  4. Wendi

    Wendi Registered Member

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    Another (noob) question: I use Shadow Defender on all of our Windows PCs in order to reset them back to their 'baseline' state after each class. Is there a similar app that runs on Linux?
     
  5. Anonfame1

    Anonfame1 Registered Member

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    +1 for Xubuntu, though another really good option is Linux Mint XFCE edition. The best way to test is to download both ISO images, make a bootable USB stick for one, try it, then try the other ISO, etc.

    In terms of reverting after every class, thats more tricky. You could use BTRFS for this task, but youd need to setup a shell script and a systemd unit to do it automagically. Theres prolly software for this though- I would ask your question on Reddit in "linuxmasterrace" and see what they say.
     
  6. fblais

    fblais Registered Member

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    Lubuntu and Zorin OS Lite.
     
  7. J_L

    J_L Registered Member

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    At the login screen, there should be a "Guest Session" by default. Any changes made after logging into the account will be wiped on logout.
     
  8. Gullible Jones

    Gullible Jones Registered Member

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    @Wendi

    Pretty much all distros support Matrox cards, via the mga and vesa. Problem is more that the mga driver does not (last I checked) support kernel modesetting, the vesa driver has limited resolution options, and neither provide much rendering acceleration. (Very little for mga, none at all for vesa.) You may also have to write a xorg.conf file, since Xorg may not properly autoconfigure itself for old Matrox cards.

    I'd suggest trying a live USB version of whichever distro first, though, to see if the video works anyway. But if you have some old nVidia or ATI cards floating around, now might be a good time to put them to use.

    As far as Shadow Defender workalikes, it would depend on how the machines will be used, and why you want to return them to a default state.

    e.g. If students don't have root access, and you're using ActiveDirectory integration for account management, as outlined here:

    https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Active_Directory_Integration

    then configuration management software (e.g. Puppet or Ansible) might work. This is a whole big thing in and of itself though, and needs a central server (and time to read lots of documentation).

    On the other hand, if the students will have root access, then there is no way to maintain a safe/working baseline; all you can do is reimage a machine if something breaks. (Fortunately, Linux is a lot quicker to reimage than WIndows.)

    I might as well mention here, desktop Linux is not really designed for groups of interchangeable classroom/office workstations. Windows NT seems to have monopolized that niche for a long time, and is still probably easier to manage in it.

    @Anonfame1

    I don't know about anyone else, but I am so not going to visit a Reddit subforum containing the words "master race". :eek:
     
  9. Anonfame1

    Anonfame1 Registered Member

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    Its a joke. Reddit is famous for this sort of thing. Theres a subreddit /Pyongyang where everyone posts ridiculous pro and anti North Korea articles and responds as if they were supportive of North Korean government- responses containing "Our Dear Leader..." are common :p In /linuxmasterrace people refer to others who start using Linux as having "ascended.." Its so over the top I think its obvious that its all just in jest...

    Reddit has tons of puns, comments are upvoted for sarcasm, etc. If it really offends him/her so much, then just try the /linux subreddit...
     
  10. quietman

    quietman Registered Member

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    How about trying a Linux distro that runs entirely in RAM ?
    The ones that first come to mind are Puppy Linux , PCLinux , Knoppix , Kanotix , Slax , Nanolinux ( TinyCore ).

    Everything should be gone on reboot , or am I misunderstanding your question ?
     
  11. fblais

    fblais Registered Member

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    ... or running a Live CD session.
    (Better use on USB key, it's faster)
     
  12. sbwhiteman

    sbwhiteman Registered Member

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    Don't know about the others that quietman mentioned, but while Puppy does run in RAM, it has a Save file to retain changes for the next session. The ShadowDefender-like requirement will probably be your biggest hurdle.

    I second the XFCE suggestions; Xubuntu and particularly Mint XFCE are personal favorites and should run well, though you'll want to test them.
     
  13. wat0114

    wat0114 Registered Member

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    +1 for XFCE
     
  14. NormanF

    NormanF Registered Member

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    Other possibilities are ElementaryOS, Lx-Qt and Lumina. All very low resource environments.
     
  15. Stupendous Man

    Stupendous Man Registered Member

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    Thanks, Gullible Jones, I had overlooked that part of Anonfame1's earlier reply.

    It may be just a joke to you, but to others it may be quite offensive.
    It shows very little sense of 20th century history, and/or very bad taste.
    Like Gullible Jones, I will stay away from such forum.
    I know this is off-topic, I'm sorry for that, but I think it had to be said.
     
  16. Anonfame1

    Anonfame1 Registered Member

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    Wow, I feel Ive made enemies here without even being cognizant of the potential. I sincerely mean that I never even considered it would be so offensive; I figured it was a foregone conclusion that Nazism was the most odious event of the 20th century. I apologize if I have offended anyone.

    Literally everyone nowadays knows that Hitler's crackpot "master race" crap was propaganda used to justify his militarism and destruction- I certainly didnt mean the mention of a linux subreddit to dredge up old prejudices or strife in relation to the holocaust!
     
  17. Stupendous Man

    Stupendous Man Registered Member

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    Don't worry, you sure didn't make me an enemy, nothing like that. Nothing wrong with you.
    And there was nothing wrong with mentioning that subreddit.
    But I do think that the folks that named the subreddit "linuxmasterrace" have very bad taste and seem to show little sense of 20th century history.
     
  18. Wendi

    Wendi Registered Member

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    That just might be the answer to my need. Do the basic apps and internet browser also run in RAM?

    Of those RAM-based distros which one would be the most user-friendly for students familiar with Windows?
     
  19. NormanF

    NormanF Registered Member

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    If you don't need anything more complicated than a browser - Chromium OS or Just Browsing /Webconverger come to mind.

    Very minimal no fuss setup.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2016
  20. Wendi

    Wendi Registered Member

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    My objective is to introduce students, who are mostly Windows users, to Linux. ;)
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2016
  21. NormanF

    NormanF Registered Member

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    It hasn't been mentioned here but MATE is the simplest Linux desktop environment around.

    Simple interface, low on resources and a good introduction to Linux for beginners. It feels like Windows so users don't even have to know they're running Linux.
     
  22. quietman

    quietman Registered Member

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    I think PCLinux OS may be a good fit for your needs , and there is a choice of desktops ( the version with Mate is here ).
    It is still actively supported ( unlike a few of the others ) and was recently updated for the latest kernel.

    There is a useful comparison chart of " Run from RAM " distros here .
    They are generally small ISOs although PCLinux is one of the larger ones at 1.2 GB.

    And yes , the browser , the apps , the whole OS - all run in RAM .
    It shouldn't be too much of a stretch for anyone coming from Windows , although you are probably the best judge of that :)
     
  23. fblais

    fblais Registered Member

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    With the mintmenu it indeed looks like Windows, but with the standard Gnome2-like menu, I don't think so.
     
  24. Wendi

    Wendi Registered Member

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    Based on a quick glance it doesn't look like our old x86 Dell PCs (post #1) support this. Also, our Dell PCs will only boot from HDD or CD (BIOS doesn't support DVD/USB boot)!
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2016
  25. login123

    login123 Registered Member

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    Hi, Wendi.
    That is an excellent project you have going.
    I wish I had discovered Linux distros earlier.

    To add to what's been said...

    Puppy is designed to and does run light. 2 gb RAM is plenty.
    And if you run in RAM, the original OS remains intact.

    EDIT: I'm sure you are aware of this, but it bears mentioning anyway. Those Linux distros do not respect the built in file protections in windows. So a student on a windows box could delete just about anything without triggering a warning. NOT gonna tell you how I found that out long ago ... :p

    The save file on a Puppy USB stick can be turned off.
    It takes a bit of extra effort, but has the effect of "shadowing" the OS.
    Long (old) topic about that here:
    http://murga-linux.com/puppy/viewtopic.php?t=65016
    May be better recent changes, I haven't kept up.

    SliTaz might be interesting for your students to see how much they can get out of a tiny distro.
    I have run version 3.0 with persistence on a 256 mb USB stick. It uses about 123 mb.
    Or you can run it from an old camera card using an adapter, that might seem "cool" to students. :)
    My experience was on a ten year old xp desktop, AMD athlon CPU, Radeon graphics.

    Another EDIT:
    I just dug out my old Puppy 528 CD and am running it live just now from the CD tray. Logged on here using Firefox. It took a couple of minutes to download and install the Firefox software. The CD is not rewritable, so no changes will save.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2016
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