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Linux Computers

Linux Desktops

I have been experimenting with Linux for about ten years now. Back then, you read a lot about Linux, learned about Linus Torvalds and started using words like distro and abbreviating Microsoft M$. Then you either decided on a distro and found hardware that it would run on or looked hard at your hardware and then found a distro that would play nice with it, you hoped. The two killers were network and video. Hope and pray that your video card was Linux friendly because it is really hard to troubleshoot a video driver when you can't see the screen. Did I mention you needed to learn to love the command line again?
If you want, you can still download and create a command line only Linux computer. CentOS is one. It makes a great server and it can be up and running in about an hour. It is not a good desktop.
I am a fan of the Ubuntu based desktops. I have built three or four different versions, and they all share some great features:

  • Demonstration and Installation from a LiveCD. 1)
  • Answer a few questions, run the wizard, and have a new computer in about an hour.
  • Very basic system requirements.
  • A helpful user base. Friendly too.

My current favorite is PeppermintOS. It is a lightweight variant of Linux Mint which is in turn a variant of Ubuntu 2)
There are other variations based on Ubuntu. It has radically changed the Linux world. I can not stress this enough. The Ubuntu community is by far and away the friendliest and most forgiving of new users. If you want “How do I…?” to be answered with “Like this…” You want the Ubuntu community.

Choosing a Version

Somewhere, there is a Linux hardliner who is freaking out because I am not talking about distros. Sorry. Distro, short for distribution, a version of Linux. Distrowatch keeps statistics on Linux distributions and ranks the top 100. This might be a good time to point out that hard core Linux users find the 8 versions of Windows 8 an example of how wrong Microsoft is.
I use Peppermint because my first Linux laptop is a Dell D610 that was shipped at the end of September 2005. It has 1Gb of RAM, a 1.86GHZ Pentium M chip and a 40Gb hard drive. It had an interchangeable 3.5“ floppy drive when it was new. It takes one of its sister computers more than two minutes to get to the Windows XP login screen. Peppermint will be running in half that if you can remember your password.
Hardware Requirements for Selected Linux Distributions

NameMemory min/sugHard Drivenotes
Mint512/1Gb5-10GbCinnamon & MATE Desktops - KDE
Edubuntu1Gb20Gb Edubuntu is an education specific Ubuntu installation

Just try to do anything on a Windows XP computer with 512Mb of RAM. Windows by itself is going to be about 4Gb of hard drive. All of these are complete installations with room to store files.


As each of these is built on an Ubuntu core, they all install about the same. Go to the website, download the install medium, build a CD, DVD, or bootable USB and boot the computer to it.
This is the short form. It should take you from a donor computer to a working Linux computer in less than 30 minutes. The full version can be found at Download and Install Peppermint OS. This assumes the donor computer is a soon to be ex-Windows computer.
If you have never worked with .iso files, I suggest ISO Recorder by Alex Feinman. There is a 'Burn to CD/DVD' function built into Windows, but I find ISORecorder easier to use. If you want to build a bootable USB drive, use Unetbootin.
Now boot to your CD (or DVD. From here on out I will be only using CD. If the installer of your choice will not fit on a CD, it works the same from a DVD or USB drive.) or USB drive. Chances are, if you have a CD the computer will boot to a one line screen asking you to boot to the CD. Say yes. If your computer starts to start Windows. Hit ctrl + alt + delete and look for a flash on the screen that says setup. Hit whatever key setup is. Welcome to the BIOS setup screen. Find the settings for boot order and change it so the CD drive is before the hard drive. Save the changes and reboot. Don't worry about it messing up the machine. If there isn't a bootable CD in the drive it will try the next item on the boot order list.
Now for answering seven hard questions:

  1. Do you want to experiment a little bit or just dive right in and install? Try Peppermint OS Live will create a Linux computer that will go away when you power it down.
  2. Choose a language
  3. Pass a quick test. You do need to be connected to the internet to run the installer. I choose both 'Download updates' and 'Install 3rd party software'. The updates just make sense. The third party software lets your new computer play mp3 files.
  4. Installation Type. If you know Linux partitions, you can set them here. Had this been an old Windows computer, it would have detected the Windows partition, looked at the remaining space on the disk and asked you if you wanted both. It is up to you. If you keep both operating systems, you will need to chose which one you want on every power up.
  5. Where are you? Really I am in St. Louis, but Chicago sets the time zone correct.
  6. Choose a keyboard. There is a long, long list. Just remember, if you choose Esperanto, you should probably speak Esperanto.
  7. Names and passwords. Yes you can set up your computer to log you in automatically.

Quiz over. Hope you got an A. Now the files will start to install. This takes about 15 minutes.

What Now

In about 15 to 20 minutes your new computer will tell you it is time to reboot. Remove the CD and reboot. Don't go anywheret. Unlike a Windows computer, Peppermint will go from the memory test beep to ready to login in about 20 seconds. From password to desktop is going to be less.
So what can you do? Chromium is the default browser. “Chromium? Never heard of it.”
Yes you have. It is Chrome for Linux.
Need to type up a paper, Google Docs. I am not a big fan of Google Docs, especially the spreadsheet program. I installed LibreOffice instead.
“There are no games for Linux.” Chess, Entanglement (try it) Tetris, and Solitaire install off the bat. Grand Theft Auto? Not Yet. But there are many games for Linux.
Dropbox is installed, just enter your account information and your files will start syncing. There is an iPod compatible MP3 player. A Photoshop worthy image editor. For a bare bones system, you get a complete machine.
Peppermint makes use of a program called Ice. Ice creates a singe site browser to a webpage. For example, you could create an email “program” that would be a single
Gotcha! There is one little Gotcha. Peppermint installs DuckDuckGo as its default search engine. DuckDuckGo does not track your Internet usage like Google does. But it does produce sponsored results. All of the results are sponsored. The results are slightly different than Google. See below.


The Synaptic Package Manager is the default way of loading new programs. Pretty simple really. Look up the program by name, click install, and click apply.
My collection of Peppermint Wallpaper on DeviantArt.
Peppermint OS Review on IT World
Another review Duskfire One more Linuxexplore

A live CD creates a working computer in memory. It does not change anything on the host computer. In the Live CD environment, you can see how the computer works or choose to install the OS.
I do not name software. Ubuntu is an ancient African word meaning 'humanity to others'. It also means 'I am what I am because of who we all are'.