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I recently attempted to install Linux on a eMachine el1200-05w. It's a compact computer with 1G Ram, an integrated nVidia graphics card, 160 G hard drive, and a 64 bit AMD Athlon 2650e 1.6ghz processor. Not a power house, but it should have the means to be able to run a number of distributions just fine. I tried to install the following, all of which failed:
  • Fedora 11 64 bit
  • Fedora 11 32 bit
  • Fedora 12 64 bit
  • Fedora 12 32 bit
  • Ubuntu 8.04 64 bit (this is an extended support edition)
  • Ubuntu 9.10 64 bit
  • Kubuntu 9.10 64 bit
  • OpenSUSE 11.2 64 bit
  • OpenSUSE 11.2 32 bit (KDE Live CD)

I don't have the exact details, but where possible I tried using the basic graphics, normal graphics, and Live CD installer. At some point, usually during the install or the first time logging in, the screen became garbled. It made 5 inch horizontal lines, slightly tilted to one side, made up of the colors that where on the screen. I'm not entirely sure what caused this problem but I'm guessing it was the video card.  I would have guessed it was the drivers, but the Fedora and Ubuntu distros use different drivers by default. I casted aside the problem as crappy hardware and moved on to obtaining the restore CD's from eMachine's website.

 $20 and a week later I got the CD's in the mail and started on installing XP. First off, the restore CD are NOT the normal Windows install CD on one disc and drivers and other programs on the other CD. As far as I can tell it's an image that will only work on this exact model. Whatever. I booted from the right CD's and got an error popup that said "Error: 0xf0000051". Freak! Fortunately, some googling lead me to helpful site that helped be realize the restore CD software was crap and couldn't create/remove/handle partitions as needed. Unfortunately, the site told me to use a Live CD (FAIL!) to edit the partitions. In the end, I used a Windows XP CD I had lying around to create the partions correctly then used eMachine's CD's to restore.


There are two large negatives that strike me with this computer.

1) I looked at the price and wasn't impressed. As a general rule a computer is being sold for a good price if it's cheaper for me to buy it than it is to build it. When I say build it I'm not including the price of the OS, media readers, or any peripherals. I didn't think this computer passed by "good price" test.

2) eMachines are obviously supposed to target less techy people. I'm okay with people targeting that market. It's good, I think they need to be helped. But in this case, it seems they traded powerful tools for "ease of use" (not really that much easier). My BASIC-style program below illustrates why that is a bad idea.

0) start
1) Are you techy? If yes go to 2, otherwise go to 3
2) You are about to be subjected to crappy, non-standard tools to do your job. This will suck. Take a peek at 4 then go to 8
3) Do you want to attempt to fix your computer? If yes 4, otherwise 5.
4) You will not be able to ask your friends/family for help because they are unfamiliar with this non-standard weak installer.  If you learn how to use this tool, you will never be able to use it again because it is different from everything else. This will force you to repeat this step the next time you buy a computer. Go to 8.
5) Are you willing to pay someone? If yes 6, else 7.
6) This will not be cheap. In fact it may cost more because these are non-standard tools they will have to figure out. Go to 8.
7) I'm not going to lie, if you can get here, this might be the best place to be. However, you are always going to be enslaved by your computer because you don't understand it. Go to 8
8) FAIL.

All in all, this isn't a terrible machine. I'd take one if it was free, but I don't know what I'd do with it since the parts aren't that good and I can't put Linux on it...oh well.