Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Operating Systems Software Linux

Fastbooting Linux For Dummies? 241

Linux First timer writes "I wonder whether the Linux Gurus of Slashdot could help me with some advice on setting up a Linux system for my wife. She is not at all computer literate, but likes to get on the net for a few minutes every morning to read news etc. She is always bitching that our XP desktop takes way too long to boot 'just to get on the net for a few minutes.' I was thinking that I could take an old laptop we have, do a little first time test drive installing and using Linux, and possibly solve her problem in one go. The requirements for the system are simple: fast as possible boot/load Firefox, easy for a computer dummy to get onto the net, hard to break through random incompetence, and comes with Open or similar for occasional use. Wouldn't be used for much else. Any useful advice for us two poor Linux newbies? For example, is Ubuntu the best choice for this, or is there a better Linux flavour for the purpose? Any useful tweaks a novice can handle to make it work better for these simple tasks only?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Fastbooting Linux For Dummies?

Comments Filter:
  • by fasuin ( 532942 ) <mellia@tAAAiscal ... inus threevowels> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @07:10PM (#27321235)
    If you put your system in hibernation mode, the wake up process is much faster then a cold boot... My windows desktop wakes up in less than 5 secs. It boots in more the 3 min...
    • by Nimey ( 114278 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @07:20PM (#27321437) Homepage Journal

      Assuming hibernation works for you. It doesn't for me.

      • There is a workaround.

        Setup screen saver.
        Turn off monitor.

        • by Nimey ( 114278 )

          That's not a workaround, if your goal is to save power. Screensavers, especially 3D-accelerated ones, use power. If you set the 'saver to "blank screen" that is fine.

          • by jgrahn ( 181062 )

            That's not a workaround, if your goal is to save power. Screensavers, especially 3D-accelerated ones, use power. If you set the 'saver to "blank screen" that is fine.

            Screen savers that draw stuff on the screen is so 1992 -- flying toasters and all. I have forgotten them so thoroughly that I read the posting but parsed the word as "going into deepest DPMS OFF mode".

          • by unitron ( 5733 )

            If your goal is to save power wouldn't you just turn off the monitor?

            • by Nimey ( 114278 )

              Yeah, great, but the screensaver could still be running in the background eating electrons. Just because it's not being displayed doesn't mean it's not happening.

        • by unitron ( 5733 )

          Why would a monitor that is turned off need a screensaver?

    • by psnyder ( 1326089 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @07:26PM (#27321571)
      I agree on the hibernation.

      But from the perspective of a cold boot:
      I have WinXP and Ubuntu dual-boot on my 5 year old system. I timed their bootup the other day. WinXP took approx 3 and a half minutes, Ubuntu took approx 1 and a half minutes.
      • by clang_jangle ( 975789 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @08:53PM (#27322903) Journal
        IME xubuntu [] is great for booting quickly and working well with older hardware. And if you feel up to tackling a kernel recompile, you can make it boot even faster.
        • Damn small linux (Score:5, Informative)

          by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @10:05PM (#27323723)

          DSL linux boots insanely fast. On my pentium 2, 300Mhz machine it takes 28 seconds to cold boot off of a CD. And part of that is the delay at the grub prompt! Plus it fires up the applications like a mail client nearly instantly.

          main difference is the graphics and dialog boxes are not as sexy as ubuntu

          I note that one possible reason linux or windows boots slowly or wakes from hinernation slowly on an older machine can be it's memory starved. For example ubuntu boots on that machine in about ten minutes(!). the machine only has 396MB of memory so it's a miracle ubuntu even boots at all.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

            Use Linux, recompile the kernel with the necessary drivers only and use fvwm or another light-weight window manager to speed things up even more.

            Also optimize the startup scripts to skip any service not needed.

            And finally - recompile the kernel specifically for your processor.

            • by troll8901 ( 1397145 ) <> on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @03:41AM (#27325961) Journal

              This is the standard of a Linux Newbie (from TFS)?? Recompiling the kernel, modifying startup scripts and understanding SSEx instruction sets?

              It's too much. I'm quitting the Linux stuff and going back to Windows. I'm going to download Test King papers, memorize the answers, and get my MSCE certification. Experience and knowledge be damned!

              • Yeah, so instead of getting an answer which *does* help, you just get the answer "No, you can't"
                How awesome

                At least he knows what to look for now, so he can ask for some one-to-one assistance on IRC, for example, or a nearby LUG.

                • Wait, are you arguing with a post that says this?

                  by troll8901

                  I'm going to download Test King papers, memorize the answers, and get my MSCE certification. Experience and knowledge be damned!

                  I think this doesn't even qualify for a "don't feed the trolls" anymore; more of a "whooosh". :P

            • ... and do the set-up for auto-login and automatic execution of firefox upon login. It would be sweet.
          • I second this recommendation.

            Using a smaller specialized distribution is IMHO a better choice than all the bloat found in "full" dists like Ubuntu -- notice that I do use Ubuntu :-S.

            Years ago, I used a PentiumIII with 128Mb and a terribly slow disk. It booted Debian into Gnome (a very old version - can't remember which) in 23 seconds. My "Core Duo" laptop, or brand new Quad-core desktop take more than twice that to start up. BTW both run Ubuntu.

            In my experience, this claim/expectation that XFCE is significa

      • This is interesting. The boot time for XP (or any operating system at all) must depend on the hardware.

        I mention this because I have XP running in a virtual machine (with automatic login) and it takes almost exactly 20 seconds from when I click "run" to a usable desktop. I always have it do a full boot. (This may not work for the long term on a real computer, though, because I have it revert to the state it was in before I booted it every time I stop needing it, and thus each time I boot it, it is as though

    • by Tubal-Cain ( 1289912 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @07:32PM (#27321679) Journal
      For me, waking from hibernation is no faster than a cold boot.
    • by FirstTimerWhoAsked ( 1513883 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @07:50PM (#27322037)
      The reason she boots every morning is because she thinks she will "break" the computer by leaving it on. Not sure if she is afraid of malware or thinks the computer is suffering 'wear and tear' in hibernation mode, but she just thinks its safer to turn it off. And before you say "educate her" - she doesn't listen to me when her 'intuition' tells her something.
      • Educate her that doing a boot everyday wears down the hard drive more than a resume. In hibernate it's (depending on the motherboard) basically off.

        • by rootofevil ( 188401 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @09:50PM (#27323559) Homepage Journal

          typically i dont refer to it as 'educate' when i 'totally make shit up'.

          the wear and tear issue has been debunked by several prominent tech websites.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Shikaku ( 1129753 )


          • I don't know about consumer desktops frequently cycling, but I have second or third hand knowledge that 24/7 systems running for a decade can physically crumble when turned off, due to the temperature change.

            Offtopic, but it makes me feel smart to repeat trivia I heard elsewhere.

            • It is less about the temperature change and more about the difference between static and dynamic friction - on old hard drives you get the double whammy of motors that get weaker over the years, bearings that get sticky, and finally drive heads sticking to the landing zone on the platters. As long as the drive continues to spin, the coefficient of friction (dynamic) is low enough that the motor can keep spinning the drive. Shut it down overnight and the grease in the bearings gets sticky and the heads sti

      • The reason she boots every morning is because she thinks she will "break" the computer by leaving it on. Not sure if she is afraid of malware or thinks the computer is suffering 'wear and tear' in hibernation mode, but she just thinks its safer to turn it off. And before you say "educate her" - she doesn't listen to me when her 'intuition' tells her something.

        Then it is her ignorance that's standing in the way of a fast-access system, not software.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Glonoinha ( 587375 )

          He just needs to look at her sternly and say 'I find your lack of faith ... disturbing.'

      • by Toonol ( 1057698 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @10:01PM (#27323679)
        Point her to a random comment on Slashdot. Typically, women will believe the expertise of a random stranger far more than their husband.

        Why, I don't know... but it's the truth, and nearly globally applicable.
      • On behalf of Slashdot, I apologize for the quality of some of the suggestions given. (Basically the readers here write what they want, instead of what you want.)

        As you have discovered, the best suggestions tend to gather near the bottom of the HTML page (as they have fewer replies), while the trolling suggestions tend to gather near the top.

        You write well. Hope you can be a regular contributor with us.

      • she doesn't listen to me when her 'intuition' tells her something.

        Just tell her that I said that the computer doesn't know if it's turned off or hibernating, so it couldn't possibly have any different affect than just powering off the computer. Also, I don't take talk-back from my women. (Now show her the back of your hand.)
    • If you put your system in hibernation mode, the wake up process is much faster then a cold boot

      I concur with this. I have an older Dell laptop with XP and Ubuntu on it. I always hibernate Windows, and it takes (once past Grub) about 8 seconds to be ready to log in. I've never had any trouble keeping Windows hibernated for weeks at a time.

      On the flip side, I don't know what the problem is, but Ubuntu takes longer to boot up after being hibernated (assuming it comes up at all -- now and then it just stops resuming). I keep hearing about low power modes being better supported in Linux distributions, but I've yet to come across something that will work reliably in standby or hibernation on any of the laptops I've used.

      It's unfortunate because it means if I need to do something quick, I always go for Windows. On the same machine I can be up and running Windows in literally 15 seconds, while Ubuntu takes over 4 minutes to be ready (or even longer when there's no network connected) with or without a previous hibernation.

      • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )

        It depends upon whether you're hibernating or sleeping (yes, I'm aware you're switching between the two on boot). Sleep can take less than 3s. Hibernate, depending upon your HD and other issues, can take longer than a fresh boot, with either Ubuntu or Windows. I've actually forced a reboot on my Ubuntu system because it was virtually unresponsive coming back up. (Disk was 99% full) If you were heavily swapping before hibernating, forget about coming back out in anything approaching a reasonable time frame.

    • Not with 8GB of RAM it isn't... plus keeping 8GB of disc around for swap that you'll only ever use for hibernation is a waste IMHO.

      Suspend is an option of course (wakeup time of less than a second on my 2GB and 4GB laptops) but means you have to keep the thing powered.

  • Just leave it up all night. I boot our XP system once a week if that.
    • Well, that doesn't really address the fact that the machine is exposed to malware and sucking down electricity all night.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Nimey ( 114278 )

        Suspend-to-RAM. Comes up faster than hibernate, and sucks minimal power as long as you remember to shut the monitor off. On mine the only thing getting power is the RAM; the fans and drives are all turned off.

        • Another vote for suspend / sleep here. If the bios is set to "mode 3" suspend/sleep, then only the ram stays powered, which truly is negligible. It's already common on laptops, closing the lid normally sleeps instead of shutting down.

          I use it myself at home.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Just leave it up all night. I boot our XP system once a week if that.

      Did you note, you'll be wasting equal amount of electricity as a printer printing 10000 pages if you leave your computer on all night long?

      Guys, help conserve energy.

      • Trees are sustainable though.
      • by Nefarious Wheel ( 628136 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @11:08PM (#27324307) Journal

        Did you note, you'll be wasting equal amount of electricity as a printer printing 10000 pages if you leave your computer on all night long?

        [Citation needed]

        Dot-matrix? Ink-jet? Colour laser? Laptop? Desktop? Server? Display on or off? CRT? TFT? Storage? Power saving mode?

        Notwithstanding that I challenge your statement to be anywhere within an order of magnitude or two off target as a generalised rule, the usage can be radically different depending on the combination. CRT's are different from TFT displays in energy use for example, rather dramatically in fact.

        And my work laptop - a Dell Latitude D620 / XP Pro gets unplugged and locked into a desk drawer each night. I close down Outlook and shut the lid. Resumes in about 6 seconds the next morning. Whatever power usage it's consuming in that state, it's not enough to warm the desk drawer it resides in appreciably, and I don't see it spending much time recharging.

  • Honestly my wife's XP box gets rebooted maybe 3-4 times a year. Otherwise it's just in powersave mode. Takes about 5 seconds to wake it up.

  • How old of a laptop? (Score:5, Informative)

    by CannonballHead ( 842625 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @07:21PM (#27321451)

    The decision of a Linux distro for old hardware is somewhat dependent on the age of the old hardware. I've been pretty successful at using PuppyLinux [] (and MacPup [] isn't too bad) on a very old Toshiba laptop with 192mb RAM. However, I have found that the "random incompetence" factor is an issue with it, as well as some laptop quirks (X refuses to come back if you close the laptop lid, and you then have to power it off, X doesn't start up on boot, and you have to type "startx" at the command line and chose xmesa or xorg...).

    Xubuntu [] is actually not too bad from the resources side... I tried it on an old 256mb ram/celeron computer. It was pretty slow, though.

    gOS [] also isn't too bad. It's geared towards getting online and using Google stuff... gmail, google docs, etc. It booted faster and the liveCD was faster than Xubuntu, for me.

    Another one that I haven't used a whole lot but looked pretty good was TinyME [] (based on PCLinuxOS I think).

    • I think you were using Xubuntu wrong, i had 256mb ram and a celeron (1.2GHz IIRC) working as my primary os with kubuntu and it ran well (unless i ran firefox2+compiz at the same time)

      • I should say it wasn't exactly slow... it was mostly the video response time that was really slow. Meaning, moving a single window around the screen stuttered. I just did a default install.

        Come to think of it, though, I might have only had 128mb ram in it at the time. I thought it was 256 though, I could be wrong.

  • by CaptainPatent ( 1087643 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @07:22PM (#27321471) Journal
    I haven't messed around with this much myself... but instead of making her morning routine specific to an older, outdated laptop you have lying around, what about installing Linux on a USB drive for boot. Usually you can set Bios to detect USB first and installing something small and lightweight would be preferable. If you set up a Bash script to start Firefox I'd recommend Puppy Linux because it's quick and small, but if you want her to be able to mess around with the OS GUI and not "break" anything I think a better idea would be xubuntu instead. Still smaller and rather lightweight, but much more user friendly. The beauty of the USB drive boot though is you can use that old laptop as well as your main home computer without uprooting an existing OS and you'll still have access to all of those files if she wants to do work in OpenOffice or something similar.
    • USB booting can be somewhat slow; depending on the distro and how it uses the HDD, this is very how-much-RAM-do-you-have dependent. Also, a lot of older machines don't have boot-from-USB support in the BIOS.
  • What's the hardware? (Score:5, Informative)

    by guruevi ( 827432 ) <`moc.stiucricve' `ta' `ive'> on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @07:22PM (#27321489) Homepage

    Go check here for a list of minimalistic Linux distro's: []

    Slackware with a XFCE and Firefox/OpenOffice is very, very fast on even older hardware.

  • tinycore linux (Score:5, Informative)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @07:51PM (#27322063) Homepage Journal very fast from a CDROM. It would be much faster from a hard disk or SSD.

    link []
  • Try coreboot []. I haven't tried it or looked to heavily into it, but I understand that it can take a certain "cargo" into the bios, and one of the possibilities for that cargo is a linux kernel. That'd boot quickly.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jd ( 1658 )

      According to the website, around 3 seconds. Now, some embedded systems have Flash cards large enough to take a mini distro. The Arcom card I used a while back could do this. This is unlikely to be the case for the laptop as-is, but I can't see why you couldn't ultimately have a memory image placed into Flash which is booted into via coreboot.

  • You can set it to download updated weather, news and WiiMail while it's in standby mode, and you can check your webmail, [facebook|myspace|slashdot|whatever] if you spend $5 to download Opera for Devices. Get a usb keyboard and you're all set for posting as well.

    If the TV is already on, it's probably quicker.

    • I have a Wii. I try loading Slashdot in Internet Channel, and it freezes for 30 seconds while something runs. I suspect it's JavaScript or reflow related to Slashdot's tag system, the same thing that freezes Firefox on my desktop for a couple seconds. Besides, Internet Channel has no tabs, no Java (if the wife visits sites that use it), and no Flash Player 8 or 9 (if the wife visits sites that use it).
      • But it DOES do flash 7, so youtube is fine, and for a quick peak into your email, it's really all you need.

        Mind you, the *smart* thing is to just turn on the computer, then go do something for a minute or two while it boots. If you set it to auto-login, she'll come back in a few minutes to her desktop - and if she didn't bother closing her browser when she shut down, it'll be right there, same as the other apps.

        What's annoying in that scenario is shutting down, then a few seconds later - "oh, darn - I f

  • Install LTSP on your home server, and use the laptop as a LTSP thin client. You'll reduce boot time because there's hardly anything running on the client machine, and probably get better performance once everything is running (assuming the server is faster then your old laptop).

  • Xandros Presto! (Score:4, Informative)

    by NynexNinja ( 379583 ) on Tuesday March 24, 2009 @08:03PM (#27322221) [] says it boots in eight seconds.
  • Random observations:

    - Why reboot? Uptime on this (linux) notebook is currently 7 days. I usually only reboot a linux box ONLY when a software upgrade requires it. I haven't rebooted my (accursed) XP office-mandated notebook since February (more than three weeks).

    - Suspend / Hibernation (OS independent comment) are your friends. XP comes back pretty fast, linux not necessarily so quickly, but still LOTS faster than a cold boot for either OS.

    - The heaver the OS (XP or linux) and the apps runnning, the long

  • Step 1. Download UNetBootin from SourceForge (2 minutes)

    Step 2. Stick in a blank USB thumb drive and use UNetBootin to install Linux Mint version 6 or Puppy Linux version 4 onto the drive. (3 to 30 minutes depending on network speed)

    Step 3. Reboot and tell your BIOS to make your newly bootable USB thumb drive the boot drive. (2 minutes)

  • There's a minimal distro for this purpose called Splashtop [] This is a commercial distro aimed at hardware manufacturers to include in their firmware.

    If you have an Asus motherboard it's branded as Express Gate []. Some models have it in the flash bios, some require a 512 MB image file to be located on an NTFS partition (also the installer is windows). Either way, it boots really fast, 5-10 seconds.

    It has Firefox and Skype, Pidgin and a photo viewer. When you exit, the system boots from the hard disk.

  • Over time your entire footprint of your windows system, applications and files, gets spread out of a large footprint of the hard disk. This literally means your average access times go up, as your hard disk has to read from one end to the other of the disk.

    Defragging doesn't fix this, as even if files aren't fragmented and reasonably well placed on the drive, files are simply not longer clustered in say, the first 10% of your hard drive.

    Updates to Windows also mess up your system file layout and footp
  • Auto Power On (Score:2, Informative)

    by sleekware ( 1109351 ) *
    I have noticed in the BIOS before, that there is an option to have the computer turn on at a specific time. This would be handy if you set it for a time that would be a few minutes before you ordinarily need to use it.
  • Have you ever considered one of the netbooks that are out there? They are built just for this purpose.
  • I know you're asking about Linux, but booting Windows into a kiosk mode makes it boot faaast.
    Just alter
    HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon
    and whatever auto-logon guest type account for that shell.
    Downsides: you won't be using it for anything else.
    Upside: Two minutes of (reversible) changes, so least amount of work.
  • Recently I'd noticed that my main laptop (a Dell Inspiron E1505) was not quite as fast as I'd wanted. It is a CentOS 5.2 system running KDE. The main apps I use are Firefox, JEdit, VMWare/VirtualBox, konsole, xine/vlc.

    I started with Firefox, since it's always running. First steps were to install NoScript and AdBlocker. With these installed, it seems like a completely different browser.

    Next thing was to get rid of KDE. On other systems I use Fluxbox. This time I went with XFCE4. From the GDM screen to a rea

  • Don't use it, don't pay for it, don't support it.

    Xubuntu 9.04 would be a bit faster at booting than Ubuntu 9.04, but there are several lightweight GUIs available. You can use a normal Ubuntu install and install the xubuntu-desktop metapackage to get it. Under System > Admin > Login Window, you can set automatic logins and other things (it also asks you if you want auto login during the install).
  • by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @05:34AM (#27326591)
    My older Dell laptop with Ubuntu 8.10 wakes up from sleep in just a few seconds. When I leave Firefox open, it opens also with all of the tabs. I didn't have to fiddle with anything to get this working. I just set the power button to enter 'sleep' mode to make it easy to start and stop.
  • Why reboot? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RandySC ( 9804 ) <<SlashDot> <at> <Calligaster.Net>> on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @06:20AM (#27326873)

    Why is everyone rebooting? Just leave it on and reboot once a week if it is XP and about 45-60 days if it is Linux. Always on rules!

    • Power consumption/saving the earth/living green/conserving fossil fuels/EMF pollution? Disclaimer: I never turn off my laptop and hate rebooting.
    • Or use sleep. Takes all of a second to become usable after pressing the power button, without the power use of leaving it on all the time (though admittedly slightly more power usage than actually turning it off).

  • Or you could just use hibernate.....I have one computer at one whose sole designation is to connect to the internet and check emails or the web, (in its own dmz zone)....I hate waiting, so I hibernate it when I am done with it...leaving everything as it was before hand. It takes me only 2 seconds to boot, and voila open pages, open outlook....presto!

    To the computer illiterate, everything smells like Windows

  • My home desktop has 512Mb RAM and a Celeron D as a processor (ie, not cutting-edge). I run:

    Windows XP fully patched with automatic updates from MS. No 3rd party AV (just use Limited User Accounts [] and you'll be safe as houses).

    So long as you don't install tons of crap, basic Windows XP is a snappy, responsive and consistent OS. Chances are your wife already knows how to change desktop background, change volume, start program x, etc. No learning curve whatsoever. Other posters have told you what you need to k

    • "However, I don't see any real difference in performance or boot times on either OS. For that reason, I'm reticent to advise installing Linux to be a magic bullet for boot time woes"

      There is a difference and you can tweak Linux to get that little more performance on old hardware. Secondly your wife won't risk having her online identity stolen in some drive-by phishing attempt. One of the fastest put-of-the-box solution I've seen is Yoper []
  • If you want to get her to Linux, a few things:
    first, turn off all services that get started on bootup she'll never use, such as apache (if it's installed), or a d/b (ditto).

    Next, and everyone will have their own favs here, I use IceWM as a window manager. Unlike the 12M or whatever of KDE, it's 600k, and comes up *far* faster, since it also doesn't start half a dozen heavyweight processes. Has a few little nicities, like the system monitor on the toolbar. My only irritation with it is that it does *not* re

The primary function of the design engineer is to make things difficult for the fabricator and impossible for the serviceman.