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Ask Slashdot: What OS For a Donated Computer?

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the free-and-tax-deductible-software dept.

Operating Systems 360

chefwear writes "I am thinking of donating retired computers to a local charity for kids. What OS do you think would be best for this? From reading tips regarding the donation of computers, it's widely recommended to keep with the currently installed OS (which is Windows XP in this case). Since XP will be unsupported in about two years, I'm not sure I would be setting the little ones up for success. Would anyone suggest donating a computer with a Linux distro like Ubuntu to a local charity for kids?"

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Depends for what (4, Insightful)

drolli (522659) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041600)

In which context and for what should it be donated?

Re:Depends for what (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37041628)

if it for charity and kids, it will mostly be used for the web. An ubuntu distribution should be fine

Re:Depends for what (1, Flamebait)

zget (2395308) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041832)

Most of games and educational software is Windows only. It would be stupid to change licensed XP to Linux distro (and don't start with wine, there's no way kids know how to use it and play around with the system). Just leave the XP on it, it's the best option. Ending support doesn't really mean anything, the system will still function just like before. Two years is a long time in kids life anyway.

Re:Depends for what (3, Interesting)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042016)

Most of games and educational software is Windows only.

Then I wonder what exactly is installed in Edubuntu - which is a linux distro specifically designed for education

Re:Depends for what (2)

rbrausse (1319883) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041664)

the second question should be if the donating is some fire-and-forget action.

are you willing to support the charity? or do you just dump some old hardware at their place? for the second case the pre-installed XP is probably better (I use this word loosely), if you (or another volunteer) is able to assist with software issues a user-friendly Linux (like Ubuntu LTS) would help the charity to use the computers for a long time.

Also in the case of Linux (5, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041764)

Be ready to do some real support. You may not find it very different form Windows but they will. That is just life, they aren't computer people. Be ready to have plenty of training to do. If you aren't willing to do that, then consider just leaving XP on them. You aren't doing them favours if you give them systems they can't handle and say "Too bad, your problem now!"

Also make sure Linux supports everything they want to do. If it is just web surfing and e-mail, no problem. However if they want to run special educational software, it may be Windows only. If that's the case, XP may be what is needed. Remember that "You don't need that," or "Well there might be OSS that is kinda like it," is never an acceptable phrase. Unless you can find something that they are happy with as a replacement, it isn't a replacement.

Just make sure that if you give them a Linux system, it will be workable for them. While a supported OS is always the best way to go, an unsupported OS won't necessarily be horrible. If the firewall is enabled and people don't use it as an administrator, it could be a long time before there is a real security issue.

Also keep in mind how long the hardware will last or is going to be used. XP will have patches for another 2.5 years (April 8, 2014 is when it stops). Will the systems still likely be running much after that?

There isn't a right way to do this, depends on the situation. So decide if you are willing to support it (or if they have a support guy that handles Linux, which is unlikely), and if so then find out if you can meet their needs with Linux. If not, put XPSP3 on them, patch it, harden it to the extent possible, install security software like MSE, and call it good.

Re:Also in the case of Linux (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37041932)

You make it sound like Windows just magically works. If they aren't "computer people", they will have plenty of trouble with Windows too.

Re:Also in the case of Linux (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041954)

True, but they'll probably have some people with some Windows experience already. They're much less likely to have someone with *NIX experience. And, if they do, then they probably have someone who can nuke the XP install and install their favourite OS.

Re:Also in the case of Linux (1)

Fred Ferrigno (122319) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041940)

Also keep in mind how long the hardware will last or is going to be used. XP will have patches for another 2.5 years (April 8, 2014 is when it stops).

Meanwhile, the current Ubuntu LTS desktop release will only be supported until April 2013. I use Ubuntu myself, but this decision seems like a no-brainer to me.

Re:Also in the case of Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37042082)

Ubuntu literally comes with a "click here to upgrade to the latest distribution for free"-button. They would have to buy new Windows licenses once XP hits end-of-life; or live with an unsupported OS.

Re:Also in the case of Linux (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042048)

If your giving computers to a charity, its likely that the people who end up using the machines are doing so because they don't normally have access to computers, in which case they will be unfamiliar with whatever you put on them...

That said, linux is a better choice because its more complete/usable by default, more difficult to screw up, much safer on the internet by default and you can run a modern version for free. Also linux will encourage them to learn the system in depth if they so desire (and kids are naturally inquisitive), while windows actively discourages such things.

It's important that kids learn about different systems early on, so they won't be afraid of encountering different systems later in life... Lots of people who have never had exposure to anything other than windows have trouble when presented with anything else, even a different version of windows. If these computers are going to young kids, then you can pretty much guarantee that none of their potential employers will be using xp when they leave school.

Similarly when i'm interviewing people for IT jobs, i find that people who started out on Commodore/Atari era machines, early dos or on unix are generally much more skilled and more adaptable than people who started out on windows... People who start out on windows, even if they later tried to learn linux/unix never seem to be quite as good, and generally treat unix as if it was windows (i.e. not making proper use of package management, shell features like pipes or virtual desktops etc).

Yes to Ubuntu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37041610)

My primary concern is how easily the kids would be able to crash the system, and in my experience, it's significantly harder to crash Ubuntu than XP when certain controls are in place.

Re:Yes to Ubuntu (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041930)

So what if they do? It is not like kids are using the system to run enterprise level apps. And XP isn't really that easy to crash. Over the past decade I have seen more Linux, OS X, Solaris crases then XP.

Besides if they have some old games they want to run on it all the better

Re:Yes to Ubuntu (2)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041934)

Oh dear ... we asked a bunch of nerds which OS is best for a group of people they can't relate to.

Re:Yes to Linux-GNU Apps and Games (1)

OldHawk777 (19923) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042170)

Only one OS (Linux, Win...) experience/admin indicates a dangerous user. Crashes happen. Easy Recovery? (Linux-GNU...).

For learning, extensibility, forward-compatibility, flexibility, copyrights/law, cost, interoperability, infrastructure, hardware lifecycle, games ....
IMO: Linux-GNU is best for schools.

Donating retired computers to a local charity for kids all the above needs to be considered. Most Microsoft/closed-source products will (initially and over time) be to costly for the charity and limit kids curiosity, investigation, innovation, upgrades over many years.

Turn the kids loose and on, then let them achieve at their pace and interest for life.

It depends... (4, Insightful)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041612)

it depends on what the purpose of the PC is going to be, are the kids going to be playing games, is it for web browsing, is it for educational purposes, is it to teach programming or business skills? All of these possibilities may affect the choice of OS. Overall though, if the tips that you've read suggest staying with the installed OS, why not follow the tips? XP being unsupported shouldn't affect them in any real manner, and if it does become a problem then the OS can be changed at that time.

Re:It depends... (1)

ThisIsSaei (2397758) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041652)

Very well said. Purpose of the donated PCs is a huge factor. You should also consider the capacity of the recipient to upkeep the machine, and if they plan to use any platform specific software -- would be kinda silly to switch OS's if they're waiting with Windows specific software. There's a huge range of Linux distros, if you do choose to switch, but that's a whole 'nother can o' worms.

Re:It depends... (1)

Slugster (635830) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041658)

No, it doesn't depend.

If you're being realistic, non-computer-geeks don't know jack shit about Linux, and don't have the time or desire to learn. Nobody will want to bother with some wierd OS that they can't buy software for at Wal-Mart.

Without some flavor of Windows on it, the PC will end up being used as a door stop. The very things that Linux is best at, is the same things that regular (non-computer) people never do.

Re:It depends... (1)

Kalidasbala (2190704) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041680)

Though I am Linux user, I would still prefer a novice to use Win XP, how does it matter if it is going to be un-supported, unless the charity people are going to install all latest and greatest software/games. Even for another 5 yrs it would work with the software available today or another year or so. So timeline of OS shouldn't matter, rather how much people can use it matters. Putting Linux might not solve the novice problem and the machine might just stay there as a box. So, lets be realistic and make sure the donated comps get used well.

Re:It depends... (2)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041814)

I would still prefer a novice to use Win XP, how does it matter if it is going to be un-supported, unless the charity people are going to install all latest and greatest software/games.

security patches? that is actually the reason i moved my little brother from illegal XP to legal Vista. It may suck as an OS, but at least you get continued patches, free AV from MS, and a somewhat sane user/rights system. On of the main concerns when letting joe sixpack loose on a pc is making that box as hard to infect/ruin as possible, even if it means sacrificing some speed/comfort.

I had my father running Kubuntu for half a year. This was a man who's most advanced computer experience involved windows 98. He took to Kubuntu without much problems, used firefox/openoffice/thunderbird without issue. The only reason we moved him back to XP was some odd hardware/software conflict causing repeated crashes which i couldnt figure out in a timely manner.

Re:It depends... (1)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041870)

Though I am Linux user, I would still prefer a novice to use Win XP

I would definitely suggest against XP. There's too many open holes there, the PCs would be malware-infested in no time and would require constant upkeeping. That's definitely not novice-friendly. And I understood the PCs are going to kids so atleast I would be wary of malware that might be offering X-rated links and stuff to them.

Re:It depends... (1)

Kalidasbala (2190704) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042074)

Agree to the malware stuff, yes parental control is needed is any case of the OS, as well as an Anti-virus. Malware is not the issue with Windows, rather it depends on how popular an OS is. There are open holes in Linux as well, but there is no vested interest in finding them by public domains, due to its market share. For Example, I just moved from OpenSuSE 10 to OpenSuSE 11 and my X server freezes, but this will not be the case with Windows, there is huge driver support for most of the hardware out on any upgrades. We do not want the kids or the administrative people in the orphanage to do system administration or search for drivers or ping the Linux forums for a patch and perform rpm updates. I am for Linux, but Linux has its own users and market, why get it to a place where its potential will not be seen and bring more people against it.

Re:It depends... (1)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042208)

I too would actually suggest Win7 if the PCs were powerful enough for that, but I understood that they're pretty underpowered and then the choice is between WinXP and Linux.

Re:It depends... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37041942)

Though I am Linux user, I would still prefer a novice to use Win XP

Why? To a novice everything is new, be it Windows XP, Gnome, KDE, ... Maintainance, however, is easier with some kind of Linux were updates for all software is managed by the OS, and not just the core components like with MS Windows.

Unless you have some printer or scanner that doesn't work with Linux, or you want to run some software that is not available on Linux, there is no real reason to set kids in front of MS Windows computer instead of some Linux based desktop. These are kids, they'll figure it out.

That said, in the end its the person who is supposed to maintain the computer one needs to worry about. So it would probably best to just ask the guys at the cherity what they prefer.

Re:It depends... (1)

Pieroxy (222434) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041726)

Well, if it's for programming lessons, Ubuntu might be a good choice though. So I guess it still depends.
If it's just to get them bootstrapped on "using a computer", windows will be best.

Another point for Ubuntu is that if it suits their needs, they can install it on any other computer they might have at no cost. Hence, however fragmented their PC install base might be, they'll be able to level it with a consistent OS across the board.

Re:It depends... (0)

zget (2395308) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041850)

Linux is far from a good system for a beginning programmer, especially kids. Hell, even as a adult it's pain in the ass to set up a good programming environment. There's no way I would had done that as a kid when I had QBasic and software like Klik'n'play. Linux doesn't have such for kids. Windows does.

Re:It depends... (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042108)

For a beginner, this is not a problem. A "good" programming environment isn't a fancy IDE. It's a text editor and a command line with access to multiple compilers. Linux and OSX rule the roost here, as they both come with multiple compilers and interpreters out of the box. New languages are a little easier to obtain for Linux using the repository system.

Windows isn't completely in the dark. For instance, you can get the intel reference compiler for free, I think. The experience is more piecemeal, though, I think.

IDEs come later, when you have more complicated things you want to do that need more powerful organization.

Re:It depends... (1)

Pieroxy (222434) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042158)

To be perfectly fair, most open source / free modern compilers exist for Windows: gcc, java, perl, php, python, etc...

Re:It depends... (1)

zget (2395308) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042194)

It's still not a good option for kids, they want to do something fun instead of playing around with compilers and setting up the environment. This is a good list [] to look at what you should give to a kid to get him or her interested in programming. Something visual where he can instantly get into fun stuff. The rest comes later when the interest is there.

Re:It depends... (1)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042212)

Suuuure. Like having a fun teacher is not important when you're a kid: what counts is having a total nerd that can spew unintelligible formulas for hours.

Re:It depends... (5, Insightful)

shish (588640) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041746)

non-computer-geeks don't know jack shit about Linux

They don't know jack shit about windows either; but if there's a desktop shortcut for The Internet, they'll be fine :-P

Re:It depends... (1)

Slugster (635830) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041860)

They don't know jack shit about windows either; but if there's a desktop shortcut for The Internet, they'll be fine :-P

-As long as all they wanted it for was to use the internet. :>|

In the ads I've seen for charities asking for PC's, they almost always say that the PC's need to have a valid license for the Windows OS that is on it. Go and try to donate a Linux-only PC to some place and see what they say.

And regarding monitors,,,, the local Goodwill stores will not even accept CRT's anymore.

Re:It depends... (1)

nashv (1479253) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041926)

They don't know jack shit about windows either; but if there's a desktop shortcut for The Internet, they'll be fine :-P

I second that. This seems to be lost on many people here at Slashdot. If these people knew anything about computers, they wouldn't have the security issues with Windows either. Windows 7 at least is an excellent piece of software (the marketing, monopolizing practices of its creator company notwithstanding). If you have clueless users , any system is going to be underthreat - Windows just happens to have about 90% of those clueless users simply because of its ubiquity.

Re:It depends... (1)

Lanteran (1883836) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041784)

Bullshit, it's been brainless to use ubuntu since at least hardy. For people who have never used a computer before, ubuntu or mint is much much easier to learn than windows from scratch. Trust me, I've seen it. Though she doesn't use a computer often, I set my grandmother up with xubuntu 8.04 on the desktop years ago. Solid as a rock, been working ever since, and she's had no trouble either. With some flavor of windows on it though, it could easily become a doorstop to someone who doesn't know anything about not clicking links.

Re:It depends... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37042060)

Could you ask your grandmother to come and help me? My machine is dual-boot between Kbuntu and XP. Last night I booted into Kbuntu (by mistake) and wasn't even allowed to open my own hard-drives: don't pass GO, stay in your Home Box etc etc.

Which is why I almost always boot to Xp these days: at least I can get at my files!

Re:It depends... (1)

Cwix (1671282) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042166)

mount -t ntfs-3g /dev/sda1 /mountpoint

Comon that's not that hard really. Either you're not trying that hard or you're trolling.

Re:It depends... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37042210)

Huh? Ubuntu auto-mounts my NTFS partitions on a USB-drive at least, without any need for command-line.
Though I admit when someone is running Kubuntu I'd expect them to be willing and able to debug such stuff, I don't think things work quite as smoothly as with regular Ubuntu there.

Re:It depends... (2)

brokeninside (34168) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041882)

Sure it depends.

The charity may wipe all donated computes and install a sit license from scrach. In which case, the OS doesn't matter.

The charity may be selling the computer at auction or in a thrift store. In that case, a legal license of the most recent version of Windows would be best.

The charity may be using it administratively. In that case, it should be running whatever best runs their office apps.

The charity may use it as a dumb terminal putting up a slide show in their lobby. In that case, the OS hardly matters.

I could go on and on. The best thing to do is to ask the charity.

Re:It depends... (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042104)

If these kids are being given computers by a charity, chances are its because they can't afford to buy one themselves... As such, will know jack shit about anything computer related.

Similarly they won't have much money, so they aren't going to be buying software for it at walmart.. They will be using software that is free, wether that means pirated or freely distributable probably won't matter to them.

Also, the idea of buying software at walmart is antiquated, why would anyone want to do that when they have a repository system built in? The repository model is just better, especially for non geeks... That's why Apple is moving that way. Do you think the iPhone or android apps would be so successful if you had to go to a store and buy apps on physical media?

Linux is better as an educational platform because it encourages people to learn, and kids are naturally inquisitive... You don't want to give kids a system that tells them "don't look in this directory, it could be dangerous".. You want a system that encourages them to learn.

Ok, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37041624)

of course not xp. or anything with MS.

Ubuntu FOR SURE. I mean think about it. easily detectable hardware.. you can download software and start using them from the ubuntu software center.. it's beautifully structured. It's pretty. and It's linux at the end of the day!

So yes, please, ubuntu! spread the open source world. please. that questino shouldn't have even crossed your mind!! that's why i'm the only one posting a reply.

Xubuntu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37041626)

I'd suggest installing Xubuntu. The interface is going to be familiar to some extent to anyone who's used Mac OS, Linux or Windows. Unity or Gnome 3 won't.

It might also be worth putting a couple of shortcuts on the desktop to a web browser, mail client, word processor and any other commonly used applications.

Re:Xubuntu (1)

xorsyst (1279232) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041938)

Seconded - it's simple, will run smoothly on older hardware (even down to 128Mb of RAM), but has the full up-to-date Ubuntu kernel. Set it to auto-update, and Bob's your uncle.

Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37041630)

Give 'em Debian and let the brats learn apt-get for when they could be thinking of Harry Potter or some crap like that.

Re:Who cares? (1)

unixisc (2429386) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042032)

Why not just give em Minix3, and let them work from their TWM? Or better yet - don't even start X - just work from the CLI, and use pkgin install and pkgin update. In fact, they all come w/ the sources - let the brats compile all the stuff.

Dualboot? (5, Interesting)

cheaphomemadeacid (881971) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041638)

Keep the old xp's lying around and install Ubuntu dualboot.

Re:Dualboot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37041892)

Keep the old xp's lying around and install Ubuntu dualboot.

First of all seconded.
Second: Who hates you so much that all of your comments are moderated as -1 (obviously always using overrated). This comment is the first in discussion mentioning dual boot, which I find quite interesting and even if it's not interesting it's definitely doesn't deserves to be so rated with -1.

Realy depends on the specs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37041642)

How are we supposed to make a judgment about what OS is the best when we don't even know the specs of the desktops in question?

Something free, and easy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37041644)

Though what "easy" entails is maybe a bit fuzzy, and not something you'd let your local penguinhead decide. As a habitual FreeBSD user-and-admin, I'd suggest, say, some LTS ubuntu maybe, because it sounds like the sort of userbase they aim for matches your target audience reasonably well. Something along those lines anyway. PCBSD might be an option too. Perhaps organise introductory classes, especially for the adults running the show?

As long as it's not BSA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37041646)

Any OS will do, as long as the manufacturer is not affiliated with the BSA

Don't do it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37041656)

With lotts of experience in the charitable sector, I can say that these types of donations are a disservice.
Old monitors are fine, but old computers are huge time wasters for people, and if anyone who uses these machines is actually paid, it doesn't take very long to accumulate the cost of new Dell @ $349.00.

As for software, if the charity is registered in the US or Canada, use, Office 2011 Pro Plus + Win 7 Enterprise costs about $30.
If a box will run XP it will run Win 7.

Re:Don't do it. (1)

Lanteran (1883836) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041808)

If a box will run XP it will run Win 7.

Sigh. Perhaps you've heard of the phrase bullshit? I doubt it. I can install XP on a pentium 2 or 3 with 384-512Mb of RAM and it will run perfectly. Good fucking luck getting 7 to run, it can barely scale down to the Atom, which is actually somewhat more powerful than a pentium 4. Not that there's anything wrong with that- well there is to me, but windows bloat is just what you deserve for running it. But don't go astroturfing with broad statements like that.

Re:Don't do it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37042072)

I apologize if I offended you, if your still working with pentium 2's and 3's your time must not be worth much.
XP with antivirus with anyting less than 512MB will crawl, the poster didn't specify the specs of the machine, however we have alot of pentium 4 2-3 GHz boxes out there with 1-2 GB ram and they run roughly equivilent with either XP or Win 7, and win 7 does 'seem' faster.
And I really hope that it isn't less than a pentium 4, I didn't even consider the fact that it could be, in which case just land fill it.


CoA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37041660)

If they have the proper license key CoA stickers - go with whatever it is licensed for - charities can usually get good deals on S/W so I wouldn't worry too much - although you can always upgrade them to Linux later if it is a major issue.

If there is no CoA (or one for something like Windows ME!) - Linux is the best way to go - if they choose to replace it themselves, that is their concern.

Licensing? (4, Insightful)

headLITE (171240) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041662)

I would install Ubuntu or some other free operating system. Main reason being licensing, with Ubuntu they'll get a current operating system and future updates and I don't have to worry about whether the XP license was part of a family pack and I can't even give it away, or whether it's an OEM license that prevents them from modifying the hardware, etc.

Re:Licensing? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37041734)

And they won't have to worry about buying anti-virus software.

Re:Licensing? (2)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041752)

I'd install Ubuntu or some other Linux distro mainly because it'll be easy to keep up-to-date. XP is outdated, there's still plenty of open vulnerabilities on it and so on, but any of the more popular Linux distro keeps on pumping out security updates and will likely do so for years to come.

Especially if the PCs are going for kids it's quite important that they work and that there won't be some nasties throwing up links for porn sites or such, and besides, there's plenty of great parenting tools available for Linux that allow one to limit the things the children are allowed to see and/or do.

Just be sure to pick one of the bigger distros like Fedora or Ubuntu and you should be good to go.

Re:Licensing? (0)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041910)

but any of the more popular Linux distro keeps on pumping out security updates and will likely do so for years to come.

ROFL, XP may be nearing the end of it's lifecycle but should keep getting security updates until april 2014. Afaict ubuntu lucid will stop getting security updates for desktop software in april 2013.

If you want long support lifecycles on linux you really need to get into RHEL and it's rebuilds.

Re:Licensing? (1)

rvw (755107) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041974)

but any of the more popular Linux distro keeps on pumping out security updates and will likely do so for years to come.

ROFL, XP may be nearing the end of it's lifecycle but should keep getting security updates until april 2014. Afaict ubuntu lucid will stop getting security updates for desktop software in april 2013.

If you want long support lifecycles on linux you really need to get into RHEL and it's rebuilds.

Lucid updates stop in 2013, but then you upgrade for free to 13.04. So that's no problem, except maybe for Unity. Still I would go for XP. When it's 2014, the PC will probably be too old anyway.

Re:Licensing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37042010)

MS have a pretty active donation system for licenses at charities - I'm almost positive a quick phone call would eliminate any license concerns.

Re:Licensing? (2)

Peter Simpson (112887) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042080)

Another vote for Linux. One reason: no anti-virus needed. Install WINE, and configure OpenOffice to save in MSOffice 95/97 format (.doc, .xls) instead of the default OpenOffice formats (for compatability)

Unsupported is the key (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37041668)

Even the newer ubuntu version will be unsupported in a couple of years.

Re:Unsupported is the key (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042202)

Define "unsupported"...
When XP becomes unsupported, you have to buy a major upgrade.
While XP is still supported, you get minor updates (hot fixes) and major updates (service packs) for free.

Ubuntu works in much the same way, you get minor updates and major updates (which are called released), all of which are free.

If you assume "unsupported" to mean "no more free updates" then even the earliest version of Ubuntu is actually still supported and will continue to be.

Incidentally, XP with no service packs is no longer supported, you are required to install SP3 if you want support.

Hurr Durr (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37041682)

I'm going to ask Slashdot for an OS recommendation DURRRRR

Ubuntu, but keep XP as well? (4, Insightful)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041686)

XP is still very much relevant - much to Microsoft's chagrin - regardless of its expiration date. The machine comes with a (OEM) license, presumably, so why waste it?

At the same time, might as well expose them to a Linux distribution that at least has scores of layman support, such as Ubuntu.

So why not set up a dual-boot system?

Well... (2)

bstrobl (1805978) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041694)

Leaving a clean copy of XP would be my suggestion since you already have the licenses and I reckon the Hardware itself will not likely survive another 2 years (They are Kids after all). But then again that would be too easy so here is another suggestion: Install OpenBSD to provide a solid foundation On top of that install Ubuntu (for an easy to use Linux distro) in VirtualBox, On top of that copy of Ubuntu install Windows XP if the kids need it to run their games In that virtual instance of XP get Firefox to point to jslinux so the kids have something to tinker with if the hardware is not enough spend some money for some more RAM

Re:Well... (1)

Lanteran (1883836) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041830)

Virtualization? This is an xp era machine, those usually don't go beyond Pentium 4 era stuff. It's damn near impossible to get ubuntu running with any kind of speed in a VM unless you've got pretty nice specs which probably wouldn't exist or be any kind of common pre-2006.

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37041884)

XP is crap, it's hard for adults to take care of a PC running it, let along for children that just want to use it. Install a linux distro, it doesn't matter how well how popular it is, even without upgrades it will be more secure ten years from now than an up to date windows then.

The hardware, unless it has some flaws that will cause it to fail, won't be broken by children. Regardless of what you might think, children are not idiots, they're actually very smart and won't have problems learning the gnome/kde/whatever interface like biased adults do and won't confuse a computer for a plastic purple dinosaur.

What you will need to stock up on, is mice and keyboards because those break often for gamers.

Oh, and if you really care about this and it's not just a tax deductible trash dump, then you could spend a couple of hours to explain things to a few, and maybe occasionally check up on things.

I would put Ubuntu (2)

steveha (103154) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041708)

Windows XP needs expert maintenance to keep it running properly. You need to install antivirus and keep it updated, you need to run Windows Update, you need to keep various software packages up to date (and they all have their own ways to update). Printers and such all support XP, but you have to figure out where to get the driver and which one to use; whereas with Ubuntu the driver support isn't 100%, but the stuff that does work will really Just Work with no fussing. (Where I work, there is a networked printer that Ubuntu talks to perfectly, and it took well over an hour to get it working under Windows 7. And I had to install some wacky HP software that I really hate, to get it to go.) And even if you do everything right, after a few years the system will get kind of slow and bogged down, at which time you should really do a bare-metal reinstall to speed things up again.

Ubuntu should run well on any computer from the "Designed for XP" era. It has one unified package manager. The Ubuntu Software Center is a place where kids can get stuff for free, and it's legal and it won't be malware.

When I give away computers, I put Ubuntu on them. (Sometimes I also put Windows on them, if the person getting them has a need for Windows. But kids have no actual need for Windows, and Ubuntu works great.)


Re:I would put Ubuntu (1)

Lanteran (1883836) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041842)

I'm in favor of putting linux on this computer, but ubuntu will not run on any computer with a "Designed for XP" sticker. I doubt you could run it with any kind of efficiency with less than 1GB of RAM and a pentium 4 or maybe high end pentium 3. XP stretches back further than that.

Probably better to use XP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37041714)

I would dual boot it with Ubuntu and XP, even if XP support is going to be stopped by Microsoft that doesn't mean the reams of troubleshooting data online will be taken down. It will be much easier to source software, games, etc for windows.

Adding Ubuntu in there may give a few of them with the interest to investigate the OS further

Unsupported means what? (1)

Boss Sauce (655550) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041730)

Of course Slashdotters will tell you Ubuntu just like they want you to encode your music in ogg, but the answer is XP, clearly. It's still the standard, for better and (mostly) worse, so if the machine can run it, run it. If it's a donated machine, there are low/no expectations for future support other than scrub-and-reinstall, so XP makes the most sense. But also, what they said re: what's the machine's target use, maybe Ubuntu is a good route... but XP is unfortunately the best bet.

Qimo (1)

adycarter (261257) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041732)

Depending on the age of the kids involved I recommend QIMO []

Horrible Idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37041738)

Lol lets give kids Ubuntu, mind as well give them the fucking large hadron collider, they'd be able to use that just as well as ubuntu, and the staff, or lord the fucking staff would flip a major bitch...... If the charity workers cant use ubuntu what are you going to expect children to do with it?

Humble Suggestion (1)

vga_init (589198) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041762)

Do them a favor and put FreeBSD on it. Configure it beforehand so everything works; they won't even be able to figure out how to break it, and if they can even manage to do that, then they'll have learned enough to fix it.

Haiku (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37041768)

Kids want puzzles. Give them an OS as a puzzle.

A desktop linux distro is a perfect choice. (2)

brainchill (611679) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041774)

I would go with Ubuntu, linuxmint or some such desktop distro today. Not so much because it's a better OS or will be supported longer than XP but because when you're donating computers you have to expect that they will end up in the hands of people who can't necessarily afford to buy software to do a lot of things and by default XP comes with 0 extras and won't necessarily know how/where to fine open source options for windows. In this light your typical linux distribution comes with software that will do a little bit of everything from office/word processing/whatever to editing graphics and even a few fun games for kids with plenty more for free in the repositories. I did this for several years in central Nebraska. In all I gathered up several hundred PC's from local businesses that were going to discard them and refurbished them and installed a user friendly linux distribution (at the time I was using Lindows/Linspire) and never had a complaint or even a call back with anything other than a thank you. Most distros like ubuntu, mint, fedora etc today are just as easy to use as windows out of the box even for a new user poking around trying to figure things out.

Give them everything you can. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37041776)

Considering there are some things that you just cannot do under wine, you should leave XP installed. After all, you don't want to prevent the kinds from completing there school work because of some windows-only technology (or similar).

That being said, exposing them to free software operating systems is a good idea, and may allow them to learn many useful things about computers, etc.

So, set up a dual boot environment. Probably have XP boot by default, but put a 5(ish) second countdown on grub, and make sure the option for the Linux distribution you choose has a very curiosity peaking label.

"But we need Microsoft" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37041780)

Quote in subject is what, in my experience, the ones looking after the charity will say. "Microsoft is the standard" and no talk of how wonderful Ubuntu is will persuade them. Therefore a machine without a Windows license is pretty much dead weight with the ones who are like that.

If they're not like that though, then Ubuntu seems like the obvious choice to me or possibly one of its Edu spinoffs (Edubuntu?)

Business (1)

gilesjuk (604902) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041786)

Businesses are almost totally Windows based. It is only when you get into the server room that you'll find Linux. So if you're setting someone up to work with Windows in later life that would be the choice. But there may be a lot more tablet use in 10 years.

But I used an Amiga up until about 1998 and on that I learned how to program C and other things. It's not held back my knowledge of Windows.

Edubuntu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37041788)

For children nothing is better than edubuntu, has a lot of neat educational games installed.

Leave XP but lock them down (1)

Alkonaut (604183) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041792)

If the computers are only to be used for web browsing then any OS will do of course, but I'm assuming that the people you donate the computers to will buy printer X or webcam Y tomorrow and expect it to work after inserting the cd that comes in the box. Linux is excellent until you pop in a windows driver cd...

So I recommend leaving XP on there, just make sure security settings are ok, MSE is installed, use chrome for browsing, make a recovery partition and a simple bare-metal restore procedure etc. etc.

More information needed. (4, Insightful)

PyroMosh (287149) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041820)

Moe info is needed. I had to do something similar when my employer got rid of a lot of old machines. they went to different places, and for each, I evaluated certain criteria.

Who will be administering these machines? This might make the decision easy for you, it might not BE your decision if there's a competent admin in the organization there who will of course have their own ideas. They may use the product keys the machines came with, they may have their own distro they want to standardize on, or they may even qualify for one of the cheap or free site licenses that Microsoft offers to NPOs.

As others have asked, what will the machines be used for? If it's 100% for the web, any OS will do, and it's a question of what will be easiest to maintain. Install the OS, lock it down good, install Firefox or Chrome in terminal mode and you're golden.

If you have any expectation that the staff or kids will want to install their own applications, you're almost certainly better off with XP - end of life or not. WINE is probably not something you want to get into with folks who don't understand computers well enough to administer them on their own.

Remember, just because it's a charity for local kids doesn't necessarily mean anything. Kids might not ever get anywhere near these machines. They could go to an admin who does the finances. One of the PCs we donated went to a charity for Cerebral Palsy where it's being used for fund raising. It's running Razor's Edge on XP.

The best thing to do is ask how they expect to use the machines. Then figure out how to set them up based on that (If they don't have their own people).

OEM OS install, or Kubuntu linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37041824)

Install whatever OS is OEM'ed to the box - if its Windows XP then great, people are familiar with it and it costs nothing extra to put on. If no OEM sticker, put Kubuntu linux on it since you don't have to pay for it and will keep costs down. I'd recommend against Gnome because it has annoying default panels that seem to be nothing more than a waste of space.

Will they run kid software? (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041890)

Ignore Linux bias from slashdotters for a quick moment and think about what they are used for? If the kids are just browsing the web going to PBS kids or coolmath games then the OS should not matter. Ubuntu or whatever distro you want as long as the hardware works. If they want to run something like Meavis Beacon Teaches Typing, Oregon Trail, Math Blaster, MS Word/Works, and other kid software then you should choose Windows.

If you need or want the kid software for win32 then the donated computers must have the OEM license on them and you have to have the media restore cd's then you are good. You can order the restore CDs as well from the OEM. then I would keep Windows XP on them. If not and the computers have a volume licence from some organization then you legally can not donate them without wiping them.

If it is a non profit charity MS has an incentive program listed here [] with great discounts. I do not know how much ram this machines have but I think Windows 7 Starter Edition with the volume license might be very affordable as it works well with machines with just 1 gig of ram. I am thinking if you get donated old software then Windows XP might be a better.

Mathblaster and Lexia Lab really do work and children love them and I think would give them more value than just a machine to browse the web.

Kids = computer games (3, Insightful)

Treffster (1037980) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041906)

Ask yourself 3 questions:

1) Will the kids want to play computer games? Of course, they are kids, what else are computers for at that age? That means XP.

2) Who will help them with the computer? Answer: other kids, parents and teachers. I bet your bottom dollar kids will get much better teaching from others with XP compared to Ubuntu, purely because of the install base and general familiarity.

3) Is the 2 year limit on XP relevant? Of course not, in 2 years as an XP machine it'll be due for a re-install anyway (if not before).

Helios (2)

BandoMcHando (85123) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041914)

It might be worth taking a look at the Helios Project, (Website: [] , Blog of bloke running it: [] ), as this is exactly what they do, collect together donated PCs and stuff, and provide refurbished PCs with Linux on to people on a charitable basis (predominantly disadvantaged kids I believe). (And they do some training etc as well I think).

Anyway, a lot of the postings on their have been quite interesting over the years, and I think they currently use either Ubuntu or Linux Mint.

Re:Helios, Linux Against Poverty (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37042042)

I have volunteered in a program called "Linux Against Poverty" in the past which traces back to this man's organization: The premise is simple: older computers are refurbished and repaired, and then Linux was loaded on them and given to the area's financially less fortunate kids. Linux was chosen simply to the sheer price of buying Windows licenses.

The "bloke" goes into quite a bit of detail (despairingly at times) as to the problems he has faced and situations he has come across in running a charity involving computers.

puppy linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37041956)

puppy linux.

Ask the charity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37041964)

They should just wipe the drive and install a fresh OS anyway, could you imagine if they didn't and the kids found the porn folder the previous owner forgot to delete? Or the number of viruses these systems would have? Heck, I could barely use a browser on my father-in-law's computer because there were so many toolbars installed.

Leave Windows on it (1)

unixisc (2429386) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041982)

As others noted, it depends on what those computers will be for. If it's just games and other software they can buy @ Walmart, leave XP on them. Do you have the original copy? If so, do a complete re-format and re-install, and donate that XP copy as well. Donating Linux would be a bad idea, b'cos at some stage, an admin or someone will have to know how to fix that if it goes wrong. Kids aren't going to know to edit /etc/resolve.conf, or do a 'system-config-network' when the ISP is changed, or open a separate terminal and do a 'service network restart' and for these OSs (Linux, BSD, Hurd...), one has to fix them via CLI despite those graphic interface tools being available. After 2 years, if they are unusable, either they may get newer donated PCs that have Windows 8 on them, or they may decide to try out Ubuntu or some other Linux distro. But that will be their decision.

Just wipe the thing and supply the disks (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 3 years ago | (#37041984)

I doubt any charity would (if they had sense) use a computer with the software that was on it when it was donated. Who knows what is on there - viruses, trojans, porn collections, bank details etc. They'd wipe it and install from scratch. Given that, they would have their own ideas of what to install but as a courtesy you could supply the original install discs if you had them. You could also offer to help them choose an OS if you wanted to volunteer to set it up, in which case their requirements would dictate what OS to use.

Ubuntu, for sure, here are my reasons (0)

Smigh (1634175) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042012)

Taking into account that it's for kids in a charity, I'd go with Ubuntu. I already set up Ubuntu machines for kids and excluding one or two bumps along the way (which Windows XP isn't imune to) it works just fine.

These are my reasons:

1) Windows XP at this point is too vulnerable to malware. I've seen networks in businesses based on XP that were basically breeding grounds for all sorts of viruses, even with paid AV software up to date, and I assume you'll have only free AV protection in them. Also note that you can't use the latest browser from MS so to be up to date on that you should use another one. If I had to bet, I'd say those computers in the hands of kids will be full of malware in a very short time.

2) Ubuntu is easy to use. I'd go as far as to say that it's more intuitive than Windows. Of course, this won't apply to people that lived their whole lives using Windows but since we're talking about kids here, I don't think that should be much of a problem. I'd stick with Ubuntu classic desktop instead of Unity though, since it's just easier to understand.

3) With a centralized repository of software, kids can install new games and other apps without looking in the wild west of the internet and dealing with installers and potentially harmful stuff.

4) In terms of content and applications, a new installation of Ubuntu is much superior than a new installation of Windows. Of course, this is not a problem if you intend to put some work setting up your Windows with more software before donating, like an office suite, etc.

5) No licensing issues whatsoever, no matter how many people use it, how they use it, how they access it, etc. This may not be a problem in your case.

Microsoft Donation Program (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37042014)

Whilst I'm sure it's a cynical move to make the Free software option less attractive, it might be worth considering updating to Windows 7 via the Microsoft Donation Program if the charity in question is eligible. (See

From what I can gather it costs $12 per seat, which sounds a reasonable price to pay to not be tethered to the sinking Windows XP.

If its for Education... (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042020)

I'd suggest Edubuntu []

I never used it myself although there's a 'try it now' which lets you run it over the internet and get a look at it.

Debian made to look like windows (1)

nzac (1822298) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042040)

I comes stable so its less likely updates breaking something and then no one being around to fix it. The issue i see with Ubuntu is if no one knows how to maintain it it could get stuck with some buggy package or unity if someone mucks it up.

Just if you did use Debian be nice and get Ice Weasel tracking the current version of Firefox having anyone still using 3.5 is cruel.

Dual Boot! (2)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042050)

As long as the PCs have 40GB or more of disk space, just install Ubuntu side by side with XP, with the latter as the first choice in GRUB.

This gives them a familiar environment (XP), but lets curious kids explore Linux if they're interested.

"news" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37042066)

stfu donate them with XP and move on. They don't want and won't like linux. You don't get any "coolness" factor for putting linux on them. So stfu stop wasting everyones time give them over with XP and move the fuck on.

Windows XP (1)

nicktuh (1795768) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042078)

Your argument against Windows XP is that it's end-of-life and not supported, and that you don't want kids to learn out dated OS? Good points; and as much as I like Linux. The average end-user is too stupid to use it; and 95-100% of these kids ~WILL be average end-users. At the very least Windows XP still resembles Windows 7, and whatever Windows operating system that they'll be using in their mind-numbing boring and mundane jobs as adults. Prepare kids for what is really going to be used in the real business world, not the IT world, not the developers world but the unidentifiable pointless jobs that the mass majority of them will be working for the rest of their lives. They might as well start getting mad at their computers crashing, getting viruses and working slow now so they'll be used it it as adults. :p Next; if you go the Linux route, who's going to support their systems? Is the donated TCO really worth installing an updated Linux VS a outdated Windows? Clean up the OS, install a freeware firewall, anti-virus, internet monitoring system. The system will at least be able to play the games and educational programs that they need to use.

Apple iOS (2, Funny)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042128)

Because you should only be donating high quality iPads to kids, anything else just isn't fair on them. You don't want to restrict their intellectual and socio-economic growth

And with the vast number of apps available for any possible purpose, whether for business, education or pleasure, there really is no better platform for choice.

So, all in all, it has to be Apple iOS for freedom, choice and thinking of the children who are our future.

Clean install? (2)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#37042176)

I wouldn't give anyone a system with an existing OS. You should scrub the drive and install fresh. Particularly with XP or other strains of Windows, there's no telling what might be crawling around in an old system. Even with Linux, are you certain you've found every trace of your old pr0n collection and deleted it?

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