June 07, 2006

Curious George: You bunt, too? I'm installing Ubuntu Linux on an old (Win98) PC. It's my first time with open source. What's good?

So there's this extra machine lying around my family's house which I'm refurbishing for Father's Day. My main goal is to use this as an internet/e-mail/word processing kiosk, with possibly some media serving thrown in. Beyond OpenOffice, Thunderbird, Gaim and the Gimp, what Linux software would you recommend for a family PC? Bonus points if it's easy enough for my mom to use. Thanks monkeys! And millions of apologies if this has been asked before (--> noob)

  • What's in this "old PC". How old is it, exactly. Ubuntu's more in favor of newer hardware.
  • Not terribly old, I suppose. The Ubuntu LiveCD ran beautifully, so I'm not anticipating hardware issues. Ca. 1998, 800 MHz PIII, 256 MB RAM, a 128 MB GeForce video card...? I'm pretty clueless about hardware, really.
  • Oops. A 64 MB GeForce card. See what I mean? Terrible with hardware.
  • Ubuntu should probably run fine on that hardware. I'm running it on some even older and crappier junk. There's tons of stuff in Ubuntu. If you start up the graphical package manager "synaptic", you can explore around and check out stuff for internet, graphics, music, games ... whatever you like.
  • To make things easier you can use Automatix (which I have tried) or Easy Ubuntu (which I haven't tried, but seems to be more or less the same thing with a prettier interface) which will install a bunch of very useful stuff like mp3 codecs and other multimedia.
  • Nice thing about the programs that you mentioned is that they all come bundled with the OS. Installed by default, even. (If my memory serves me.) I use XMMS for listening to music, but I'm a bit of a crusty old crank about that sort of thing. I understand it's an old-skool program, and someone else can probably recommend the New Hot Thing.
  • If anyone wants to take Linux for a spin without actually installing it, Knoppix will boot quite readily from a CD and supports most common hardware.
  • Re: Ubuntu packaged apps that get used regularly Comix (a cbr reader), GIMP, Inkscape, Bit Tornado (*ahem* for legal torrents only, of course), Firefox (obviously), Gaim, Logjam, OpenOffice.org, XMMS, VLC Media Player, Prokyon3 (MySQL required), Sound Juicer, System Log, System Monitor, and the default terminal program. For a family PC? It depends on the family. For my Mom and Dad, I'd include crossword puzzle generators, recipe databases, and tools to look up scores for Australian Rules Football, EL football, Celtic League football, and rugby (and *cough* record dv of games for Dad to view later). For my sister and her son, I'd probably make a dual boot so that he can view the latest Nickelodeon bells and whistles and so that she can use office type apps. For me and my hubbin, the above programs are what we need. (And I'll second the Automatix/Easyubuntu mention...)
  • Torcs and tuxracer for the kids. F-Spot looks like quite a good image library tool. I personally love Gnumeric as a lightweight and very full-featured spreadsheet. Gnucash for the family accountant. People who are used to Outlook or Exchange may well prefer Evolution as a mail client.
  • Windows killer!
  • I've just installed Ubuntu too (inside VMWare - gone are the days when I used to waste a partition on trying out the latest Linux distros) and I have to say it's probably the nicest, easiest, most complete Linux distribution I've ever used. This is despite it being Gnome-based by default, when historically I've been a KDE man. Good luck with it!
  • All the above packages might interest you. However, if you are into getting your hands dirty with Cubase / Finale, you might try Rosegarden, with the accompanying engraving sheet program, Lilypond. I started dabbling with linux back in 1995, and it was daunting. Ubuntu is so utterly friendly, that everybody in your household will love it. Yes, even the dog. Couple things to take into account: visit the forums, as they have reams of useful and relevant information; add repositories to your synaptic list, and last but not least, burn a CD of the latest distribution (dapper): always useful. Ah, proselitize!
  • Amarok Picasa mplayer with firefox-plugin is a must. K3b if ya got a burner. ipodder for all your kexp podcasts. Azureus for bittorrent. I know its a resource hog but the benefits eclipse the drawbacks. Firestarter, make it a router and run your firewall from one easy interface. Kismet and a cheap Prism card lets you spy on your neighbors. LiVes for your video editing (need to compile yourself). make sure to install nautilus-open-terminal package. That is all I got right now.
  • I prefer Kubuntu to Ubuntu, because I prefer KDE to GNOME. It's fairly easy to switch to Kubuntu if you've already installed Ubuntu. Like others have mentioned, check out Ubuntu's forums, there's lots of really good information there. Other than that, I'd second AmaroK and mplayer. I also like KDE's edutainment package (KStars especially).
  • Oo. Thanks guys! Looks like I've got a nice bit of software to check out. And Camilo -- sequencing and engraving goes a bit beyond my family, but ohhh do those programs sound interesting to me. Finale is the devil.
  • Amarok is the best music player/ipod controller thingamy I've used on any platform. Definately worth a look. K3B for burning CDs and stuff. I use Digikam for playing with my camera/photos, because at the time I was looking for something it did stuff that f-spot didn't. Can't remember what it was though.
  • I've installed it, and it comprises more than 60% of my hard drive space. It's so nice to play in Linux again, even with this gentle version. Hell, it's been more than 10 years since I configured a DNS server. Yipes.
  • Well, there's too much fscking perspective.