Tag Archives: Series

Reviving your old PC with Linux, Part VI: Building your own lightweight remix

In the previous article of this series, I covered a variety of “remix” distributions of Linux aimed at older computers, and posed the question “why not build our own”? In this article, we’ll look at doing exactly that.

Our goal will be to set up a basic desktop system, using only the necessary components, such that it will run reasonably well on a roughly ten-year-old computer.


Building a Linux system for a Child, part 4: a wishlist

The previous articles in this series helped you set up a Linux-based system for a child, and explored some of the great educational and kid-friendly software available. I’ve based this on almost eight years of experience in setting up GNU/Linux on computers for my own kids, and for their friends. So, based on that experience, what things do I wish the Free software community could come up with to make Linux a better experience for kids (and their parents!)?


Building a Linux system for a Child, part 3: Security concerns

By now you’ve got that old computer purring along like a panther with your new favorite distribution of Linux, loaded to the brim with educational software, ready to propel your child to the heights of intellectual stimulation. But before we launch this starship, let’s take a bit to make sure the safety equipment is in order and reign in some potential problems.


Building a Linux system for a Child, part2: Distros and software

The last article in this series described some of the more general realities of running Linux on a child’s computer. Now that I’ve (surely) convinced you to go ahead an put GNU/Linux on your child’s computer, it’s time to get down to nuts and bolts: which distribution, and what software?


Building a Linux system for a Child, part 1: What and Why

One of the common suggested uses for old computers is to install GNU/Linux on it and give it to your kids. I have five children, ranging in age from pre-teen to infant, and all but the youngest (naturally) regularly enjoy the use of computers running some variant of GNU/Linux. We’ve been using it at home since about 2005, and over the last eight years I’ve gained a reasonable amount of experience setting up Linux on computers for my children or their friends. This series of articles will cover some of my insights on setting up a Linux computer for kids.


Reviving your old PC with Linux, Part V: the Remixes

In part III of this series, I told you that lightweight Linux distributions can be classified as either “fully lightweight” or “remixes”; and in part IV, we took a look at several “fully lightweight” distributions. Naturally, in this article, we’re going to talk about remixes.

Unlike the last article, however, I’m not just going to go through a bunch of remix distros and blather on with my half-formed impressions of them; not only would that would be unbearably dull for both you and for me, but selecting a three or four remix distros from the zillion-and-a-half out there in the world is an impossible choice. Instead, we’re going to understand what really distinguishes one remix from another with the aim of helping you select one that fits your needs; after which I’ll go through a few example distributions and talk about what makes them different.


Reviving your old PC with Linux, Part IV: Fully Lightweight Distros

By now, we have established a vocabulary with which we can discuss distributions and their strengths and weaknesses, and thus understand the best uses for them given our needs and resources. So in this article, I’ll talk about some actual “fully lightweight” distributions (for those who didn’t read the last article, “fully lightweight” refers to distros that are built from the ground-up to be small and fast. It doesn’t include lightweight remixes or spinoffs of other distros).


Reviving your old PC with Linux, Part III: Understanding Linux distributions

Now that your hardware is reasonably in order, and you understand the potential issues involved there, it’s time to look at the software side of things. You want to run some kind of Linux distribution on your system, but you don’t know which one to pick.

This is the point at which a lot of people would just lob a lot of funny-sounding distro names at you and expect you to check them all out and blindly try them all. Well, I’ll eventually get to lobbing those names out; but first, let’s to try to understand “lightweight Linux” — and Linux distributions in general — in a theoretical way. (more…)

Reviving your old PC with Linux, Part II: Hardware Compatibility and Prep

Welcome to part II of this series on “Reviving your old computer with Linux”.

In the last article, we classified your computer’s hardware broadly by age or processor type, but there is a lot more to Linux compatibility, performance, and suitability for different tasks than just age or processor speed. So this time, we’ll go over the major hardware components in a computer and what kind of problems you might encounter with them on Linux; as well as some general notes about preparing older hardware for an OS refit.


Reviving your old PC with Linux, Part I: Defining Expectations

This is part one of a series on making your aging, dusty — or just unused — computer useful again with some help from Linux and Free/Open Source software.

Linux has quite a reputation for rescuing old hardware from obsolescence; while this is not entirely undeserved, there’s more to it than just popping the latest Ubuntu release into that antique DOS box in your attic. An operating system is commonly called “Linux” if it’s built on the Linux kernel, but that says nothing about the software stacked on top of the kernel (which is most of the actual system). For some of these operating systems, that software is lightweight and small; for others, it’s heavy and resource-consuming. Finding a version (we call them “distributions”, or just “distros” for short) that will work well with your hardware, and work well for your purposes, is the key to successfully bringing that old PC back to life.

So what distribution should I use?

If you ask the question, “What Linux distribution should I install on my old PC?” on a typical Linux forum, you’ll likely be bombarded with a roll-call of distribution names (most of them fairly obscure); usually without respect to your needs or the hardware in question. While you could just download and try them all, a more educated approach will probably save you a lot of time (and blank CD-Rs!). So rather than take that same mistaken approach, we’re going to start by analyzing the question in more detail.


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