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Old 02-13-2011, 10:41 PM   #1
Diogones
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Looking for light-weight, easy to learn Linux


Greetings Linux Questions Forum!

My computer has been bogged down recently by Windows,and my productivity has suffered, so I was hoping to make the transition to Linux, which I heard is compatible on multiple systems with various specs. Since I am a newcomer to the Linux scene, I desperately need some advice as to which distro I should use. I have several criteria for the Linux model I need, so hopefully it should help to narrow down my choices somewhat.

1.) It has to be agile and fast, as my machine isn't very advanced or new. My system specs are as follows:

Dell Dimension 4500S
CPU: Pentium 4 2.00GHz
2 GB RAM DDR1 (maxed out)
40 GB Hard drive (10GB occupied)
64 MB Video RAM integrated with motherboard (no discrete graphics card.)

2.) It has to be fairly easy to learn, as obviously I don't know much about Linux. If it could have a familiar interface, such as Mac or Windows'GUI, it would make the learning curve much easier.

3.) It has to be fairly self-sustaining and possess low maintenance, as I use my computer for business and online transactions. As such, I want to be able to focus on using the computer for my tasks, and not fiddle with command lines or esoteric computer functions (changing the registry, modifying folder permissions, etc.)

4.) Finally, the distro has to be offered as a USB bootable ISO, as I do not have a DVD drive, and I imagine the file size will be too large to fit a CD (unless anybody here would recommend a compression method of some sort).

Happily, the third point is going to be somewhat satisfied with whatever distro I use, as Linux is much more secure, reliable, and stable than Windows, and hence much easier to run.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post, and I eagerly await any and all distro suggestions!
 
Old 02-13-2011, 11:33 PM   #2
snowpine
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Welcome to the forums! You can read a decent overview of the top 10 Linux distros here:

http://distrowatch.com/dwres.php?resource=major

I recommend burning Live CDs or Live USBs of several top distros and taking them for a test drive. This is a rite of passage for new Linux users.

To address your specific questions:

1) Your hardware specs meet or exceed the minimum requirements for all of the top 10 distros, no worries there.

Choice of distro has a much lesser impact on performance compared with the desktop environment (DE) you choose. Gnome and KDE are full-featured, user-friendly DE's that give a similar experience to Windows/Mac OS. Xfce and LXDE are lighter-weight and generally give better performance. All of the major distros support a variety of DE's.

2) Ubuntu and Mint are widely considered excellent choices for new Linux users such as yourself.

3) All of the top distributions are very well documented so you can easily find answers on their help pages, wiki, forums, etc. Ubuntu and especially Mint have a lot of GUI config tools and less need for the command line. (However, the command line is universal and therefore very popular for giving help online, for example if you use LXDE and I use Gnome, probably I can't give you GUI instructions, but I can tell you a command you can copy and paste into your terminal.)

4) Most distros fit on a CD (under 700mb) and/or have USB installers, so again no worries.

Good luck!

Last edited by snowpine; 02-13-2011 at 11:35 PM.
 
1 members found this post helpful.
Old 02-13-2011, 11:38 PM   #3
rich_c
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All I'd add to snowpine's advice is that for creating a bootable USB image, you'll probably want to give Unetbootin a go.
 
Old 02-14-2011, 02:35 PM   #4
Diogones
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Thank you snowpine and rich c for your prompt and helpful replies! The link for Unetbootin was very helpful rich; just what I was looking for. While I've heard of lightweight distros such as Puppy Linux and Slax, they are mostly designed to boot off a USB drive. If I were to install them to a hard disc, it might defeat the purpose of using a "lighter" system. On the other hand, I'd prefer to begin the initial Linux boot from my USB, and then install it to the hard drive if I decide that it is the distro I would like to keep. I'm not sure how many distros support this feature, but Unetbootin might help me regardless.

That is a good point you brought up about the command line snowpine, and I may eventually have to learn at least a few commands with the terminal in order to sidestep any issues I might have. Since LXDE are lighter than GNOME, would you recommend Mint LXDE instead of the standard version? Also, I've heard of both Kubuntu and Lubuntu for being lighter versions of Ubuntu - would you happen to know which one is faster, or which features each have? Thank you again for your suggestions.
 
Old 02-14-2011, 03:11 PM   #5
snowpine
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diogones View Post
Since LXDE are lighter than GNOME, would you recommend Mint LXDE instead of the standard version? Also, I've heard of both Kubuntu and Lubuntu for being lighter versions of Ubuntu - would you happen to know which one is faster, or which features each have? Thank you again for your suggestions.
Mint LXDE and/or Lubuntu (the LXDE version of Ubuntu) both fit your criteria of lightweight and user-friendly, in my opinion. Kubuntu (the KDE version of Ubuntu) does not have the reputation of being "lightweight" but your system meets the minimum hardware requirements.

The "desktop environment" (LXDE, Gnome, KDE, etc.) is simply the user interface that you use to interact with the computer. The goal is to find a DE that fits your work style and preferences. Regardless of which DE you choose, it will be the same "core" system under the hood, and you'll be able to install whichever end-user applications you like.

Last edited by snowpine; 02-14-2011 at 03:13 PM.
 
Old 02-14-2011, 05:27 PM   #6
darkduck
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Lightbulb

Quote:
Originally Posted by Diogones View Post
Thank you snowpine and rich c for your prompt and helpful replies! The link for Unetbootin was very helpful rich; just what I was looking for. While I've heard of lightweight distros such as Puppy Linux and Slax, they are mostly designed to boot off a USB drive. If I were to install them to a hard disc, it might defeat the purpose of using a "lighter" system. On the other hand, I'd prefer to begin the initial Linux boot from my USB, and then install it to the hard drive if I decide that it is the distro I would like to keep. I'm not sure how many distros support this feature, but Unetbootin might help me regardless.

That is a good point you brought up about the command line snowpine, and I may eventually have to learn at least a few commands with the terminal in order to sidestep any issues I might have. Since LXDE are lighter than GNOME, would you recommend Mint LXDE instead of the standard version? Also, I've heard of both Kubuntu and Lubuntu for being lighter versions of Ubuntu - would you happen to know which one is faster, or which features each have? Thank you again for your suggestions.
Hi,
Puppy can be run from USB with save file placed to same USB or to HDD. Later, when you decided to move from USB to HDD, you can make frugal install and keep the same save-file.
Quite similar to SLAX. The issue I faced with SLAX is that it cannot properly work with save directory on FAT partition, recommended to be EXT2.
Give them a try.
Problem with more "heavy-weight" systems (*buntu, Mint) that it is quite difficult to make their install onto USB drive, and they require much bigger USB drive for same purposes. If you just run their Live versions, they will not save any configuration changes, for example WEP/WPA code for your WiFi etc. Of course, in return you get much more powerful system.
I have tried quite a few systems - you may wish to have a look at my blog.
 
Old 02-14-2011, 06:25 PM   #7
hilyard
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Light -- LXDE
Easy -- based on ubuntu
Lo Maint. -- moreso than many
USB boot -- you got that one figured

peppermint one
 
Old 02-14-2011, 07:05 PM   #8
eveningsky339
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I recommend Lubuntu or PCLinuxOS (comes in several editions including LXDE).
 
Old 02-15-2011, 12:36 PM   #9
Diogones
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I'm sorry for the typo snowpine; I meant Xubuntu, not Kubuntu. Although it isn't supported directly from the Ubuntu project lke Lubuntu is, it is a smaller download, and so therefore may be even more responsive. Thank you for making the point about DE - I didn't realize that the system that came with each one was similar, and that they only differ in usability.

I wasn't aware you could save Puppy Linux to HDD, and I'm glad you pointed that out darkduck. By the way, I took a look at your blog - very informative!
 
Old 02-15-2011, 12:56 PM   #10
snowpine
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The download size is pretty much irrelevant to how responsive the system will be, in my experience.

Yup, the desktop environment (DE) is just an interface and its related tools (menu editors, panel config, wallpaper choosers, etc). In fact you can install several DE's and switch between them each time you log in, if you like. In my early days with Linux, I had Gnome DE for everyday general use, but if I only wanted to work with one app full-screen (for example typing a paper in OpenOffice with no distractions) I would use Fluxbox, a super-duper lightweight DE with basically no features, for a little performance boost.

These days however I don't like to do that, as each DE has its own config tools and such, the menus can get a little cluttered with similar duplicate entries if you stack multiple DE's. Better to pick one and keep things clean than to create an U/L/X/Kubuntu hybrid monstrosity, IMHO.

Last edited by snowpine; 02-15-2011 at 01:24 PM.
 
Old 02-15-2011, 01:03 PM   #11
citi
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i agree with darkduck puppy Linux is perfect for your needs and has its own USB configuration tool via menu> Setup> Bootflash Install Puppy to USB. would recommend you use a flash drive with at least 4Gib tho. you can take it with you and use Linux on any machine that supports USB booting, I'm not sure if your dell does but you can check for a BIOS update if it doesn't here's the link.
http://support.dell.com/
 
Old 02-15-2011, 01:05 PM   #12
rizzy
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these two:
http://crunchbanglinux.org/
http://peppermintos.com/
 
Old 02-15-2011, 04:38 PM   #13
darkduck
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diogones View Post
By the way, I took a look at your blog - very informative!
Thanks! 8-)
 
Old 02-16-2011, 02:45 PM   #14
Diogones
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Thank you citi for the link and the BIOS suggestion. Unfortunately, my Dell is so old, that even with the latest Bios revision (AO3) it still doesn't support USB booting. Thankfully, I found the PLoP boot manager and it works nicely. So far I have been downloading ISO or IMG files and creating a bootable USB with Unetbootin and Universal USB Installer. This is what I have found out so far:

I really like Peppermint (thanks for the suggestion rizzy!) although I haven't tried Crunchbang yet. The interface was easy to use and attractive, and the automatic updates and bundled features definitely earned it kudos.
While Puppy was very fast and responsive, I'm afraid I didn't care for the UI as much, although I'll let it stick around, just so I can learn more about it and see if I can't change its appearance.
My experience with DSL was similar to that of Puppy: I like the performance, but the interaction was somewhat confusing for me, mostly because I wasn't used to the menu or folder layout.
I liked the customization feature at installation time for Arch Linux, but once I got going with it I realized that I would need more experience with Linux in general before I could really use it the way I want.
I'm also set to try Lubuntu, Xubuntu, Salix, Vector, Crunchbang and PCBSD. While I've heard that BSD is very rough to learn, PCBSD is a friendlier version of OpenBSD, and after reading about some of the advantages of BSD, I was ready to give it a try.

I'll let you know how my experience with these, and other possible distros turns out!
 
Old 02-17-2011, 11:02 AM   #15
rizzy
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Crunchbang might look like a hackers choice of OS but most of it is just styling, it is very friendly. under the hood is debian squeeze and some of xfce tools (power management,thunar etc) Also the post install scripts are time savers.
I use it on my work laptop and even mainly default install still cuts it in an office surrounded by windows machines and files it is also awesome for learning linux - main menu has shortcuts to lots of config files. the GUI is as far from windows as possible but often similar looking GUI would hinder your learning progress - you will expect, things that look similar, to behave similar but it is never the case in linux. On other hand if GUI looks totally different you would leave out windows based preconceptions and treat linux as wholly different thing.. which it is

Last edited by rizzy; 02-17-2011 at 12:23 PM.
 
  


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