Registered: Apr 2002
Location: Concord, NH
Distribution: Debian, sidux, antiX, SimplyMEPIS, Kubuntu, Mandriva, Fedora, Xandros, Arch, and many others
Well, I like the replies in this thread. I've done some extensive distributiion (distro) research of a wide variety of GNU/Linux distributions, looking at functionality, simplicity, features, ease of installation, performance, etc.
To me, the easiest installation of them all, provided you have partitions set up or unallocated space available, is Lycoris Desktop/LX. Not only is Lycoris easy to set up, it is well organized once you start using it. The software is specifically designed for every day desktop use. Lycoris is NOT the most complete GNU/Linux distribution, nor is it the fastest. For those traits, you may want to look elsewhere. But if you want a really usable, appealing desktop computer system to use, this is THE one.
To me, the best overall compromise system is Mandrake. I find it to install well on a variety of different hardware, and it seldom requires post installation configuration. It offers a lot more software than Lycoris, so because of that, there are more choices, but that only confuses the absolute novice. It will automatically detect the presence of other operating systems, offer to repartition the available disk space on your system, and install either a simple recommended set of software, or offer you the option to configure your system like an expert.
SuSE makes a good alternative to Mandrake, and some people really like it. For some reason, it just doesn't sit quite as well with me as Mandrake, even though it is comparable in features, has even more software available, generally installs automatically, and, for the most part, works well. I've tried 7.2, 7.3, and 8.0, and each time, I've had minor quirky issues with the configuration program that have required me to reconfigure my DHCP network that runs from a mainstream #COM 905 series network card. Seems like SuSE should do a better job of dealing with that setup automatically. Still, LOTS of other people have great success with SuSE, and after such minor annoyances, I've generally had other good experiences, too.
Red Hat is more known for good server software than desktop software, but in spite of this, they have a decent package for the desktop, but it is neither as automatic as Lycoris nor quite as flexible as Mandrake or SuSE, when it comes to desktop software. Nevertheless, Red Hat offers a first rate implementation of the KDE 3.0 desktop in their current 7.3 software release, and it is a safe choice. Considering that Red Hat is frequently used as the GNU/Linux implementation of choice in business, if you work with Linux at home and at work, Red Hat makes a decent choice.
Personally, as an experienced software user, I've grown fond of the Debian style of packaging, configuring, and updating. I start with the Libranet 2.0 implementation of Debian GNU/Linux and use the famous Debian apt-get to install packages - for instance, apt-get dist-upgrade will upgrade your entire distribution - I just one while typing this message!
I use Libranet (Debian) as an experienced user.
I use Lycoris Desktop/LX for every day desktop functions.
I use all the others mainly out of interest. The other distro I've used a lot in the past year is Mandrake, and Red Hat slightly after that. Any of these: Libranet (experienced users) Lycoris (desktop or novice use), Mandrake (Good overall distro) or Red Hat (Good server and decent overall distro) make good every day choices. SuSE makes a decent alternatives.
Slackware makes a great hobbyist distro. Caldera makes a good business distro. Gentoo makes a great developer/hobbyist distro.