[conspire] Linux for a 1998 Dell Inspiron model 7000
rick at linuxmafia.com
Fri Feb 20 16:30:24 PST 2009
Mike wrote to me on Tuesday, which was a day when I had other things to
deal with, and had to put off replying. When he says "your site", he
means specifically http://linuxmafia.com/~rick/inspiron7000.html .
From: "Mike Kirk" <mikalk at charter.net>
To: < rick at linuxmafia.com >
Date: Tue, 17 Feb 2009 22:48:42 -0600
[RM: noxious MIME "quoted-printable" junk snipped.]
Rick - I ran across your site while surfing the net. I have 2 older Dell
7000 laptops. They are currently running Win 2000Pro. I would like to
wipe them and start all over. I have NEVER used Linux and have
absolutely no knowledge about it what so ever. I looked at the options
and there are now so many versions. I would like your recommendation on
which version to use on these old laptops. Is there a place I can
purchase a LINUX OS on a CD and boot and install it from the CD Drive
like in Windows? If so that would make it so much easier. Any
suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Mike Kirk - Illinois
Date: Fri, 20 Feb 2009 16:24:35 -0800
From: Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>
To: Mike Kirk <mikalk at charter.net>
Subject: Re: I7000
Quoting Mike Kirk (mikalk at charter.net):
> Rick - I ran across your site while surfing the net. I have 2 older
> Dell 7000 laptops. They are currently running Win 2000Pro. I would
> like to wipe them and start all over. I have NEVER used Linux and have
> absolutely no knowledge about it what so ever. I looked at the options
> and there are now so many versions. I would like your recommendation
> on which version to use on these old laptops. Is there a place I can
> purchase a LINUX OS on a CD and boot and install it from the CD Drive
> like in windows? If so that would make it so much easier. Any
> suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Sorry to have delayed the reply to your mail. As the saying goes, I was
living "in interesting times" that day. This is another busy work day,
but I wanted to make a few minutes to give you a basic response.
I do love my old Inspiron 7000, and one of these days need to open it up
and fix the charge socket so I can power it up again. I can tell you
where the weak point is going to be:
RAM. You probably have 128MB on each of them, right? That's certainly
adequate for _some_ Linux distributions if you're careful and avoid the
path of least resistance, which would take you to RAM-gobbling "desktop"
setups running prodigious amounts of default software. (According to my
notes, the maximum possible RAM on a 7000 is 384 MB, which requires
yanking a 64MB stick and buying and putting in a pair of 128MB ones.)
Even if you have 256MB, that's considered pretty much basement-level RAM
for a modern, general-variety Linux desktop setup, and there you _still_
need to eschew the path-of-least-resistance "desktops": KDE, GNOME,
So, when/if you select something to install and run (a Linux
distribution, what you're calling the "so many versions"), one really
vital starting point is the minimum hardware requirements for
Let's start with an example: Probably, the most frequently recommended
Linux distribution is Ubuntu, which provides GNOME -- or Kubuntu, which
is the same distribution, except with a KDE desktop instead of GNOME.
Recommended minimum requirements
Ubuntu should run reasonably well on a computer with the following
minimum hardware specification. However, features such as visual effects
may not run smoothly.
* 700 MHz x86 processor
* 384 MB of system memory (RAM)
In other words, the 7000 would creakingly support GNOME on the current
Ubuntu 8.10 release, but would be a little pokey -- because you're
spilling RAM like water. Kubuntu (KDE desktop) is more or less the
As the page says a bit further down, the Xfce4-based "Xubuntu" variant
is, in the current 8.10 release, a bit less bloated:
Recommended minimum requirements
* 800 MHz processor
* 256 MB of system memory (RAM)
Again, Xubuntu (Xfce4 desktop) is pretty lavish with RAM -- just not as
bad as GNOME or KDE.
That situation, by the way, is because the Ubuntu variants are aimed at
_modern_ computers as opposed to 11-year-old Inspirons -- and modern
computers have, let's face it, on average about 20 times as much RAM as
our model 7000s. Literally.
So, the bad news is that, because you're seeking an appropriate Linux
for an 11-year-old computer, you need to bring much more expertise and
care to the situation than if you were installing onto a computer from
the last few years -- even a junky one.
In particular, you need to eschew the "desktop" superstructures that
have been pushed so heavily to appeal to novice users. You'll need to
use one of the Linux distributions that provide an old-school X11 window
manager, without a "desktop" system on top of that.
Here is a good example: the "antiX" lightweight variant of the
SimplyMEPIS distribution. Article: http://distrowatch.com/?newsid=05328
While the main edition of SimplyMEPIS provides the KDE "desktop", this
variant for less lavish hardware eschews "desktops" and provides your
choice of the IceWM or Fluxbox window managers. (You can presumably
switch between those at will.)
To at least sort-of explain the difference between a basic window
manager and, by contrast, a system that runs a "desktop" on top of that,
Notice that you can visit subpages showing you what each window manager
(and what each "desktop") tends to look like, including all of the ones
I've mentioned above.
As you'll see on the link (above) to the article about antiX
SimplyMEPIS, you can download the entire 436MB CD image of the
distribution as a file, free of charge. You don't need to buy a copy.
You just burn the file to a blank CD-R or CD-RW disk, and you're done.
Because all of the contents are open source, it is perfectly lawful for
you to then do whatever you want with it, including installing it onto
any computers you wish, make copies for friends, etc., and you're not
violating anyone's rights or any laws.
antiX SimplyMEPIS, like the main edition of SimplyMEPIS, is described as
a "live CD". That means the CD boots up as a fully operating OS without
installing to the hard drive, running entirely from the CD and from RAM,
but also has an option you can use, if/when you wish, from its graphical
desktop, to install onto the system hard drive.
I'm glad to get you pointed in the right direction, but cannot be your
long-term help resource for an ongoing flow of answers about Linux. For
one thing, it's awesomely inefficient to do person-to-person free
technical support in private e-mail. So, we of the Linux community tend
to gently push people who engage us in private mail towards our hundreds
or thousands of Linux user groups around the world, and towards the
_public_ information forums and discussion areas, where at least
answering a question means you're helping a large number of people, and
not just one person.
I happen to be the person who maintains the "Linux User Group HOWTO",
which includes tips about how to find the existing groups near you:
You really should make contact with one or more. Typically, they have
monthly meetings with presentations, and almost always have discussion
forums online where questions can be asked and answered.
Enjoy Linux on your model 7000!
By the way, "Distrowatch" (URL above) is an interesting source of
information on Linux distributions. Please see also this page of mine:
One of the links I mention at that page, the Linux Distribution Chooser,
puts you through a questionnaire and then, at the end, recommends a list
of distributions that may meet your needs. I guesstimated what answers
you might give on the questionnaire. Of the six distributions it
recommended at the end, _all_ of them furnished either GNOME or KDE. On
some of them, the page cautioned: "May not be suitable because:
Your computer may be too slow". (Basically, the Linux Distribution
Chooser is limited concerning 11-year-old distributions that are sparse
on RAM by modern standards.
By the way, your 7000's reliance on a 366 MHz Pentium II and an 8 GB
hard drive is much less of an obstacle than the RAM. The RAM tends to
be the bottleneck.
More information about the conspire