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really the best way to figure out what disro to use is by trying a few of them. i use red hat 9 simply because it in my opinion does the best with hardware detection and has alot of stuff in it. mandrake is a good one as well but i found it to be a bit lacking in the hardware detection.
really alot of things go into consideration as to what distro to use like how new your hardware is, does it have any off the wall brand names or is it fairly common,how much patents do you have, how much do you know about computers in general, .and the list goes on.
but it really boils down to your personal prefrence but i tryed a few differant distros befor settling withred hat so try a few and see what you are most comfortable with and what gives you the least heartburn trying to learn.
Though to qualify that, if the person starting the thread has a fair amount of "prior" then maybe - BUT it entirely depends on the reasons behind changing/trying linux in the first place
But slack 9, from cold, nah! you might as well say debian with no instructions - totally wipe the hard drive and stumble around in the dark for a couple of months.
Straight desktop learning - mandrake/deadrat/SuSE - I vote for mandy - didn't like SuSE, felt to sterile and teutonic - the redhat that I tried was 7 something - but I didn't like it - not sure why, and have stuck with mandy - the 91 I installed at the end of last week, found all my hardware (even the scanner - much to my amazment) the config went like a breeze and the extra bits n' bobs that I have added for customization all work excellently.
just my 10 bob's# worth!
#10 bob = 10 shillings = 12d to the shilling = 20 shillings to the pound >memories, memories>those where the days, if you had 10 shillings worth of change in your pocket, then you needed a small truck to carry your pocket around with you
Like you say, it depends why? I started with Slackware 9 as my first serious attempt at an installation (had tried 8.1 about year and half ago on an old Thinkpad ... couldn't get X going so abandoned it). It's not so hard. If you want to learn the command line and how things work, where stuff goes it seems to be a good option. If you've never touched DOS 'cause "you can't have point-and-clickiness with DOS" then I'd steer clear. Otherwise, have a go!
The man command is your friend, not your best friend though, lol, (type 'man man' at the prompt)! As is slocate (begin by typing 'slocate -u' then use it to locate things such as XF86Config by using 'slocate XF86Config').
I must be hard headed or something. I tried Mandrake and RedHat about a year ago and didn't like them.
Installed Slackware 8.1 last july and haven't looked back once.
And yes, I switched from win98, no DOS, no dual-boot and have been very happy.