Linuxifying my PC?

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somitomi
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Linuxifying my PC?

Postby somitomi » Sat Mar 04, 2017 11:42 am UTC

There's an old (see specs for how old) desktop computer I still keep alive because it has some inputs my laptop doesn't. It's running Windows XP at the moment, but I have some problems with it (mostly related to the lack of support) so I've been thinking of installing Linux on it. Mostly because using Linux on a secondary computer seems like a nice way to try it without getting too much out of my comfort zone. The intended puropse of the computer is ripping vinyl records and magnetic tapes, maybe storing some backups from other computers and that's pretty much it.
With that in mind, I have two questions:
  1. Should I switch to Linux or just do a clean XP install and seal the ethernet port with Gorilla tape?
  2. If I install Linux, which distribution (that' the word, right?) should I use?
Some computer specs, should it matter:
Spoiler:
Intel Pentium 4 2.66 GHz (told you it's old)
1 GB of RAM (could be upgraded though)
500 GB SATA hard drive
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Flumble
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Re: Linuxifying my PC?

Postby Flumble » Sat Mar 04, 2017 12:29 pm UTC

There's HandyLinux built for 'older/inexperienced people with dated hardware'. It specifically asks for a Pentium 4 or newer.
There's also Lubuntu (or Xubuntu, does't really matter), which tries to be lightweight and based on Ubuntu (which I think is the go-to distribution for discovering linux).

If you're from the terminal era, I'd recommend Arch —you have the option of installing a graphical environment after you've installed the OS. So it's really, really light by default. :P [edit]Oh right, I forgot: Arch is dropping 32-bit support.[/edit]


The big question perhaps: how do you do the ripping? Does it require special software that's only available on windows (XP)?
Last edited by Flumble on Sat Mar 04, 2017 1:03 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Linuxifying my PC?

Postby somitomi » Sat Mar 04, 2017 12:47 pm UTC

Thanks. I'm recording with Audacity, so I think I'll be safe from software issues. Drivers for the video card might give me some headache, but I can always fall back on the integrated one if all else fails.
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Re: Linuxifying my PC?

Postby Soupspoon » Sat Mar 04, 2017 11:59 pm UTC

There's nothing wrong (IMO) with an XP install that is either clean, or cleaned enough of any problems that it is not unstable. I'm running lower-specced XP, at home, right now. Isolated from any network, because it doesn't need any, and though it is permacomplaining that the installed AV is out of date (by maybe five years!), there's probably no need even for the AV, for any foreseeable future, except to stop it permacomplaining that there is no AV. ;)

You might or might not have problems with an XP reinstall of going through the Product Key Authorisation/whatever, for one or other reason, but there are also tools that can help with that, if you're careful.

Whichever way, I wouldn't argue against you getting Linux on there, instead. I'm not a big fan of the *buntu flavors, myself, but that's not for any reasons I could fully justify. And I similarly don't think my own preferred Linuxes are necessarily suited to your case, so I'll let others guide you.

But if you have a spare HDD around (and even buying another 500GB drive for the purpose might be a worthwhile investment! Or whatever the best size/cost ratio is that you can get...) I'd swap that in (keep the current one, now extracted, safe until you know you don't have to) and see what a fresh XP or installed-from-live-distro-on-USB1 demands of you to work well with your hardware/etc, without losing the ability to get back to the original system (i.e. disk) if it all turns out to be a waste of time for whatever reason.

And, even if things go perfectly, you've now got a second (i.e. the original) disk that you can in as a secondary drive, buff up a different system, use as 'external HDD' with a handy USB dongle, or whatever...


(I have also used Audacity to convert non-computer audio to MP3/etc. I've not seen any problems with it on all kinds of system, though I stuck with XP mostly so I may have missed some peculiarity of later-version Hardware Abstraction Layer nonsense, depending on your specifics. I've not yet found out how to get a Raspberry Pi to perform this task without buying an additional USB audio-in dongle thing that I can't be bothered to get, but as it's nit important I've not lost any sleep over it.)


1 Because trying a Live distro, of whatever flavour(s) you can get, will show you if the interface/utility of the distro is well-suited to tour needs, but might need retesting without the bottleneck of the Liveness before pronouncing it useful.

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Re: Linuxifying my PC?

Postby somitomi » Sun Mar 05, 2017 6:23 pm UTC

Soupspoon wrote:But if you have a spare HDD around (and even buying another 500GB drive for the purpose might be a worthwhile investment! Or whatever the best size/cost ratio is that you can get...) I'd swap that in (keep the current one, now extracted, safe until you know you don't have to) and see what a fresh XP or installed-from-live-distro-on-USB1 demands of you to work well with your hardware/etc, without losing the ability to get back to the original system (i.e. disk) if it all turns out to be a waste of time for whatever reason.


That's quite manageable, because the current OS lives on an old 20 GB IDE drive (don't laugh), the drive listed in the first post is in fact a spare HDD. The main reason I'd go for something other than a clean XP is that having it connected to the router would be handy for transfering files between it and other computers of the household. Testing from bootable USB is a good idea though, I'll keep that in mind.
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Re: Linuxifying my PC?

Postby Soupspoon » Sun Mar 05, 2017 7:19 pm UTC

Not going to laugh.
Spoiler:
I've just got home, so I can check directly, and this XP machine has 40Gb HDD. Windows dir uses 5GB, Program Files adds up to 3.6GB, Documents And Settings holds 26GB (needs pruning!) and there is 1GB in all other root directories, plus a 1GB Swapfile. If it had a 20GB drive I would probably have ~6GB of D&S stuff.

And there's a Windows 2K machine over here that... *clicks* has 6GB, plenty big enough for the 610MB WinNT directory, pity there's 4.5GB in Documents and Settings. ;)


And your router might have the capacity to define the port/IP/MAC address to be limited (e.g. to 'green zone', or only other internal connections) to let you transfer files locally by whatever method without pestering/being pestered by the internet.

Or just connect it at will via an ethernet crossover cable, directly to the machine. By replacing the usual ethernet port of the other machine, using any secondary network card (if there is one) or get a USB->ethernet dongle for the purpose. Loads of ideas. Some might work for you (do you even want to drape a 10m cable between rooms, for the duration, if that's what you want to do?), but I can't tell what kind of kludges you'll put up with. I currently use a USB external drive to get files between the 2K and XP machines (mentioned in above spoiler), and it's not perfect but it's good enough for my purposes, so I just haven't bothered to connect them both to my house network.

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Re: Linuxifying my PC?

Postby Mutex » Sun Mar 05, 2017 7:28 pm UTC

I'd definitely recommend an Ubuntu based distribution, for software support. The suggestion of Lubuntu makes sense, I'd also suggest Linux Mint Mate Edition, the Mate desktop is still very lightweight but possibly slightly more user friendly. LXDE is pretty stripped down.

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Re: Linuxifying my PC?

Postby Jorpho » Mon Mar 06, 2017 7:44 pm UTC

somitomi wrote:it has some inputs my laptop doesn't.
Perhaps you should offer some clarification here? Those inputs might be much more usable in XP than in Linux.

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somitomi
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Re: Linuxifying my PC?

Postby somitomi » Mon Mar 06, 2017 8:52 pm UTC

Jorpho wrote:
somitomi wrote:it has some inputs my laptop doesn't.
Perhaps you should offer some clarification here? Those inputs might be much more usable in XP than in Linux.

I guess. The inputs I care about are a line level audio input (on the motherboard) and some FireWire sockets (on a PCI card).
Soupspoon wrote:And your router might have the capacity to define the port/IP/MAC address to be limited (e.g. to 'green zone', or only other internal connections) to let you transfer files locally by whatever method without pestering/being pestered by the internet.

Or just connect it at will via an ethernet crossover cable, directly to the machine.

Apparently it does, although I'll have to read some manual to be sure. It definitely seems easier than messing with cables...
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Re: Linuxifying my PC?

Postby Tub » Tue Mar 07, 2017 11:07 am UTC

Audacity will work just fine, so should a line-in (unless you have an exotic sound chip).
You could of course buy an USB sound card, possibly with better input quality than a decade old onboard sound chip, and rip your stuff directly on your laptop.

somitomi wrote:Drivers for the video card might give me some headache, but I can always fall back on the integrated one if all else fails.

What video card do you use?

I'm not a big fan of ubuntu. Though popular, they've made some questionable decisions in the past, monetizing by selling your privacy. They also suffer from NIH syndrome and do EVERYTHING differently just on principle. Most of the time, their solutions are unfinished and cause trouble.
Debian or maybe a community edition of an enterprise distribution (like centos) might be worth looking into. Both are popular, quite stable and should run on older computers. I wouldn't dismiss the *BSDs, either - I hear that long term support of older hardware is one of their strengths.

Maybe try a LiveCD first to see if audio and GPU works?


To disconnect an XP machine from the network, simply open the network settings and set a static IP address without specifying gateway or DNS server (don't allow it to get an IP via DHCP from your router!). Or read the router manual carefully: there's no standardized functionality or terminology, a "Green zone" (or whatever) can mean anything the router vendor wants it to mean. Make sure the filters you're configuring are what you want.

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somitomi
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Re: Linuxifying my PC?

Postby somitomi » Tue Mar 07, 2017 3:48 pm UTC

Tub wrote:What video card do you use?

ATI Radeon HD3450
Tub wrote:Maybe try a LiveCD first to see if audio and GPU works?

That's seems like the best course of action at the moment.
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Re: Linuxifying my PC?

Postby Tub » Tue Mar 07, 2017 9:00 pm UTC

AMD's open source drivers are pretty great. Your HD3450 (R600) should work out of the box in pretty much any distribution, including 3d acceleration and hw video decode.

Sound card.. you'll have to test. Probably fine, but no guarantees.


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