I helped an elderly friend set up his new PC yesterday. His
previous machine, over a decade old, was running Windows XP. I had set
up an Ubuntu dual-boot a few years back, and he liked playing the games.
But then the Linux boot stopped working--there was a message to the
effect “hd0 out of disk”, which sounded like a GRUB problem (“hd0”
being a GRUB disk name, not a Linux disk name). I booted up
SystemRescueCD, and found that disk space was ample. I did an fsck on
the Linux volume, and found no filesystem problems. I ran a badblocks
scan, and it reported several bad sectors, though oddly they only seemed
to be in the Windows partition (if I interpreted the numbers
Naturally I searched online, but the hits I found for that error
message didn’t seem very helpful. Reinstalling GRUB didn’t help, so I
concluded there were likely other hardware problems, so time for a new
He got an entry-level dual-core AMD box from PBTech--their own house
build, in a CoolerMaster case--for well under a grand. Nothing fancy,
but good enough for his needs--mainly Web browsing, e-mail, a little
bit of word processing, and those games.
The PBTech box came without an OS. He could have got Windows 10 for it,
but considering he would be facing a learning curve coming from XP
regardless, I suggested going 100% Linux for all his daily needs, to
see if that would work. He could always spend the $160-odd extra on
Windows later if need be.
So I set it up with Linux Mint, since that seems to be everybody’s
favourite :). He was already using Firefox on Windows, so moving all his
Web bookmarks across was easy. The Mint install put an icon for
Thunderbird on the desktop by default, so I decided to try that for
e-mail. Getting his address book across from Outlook Express was
fairly straightforward, once I figured out how to map the exported CSV
field names correctly. The mail messages were slightly more fiddly, but
I found this extension
which directly loads Microsoft’s .dbx files, and that seemed to work OK.
Then he wanted to play CDs. When we put in an audio CD, it came up with
options to run Banshee (media player) or Brasero (disc burner). The
Banshee media player wouldn’t play the CD directly, it insisted on
ripping it to the hard drive first. This was not really what he wanted.
I had a look round, and found KsCD, which will indeed play audio CDs
without trying to rip them to audio files first. As far as I know, this
is the only GUI Linux app that can do so.
So, day 1 ended on a reasonably successful note. He was already
noticing how much faster the new machine was. So we’ll see how it goes