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CunningPlan

Linux help for newbie

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Help please. My 14 year old has rebuilt his gaming pc but is fed up of Windows and wants to install Linux. I am still working in DOS or a Sinclair zx80 so can't really help.

Where is the best place for him to start?

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35 minutes ago, CunningPlan said:

Help please. My 14 year old has rebuilt his gaming pc but is fed up of Windows and wants to install Linux. I am still working in DOS or a Sinclair zx80 so can't really help.

Where is the best place for him to start?

I use Unix/Linux everyday, and my former job was a Unix sysadmin, but i don't think that is a good idea.

 

My suggestion would be to get him to install Linux via some freeware VM solution (virtual box or what whatever the free VMware us called)

 

Let him have a play with it and see what he thinks.

 

Alternatively buy a real cheap pc or something like raspberry pi and let him put Linux on that.

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Don't discouraged him though, as he is making a brilliant move.  I just don't want him to get his main machine in a state that is difficult to fix.

 

My personal opinion is that kids are getting less tech literate as all they see is some nice graphics on a tablet, he will have a real edge.

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I've been using desktop Linux since '94, and seen it get progressively better and easier to use for everyday desktop tasks (as well as scientific computing, where it was one of the best platforms for my area of work, right from the start). I now find it hugely superior to Windows in every way. However ... I'm not a computer gamer, and although I understand it has got much more viable for that use case since Valve wrote a Steam client, the range of games available is still limited compared to Windows, and some may not be so well optimised.

My approach (even on inappropriate hardware, like laptops from years ago), has always been "nuke and pave": get rid of the Microsoft crapware, and get a decent operating system onto the machine. However, I think the advice above about trying it first on a VM, or on some old hardware is much more sensible, especially if there is some doubt about what software will be available in penguin format.

I would recommend some flavour of Ubuntu, since it is (at least in my experience, and I'm just a user, rather than a sysadmin) super-easy to install, and being the most popular distribution, there is plenty of advice and help online (which is relatively free of the elitist and unfriendly "support" that Linux used to be famous for). Vanilla Ubuntu has a slightly eccentric desktop, so it might be better try one of the other "spins", such as Xubuntu (my favourite: xfce is extremely sane) or Ubuntu MATE. Those follow very traditional (old-school) Windows-like design and user interface philosophies.

I have to use a Windows machine for some tasks at work, and it's always a relief to leave that and get back to a fast, responsive, well-designed operating system and desktop, which I can tweak to my taste. Also, I find the respect for the user/owner embodied in the open-source/free software philosophy quite inspiring.

Like all things in life, there are good and bad aspects to Linux and the surrounding ecosystem, but I would say your son is making a great choice, and I hope he has the grit to get over the inevitable teething troubles, and take advantage of the freedom, self-determination and knowledge he will get from being the owner and master of his machine. Wish him the best of luck from me!

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1 hour ago, reddog said:

Alternatively buy a real cheap pc or something like raspberry pi and let him put Linux on that.

I recently bought a Pi 3 to make a graphical data-logger and -analyser for some lab equipment at work, and with the "noobs" operating system (a form of Debian linux, I think) I found it to be snappy enough to make a decent desktop replacement - at least for simple tasks.

The last one I bought was the first iteration of the RPi, which I got to do some time-lapse photography, and it was just too annoyingly slow for everyday use. It was just on the wrong side with respect to performance for it to be a fun toy to play with (it did the task I wanted it for admirably, though).

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There are some linux distributions designed with gaming in mind, the most well known is SteamOS. Some of them come with Wine and PlayOnLinux installed so you can play Windows games.

I haven't tried any of them myself but they are probably not going to be as easy to use as Linux Mint or Ubuntu. So I think trying a few out with Virtualbox or even a live USB image on a USB stick would be a good idea to start with. It is possible to dual boot Windows and Linux if necessary later.

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For a first time Linux user install Ubuntu.

If he wants to play games install Steam on it.  To install steam go to the command-line and type 'sudo apt-get install steam' (it is possible to install using the GUI, but I can explain how to do it in one line on the command-line).

[don't try to install Steam by downloading from the steam website -- it will work but it will be a bit of a hassle*]

Don't expect there to be as much software as he'd have on Windows -- Linux is niche and not many games manufacturers bother to recompile for the platform.

If he wants to have decent graphics he'll need to be using a proper graphics card.  He'll need to enable the driver -- this is in settings -- software&updates.

[again, don't try to download anything from the graphics card manufacturers -- again, it'll work but it'll be a hassle*]

[* this is the main problem with Linux -- people think 'the Windows way' and try that method, rather than investigating how things work in Linux]

 

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8 minutes ago, rich66 said:

There are some linux distributions designed with gaming in mind, the most well known is SteamOS. Some of them come with Wine and PlayOnLinux installed so you can play Windows games.

I haven't tried any of them myself but they are probably not going to be as easy to use as Linux Mint or Ubuntu. So I think trying a few out with Virtualbox or even a live USB image on a USB stick would be a good idea to start with. It is possible to dual boot Windows and Linux if necessary later.

Steamos is a pain to install (for a first time user).  Easier to install Ubuntu and then install the Steam system on top of it.

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53 minutes ago, dgul said:

Steamos is a pain to install (for a first time user).  Easier to install Ubuntu and then install the Steam system on top of it.

Yes - agree with this. And +1 for Ubuntu.  Though I think SteamOS has legs.

Also on the point made about using VirtualBox, yes it is fine for dabbling, but it sucks performance wise.

I'd suggest:

i) dual boot, which essentially means putting an Ubuntu DVD into the drive and making sure you have enough space to partition the drive to allow space for Ubuntu and Windows to co-exist.  This is all done via the install GUI and gparted can be used to partition the disk.  or;

ii) Look at downloading the free version of ESXi (this is proper virtualisation) from VMWare, this will outperform VirtualBox but if you want to do this for gaming then you need to have a motherboard that supports VT-D to allow graphics card passthrough

iii) Try out VMWare Player.  This is better than VB.

 

 

 

 

 

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I have tried both Ubuntu and Mint. Settled on Mint in the end as it seems simpler but YMMV.

If your son downloads the .iso file I think you can run it straight from the CD or USB stick without installing anything.  Obviously you won't get such fast performance but it goives a feel for the OS without changing your machine.

As Mikhail says, if your son likes what he sees dual boot may be the best option. You keep your windows installation, but shrink the disk partition and install Linux on the newly freed up space.

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Just to make it explicit for those that don't know -- Ubuntu and Mint are pretty much identical everywhere apart from the user interface.  Ubuntu went for a new interface a few years ago ('Unity') and some people didn't like it, so 'Mint' took the Ubuntu code but kept the original UI (with a few tweaks).  Linux is great in this way -- you don't just a monopolist saying 'do it the new way now, and we won't resolve security problems in the old system for long, so you can't even just keep that'.  However, it is also its greatest weakness -- lots of distributions, all vaguely similar underneath, but different to look at (or even the same to look at) -- but which one to choose?

As an option, if your son is familiar with hardware (and less so with risking his current setup) then you can just buy a second disk drive and remove the original.  It'll only cost a few £s, but keeps the original installation just in case.  If you decide to drop windows later just use the old disk in a caddy as a backup disk.

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15 hours ago, Toast said:

I've been using desktop Linux since '94, and seen it get progressively better and easier to use for everyday desktop tasks (as well as scientific computing, where it was one of the best platforms for my area of work, right from the start). I now find it hugely superior to Windows in every way. However ... I'm not a computer gamer, and although I understand it has got much more viable for that use case since Valve wrote a Steam client, the range of games available is still limited compared to Windows, and some may not be so well optimised.

Don't see why Steam on Linux should make much difference, it's mostly an annoying nosey intrusion that you've got to run to run some games. It doesn't provide any technical advantages (although might make it a more appealing platform for some DRM-minded developers).

But yes, not much point in using Linux if you want to game, unfortunately. Wish there was because then Windows could go straight in the bin for me. The safest solutions have already been mentioned, a slightly less safe one if you've got enough disc space is dual boot.

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I agree with the virtual box stuff, try that first to see if he likes it, it's a lot easier than installing it 'properly'.

I did some steam gaming with Linux Mint which is super easy to get going.  Many Steam games are Linux compatible, when you got Mint or whatever going then just download the Linux steam client and the Linux version of the appropriate graphics driver and off you go. 

I did find that performance was a bit dicey compared to Windows on some games, though, so went back to Windows for gaming in the end.  Depends entirely on what games you play.

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Why not burn an image to a usb stick / dvd and run it live from there if you just want o get a feel.

I run linux live from write protected media for all my sessions where I want a clean OS (banking / insurance / email / shopping). In fact I run a clean , fresh, live session anytime I want to do that sort of thing. Take the HDD outta your machine and the whole thing becomes volatile. Now your only worry is your router, your ISP and the site itself you are visiting.

I even run live for general browsing - like now!

A good image burner is LiLi.

Then set your machine to boot from the USB / DVD media. When it boots it will begin building the file system of linux in RAM before finally booting the OS itself. The whole thing looks like a normal system, apart from the fact that it is entirely virtual - in RAM that is.

Booting of course takes a while depending on your usb interface etc, but at least you can be sure NOTHING is lurking from a previous session.

You can also install with persistence, so that changes you make will be saved to usb for the next session (not poss if you've write protected / use dvd).

The good news is it exists purely on the usb stick / dvd and will not affect your usual primary storag emedia in any way. In fact you can take the stick to a mates and run it on their laptop etc, or to work and run it there (tho your sys admin will probably have a fit as it will likely allow you to do all sorts of stuff w/o them monitoring your every move).

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49 minutes ago, Sledgehead said:

Why not burn an image to a usb stick / dvd and run it live from there if you just want o get a feel.

I run linux live from write protected media for all my sessions where I want a clean OS (banking / insurance / email / shopping). In fact I run a clean , fresh, live session anytime I want to do that sort of thing. Take the HDD outta your machine and the whole thing becomes volatile. Now your only worry is your router, your ISP and the site itself you are visiting.

I even run live for general browsing - like now!

A good image burner is LiLi.

Then set your machine to boot from the USB / DVD media. When it boots it will begin building the file system of linux in RAM before finally booting the OS itself. The whole thing looks like a normal system, apart from the fact that it is entirely virtual - in RAM that is.

Booting of course takes a while depending on your usb interface etc, but at least you can be sure NOTHING is lurking from a previous session.

You can also install with persistence, so that changes you make will be saved to usb for the next session (not poss if you've write protected / use dvd).

The good news is it exists purely on the usb stick / dvd and will not affect your usual primary storag emedia in any way. In fact you can take the stick to a mates and run it on their laptop etc, or to work and run it there (tho your sys admin will probably have a fit as it will likely allow you to do all sorts of stuff w/o them monitoring your every move).

That's interesting for a different reason. I see that in the next year or two laptops will be banned on aircraft. A complete OS with cloud software on a USB stick, coupled with picking up a rental laptop at the airport, will probably become the norm for business travel.

Anyone know a laptop rental company I can invest in?

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2 hours ago, CunningPlan said:

That's interesting for a different reason. I see that in the next year or two laptops will be banned on aircraft. A complete OS with cloud software on a USB stick, coupled with picking up a rental laptop at the airport, will probably become the norm for business travel.

Anyone know a laptop rental company I can invest in?

take your point

 

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9 hours ago, Sledgehead said:

I run linux live from write protected media for all my sessions where I want a clean OS (banking / insurance / email / shopping).

I've done that with Knoppix in the past, but I decided that having a system that was perpetually out of date was as vulnerable as an up-to-date, patched system with persistent storage. What are your thoughts?

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12 hours ago, Millaise said:

I've done that with Knoppix in the past, but I decided that having a system that was perpetually out of date was as vulnerable as an up-to-date, patched system with persistent storage. What are your thoughts?

Knoppix is nice, that said you only really need to worry about exploits if you are running executables or clicking links that could do so.

If you are on a clean session each time and go to a known Bank site, you should be safe

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13 hours ago, Millaise said:

I've done that with Knoppix in the past, but I decided that having a system that was perpetually out of date was as vulnerable as an up-to-date, patched system with persistent storage. What are your thoughts?

Yeah, it's horses for courses.

When I log in to a bank with my one-month non-updated linux what are the threats?

Maybe I could be port-scanned while making the 10 min transaction and then attacked by some < 1 month old vulnerability exploit. Maybe.

Far more likely that I will , by operating with a full install, either be harbouring a virus acquired because of an undiscovered, yet to be patched,  vulnerability, or have acquired some zero-day malware from a random porn site (hypothetically that is - the malware bit, not the porn site; that's a certainty!).

So discounting the port-scan, my worries are my router, my ISP and the bank site itself.

Besides, you can still update the OS with critical updates, it's just that they won't stick for your next session.

I don't do that, but before I go online live I do protect root with chmod 755 / and run ufw to keep out the port scans as much as poss. I additionally add noscript and never allow marketing sites.

Maybe that's too much trouble for most people.

But people need to realise that convenience and security are by nature, mutually exclusive concepts.

 

Furthermore, I guess if a constantly updated system is important, we should all be ditching our routers for mini computers running a constantly updated OS. I wonder how old the OS is on your router?

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On 08/04/2017 at 1:41 PM, Sledgehead said:

Furthermore, I guess if a constantly updated system is important, we should all be ditching our routers for mini computers running a constantly updated OS. I wonder how old the OS is on your router?

There's DD-WRT or similar for that...

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On 08/04/2017 at 0:04 AM, Millaise said:

I've done that with Knoppix in the past, but I decided that having a system that was perpetually out of date was as vulnerable as an up-to-date, patched system with persistent storage. What are your thoughts?

I use Chromeos quite a bit -- by your definition it would offer the best of both worlds...

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