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WinXP to Linux Instead of Windows 7





martinscott
I have been a Microsoft/PC person since PC-DOS 1.1, but this Win7 thing is getting silly, particularly if I have to do a clean install instead of an upgrade over my WinXP, with the ONLY motivation to keep from having an unsupported OS (and shake me down for $200 for the privilidge).

So, since I have to do a clean install, is there a well-supported Linux OS product that will run on my various WinXP PCs (Dell 450, Dell Optiplex 745, Sony Vaio, HP Laptop) and run the following apps:

* MS-DOS Window (for PC-Write and other DOS programs);
* OpenOffice;
* Sea Monkey browser and email;
* Quicken;
* Basic I/O connectivity (for USB thumb drive and SD Card);
* Reasonable free antivirus software (like Avast, Malwarebytes, SuperAntiSpyware);
* Skype;
* CD/DVD Burner.

Optional:
* Virtual CD 4.5;
* Mototola Phone Tools;
* Windows Media Player;
* Office 2000 (hey, I can at least ask).

I am not a Linux person, but have kept up with the PC/Microsoft thing enough to keep my computers as a useful tool. Any advice, specific of general, would be appreciated.


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deanhills
martinscott wrote:
I have been a Microsoft/PC person since PC-DOS 1.1, but this Win7 thing is getting silly, particularly if I have to do a clean install instead of an upgrade over my WinXP, with the ONLY motivation to keep from having an unsupported OS (and shake me down for $200 for the privilidge).

So, since I have to do a clean install, is there a well-supported Linux OS product that will run on my various WinXP PCs (Dell 450, Dell Optiplex 745, Sony Vaio, HP Laptop) and run the following apps:

* MS-DOS Window (for PC-Write and other DOS programs);
* OpenOffice;
* Sea Monkey browser and email;
* Quicken;
* Basic I/O connectivity (for USB thumb drive and SD Card);
* Reasonable free antivirus software (like Avast, Malwarebytes, SuperAntiSpyware);
* Skype;
* CD/DVD Burner.

Optional:
* Virtual CD 4.5;
* Mototola Phone Tools;
* Windows Media Player;
* Office 2000 (hey, I can at least ask).

I am not a Linux person, but have kept up with the PC/Microsoft thing enough to keep my computers as a useful tool. Any advice, specific of general, would be appreciated.


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Why do you want to change to Windows 7 or Linux? If WinXP is working well, what would your reason be for changing to anything else?
Ankhanu
Valid question there.

But, as far as I know, you shouldn't have an issue with any of that, other than perhaps the DOS programs and Quicken (you won't really need the antivirus stuff either), in any of the modern Linux distros and some Windows emulation.

But yeah, if XP is workin for ya, why rock the boat?

As for the fresh install rather than an update for going XP->7, that has to do with the OS pretty much completely changing. It's not like taking Win98->WinME or something where the core OS is still the same; there are major changes to how the OS works from XP to Vista or 7, it is a replacement, not an upgrade.
Hogwarts
Nearly every Linux distrubution can do those -- with the exception of the "MS DOS Window" -- although you could probably run an MS DOS emulator.

Also, why do you think you'd need antivirus software? It's unnecessary if you use trusted repositories and maintain a secure system Wink
Fatality
"On April 8, 2014, all Windows XP support, including security updates and security-related hotfixes will be terminated." -http://support.microsoft.com/lifecycle/?C2=1173

You will be able to run Win XP for along time after Win 7 is released with or without support. XP is a very solid OS and if it works for you now there really isn't any reason to drop it because a new OS was released. As does all software, Windows 7 will have a price reduction by the time you're ready to upgrade.

If you are set on switching to Linux, many of the new distributions are great. They come more compatibility, better driver support and even Wine is becoming a good Windows emulator.

On a side note: I'm not sure about other techies here, but I reformat and do a fresh install of my OS every 6 months. I would actually rather install a fresh copy of an OS then upgrade from an older one.
Ankhanu
Fatality wrote:
On a side note: I'm not sure about other techies here, but I reformat and do a fresh install of my OS every 6 months. I would actually rather install a fresh copy of an OS then upgrade from an older one.


Annually here Smile
Peterssidan
For MS-DOS use DOSBox.
It is probably already in most distributions so it should be very easy to install.
AftershockVibe
Quicken itself can be run under WINE (a utility which allows Windows programs to run on Linux):
http://appdb.winehq.org/objectManager.php?sClass=application&iId=107

This is probably the easiest way if you already own Quicken. WINE is a breeze to set up nowadays.

There are similar native Linux apps that will do accounts as well though. However, they will do things in a different way like GNU Cash. The main criticism of it is that it "requires you to think like an accountant" - with things like Double Entry.
David_Pardy
Don't forget that you generally won't need any antivirus/anti-malware software if running Linux.

Most of these things are designed to infect Windows computers.
hunnyhiteshseth
Well all things same as being stated in above posts, I would beg to differ on the point that you don't need antivirus programs for linux.

Its true that most of computer viruses are made for Windows system because those are majorly use and have high probability of infection from other Windows System just because of their numbers. But infact viruses for Linux, and for that matter even Mac, can be made and are made. So, its a matter of time when you will encounter a linux virus.
David_Pardy
Well, considering I manage to continually avoid viruses on my Windows pc, I think you'd be pretty safe on Linux Wink.

And I did say 'generally', I didn't say they didn't exist.

The point is, that you don't actually really need to stress about an anti-virus product on a Linux PC.
sreservoir
martinscott wrote:
So, since I have to do a clean install, is there a well-supported Linux OS product that will run on my various WinXP PCs (Dell 450, Dell Optiplex 745, Sony Vaio, HP Laptop) and run the following apps:

* MS-DOS Window (for PC-Write and other DOS programs);


This is silly, but emulation could work. Why you have PC-Write, though...

Quote:

* OpenOffice;
* Sea Monkey browser and email;


often in the default install

Quote:

* Quicken;


Well, you could try emulating it, but there are programs that run natively to do more or less the same.

Quote:

* Basic I/O connectivity (for USB thumb drive and SD Card);


depends on driver support. unfortunately. there is a tool somewhere to let you take windows driver and wrap calls to it so that it works.

Quote:

* Reasonable free antivirus software (like Avast, Malwarebytes, SuperAntiSpyware);


generally not needed, as long as you don't do something stupid like executing random programs as root.

Quote:

* Skype;


http://www.skype.com/download/skype/linux/

Quote:

* CD/DVD Burner.


more driver work.

Quote:

Optional:
* Virtual CD 4.5;


mount -o loop arguments
or something like that

Quote:

* Mototola Phone Tools;


Try running it under wine.

Quote:

* Windows Media Player;


This is just silly.

Quote:

* Office 2000 (hey, I can at least ask).


Officially works under wine, iirc.

Quote:

I am not a Linux person, but have kept up with the PC/Microsoft thing enough to keep my computers as a useful tool. Any advice, specific of general, would be appreciated.


better than most people

yes, I know most of this has been stated before, but whatever
LostOverThere
Quote:
* Mototola Phone Tools;

Give KMobileTools a shot. It can connect to the majority of Motorola phones, and unlike Motorola Phone Tools, it's open source.
Agent ME
If you're new to looking at Linux, understand there is no single boxed-product called Linux out there to download. What most people simply call Linux is the combination of the Linux kernel and a lot of other free open source software (window managers, desktop environments, etc).

There are various Linux "Distributions" which are more similar to a packaged product. There are many different ones often striving to different goals (low-resources, sever, usability).

For desktop-use I recommend Ubuntu. You can download an ISO to burn to a cd, and then take it for a test run on your computer before you install it. (This makes no changes to your computer, and can give you an idea on how well it supports your hardware. Note that this test run won't run as well as a full install due to the lack of installed videocard drivers; after install, it will prompt you to let it install these, which is just a few clicks.)

martinscott wrote:
* MS-DOS Window (for PC-Write and other DOS programs);

DOSBox runs about all DOS programs very well.
sreservoir wrote:

martinscott wrote:

* Basic I/O connectivity (for USB thumb drive and SD Card);

depends on driver support. unfortunately. there is a tool somewhere to let you take windows driver and wrap calls to it so that it works.

Drivers for USB drives and SD cards are pretty much standard, and have always worked for me out-of-the-box.

martinscott wrote:

* Reasonable free antivirus software (like Avast, Malwarebytes, SuperAntiSpyware);

As said, this isn't really much of an issue on Linux. The only hacked Linux systems I've ever heard of had to do with people installing server programs that had problems in the past or had easy-to-guess passwords at the same time. (Ubuntu and most distros don't have any server-type programs set up already in a default install.)
sreservoir wrote:

martinscott wrote:

* CD/DVD Burner.

more driver work.

Depending if you have well-supported, it could work out of the box like mine.
martinscott wrote:

Optional:
* Virtual CD 4.5;

No need for a separate program to do this, Linux lets you mount ISO files transparently as a folder.

martinscott wrote:

* Mototola Phone Tools;

There are several programs for Linux that can connect to mobile phones, check those out to see if they work for your model. Otherwise, you'd probably have to run that program in a VM (virtualized machine).
Fire Boar
Another post, another person who is entirely used to the Windows Way. Linux is a little different, so I'll tell you in general what to expect. I presume all those PCs are between 1 and 8 years old. If that is correct, there is a huge chance that all the drivers you need are included in the latest Linux kernel. So, let's get started with your points:

martinscott wrote:
* MS-DOS Window (for PC-Write and other DOS programs);
* OpenOffice;
* Sea Monkey browser and email;
* Quicken;
* Basic I/O connectivity (for USB thumb drive and SD Card);
* Reasonable free antivirus software (like Avast, Malwarebytes, SuperAntiSpyware);
* Skype;
* CD/DVD Burner.


* As suggested, use DOSBox for MS-DOS apps. It's a free program, and runs DOS programs. Wine is another option, and you may end up installing that anyway depending on how reluctant you are to stray from Windows native programs.
* OpenOffice is almost always provided with the distribution. The Big Three (Ubuntu, Fedora and OpenSuSE) all provide it out of the metaphorical box, and you will almost certainly want to pick one of those for your first Linux.
* SeaMonkey is installable as a package in most distributions, and packages take just a few seconds to get and install. More on this later.
* As suggested, you can probably run Quicken on Wine, the Windows API reimplementation for Linux. But before you try, I'd suggest checking out what else is available as a package.
* USB and SD card devices are never a problem. Just plug them in and they'll work at full speed, no problem. If you've got an odd adapter, there might possibly be a problem, but it's extremely uncommon.
* Antivirus software is unnecessary. Forget about it. Viruses and Linux don't mix. Seriously, forget it. Forget everything you've been told about viruses. Antivirus software on Linux is unnecessary and a waste of space for a home user, companies will try and sell Linux versions that don't work to you to make a quick buck. The only time when antivirus is needed on Linux is for a file server, where you are receiving and sending files between Windows machines, in which case you will need to make sure the files are clean to avoid infecting the Windows computers. They won't affect the server at all though. This article about sums up why, but you can find more information from Google.
* Skype is often provided as a package, but a Linux download is available straight from Skype's website if not. Look out for it.
* For CD/DVD burning you can do anything at all. K3B is a great app, but there are loads more. Generally you'll find the program to burn disks pre-installed with a desktop distribution. K3B is standard for KDE desktops, you'll probably get something else with Gnome, but it should do the job just as well.

martinscott wrote:
Optional:
* Virtual CD 4.5;
* Mototola Phone Tools;
* Windows Media Player;
* Office 2000 (hey, I can at least ask).


* Virtual CD is totally unnecessary. The command line is a fantastic bit of kit, and you just need to remember a simple command to mount an ISO image. First create a directory to mount it on (this is where all the files on the disk will appear, more on mount points later) and then use:

Code:
mount -o loop -t iso9660 /path/to/image.iso /path/to/directory


Root access is required for that, but there are ways to fix it so that you can do without.

* Motorola phone tools has its open source equivalents. Check out your package manager and have a fiddle. If nothing else, Wine should work.
* Windows Media Player won't work as stated before. But why would you want to use it? After all, you're not using Windows, why use Windows Media Player? No, other software works just as well or better.
* I presume you mean Microsoft Office - this probably won't work properly, but OpenOffice is better anyway, and doc, xls, ppt, rtf... all supported.


There are a couple of other things that you might like to know. After the first two points I start to ramble on a bit, so feel free to skip it.

- Distributions. Linux comes in several flavours. Pick a distribution and get installing. Ubuntu is great for starting out, and is constantly coming up with new features that make Linux easier to use. Fedora is at the cutting edge of technology, is fairly straightforward to get installed and offers a very powerful system which, once you get to grips with, you'll love. OpenSuSE is a very polished distribution and looks very shiny, but I don't know much more about it than that.

- Packages. All major distributions offer a package management system, which means you have total control over all software installed on your system as a package (should be everything if possible, which 99% of the time it is). Each of the thousands of software packages available has a record on your computer and you can search for anything you like using a tool such as Synaptic Package Manager or KPackageKit. Once you've found what you're after, click on it and click "install" and it will automatically download anything it needs to install (after confirming with you the size of the download) from an internet repository and then install it automatically for you. It is then ready for use instantly. You can also update anything and everything if you want, at the same time, with just a few clicks. Convenience at its best.

- Reboots. You won't need to reboot your computer much, if at all. Linux is pretty damn stable, and can quite happily run for days, months, even years on end. The only time when you actually have to reboot is when you install a kernel update, which changes some of the core system. But you should never have to reboot to make an application start working. Of course, you'll probably not want to keep it on that much but that's up to you, the point is there's hardly any forced rebooting.

- Mount Points. There are no drives in Linux. There is just one huge directory tree, starting with the root folder which is imaginatively named /. This is the mount point of one of your hard disk partitions, which in Windows would be called C:, so /file.txt is like C:\file.txt. From there, everything else is mounted. Other partitions, external storage, everything. You might have a spare partition for all your personal files, that would be mounted on /home. Then /home/jim/file.txt would translate in Windows speak to D:\jim\file.txt. Or it might be located on the primary partition, still called /home/jim/file.txt but in Windows this would be C:\home\jim\file.txt. Then a CD drive might be mounted on /media/cdrom. Anything can be mounted anywhere, and the directory tree on whatever drive it is will be just above its mount point. It sounds confusing but it really isn't.

- Everything's a file. Everything. No registry, no cryptically hidden away things... just files. Even your RAM sticks are files. Everything plugged into your computer is a file. Your hard disk is probably the file /dev/sda. Your CD drive might be /dev/cdrom0. They're all files. Don't worry though, you can't accidentally delete one of these device files and damage your machine, because they are refreshed on reboot and they are owned by root so you won't have permission to do it without specifically elevating yourself. I wouldn't recommend trying though.

- Hidden files. There are no "system files" in Linux, as such, but there are hidden files. Hidden files are easy to spot: they all begin with the period (.) character. For example, /home/jim/.config/ might be a hidden directory containing configuration files that should not be edited manually. Generally, unlike in Windows, hidden files should stay hidden.

- Lib. Don't look in the /lib or /usr/lib directories, or your eyes will bleed.

- Insta-kill commands. Don't run any command as root unless you know exactly what it does. In general, you shouldn't need to use the command line much if at all, but you might like to play with it anyway depending on whether you're a nerd or not. Examples:

Code:
rm -r /

Deletes everything.

Code:
:(){:|:&}:;

A fun bit of code that runs itself twice, a separate process each. The implication is that in the first iteration, you have 1 process. The second, you have two. The third, you have four and so on. After about half a second of this you could have millions of running processes, and this will crash your computer. You can even run this without root privilages. It doesn't do any permanent damage, though you will lose unsaved data.

Code:
dd if=/dev/null of=/dev/sda


This is really nasty. Whatever of= comes to, it's pretty bad news, but this particular one writes zeroes to your hard disk. For variety, you could replace /dev/null with /dev/random to write random zeroes or ones to your hard disk - either way, it's very destructive.




I realize I've rambled on a lot here. So I'll sum up everything:

1) Try Linux! You never know until you do. And use a popular desktop distribution - it's popular for a good reason.
2) Don't install security software! It's unnecessary.
3) Use the package manager! It makes googling, downloading and using laborious installers history and makes updating a snap.
4) Open source = good! Try and find an open-source alternative to any Windows application you want to use before attempting to install the Windows app in Wine.
5) Use your root password sparingly! You don't need to have administrator privilages for everything like you do in Windows. Using the package manager and changing system settings is about all you'll need it for.
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