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Offline Titanscape

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Linux, Which Version?
« on: 12/12/2007 03:00:55 »
Does anyone here know about Linux freeware, downloads... can it run from a USB? Which version is best for students and business.


 

another_someone

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Linux, Which Version?
« Reply #1 on: 12/12/2007 03:46:10 »
There are versions which will run from USB pen drives, as well as version that will run from CDs (without downloading to your hard disk), as well as those that you can install on a partition on your hard disk.

Are you looking for something with the latest releases of everything, or looking for something that is ultra stable?

Are you looking for small memory footprint, or lots of flash features?

The most stable (but inevitably, not with the latest features) is Debian.  On the other hand, this is usually installed rather than run from a CD or pen drive.

Ubuntu is a version of Debian with more frequent updates.

Knoppix is a version designed to run from a CD without being installed on a hard disk.  It should also be able to run from a pen drive, although may not best make use of the features of a pen drive.

All versions of mainstream Linux will support Mozilla (firefox and thunderbird) for Internet access (also other alterntives), and Open Office for usual office applications.  Lots of other things for various jobs, but it really depends on what you are looking for.  Many windows applications can also be run from under Wine in Linux (but I would imagine it is better to do that with an installed Linux that one running from a CD or USB pen drive).

Ofcourse, if you're really into learning about Linux, then something like Gentoo allows you to build your own Linux from source, with total mix and match of everything.

Some sites to look at for the almost infine list of Linux Distros:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Linux_distributions
http://distrowatch.com/
http://www.reviewlinux.com/
« Last Edit: 12/12/2007 03:54:44 by another_someone »
 

Offline Titanscape

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« Reply #2 on: 12/12/2007 06:40:19 »
Thanks, I'll look into it.

I like the sound of Ubuntu. How do you deal with instability in Ubuntu?

If I run knoppix from a USB memory stick, or CD, where does it store my new documents and downloads?

My interest is for researching the internet, mainly for business, email, online conference, study research and study and business documenting, encrypting, zipping, unzipping, presentations, spreadsheets, databases, family photos, HP scanning of documents, and maybe some technical designs.

I kind of fancied the idea that I could carry my whole operating system and thus office with me on my 4 GIG USB memory stick.

And I have two old hard drives, I will make one an external HD, maybe only running Ubuntu, or partioning it from the old Windows ME.

And on the other, I could try out Fedora, or Suse...

I don't want to risk messing up my present HD with a failed partition.

 

another_someone

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« Reply #3 on: 12/12/2007 08:26:52 »
Lots of people do run Linux from an external hard drive (through a USB connection).  When you talked of USB, I assumed you meant a pen drive.

The main issue about a hard drive on a USB connection is that when you move to another machine, you will not have set up the master boot partition to recognise the external drive.

When you boot off a CD, what it then does is create a RAM drive, and maps the CD over the RAM drive, so it reads from the CD, but if it needs to write, it writes to the RAM drive, and then if it reads again, it checks first to see if there is something newer of the RAM drive, if so it uses that, otherwise it reads from the CD.  In that configuration, you can still mount other devices (USB pen drives, existing hard disk partitions, etc.) as additional devices, and read and write to them also, but it starts by assuming the only thing it has to write to is the RAM drive (which will vanish after the system is rebooted).

Ofcourse, one thing you have to bear in mind is the USB pen drives have a limited number of write cycles before they start to fail (it is not a small number - cannot recollect what it is - but it is far fewer than magnetic devices such as hard disks).

What you can do is boot off the CD (I think you can change the default configuration on the CD before you write out the CD), and then get the CD to recognise the external USB hard disk drive, and use that for its swap area, and other data needs.

As I indicated above, the advantage in booting off the CD is that if you try and boot of the existing hard disk, it will read the master boot record to understand what operating systems are available on the system to boot, and if it is not a machine you have configured (i.e. you are booting off someone else's machine), you will not have a master boot record that will recognise your external hard drive as containing a bootable operating system.

Even with a CD, you will still have to make sure that the BIOS is configured to allow the system to boot off the CD, but most systems are configured that way by default, so unless someone has reconfigured the system otherwise (as maybe they might do for security reasons) then that is probably how you will find the system.

The other possibility is to have a small program that loads under windows and the loads linux over the top of the windows operating system after windows has already been booted.  You almost certainly would need to be under administrator authority to do this, and if someone is paranoid enough not to allow you to boot off a CD, they are almost certainly paranoid enough not to give you administrator authority on the computer.  I used to use this method on older versions of Windows, so I don't know if it still works on current Windows versions, but I am guessing it probably does.
« Last Edit: 12/12/2007 09:08:35 by another_someone »
 

another_someone

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« Reply #4 on: 12/12/2007 09:24:19 »
Having looked further into it, the option of loading Linux after Windows existed only with DOS based systems, or Windows sitting on top of DOS (windows 95 and Windows98), since the system had to be able to be switched into real mode, which is not an option with Windows NT based systems (which includes Windows 2000, and Windows XP - let alone Windows Vista).

So the only option you remain with is booting from a boot loader, which means either rewriting the master boot record on the hard disk, or booting from a secondary device, such as a USB pen drive, floppy, or CD.
« Last Edit: 12/12/2007 09:25:52 by another_someone »
 

Offline that mad man

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« Reply #5 on: 12/12/2007 15:08:53 »
Hi.

Like another_someone says a mainstream Debian based distro like Ubuntu is a good start. It has many software packages included and 1000's more can be downloaded for free.

Easy to use and setup and if you are not sure and want to just try it then get the "live" cd. Because it works in ram it can be slow. You can also order a number of cd's from the Ubuntu site a have them delivered by post absolutely free!
I have also found it to be very stable and maintenance free.


I am using Linux 64studio (debian) as I do a lot of music. It is in a dual boot configuration with WindowsXP using the "grub" boot loader so I can chose which to boot up into. I also have a spare hd (fat32) that can be shared between both. There can be one problem with Linux and that is it does not like the windows NTFS file system, the reason I have the spare drive as a fat32 partition.

I don't use Windows for the net only Linux so no need for firewalls, viri checkers etc. (for now anyway)


Fedora and suse are very good and stable but they come on multiple cd's, I think fedora has 6 to install as opposed to Ubuntu's one.



 

another_someone

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« Reply #6 on: 12/12/2007 15:48:51 »
The number of CDs in Fedora and SuSE is not meaningful.  All the extra CDs provide is the optional packages.  Both systems really still only have one core CD (or, increasingly, can be provided on DVD, and then you can even get 6 or 7 CD's worth onto one DVD).  Just be glad you are not installing this in the days when everything was installed off floppies.

To be honest, if you have a broadband connection, I would no longer bother ordering CD's, and would just download what I want from the Internet - then you know you have the latest, and you don't need to pay someone to write out the CD's.

Both SuSE and Fedora (Red Hat) are highly respected standard distributions, but are generally more geared towards the commercial market (i.e. they produce products that people pay for, and then produce stripped down products as a freebee, because if they did not provide the free stuff they would engender a lot of ill will in the market, but not because that is where their business model is focussed - whereas Debian is so obsessed with the free software market that they won't even touch something unless it is 100% open and free; but Ubuntu, while looking to a free model, is willing to be more forgiving of packages that are not totally free and open).

One advantage with Red Hat and SuSE is the use of the RPM packaging system, against the Debian packaging system (which is also used by Ubuntu) - it seems to be slightly more widely supported, and some of the less available pieces of software are more likely to be available in an RPM package (you don't actually need any packages, if you want to install things the hard way - but the packages make the installation easier and more friendly, so if you are that way inclined, which package type it is delivered in is of relevance).

If I recollect, Knoppix uses the Red Hat package manager (RPM), although there is a variant of it that I think also supports the Debian package system, and as you have indicated, Ubuntu do themselves have a LiveCD version of Ubuntu (although I am not sure if it is maintained as up to date as the main hard disk installable version).
« Last Edit: 12/12/2007 15:51:32 by another_someone »
 

Offline that mad man

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« Reply #7 on: 12/12/2007 16:36:58 »
I use a program in debian called alien that can transfers rpm's to debs so it make life a bit easier but I generally compile my own. Like you say some packages are not be available on both versions.

Yep, I agree about downloading the cd's especially as a new version is out almost every six months. Using the package managers makes it easy to update on-line as well.
 

Offline Titanscape

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« Reply #8 on: 19/12/2007 05:11:04 »
Can I download from CD, Ubuntu, the second last version, to my EHD, and start up from my EHD? Say I press F8 on my keyboard instead of opting for Windows XP. Or maybe it will automaticly try starting up from the external HD?

My EHD can be transported and why not attach it to a computer in another city sometime and thus take my office with me?
 

another_someone

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« Reply #9 on: 19/12/2007 06:38:19 »
Can I download from CD, Ubuntu, the second last version, to my EHD, and start up from my EHD? Say I press F8 on my keyboard instead of opting for Windows XP. Or maybe it will automaticly try starting up from the external HD?

My EHD can be transported and why not attach it to a computer in another city sometime and thus take my office with me?

If both machines are yours, and you can configure them as you like, then you should be able to get something to work; but if you do not have the rights to reconfigure either of those machines, then you have a problem.

You have to understand how a PC boots an operating system to understand what is and is not possible.

1) When a PC starts up, it loads the BIOS.  Within the BIOS will be configured which devices may be looked for to find the next stage of the load process.  This is usually configured with loading from the first hard disk, the floppy unit, the CD unit, and possibly a USB device.  The configuration will select that these may be searched in a specific order, or that some devices may not be looked at at all.  Some machines can be also configured to look at the second hard drive (not sure if this will include allowing for an external hard drive - you will have to experiment with reconfiguring your particular BIOS to see which options are allowed).

2) The BIOS will search to see which of these devices are available (in the order defined), and the first device it finds with a valid format.  If it finds something on a floppy, CD, USB, it will try and load the operating system directly from that.  If it finds a hard disk, it will try and load a 'Master Boot Record' from the start of that hard disk that tells it which partitions exist on the hard disk, and which partition contains the primary 'active' operating system, and it will try and load the operating system from there.

3) Often, when you have multiple operating systems on a system, the user will create a small partition that contains a 'Boot manager' as its 'active' operating system.  The BIOS will load this 'Boot manager', and the 'Boot manager' will pop up and ask the user which partition (which may any partition on be on any hard disk) the user wishes to load the real operating system from.  If you have Windows and Linux on two different partitions, then it is normally this boot manager which will load, and ask you whether you want to load from the Windows partition or the Linux partition.

Clearly, if you have total control over all of the machines you use, then you should install a 'Boot manager' on both machines, and the 'Boot manager' can be configured to ask if you want to load an operating system from your external hard disk.

If you cannot install a 'Boot manager', but the machines are configured (within the BIOS) to look first to the CD drive, before looking to the hard disk, for an operating system; then you can boot Windows from the hard disk, but if you put the Linux CD in the CD drive, then the system should see the Linux CD before it looks at the hard drive, and so will in that case load Linux rather than Windows.

Having said all of the above, although most Linux people prefer to use 'GRUB' or 'LILO' as a 'Boot manager', Windows NT, Windows XP (also Vista but in that case it is slightly different) will have already installed its own 'Boot manager', and this can be modified by editing the file called 'boot.ini'.

Have a look at one of these web pages for details of what to do with 'boot.ini':

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NTLDR
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/289022

If you want to use the Windows boot manager, then edit the boot.ini file, add your external hard drive as a boot option.  Then, whenever the system boots, it will ask whether you want to load the primary Windows partition, or Linux from the external drive (it will probably ask this even if the external drive is not attached - it will not look for what is there, it will only look at what is listed in the 'boot.ini' file).   Usually, if you don't select anything after 30 seconds, it will select the default option (which should be configured as the Windows partition, since that is what will always be available).
« Last Edit: 19/12/2007 06:59:05 by another_someone »
 

Offline Titanscape

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Linux, Which Version?
« Reply #10 on: 22/12/2007 13:36:30 »
 

Offline Titanscape

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« Reply #11 on: 22/12/2007 14:44:44 »
Should I delete or reconfigure my external HD first? It has stuff on it. No need for a partition?

Merry christmas.
 

another_someone

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« Reply #12 on: 22/12/2007 15:07:42 »
If your external HD is presently formatted as a single Windows drive, without any spare space, then you will have to either remove the partition that is there, or shrink the partition sufficiently to make room for a Linux partition.

You should also set up at least two partitions on your external HD, one for Linux, and one for a Linux swap area (in Windows, the swapping is done to a file that is stored on a file within the usual Windows partition, but with Linux, swapping is done to a separate partitions).

Linux partitions are formatted differently from Windows partitions (although they can be made to read each others partition), so you have to make sure you format the partition appropriate for the operating system which will own it.

One thing I am still concerned about (but never having played that much with external hard disks, I don't know how it will work out) is if you are moving the external HD from one machine to another, if the system identifies the disk differently on the two machines (because it may be attached to a different controller, or because the machine has more other devices that it loads before the HD), how will it manage that issue, and will it know to mount the HD in the same way.
 

Offline that mad man

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« Reply #13 on: 22/12/2007 18:19:50 »
The Ubuntu forums are very helpful but I must admit, like another_someone, that I know little about setting up external hard drives.

The Ubuntu install allows you to chose how to partition the drives and also sets up the swap file for you. It also formats it as well.

If the drive you will be using has lots of space then I would recommend partitioning it first especially if you want to share a partition with windows.

To share data you will need a FAT32 partition because the Windows NTFS is not reliable when written to from Linux. (Microsoft will not release the NTFS code) I think with Ubuntu you can only read the NTFS partition anyway.

As an idea:

One partition as FAT32 to be shared between Linux and Windows and leave the other blank as Linux will partition and format it for itself on install.

You may have a problem if you move the drive to another machine because Linux writes out some configuration files on install and uses them on boot. The main problem there would be the configuration of the video card and monitor as it may not recognise them and you WILL then end up with a blank screen or just a command prompt.

Easily solved but can be hard for someone new to Linux.


Out of interest this is my Desktop computer set-up:

Dual boot with winxp and linux 64studio.

1 x 320gb drive partitioned;
1 x 160gb partition for Windows using NTFS and 1 x 160gb split (swap, home and data) partitions for Linux using Ext3

1 x 40gb drive for sharing using FAT32

Hope that helps.






 

another_someone

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« Reply #14 on: 22/12/2007 19:12:16 »
You could probably fudge the video card by selecting a generic VESA driver rather than a card specific driver - although this will mean you will not be using the card at its maximum resolution.
 

Offline that mad man

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« Reply #15 on: 23/12/2007 16:35:21 »
Just in case:

dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg

Use this command in a root terminal if the video is not working right and follow the instructions.
Best to know beforehand the make and model of the video card and refresh rate/resolution of the monitor.
I had to reconfigure my video as the monitors 1440x900 wide-screen mode was not showing up.


As another_someone said, it should work by just choosing the generic vesa driver.

Linux can sometime be a pain to set up especially for a newbie but once done you will have no need to change it at all.
 

Offline Titanscape

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« Reply #16 on: 29/12/2007 14:35:26 »
How can I test for the correct resolution in the graphics?

 

Offline that mad man

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« Reply #17 on: 29/12/2007 15:59:53 »
Hi.

I take it that you have installed it ok and without problems. If so then great stuff!

There should be a tab under > desktop > preferences where you can check or set the resolution.

I'm using 64 studio which is also Debian so I think it should be in the same place on Ubuntu.

Have a looksee here as well:

http://ubuntuforums.org/showpost.php?p=129379&postcount=21

You can usually find an answer on the Ububtu forums as they are quite friendly but check the FAQ's and how to first.

Linux can take some time to configure properly but its worth it in the end.





 

Offline Titanscape

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« Reply #18 on: 21/03/2008 12:10:50 »
Hi, thanks, I didn't reply because I started some studies and was applying myself to some sales and stuff.

I ordered and got in my mail Ubuntu 7.10, and had a look, I have and external hard drive, with some documents on it which I can lose since I have back up copies in two places.

I just need to be sure to download to the EHD, and need to change my boot order and know what my computer calls the two HDs.

This is what I found in my boot section:

[boot loader]
timeout=30
default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition" /fastdetect /NoExecute=OptIn
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition" /fastdetect

How do I modify it?

Apart from that, part of it really is according to instructions found here:

http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=678146

So do I need to partition my EHD? What is MBR? What is Grub? It should go on my EHD right? Is the formatting of the drive automatic? Afterward, do I need to or best upgrade?

Thanks in advance.
« Last Edit: 21/03/2008 12:14:48 by Titanscape »
 

Offline that mad man

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« Reply #19 on: 21/03/2008 19:03:40 »
Darn, I'm not familiar with installing on an external drive.

Normally its not necessary to change the boot order or edit anything in Windows at all as Ubuntu should install its own boot loader called Grub.

At the end of the install if all goes well it should check the HD's for any other OS and give you the option to install the grub loader.

The next time you boot you will be met with a new boot screen where you can then chose what OS you want to boot into.
Be quick on the keys though as it has a quick default time out and will boot into Linux first.

The main thing important is to make sure you install it to the correct hard drive.

One thing you may need to do is partition and format the External drive which can be confusing for some. This is usually done as a choice on installation but I cant remember if Ubuntu has an automatic mode.

Otherwise you may need to create some partitions yourself.

a root partition / ...... the largest partition needed for the OS
a home partition ..... large for personal files
a swap partition ...... 2 1/2 times the size of memory

Hope that helps and not confuses..

BTW the "MBR" stands for Master Boot Record, a hidden section on the main drive where the bios look to find the boot information and acts accordingly.
« Last Edit: 21/03/2008 19:09:29 by that mad man »
 

Offline Karen W.

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« Reply #20 on: 21/03/2008 19:13:29 »
I lost my everything in my computer switching over because of a partitioning problem and the program wiped out my old hard drive information piccy's  files documents,,, everything.... George would probably know though he uses  this also!
 

Offline Titanscape

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« Reply #21 on: 07/06/2008 21:41:14 »
I have installed Debian Lenny, on a test computer, so I was wondering about what Studio 64 is like?

Also how do I manually partition my non test hard drive, to have the above suggested partitions?

Finding the right sets of packages, is that tricky?

Why choose Studio 64 instead of Debian Etch, configured with arts packages?

Does anyone recommend Slackware? Or Fedora?

I am interested in downloading compiz fusion.
 

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« Reply #21 on: 07/06/2008 21:41:14 »

 

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