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First I tried Debian. I loved apt-get. Thousands of programs just worked and had their dependencies automatically installed. Problem was the software was so old! And that was using the "stable" version right after the release of 3.1 Sarge.
Next I tried Slackware. I wanted to learn Linux and I certainly did. It still has issues, though:
- GDM (for example) just won't work, even using the package. Killed my Openbox setup and leaves me with XDM.
- udev and hotplug seem to have problems
- Compiling is time consuming on my old hardware, but the limited packages leaves me no choice sometimes.
So I looked up the distro options again. Came up with Gentoo, Ubuntu, and VectorLinux.
Gentoo looks to be similar to Debian's apt-get, but all source, meaning a lot of time wasted on package building.
Ubuntu only had GNOME; since my box won't really handle that beast, can I get XFCE?
VectorLinux seems nice, but you have to pay 30 bucks to get good software.
I could go back to Debian and not limit myself to the stable repositories. Switching to synaptic from aptitude would be nice too.
I could use Gslapt on Slackware like VectorLinux does, but some stuff still is lacking on it, like desktop icons and a decent file manager (which VectorLinux seems to have with XFCE).
Without starting a distro war, does anybody have better suggestions? Now that I know what's going on, I'm looking for something more streamlined and just works.
I switched recently from Slackware to Arch on my laptop, but Arch is i686 optimized so if you have very old hardware it's probably not as good. It's primarily binary package based, but it also has cool PKGBUILD scripts that kind of work like source based packages. It has a dependency system, unlike slackware, and I like it a lot. Just download the base iso which is like 200MB, then pacman -Sy whatever you want. I.e., pacman -Sy xfce4 and it installs X and all dependencies for xfce, then you can just edit xorg.conf and startx. The dependency system is actually quite nice.
Only annoying thing is, recompiling kernels was always easier on slack, I'm not totally sure why. It was easier to get ACPI and software suspend2 working on Slack because of that.
If they're so agnostic, why does Ubuntu only have GNOME while Kubuntu only has KDE? Why not make one project and just offer the choice of DEs?
It's just a matter of having a complete system on one CD. Gnome, KDE and XFCE certainly won't fit all at once. So you can start with Ubuntu or Kubuntu or Server-Ubuntu or whatever, and you can always add another desktop with apt-get.
If you're wanting to check out ubuntu, you can do the server install which gives a more minimal base, then apt-get install xubuntu-desktop, if you want to have a more complete system, or you can install xfce by itself and add what you want. I think I read somewhere that xubuntu will be released as it's own installation cd for the next version due out in May though.
Gentoo is a great distribution and in my opinion it is worth the time investment to get your system up and running in the first place.
You can even compile your base system using a chroot from your current slackware system, if you have extra disk partitions, then you won't get stuck with an unusable system for the first few days while everything compiles.
If you really want to learn linux, then try LinuxFromScratch. It's a fascinating install process, and it's already taught me a fair bit about the basic underlying linux core. It takes a fair chunk of time to setup however. I'm no where near having a full system running yet, I just compile a few more packages every now and then when I have some spare CPU cycles.