Linux distro for giveaway computers
August 12, 2010 1:27 PM   Subscribe

What would be the best Linux distribution for computers given to clients by a social services agency?

I want to start putting a linux distribution onto donated computers that we eventually give to clients. What distribution would be best?

Some factors to consider:
Clients have minimal computer skills
Computers will probably be fairly low spec
Ease of use is most important

This is just a pet project right now, and I was wanting some opinions from the wonderful community here.
posted by plungerjoke to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Try Linux Mint. It's based on Ubuntu, so it has a HUGE software and support base, it is designed to run on lower end systems and be very user friendly for non computer people. When I set up an older friend's computer, I used Linux Mint and they really like it, easy and fast on their old computer.
posted by thebenman at 1:35 PM on August 12, 2010

Ubuntu, full stop.

I installed 8.04 on my 62 year old mother's dell a couple years ago, she's had zero trouble with it. It's idiot proof and does everything you'd want to on a desktop.
posted by Oktober at 1:37 PM on August 12, 2010

Thoughts on Xubuntu for this purpose?
posted by plungerjoke at 1:37 PM on August 12, 2010

Xubuntu is OK if they're just browsing the Web in Firefox. Basic stuff like graphically viewing folders and moving files around in the GUI is kind of complicated.
posted by miyabo at 1:39 PM on August 12, 2010

I'd go with LinuxMint if you want them to be able to watch dvds and mp4s and listen to music without a lot of hassle. An Ubuntu install won't initially include any proprietary codecs. Also, you probably want KDE instead of GNOME if the users are more familiar with Windows.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:48 PM on August 12, 2010

What kinds of things will they be using the computers for? Puppy Linux runs really well on low-spec machines, and is pretty usable--it's what I cut my linux teeth on. That is, as long as you don't want to install a bunch of things that don't come pre-installed in one of the puppy remixes; they don't have a huge repository of applications. It's what I'd probably go with if were going to set up my Grandma with a linux computer; great for internet/word processing and a little bit of solitaire right out of the box without other things to confuse or screw up.

If they're going to need to be able to customize their machines a little bit more, Mint might be a good option.
posted by kittenmarlowe at 1:55 PM on August 12, 2010

I'll point to the Helios Project, and the fact that they do Linux Mint on theirs as what I support for this endeavor. Read up on what they're doing.
posted by deezil at 2:25 PM on August 12, 2010

It depends just how low-spec you're talking. I suggest trying Linux Mint to start with, and if that runs like treacle switch to Puppy or Damn Small. At the community project I work for we usually install Ubuntu then add the non-free codecs afterwards, but Mint might be less of a kerfuffle. Oh, and I think Gnome looks prettier than KDE, but I don't have any knowledge of Windows-similarity.
posted by teraspawn at 2:31 PM on August 12, 2010

What's low spec? I run Ubuntu stock on my P4 with 1GB of RAM and have no major difficulties.

(well, excluding occasional choppy flash playback - I'm shaking my fist at you, Adobe...)
posted by chrisamiller at 2:46 PM on August 12, 2010

Low spec is computers donated by donors... it could mean anything from a computer from last year to one from 10 years ago. For simplicity's sake, I want to put the same thing on all of them.
posted by plungerjoke at 3:43 PM on August 12, 2010

You're going to have problems getting newer builds of linux to run on older hardware.
posted by empath at 5:33 PM on August 12, 2010

In my experience, Ubuntu works well. We've installed it on over 1,000 computers in the three years I've been volunteering at Free IT Athens. Our minimum specs are a Pentium III with 384MB of RAM.

I hope you'll be able to provide some training when people receive the computers and offer support when they run into trouble or something breaks. Perhaps there is an existing linux-friendly refurbishing group near you that can help?

Feel free to MeMail me with questions.
posted by PueExMachina at 10:23 PM on August 12, 2010

This would be for people who have already gone through computer training at the agency. Thanks everyone for your input.
posted by plungerjoke at 4:52 AM on August 13, 2010

"Last Year up to ten years ago" ?.... Sounds like a job for Puppy to me.
posted by notned at 5:45 PM on August 13, 2010

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