Saturday, November 08, 2008

Linux for beginners

My daughter has been bugging me for her own computer for a few months. I finally decided to rehabilitate an old ThinkPad i Series that's been in my basement for her use.

Unfortunately, it's running Windows 98 and the PCMCIA Ethernet card won't recognize the connection from our broadband router. When I bought the ThinkPad in 1999 for $3000 (!) dial-up was the norm, and I never had it hooked up to a broadband connection in the four or five years I used it. I added the Ethernet jack in order to network it to my iMac and function as the iMac's print server (using an old printer that only had serial ports), but now I need it to work as a standalone, Internet terminal. Windows 98 TCP/IP troubleshooting is a mess. I could try getting a wireless card, but instead I am going to take a stab at installing Linux. This may not solve the Ethernet connection problem, but it's worth a shot, and will give me a chance to see Linux up close.

One minor obstacle: Online Linux resources are not optimized for beginners. Try searching for "Linux for beginners" and you'll see what I mean. Many of the top resources are many years old, and/or are actually meant for non-beginners -- people who are comfortable with partitioning hard drives and working from a command line. I can deal with this, but many true beginners will give up when they start to look at these sites. It's a PR issue that the Linux community should really address, if they want to operating system to gain more traction.

Anyway, I am leaning toward Ubuntu, which some former colleagues have recommended. I don't have a blank CD at home, so I'll have to get one and give it a go. I'll let readers know how it goes ...

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