So I have these friends. Ok they aren't really my friends, but their daughter is my daughter's best friend. My wife's best friend is her mother. etc. etc. So when they have a computer problem, I always get roped into fixing it. And by "problem" I mean their kids use P2P software to get music. and they end up infecting their computer with massive amounts of viruses, spyware, malware....
The latest victim is a 5 year old laptop with a 40GB HD, and 380MB of RAM.
yep. 380MB of RAM. And it's running XP.
Less than a year ago I had cleaned for the third time a little Acer netbook they had, running XP. Over 1000 pieces of spyware/malware. the thing barely came on. My wife bought it from them for $100, and I slapped Ubuntu 9 on it. This is a very nice little netbook for my little girl now. No spyware, no malware, no viruses. Super easy to update, and from power button to login screen is about 8 seconds, at most. I've been so happy with Ubuntu, (upgraded to version 10) that I refurbished an old tower for my son for college. not a great box, just over a GB of RAM and it runs Ubuntu very well.
I cannot recommend it more, just a fantastic OS.
So now I am trying to convince them that they need a new HD (bad sectors, Ubuntu spotted this right away), some additional memory and Ubuntu. but Ubuntu looks different, and there is no start button and how di i get internet, and where is the blue E, and can I play games....
Now the Linux community is IMO pretty fractured. Ubuntu, Linspire, Red Hat, Fedora, KUbuntu, XUbuntu, and on and on and on. Each the same and each different. Personally I like Ubuntu as it seems to be the best organized for promotion and support for the layman.
So, if you need to put together an internet/homework computer. This is what I'd do.
By a barebones kit from Tiger Direct or NuEgg. Spend about $350+. Make sure you have a good video card. Since you aren't paying for an OS, no reason to skimp. Doesn't have to be a monster, just something better than the onboard video.
Request a free CD from Ubuntu. It'll take 4-6 weeks to arrive. If you have a good internet connection, download it. You'll need InfraRecorder or something like it to burn the image to a cd.
Once installed, check for proprietary drivers available for your system. this is done under the administration menu. Download the recommended package. Then you can enable desktop effects. Some of which are kind of silly, but cool at the same time
Also under Administration menu is the Update manager. run it after installing to get the latest updates.
If this computer has wireless you'll have to edit the wireless connection to be available to all users. Also under administration there is a users/groups menu. select your user account, NOT root, and make sure it has rights to connect to the internet via ethernet/wireless and by modem. this is disabled by default. To edit your wired/wireless acounts, the icon is at the top on the right. Right click it and click edit. Select properties by the account you want to edit. It's a check box that says make available to all users.
That's pretty much it. I love how it looks, love the performance, and love the lack of viruses/malware.
Give it a whirl. If you want you can try before you buy so to speak as Ubuntu will run from the CD. just boot your box to the CD to see it in action.