To answer your question about ethically supporting XP, I have a 2 way stance on it.
I will not professionally support XP under any circumstance, even if you can’t afford a newer system. I am liable for that thing and it isn’t worth the risk to make someone who is desperate happy, even if they are genuinely too poor to replace the system. In those cases I’d recommend a midrange Win10 system like an i3 U series laptop or something similar.
On iFixit I don’t mind doing it but I WILL NOT recommend anyone going online continue to use it. It’s fine for old games but if you’re going online you’re opening yourself up to a whole can of worms. I will caution them on this but tell them how to fix it and they can do whatever they want with my advice because I WARNED the OP.
I personally keep a few for legacy applications/hardware and games, but I’m also keeping them offline and know how to handle XP safely.
Now, onto why a general guide doesn’t exist:
As far as making a general guide… It’s not practical for most, including me. I inherit a lot of XP/Vista hardware (some of which is total junk but others not so much) and I don’t want to do it because I need to describe everything from the Pentium 4 (including the Preshott chips) to the Core Duo lines and come up with a general recommendation for RAM and distro, which requires me to get one of each system from that generation.
On top of that, older HP and Lenovo hardware has a WLAN WL so if the machine comes with garbage WiFi under Linux you either get an 1802 (Lenovo) or 104 (HP) error and often a halted system that stops at the BIOS because of a failed WL check. Depending on the age of the system, you either need a PCMCIA or EC (ExpressCard) card and that’s clunky for the average user. The ideal solution is to rip the WL out entirely (custom BIOS) but HP’s business line is a gamble at best (some pre-2010+ is signed and verified and others are not; ALL BIOSes FROM 2010+ ARE RSA SIGNED) and these BIOSes have the potential to kill systems unless it has recovery options that are effective. I am running into this issue on my nc6000 that had the WiFi deleted by IT when they were purchased new :(. I want to nuke the WL outright - not patch cards in as I need to replace it.
I need to know what I am dealing with - that means having a (partial) 1:1 conversation with the system’s owner in the thread and collecting the specs to make distro and hardware upgrade recommendations along with potential new WiFi cards if they need it (along with information like WLAN WL issues). This ABSOLUTELY REQUIRES owner interaction to avoid getting wrong since old hardware is the wild west at times. If I did a guide on it, I’d need to get multiple system generations just to do it. I have the experience because I’ve been schooled on what not to do by the school of hard knocks over time, but the hardware will be unique in so many ways there’s no way I can do it effectively. I'd also want at least 1-2GB of RAM, which isn't always possible because of artificially crippled BIOSes and low end chipsets.
General guides are a pain in the ass to make, even for modern systems… I’ve tried and failed more then once but came very close this time so it *is* possible - just not easy and very failure prone. I’ve made progress to the point I can give it another shot and make it work (with modifications, of course) this time, but I need better hardware since the system I selected has enough issues I’m using it until it dies. I can at least guarantee 4GB of RAM on a system made in the past 5 years.
You’re going to need to crop this if you make the guide before I get to it, but here’s a photo of the nc6000 BIOS (just note that it’s a few years out of date since I couldn’t update it because the DOS update tool doesn’t work):
EDIT: I revised the current content and added the HP invent POST screen to the guide. I will need to take a new image for the boot order on the nc6000.
I also mentioned the HP and Lenovo whitelists in passing, so readers have advance warning of these systems. It’s more of a “This is a problem, so watch out” deal.
As far as the intro goes I didn’t touch it too much, although I did clean it up as well and covered Vista so both OSes are dealt with in the same guide.
@hackerb9 I’ve had some time to think about this and I may consider pursuing it myself and provide the guide (assuming you haven’t done so already)… IF I can find a worthwhile system to do so. I’m not going to use a netbook or cheap/ancient system with something like a Pentium M CPU, but it’s also not going to be unreasonably off from what most readers will have. I’ve got a rough idea of where to look (IGP, midrange CPU and a low res screen) with too little RAM (which I’m not going to match), but I’m also used to dealing with high end machines like i7 business workstations, dGPU systems like the HP DV series and high end dual GPU Macs.
At this point, it’s open to who will provide the platform. I’m currently more concerned with making 2008-12 work (with modifications and a system without Ethernet and battery age issues), so this isn’t a priority but if I got a machine that’s worthwhile for such a guide (Such as a Vista era Pentium or Core i series system OR something I’ve rejected for the 2008-12 guide) then it will be worth doing (for me). As we discussed I don’t think it’s a good idea to tell the person reading such a guide to discard the WL on HP/Lenovo hardware with a custom BIOS BUT I do think it is worth warning readers about it (and potentially providing the known POST codes).