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OK - I'm not quite a total linux virgin, I've been using ubuntu on my dell mini-9 netbook for a while. The problem was that every release had problems and every new release, while often solving the previous problems, introduced new (and serious) ones.
I'd really like to have linux on everything (with dual boot with M$ on some). I currently have three machines; the aforementioned mini-9 a toshiba satellite U300 laptop and an ACER Veriton 7600GT desktop with an extra Radeon graphics card that runs a second monitor.
Ubuntu finally trashed its own file system on the mini, so I embarked on finding something more stable. PCLinuxOS runs a treat on the mini-9 and recognised all the hardware (including the wireless). The only problem with that is that there is practically no documentation, it seems to be a tiny organisation and the live cd dies horribly on the desktop, due to some graphics problem.
I downloaded opensuse live and it runs reasonably on all three except that it doesn't recognise the mini wireless and doesn't seem to see the second graphics card on the desktop.
I guess these things are fixable but I was wondering what else may be worth a go (I'm spending way too much time and bandwidth downloading and trying live cd images).
I want something that is (above all) reliable, has good documentation and can run the stuff I want; firefox, thunderbird, sunbird, openoffice, sun java (on everything) and skype and netbeans on the laptop and desktop.
I don't want to have to do a total reinstall every six months - I want something I can setup and forget. I DO want to be able to update to the new releases of openoffice, firefox etc. (although I don't mind waiting a while for them to get through to a repository).
The laptop runs vista (that I want to keep as dual boot) and has a data partition (90GB) that could easily be deleted and used to test distros. Could I have a multiple boot (vista, and more than one linux distro) and is there a good 'how to' for that?
That excellent page does not address Olmy's question; Olmy seems to have a good grasp of Linux and future requirements.
Unfortunately I can't help with the specific requirements. In Olmy's situation I would read up about distros on distrowatch and having picked some candidate distros would netsearch using each distro name with each hardware (dell mini-9 netbook, toshiba satellite U300, ACER Veriton 7600GT and the specific Radeon model) to see if there is any discussion of problems getting the hardware to work. While browsing the netsearch results I would note the user community discussions and consider how useful they are and how comfortable I would be participating in them.
Debian GNU/Linux has a very formal testing procedure for new software, a large repository and is the basis for Ubuntu. Debian uses several flavours: experimental, testing and stable. If you use the stable release, you are good for about two years of stability. It may not have drivers for the latest hardware but other than that I find it very reliable. Ubuntu uses the Debian GNU/Linux repository as a starting point for releases but they use the testing stuff which has a lot of bugs sometimes. New packages have to spend weeks in experimental before getting into testing and months to years in testing before getting into Debian stable.
Google is your friend. Search for your model and some distro to see what works.
For what's worth, for a number of years, I have been using Mandriva in various guises ranging from Powerpack 2008 to Open 2010 and have found it to be stable and easily upgrageable - comes in 3 versions, Free (No commercial software), One (also free, but with some commercial programs) and Powerpack (Costs approx GBP50 and includes commercial software / trial software etc). Have just installed on a HP Probook 4510 Laptop and wireless etc worked fine and also have it running on another 6 PC's (one acting as a Postgresql / Web server)