How to build a Linux Box using Zorin Lite 

M. Mruzek, Michigan USA

A $1 Computer

Figure 1: A Garage Sale Computer purchased for $1

This page describes the process of installing the Linux operating system named Zorin Lite. Zorin is perfect for Linux beginners. Zorin has a familiar GUI (Graphical User Interface) similar to Windows. More importantly, Zorin also provides the terminal command line interface. The true power of Linux to do scientific calculations can be accessed using the terminal. Our particular interest is using the GNU SDR radio applications to do radio astronomy. Zorin Lite has everything you need to get started with Linux, and it works great on older computers. In the example described here we are installing Zorin on a $1 garage sale computer.  So if you are curious about Linux, but didn't know how to get started, this page is for you!

Step 1: Find an old computer to be dedicated for the pupose. This will sidestep all the issues with trying to get dual-booting to work. That's why you want to pick a computer and designate it as your "Linux Box".  Just make sure your computer has 3 things: Open USB ports, a network port and video output. You also need to know if your computer is 64 bit or 32 bit. This tutorial will proceed with the assumption your machine is 64 bit. (See below for 32 bit installation tips.)

Typical Computer for this Project

Figure 2: Computer with Network, USB and Video Ports

Step 2: Connect a keyboard, mouse and monitor to the computer. In our case the PS/2 types work fine.  Boot your computer and enter the BIOS. Usually this is a matter of hitting a certain key ("F10" for HP, "F2" for Dell, etc.) immediately after power is applied.  The splash screen may say which key to hit for BIOS entry, otherwise you can look it up by doing an internet search. Once in the BIOS, find the settings for "Boot Order" and set "USB Storage Device" (or similar) as the first choice. Figure 3 shows what a typical setup looks like for a Dell Latitude Laptop.

Boot Order in BIOS for a DELL Laptop

Figure 3: "USB Storage Device" has been set as first in the Boot Order

Step 3: Select a USB thumb drive to use for installing Zorin. NOTE: ALL EXISTING INFORMATION ON THE THUMB DRIVE WILL BE ERASED! You will need a drive of at least 3 GB capacity. Probably just about any drive you have laying around will work fine, or you can buy one on Amazon for about $6.

Thumb Drive USB Storage Device

Figure 4: "USB Storage Device" for installing Zorin

Step 4: You will need a computer running Windows to prepare the USB Storage Device. In order to prepare the drive you must download and install an application on your Windows computer to make the USB storage device bootable. There are a couple of good choices to do that: Rufus for example. Other programs that do the same thing are Universal USB Installer, or balenaEtcher.  NOTE: Be careful downloading any of these applications... some of the webpage advertisements contain misleading "Download" buttons that are not the application you want!

Rufus download page

Figure 4: Rufus download page and program link

Step 5: After you download and open Rufus you will be presented with a popup screen as shown in Figure 5.  There are 2 important pieces of information you must provide to Rufus. The first is to select the USB device you will be writing to. In this example I have chosen the 16GB "G:" drive.  Make sure you select the correct drive! The second piece of information is the filename for the ISO image. Let's cover that topic in Step 6.

Typical Setup for Burning an ISO to USB

Figure 5: Splash Screen for Rufus

Step 6: There is actually a huge family of different Linux Operating System distributions.  We are going to be installing Zorin Lite.  The webpage for the Zorin distribution is here: Zorin   We see that the most recent version is Version 16.3, and there is a clickable link to the ISO download page. When we click on the ISO it takes us to an actual download page, as shown in Figure 7. We are going to download the Zorin Lite version ISO because it works well on older hardware and is well suited for people familiar with using Windows. When you download the ISO remember where the file is stored so you can direct Rufus to the location, as shown in Figure 5.

Download Page for Zorin

Figure 6: Download Page for Zorin

Download the Zorin LIte ISO here

Figure 7: Download Zorin Lite ISO on this webpage ( )

Step 7: Burn the ISO file to the USB Storage Device using Rufus by selecting the "START" button. Note that we have the persistence level set to zero in Rufus. (Also inside the green box that we have highlighted.)  When you hit "START" you will be prompted with a few screens to confirm the formatting and installation, as shown in Figure 8. Just click through them. The actually USB Device write process will take about 5 minutes. Updates are provided as the process proceeds.  You now have a USB stick for installing the operating system Zorin Lite. My suggestion is to label the USB device with "Zorin Lite" and keep it in your bag of tricks.

Install 1 Install 2 Install 3 Install 4

Figure 8: Typical Screenshots from a USB install using Rufus

Network Cable

Figure 9: Ethernet cables are inexpensive and get the job done!

Step 8: Before installing Zorin on you computer we strongly suggest that you establish network connectivity using a network cable. Using a network cable is basically the foolproof approach.  If you look at the router where your internet connection enters the house you will see that it also has at least one network port... most modems have several. We suggest using a network cable to make the connection to avoid issues with setting up wireless. (You can switch to wireless, if so inclined, after installation.)  Linux is rooted on basic network connectivity.  I ran a 100 foot ethernet cable to my Linux computer especially for this reason.  Zorin will automatically recognize the internet connection during installation. This is the path of least resistance!

Typical Modem Connection

Figure 10: Typical ethernet connection at a DSL, Cable or Fiber Modem with yellow cable.

Step 9: Install the Zorin Lite USB device into your computer and turn it on. The computer will boot from the USB and you will be presented with a menu as shown in Figure 11. From there you will be presented with the choice as shown in Figure 12.  From here you follow the prompts to choose a language, location, username and password. It's all pretty much self-explanatory from here. Watch for our next update, which will describe how to load scientific tools on your machine.

USB Splash Screen

Figure 11: Splash Screen booting from the USB Device

Install Zorin

Figure 12: Install Zorin OS onto the computer

: Installation on a 32 bit computer

Of course some older computers are going to be 32 bit machines. Fortunately, older versions of Zorin for 32 bit machines are still available.  The most significant difference in installation is to choose an ISO in Step 6 that's for 32 bit machines.  That means installing a Zorin distribution that's about 10 years old. I suggest using Zorin 9. Here is a link to the Zorin 9 Download Page.  

The main pitfall that I have seen with using an older distribution is that the included Firefox web browser is not happy with some of the modern communication protocols.  The bottom line here is that you won't be able to do much more than basic browsing.  The terminal command line interface works great though. I have a 15 year old Dell D600 Laptop running Zorin 9, and it's my daily driver for doing radio astronomy from the terminal screen.

Zorin Lite 9 for older computers

Figure 13: ISO file for Zorin Lite 9 (32 bit)

The remaining parts of the installation process are identical, however you may encounter an error message when you insert the USB Device into the computer and do your first boot.  The message may say something like this: "This kernel requires PAE. You may be able to proceed by invoking 'forcepae' on the command line".  PAE stands for Physical Address Extension, and it is basically a memory management feature for X86 processors.


I received this message installing on a very old Dell D600 laptop.  Here is a discussion/explanation of how to 'forcepae'.   The basic process is to get to the command line that will be performing the installation and add this: " -- forcepae", as explained in the link. (The link is for Ubuntu Linux, but you get the idea.)  I will take some screen shots of this process the next time if/when I encounter it again.