Our son really wants his own computer - mainly to play minecraft currently I think - but he's starting to need to do school work on one etc. so it's probably about time. We've been looking at just getting the box, as we have an old monitor and other peripherals. At the price range we + grandparents etc. could afford for Xmas (about 150) we could get a refurb PC with windows 7 on it or new pc with no OS on it. A family friend who does computer servicing says he's happy to put ubuntu on to a new one with no OS on it - I've never tried so I don't know if that's past my computer tinkering skills or not.
I quite like the ubuntu idea, just the whole shareware community hippy thing, but are there downsides I'm not aware of? Are any commercially bought games for PCs able to play on ubuntu or might he in another couple of years want to move on from virtual lego brick mining to shooting zombies in the face and not be able to do it on his own computer?
I have Lubuntu on two machines - my Asus eee which I take away for basic word processing function and browsing, and my wife's laptop for similar tasks.
I'm not a tech dunce but neither am I an expert. My main source for answers are Google and the Linux forums. There is in my experience nothing about Linux that can't be answered somewhere, so the shroud of mystery surrounding Linux shouldn't be a block to trying it.
There is now lots of software that nearly perfectly matches anything by the big guns: Open Office (Libre Office) for Office suites, all the web browsers are available and work exactly as if on Windows machines (Firefox, Opera etc), video playback software etc.
My wife is a complete dunce when around computers but all I've done is try to get the desktop to look and act in a similar fashion to the Windows environment she was familiar with - so basically everything is iconified on the desktop and she just clicks on it.
The reason for going Linux was to take advantage of their small footprint when it comes to running on very basic machines. I've never had any hardware conflicts or issues while using Lubuntu and anything I've plugged in (e.g. wifi adapters) has worked. My wife's Nokia/Windows phone hooks up straight away to the laptop for easy transfer of files.
I have some mapping software (Anquet) which is proving difficult to get to work with Linux (it's not natively supported) and this is the only reason I still have Windows on my main PC (though I do have a Lubuntu partition).
As for games, not really a player of them on PC (I do have an old PS2 for that) but apparently there are very few.
Thanks Stuart - sounds pretty positive. I use neo-office on my MacBook and increasingly am relying on Google Drive and it's office like tools so I know many of the basic software tasks most of us expect from a computer are now available as shareware or freeware of some type or other.
The Linux way might not be a bad idea. That said, apps in the traditional sense are slowly becoming obsolete. office.com is now an online portal for creating office type documents and Google Drive also allows documents and spreadsheets to be created. Certainly ideal for school work as you can access your documents anywhere.
As far as gaming goes, Valve (makers of Half_Life and Portal) released Steam for Linux earlier this year and a good selection of their products are now available for Linux. None of the other big developers have followed suit yet but I remain optimistic.
There are also a number of companies that port games to Linux and some independent developers for Linux. The selection isn't as wide as that for more mainstream OS's, and there is often a delay in getting new games, but there is plenty available if you look for it.
Another option might be to get a Raspberry Pi - it costs very little, it should plug into your existing peripherals, and it's a great little machine for hacking around on. It's able to run Minecraft and LibreOffice (or he could use Google documents or some other online service for word processing), plus it opens up all sorts of interesting projects (building your own case, for starters...)
It'd be fairly useless for running the latest and greatest games, but PCs move so fast these days that buying an affordable PC now in case he wants to play the latest and greatest games in a couple of years would be like buying a pint of milk now in case you get thirsty some time next summer...
Toby - Games (especially current PC games) don't generally play well / at all under Linux. However you won't get most games to play on a cheapo refurb PC either.
Ubuntu is pretty easy to use for most folk. Libre/OpenOffice will work with most Word documents. It's all easy to use these days and stuff largely just works. Least as much as any computer just works.
cfer - Pick Ubuntu, it's popular and there's loads of guides, how-tos etc to get you started. When you install Ubuntu you are given the option to remove Windows, install alongside Windows (dual boot).
Why should you believe me? I've been using Linux for about 10 years now, I'm a Linux sysadmin for my job, so when I say 'just use Ubuntu' just do it. Don't faff around with which Linux distro to use, just pick one. If you get on well with it you can install a new one easily if you want something different.
The easiest is to get a live CD/DVD of your favourite flavour of Linux, e.g. from a computer magazine. Start from CD, push install button, select option to format drive, done. Any hangups, ask UKC (as I had to do last week, got the correct solution in half an hour or so...)
Second best option is to download an ISO image of your chosen system and burn a bootable DVD.
To the OP: Both options are possible. I have just installed LinuxMint KDE (compatible with Ubuntu, can use Ubuntu software repositories, but looks nicer and has better out-of-the-box media support) on a brand new, no OS Lenovo laptop (€ 280) and a 8 year old Sony Vaio. Works nicely either way,although I had to ask UKC for an installation problem on the new Lenovo machine.
> Another option might be to get a Raspberry Pi - it costs very little, it should plug into your existing peripherals, and it's a great little machine for hacking around on. It's able to run Minecraft and LibreOffice (or he could use Google documents or some other online service for word processing), plus it opens up all sorts of interesting projects (building your own case, for starters...)
Have to ask, have you ever tried to use a rpi for more than about 5 minutes on the desktop?
If you dual boot as someone was describing above, you can mount the volume that Windows is on and see the files, but you will usually have to do this manually.
If you uninstall Windows when you install Ubuntu, Ubuntu will write over everything in your Windows partition so you will have to back up elsewhere and transfer your files back later.
Whichever you do, I would recommend backing everything up to an external drive of some sort before you go ahead anyway, just in case something goes wrong. Not that it's likely to - it's just good practice