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I run an organisation that cleans data from donated laptops and reinstalls minimal operating systems and office for poor schools in rural India.

I plan to boot and wipe the laptops I receive, but I don't know what to do after that to install Ubuntu. Which release/variant/version should I burn onto CD/DVD?

In terms of software, would like to install at least OpenOffice on the laptops.

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marked as duplicate by Eliah Kagan, Lucio, Mitch Aug 3 '14 at 9:01

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Do you want to install Linux on the machines or only want them to cleanup data with Linux? – Anwar Shah Jul 4 '12 at 9:28
1. Clean data with boot and nuke – Fred Jul 4 '12 at 9:32
2. Install Linux – Fred Jul 4 '12 at 9:32
3. Install open office – Fred Jul 4 '12 at 9:32
Do you need to securely erase sensible data from the hard drives, or would a repartitioning only be sufficient? – Takkat Jul 4 '12 at 9:52

Well now, this is a very good question. I assume that the laptops will be of a low spec because they are second hand, so I would suggest current versions of Lubuntu or Xubuntu.

It is worth, however, trying out all the versions to see which people respond to the best.

These should all come with Libre Office installed by default.

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Okay going to tey Lubuntu. Can I install this from a DVD after nuke and boot? What is the process? – Fred Jul 4 '12 at 9:40
Both Xubuntu, and Lubuntu don't have Libre Office pre-installed (they use the fine and lightweight Abiword instead). – Takkat Jul 4 '12 at 9:47
Cool. I can install open office. – Fred Jul 4 '12 at 9:50
@Fred that's no problem at all! You just need to have Lubuntu burned to a disk and just shove it in. Chances are the defaults settings are going to be more than enough for you. – SuperMatt Jul 4 '12 at 11:27
I'd still go for LibreOffice. It's basically the same software, but development is farther advanced (they are at least one minor version in advance, plus have the bigger team -- which mostly consists of the former OpenOffice team). And I'd install it from the repo (for future updates). If possible, I'd setup one machine completely, then make a clone of it (e.g. using partimage), and apply that clone to "future machines". Saves you a lot of headache if it works out. – Izzy Jul 4 '12 at 11:34

As you mention schools as recipients of the laptop, Edubuntu would be the logical choice, unless performance of your hardware is a real concern. In the latter case, you might look at the Ubuntu derivatives. Ubuntulite could then be an option (or Lubuntu if you want to stay with a "recognised flavor")

As an additional thought: Edubuntu 12.04 is an LTS release, i.e. being supported for 5 years, while Lubuntu is only supported for 18 months (and therefore needs dist-upgrading ("heavy maintenance") earlier than Edubuntu!)

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Edubuntu only comes on DVD - this might be an issue. – Takkat Jul 4 '12 at 9:43

Hopefully you will receive hundreds of used laptops for your project. Erasing and installing Ubuntu will however then mean a lot of time consuming work until you can give away the laptops again. Therefore we need to keep the steps involved reliable, and as fast as possible.

For one simple but important reason I would rather suggest you go for standard Ubuntu rather than for the somewhat less popular variants Lubuntu, Xubuntu, or Edubuntu: people in rural areas will somewhat more likely get help for the mainstream Ubuntu than for the other variants. Only if you have many very old machines that can't even run Unity2D you may consider one of the more lightweight distribution variants.

Steps involved:

  • download the installation CD

  • make a bootable USB drive from that (installation is faster than from CD)

  • alternatively user Remastersys from a running and updated installation to clone to the other machines.

For each laptop:

  • Boot with this USB drive (you may need to adapt the BIOS for that)

  • Choose Try out Ubuntu on the welcome screen to start a live session

  • Wipe data on the drives with any of the following in a root terminal

     dd if=/dev/zero of=/sdx  # for low security or when disks were encrypted
     dd if=/dev/urandom of=/sdx  # for a more secure wiping  

    replace /sdx with the appropriate for the hard drive(s), take care to not wipe your USB drive. For other secure wiping tools see this question.

  • close the terminal and choose "Install Ubuntu" from the same live session

  • Remove the USB and reboot when done

  • Update the system (optionally you may also install proprietary graphics drivers now)

By going through the above step of a live session before installing we have the advantage to see that the laptops are healthy, and we can also verify their hardware is capablae of running Ubuntu.

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I will suggest Xubuntu , and you can Download the package LibreOffice from here for Common Manual Installation.

Since you will be using Lower Specs Laptop ( Used one) Xubuntu will be better choice or , Other alternate way would be Making a Custom Live CD so that you can include all the packages required basically for Education of Minors. You can browse the Edubuntu Apps and add them if found interesting for that age group .

This way you can include Libreoffice and other things specifically , and remove other things not needed in Xubuntu. This way you can actually distribute these custom ISO and get help in making it available quickly through all your Laptops.

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Any peculiar reason why you did not recommend to install Libre Office from the standard Ubuntu repositories i.e. via USC? – Takkat Jul 4 '12 at 10:31
Only reason is , that he will have to download it for every Xubuntu Installed Laptop Individually , which will be tedious and time consuming . So i suggested to make a custom ISO to include it from Official Repository , which will be one time download process and easily available throughout i.e. why i posted it as alternate method. – atenz Jul 4 '12 at 10:41
He could also install one laptop, and then clone the installation (provided similar hardware or at least similar partition size, this should be no problem - and partimage is the tool to create and apply those clones while booted from a live cd). So all the installation steps had only to be done once, subsequent installs then are much faster and less work. – Izzy Jul 4 '12 at 11:31
Having donated laptops means having laptops with different system Drivers requirement , different Chipsets and different storage modules . Cloning may cause a lot problems rather solving them . If it was for a Multiple Desktops of same Configs , cloning would have been beneficial. – atenz Jul 4 '12 at 11:42

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