Author Topic: Advice on cheap Linux computer for my kids  (Read 16701 times)

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Offline eugenenine

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Re: Advice on cheap Linux computer for my kids
« Reply #75 on: February 24, 2017, 08:36:58 pm »
Lots of people asked for it.  Hopefully they do have enough sense to let it be turned off.
 

Offline mtdoc

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Re: Advice on cheap Linux computer for my kids
« Reply #76 on: February 24, 2017, 09:07:51 pm »
LibreOffice is fine for his homework.

We've been using OpenOffice. The problem we're having is that some teachers insist on using only the latests MS Word format for assignments that need editing at home.  OpenOffice does not always handle these.  Is LibreOffice better?

No there isn't something like Net Nanny.

I hadn't seen Net Nanny before. It looks like overkill for our household - and I'm not a fan of subscription models.

The built in parental controls on MacOS are pretty good. The parental controls on my boys Android tablets is ok but not great.  Windows built in controls are marginal.
 

Offline edy

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Re: Advice on cheap Linux computer for my kids
« Reply #77 on: February 24, 2017, 09:48:01 pm »
As long as they don't add Clippy, I'll be ok....  :-DD

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Offline retiredcaps

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Re: Advice on cheap Linux computer for my kids
« Reply #78 on: February 24, 2017, 09:48:56 pm »
I may have to just shell out a bit more because I don't have the time to go around or patience to troubleshoot or add components.
You nailed it.  Everyone values time and money to their own criteria.

By the time, I drove to get the $10 Compaq SFF, $5 SSDs, $2 DDR3 memory, etc, it would probably work out to the same $75 you are paying.  I do try to aggregate errands, visits, etc with my kijiji finds.
 

Offline james_s

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Re: Advice on cheap Linux computer for my kids
« Reply #79 on: February 24, 2017, 11:49:08 pm »
Sometimes you get lucky, but I've found that most of the time when I actually need something, there are none to be found but after I buy one I then see loads of them for sale for half what I paid.

Last year I sold a complete Pentium4 tower with a monitor, video card, fancy sound board, etc, at one time a fairly high end system for $20 because I was tired of stepping around it. Older desktop PCs are dirt cheap in general but if you just want to get one now, 75 bucks is not a big deal unless you have much more free time than money.
 

Offline HoracioDos

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Re: Advice on cheap Linux computer for my kids
« Reply #80 on: February 25, 2017, 11:10:55 am »
We've been using OpenOffice. The problem we're having is that some teachers insist on using only the latests MS Word format for assignments that need editing at home.  OpenOffice does not always handle these.  Is LibreOffice better?
LibreOffice and OpenOffice are almost the same and yes, there are some compatibility issues saving documents in MS formats like .docx, xlsx, etc. If you write simple documents you can avoid them.

You can use Microsoft or Google web documents, but again, as their features are quite simple the result is also simple. There is a buzz that WPS Office (Chinese development) previously known as Kingsoft Office has solved these issues, but I have the same feeling about Ubuntu Kylin and WSP, that someone is spying on me.

The built in parental controls on MacOS are pretty good. The parental controls on my boys Android tablets is ok but not great.  Windows built in controls are marginal.
As I wrote before, the best thing I've found is a well known and discussed family policy about internet usage.
 

Offline edy

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Re: Advice on cheap Linux computer for my kids
« Reply #81 on: March 05, 2017, 04:31:45 pm »
Somebody ended up giving me a couple of old laptops found in their basement...

1. Some GateWay Pentium 4 machine.... I tried to power it up, nothing, dead. I opened it up and got to the motherboard... multiple CAPS were blown/leaking. Not worth repairing, I pulled some components maybe can be useful later.

2. An old IBM ThinkPad 380D, powered up....  Would initially not boot, gave error message.... turned out it was a CMOS battery issue so I popped the lid and replaced the coin-cell Lithium battery. Booted into Win95. Pentium (r) 24 MB RAM, 1.35 GB hard drive. http://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/Category:380D



So what do I do with this antique? My kids can't use it... Perhaps I can flip it to some collector or trade in for a newer machine. Any ideas if this thing is worth a trade or eBay sale? It came with a bunch of networking bits, PCMCIA cards and such and some pre-installed office software.

I could put MAME on there and a bunch of old ROMs... make it a portable arcade machine. Because it lacks USB I can't even use it to type stuff in MSWorks and copy over files. CD-ROM is read only. It has a 1.44" floppy but no other machine has a drive. Perhaps through network I can transfer but more time than worth doing.
« Last Edit: March 05, 2017, 04:36:01 pm by edy »
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Offline james_s

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Re: Advice on cheap Linux computer for my kids
« Reply #82 on: March 05, 2017, 05:49:19 pm »
I have a similar machine I use occasionally to play old games. Best bet is probably give it to a collector. You might get something for it but probably not very much. It's at that point in the life cycle where the value has probably bottomed out but it's not quite old enough to have started to go up.
 

Offline innkeeper

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Re: Advice on cheap Linux computer for my kids
« Reply #83 on: March 05, 2017, 07:00:55 pm »
Just a comment of free office packages:

these are all available for linux as well as the various flavors of ms windows

WPS Offiice - great compatability with MS windows office - free version with ads or a pay version (like 45 a year or 80 for a lifetime licence) - is defiantly worth looking at and in my option a cut above the below two
Libre Office - good ompactability with windows office - very popular and fairly well supported and ad free
Open Office - fair compatibility with windows office - i used to be a big fan of this back to the star office days but seems to jsut lag behind libre and wps. some complex ms office files will not load right.

if i wanted to keep my kids away from ads id go for libre office, and if it was for me, and for productivity id go WPS and in fact run WPS on many of my systems were i don't ahve an MS license.
Hobbyist and a retired engineer and possibly a test equipment addict, though, searching for the equipment to test for that.
 

Offline Sigmoid

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Re: Advice on cheap Linux computer for my kids
« Reply #84 on: March 06, 2017, 10:16:39 am »
Linux will not run many commercial software like MS Office (completely blows away OOo/Lo)
That is entirely dependent on your workflow and how used you are to MS Office... Having used both for years, I personally never noticed any meaningful differences.

The only .docx files I have ever had issues with were created by some complete jackass at the university I'm studying at, they have these ridiculously overcomplicated form pages, it's beyond madness really. And they accept a regular blank page with all the data if you use Libre/OpenOffice, as they too know their docx template is shite.

Altium Designer, and a bunch of IDEs from many IC companies*.
It might have been an issue for you personally, but most people can't afford Altium Designer, and Linux does run KiCAD.

Linux will not run modern games, unless being specifically ported to Linux, such as Valve games.
Linux will not run modern games smoothly, even ported, due to bad GPU support. AMD driver completely sucks, nVidia is better, but not as good as their Windows version.
That's true for the time being, unfortunately, as your remarks about the problem with the whole thing coming down after an update.

Linux will not run DRM protected technology without infringing IP. You won't get legitimate decoders for any DRM protected technology for Linux.
Really, who gives a flying f*... ;)

Anyway, I've used a Linux desktop for some 10 years, and moved to Mac OS after that, and yes, Linux does get kinda painful at times for desktop purposes... still, it's all about use cases, and what's available now on Linux is lightyears ahead of what I had when I made it my primary platform... Personally, it helped me stay focused and kept me off MMORPGs, which I consider a definite plus.

If I had kids that age, I'd probably also give them a Linux box as a first choice.
 

Offline Zero999

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Re: Advice on cheap Linux computer for my kids
« Reply #85 on: March 06, 2017, 11:11:13 am »
Somebody ended up giving me a couple of old laptops found in their basement...

1. Some GateWay Pentium 4 machine.... I tried to power it up, nothing, dead. I opened it up and got to the motherboard... multiple CAPS were blown/leaking. Not worth repairing, I pulled some components maybe can be useful later.
If you can get it working, you'll be able to run a basic graphical desktop on that, if you have enough memory installed.

Quote
2. An old IBM ThinkPad 380D, powered up....  Would initially not boot, gave error message.... turned out it was a CMOS battery issue so I popped the lid and replaced the coin-cell Lithium battery. Booted into Win95. Pentium (r) 24 MB RAM, 1.35 GB hard drive. http://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/Category:380D

I like the old ThinkPads. They're very robust and reliable.

You could run some old Linux distribution on that, probably not a desktop though.

Quote
So what do I do with this antique? My kids can't use it... Perhaps I can flip it to some collector or trade in for a newer machine. Any ideas if this thing is worth a trade or eBay sale? It came with a bunch of networking bits, PCMCIA cards and such and some pre-installed office software.

I could put MAME on there and a bunch of old ROMs... make it a portable arcade machine. Because it lacks USB I can't even use it to type stuff in MSWorks and copy over files. CD-ROM is read only. It has a 1.44" floppy but no other machine has a drive. Perhaps through network I can transfer but more time than worth doing.
I thought the ThinkPad pictured had a USB drive?

I doubt it will have enough processing power for MAME. Emulation requires a processor several times more powerful than the machine being emulated. It will probably fine for some of the old 8-bit games but nothing newer.

How about installing FreeDOS on it and using it for old DOS games? If the command line interface becomes boring then there are graphical desktops for DOS.
 

Offline james_s

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Re: Advice on cheap Linux computer for my kids
« Reply #86 on: March 06, 2017, 04:39:51 pm »
I ran MAME on a 100MHz Pentium back in the day and it ran fine. I only ever cared about games from the 70s-early 80s though, before the classics were overrun by all the button masher fighting crap.
 

Offline edy

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Re: Advice on cheap Linux computer for my kids
« Reply #87 on: March 06, 2017, 05:38:23 pm »
I successfully installed MAME, DirectX 7.0, WinAmp, ACDSee, PhotoShop v4.0, FractInt 20 and PKUNZIP on the ThinkPad 380D Win95 machine (I had old CD's with tons of Win95/98-era software, even some floppies). Battery is completely dead, it works just on AC power. The CD-DRIVE on it is solid as a rock! None of this flimsy thin trays we have these days.

The machine already had: Microsoft Office 97 Pro, Microsoft Works, Calendar, Lotus Mail/Notes, Novell NetWare, McAfee, Royal Bank software, Netscape, IE 4.0, etc... it was somebody's business machine.

Anyways, I needed the HD space and so I uninstalled Lotus Mail/Notes as it was all encrypted with passwords anyways and I had no use for it. Same goes for Novell NetWare drivers which were nagging me on every boot to enter a password. Got rid of a few more things and that cleared up enough room. Now it boots nicely into Windows 95 and ready to go.

MAME works well, I tried some of the more basic games (1948, Galaga, etc...) and they are nice with sound and everything smooth as the original! FractInt works fine up to 800x600x16bit color. WinAmp plays MP3's on there just fine, no glitches. Even AVI's will play well. I haven't tested MPG's or newer compressions, I'm sure they will start choking on the machine.

Anyways, it is a decent machine otherwise, built like a tank.... but limited with respect to getting information in/out without the USB. I don't have an external floppy drive, and the machine cannot burn CD's. So either I use the serial port to transfer, or use the old PCMCIA card with network port to hook in to my WiFi router whenever the kids need to transfer their work. I have an old machine in the basement with floppy drive AND USB port, so I can use it as an intermediary to copy stuff.

As nice as it is to mess around with this old ThinkPad, it is a time-waster hobby I don't have the time for. I think it will be mainly a retro-gaming machine to play around on, and the kids can learn on it. I may even be able to use it for some MIDI control (it has a serial output and I made myself a cable to connect to Yamaha keyboard back in the day which I was doing MIDI sequencing with, and I have old software to do it). It also has full Office Pro on there, even being 20 years old now.... it's still perfectly fine for the kids to type on the nicely built-in keyboard. It is just the problem of moving it off the machine, a hassle.

:D

NOTE:  The machine in the above photo *does* show a USB port, but I do not see one on mine (unless I went blind, which is a possibility   :)  ... I will have to check again, maybe it was covered or is an extra option added later)  Have a look....




Not mine...



It must have been added on in later models?


Hey look what I found....

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Floppy-Disk-Drive-Disc-Portable-External-USB-1-44MB-3-5-PC-Converter-Reader-/112013884122?hash=item1a148c3ada:g:4ksAAOSwMNxXToYx

I can get one of these and the kids can transfer their work over to my computer when they need to print something. It's $10. They'll use the internal floppy on the old ThinkPad, and then I'll be able to read the floppy on my computer. Same goes if I have to transfer things to them, old software, etc...

« Last Edit: March 06, 2017, 05:58:26 pm by edy »
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Offline james_s

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Re: Advice on cheap Linux computer for my kids
« Reply #88 on: March 06, 2017, 07:42:41 pm »
The thing I find interesting when dealing with old hardware like that is somebody probably paid at least $3K for that machine and aside from needing a new battery it's every bit as powerful and capable as it ever was. Only our expectations of what a computer should do have changed.
 

Offline edy

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Re: Advice on cheap Linux computer for my kids
« Reply #89 on: March 07, 2017, 12:46:57 am »
Yes, the ThinkPad 380... blistering Pentium 150 Mhz processor, thinnest and lightest laptop to date....  :)  It was a beast in it's day, and at $1799 for the entry level model would be like us spending about $2500-2700 today (based on the historical inflation calculator).

1997... That's 20 years ago. Geez!  :palm:

My current ASUS M51A laptop that I am still using every day is from late 2008... 9 years old. It started off with Windows Vista BIZ... but then quickly got upgraded to Win 7, and now it is running Ubuntu Studio 16.04 LTS with Win 7 in the original partition whenever I need to boot it (once in a while, painfully slow).

The ASUS has 250 GB HD, with 2 GB RAM. 
The ThinkPad has 1.35 GB HD, with 24 MB RAM.

The difference though in the past 10 years in terms of what is in laptops has not changed as dramatically... Whereas the ThinkPad to ASUS got almost 100 x as much HD space and 100 x the memory. Today you'd expect if the rate continued, you'd have 25 TB HD's and 200 GB RAM in your laptops. Nope!
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Offline rdl

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Re: Advice on cheap Linux computer for my kids
« Reply #90 on: March 07, 2017, 02:12:50 am »
I have a ThinkPad 560E. I bought it on clearance when the next year's models came out. It sold for around $4000 originally and I paid just a bit over $1000. The last time I messed with it was to put a larger hard drive in and that was probably 10 years ago. I wonder if it would still start up.
 

Offline eugenenine

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Re: Advice on cheap Linux computer for my kids
« Reply #91 on: March 07, 2017, 02:32:15 am »
I have a Dell Latitude C400 that I paid $1200 for in 2002.  It will still boot and run the latest Slackware but just a little slower then than my main laptop.

 

Offline edy

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Re: Advice on cheap Linux computer for my kids
« Reply #92 on: March 07, 2017, 01:46:44 pm »
Scary realization... 1997 when that Thinkpad 380D was the ducks guts state of the art, I graduated my 4 year University degree and was just starting my doctorate. I just got a taste of reality...

I found an install pack for Borland C++ 3.1 and put that on the machine as well as an old DivX player (it was painfully slow and glitch and incompatible with most videos even from that era). Borland C worked and I made a quick hello world program which surprisingly I still remembered how to do almost with no errors (forgot a few includes but otherwise syntax all good). I made particle systems simulations, fractal generators, text parsers, games and many other DOS programs using that back in the day.

Brings back memories...
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Offline eugenenine

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Re: Advice on cheap Linux computer for my kids
« Reply #93 on: March 07, 2017, 01:56:05 pm »
We did Turbo Pascal 5.0 then Turbo C 2 or 3 in college.  I bought Borland C++ 4.0 and had to upgrade my 286 to a 386 just to install it.

Borland released most of those old versions to the public domain, you can download them and the manuals from archive.org

Wife's college did that thinkpad program where you rent a thinkpad for $600 per semester then at the end of your degree you could buy it for another $600.  $122 per year x 4 years plus another $600 was just a bit overpriced.  We already had laptops at home so her thinkpad was never used but it was a required. 
 

Offline CraigHB

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Re: Advice on cheap Linux computer for my kids
« Reply #94 on: March 07, 2017, 03:59:47 pm »
I see a few people using old computers in this thread.  Makes me feel better I'm still chugging along on my old machines I put together years ago.  They still work great so why replace them.

On my main desktop I recently did an interesting CPU upgrade where I was able to adapt an LGA771 Xeon to my LGA775 Core 2 motherboard.  It only requires an adapter sticker and some filing.  I bought a Xeon X5482 for like thirty bucks off eBay which is a processor that retailed well over a grand in its day. 

The computer was fast enough before with a Core 2 duo CPU, but now it's a lot faster with the quad core Xeon.  Along with SSDs it's plenty fast enough now for anything I can throw at it.  Seems the performance boost just from going to solid state drives was all it really needed.  That's made more of a difference than anything else I've done to these old machines.  The Xeon CPU gave it another kick in the right direction.
 

Offline eugenenine

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Re: Advice on cheap Linux computer for my kids
« Reply #95 on: March 07, 2017, 04:05:54 pm »
Any old computer not laptop though I got rid of because I can do the same with a Pi.

Other than the Amiga.
 

Offline edy

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Re: Advice on cheap Linux computer for my kids
« Reply #96 on: March 07, 2017, 04:50:05 pm »
Borland released most of those old versions to the public domain, you can download them and the manuals from archive.org

 :-+   Yes, I stumbled upon archive.org again today and noticed a HUGE collection of Win95 CD-ROM ISO's that I can download. I'll have to buy a stack of 100 CD-R's and just burn a bunch of educational ones, the kids can use them. I also found an old roller-ball mouse in the basement with a PS/2 port which is easier than using the red thumb-stick/trackpoint on the ThinkPad keyboard.

As for CD-R's... I've noticed I can't read all of them on my old ThinkPad. I'm not sure why... could be the media type, Azure/Blue or the silver/yellow disks, different dyes used. Not sure if I should be watching out for anything. I don't want to buy a stack of the wrong CD-R and then end up burning stuff that the old ThinkPad CD-ROM drive has trouble reading.

So other than Internet (which is too much hassle to set up although it is possible as I have an Ethernet PCMCIA adapter that came with it), the machine can do a chock-load of stuff as a stand-alone machine. Learning, typing up documents, coding, MAME games, etc... They would just need some help when printing as I would need to open it on my laptop to print over WiFi.

One of the main drivers of computing development from 20 years ago to 10 years ago was Internet and getting to decent media playback (video/music). Then the jump from 10 years ago to today is Gaming-driven. If you don't need super-fast graphics and HD resolutions and 3D you can live on a 10 year old machine for basic office work. Future development is likely to be related to VR and more realism of games.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2017, 04:55:09 pm by edy »
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Offline james_s

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Re: Advice on cheap Linux computer for my kids
« Reply #97 on: March 07, 2017, 04:51:34 pm »
Until about 2 years ago I was still using a nearly 10 year old Pentium 4 as my main PC. It only had 1GB of RAM and was running Windows XP but it still did almost everything I needed to do, it even ran Xilinx ISE and Altera Quartus for FPGA development although it was a bit slow to compile. I only upgraded because it was hopelessly slow transcoding video. I expect my current i7 desktop and notebook with Win7 will last me at least a decade unless the hardware fails.
 


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