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I have a primary laptop with Windows 7 and I generally use ubuntu/fedora on vmware inside it..
I play around with them.. i can I am know my basic commands etc there... I am not a hater/lover of any OS.. so
recently I have lost 2 golden opportunities for a job because in my final interviews.. they asked some very basic linux questions.. which i screwed up as i couldn't remember cause i had not used them much.. and I am a junior sys admin..
Now this has made me think to go the other way round.. install linux as primary OS with windows 7 in virtualbox in it..
My usage is
1) Everyday web / email / movies (basically entertainment) as primary machine
2) learning command and playing with the system..
3) being sys admin i encounter linux everyday and want to enhance my skills ..
Now I am totally ducted between Ubuntu and Fedora.. don't know which one to take.. I was inclined towards CentOS as well but dropping that as fedora / ubuntu has more support and drivers compatible etc.. as per my readings
Please help me decide a system so that i can learn and enhance my sys admin and linux skills..
Just to add I am not a total n00b.. I know how to install / config / partition / setup server / basic stuff.. but as I don't use it everyday I forget and thus i need to practice and keep myself toed..
I checked other. Debian Squeeze (SID for a little while longer.) Debian is what Ubuntu is based on. Easy to set up the basics you mentioned and then taking it from there learning more.
If you have an extra computer, older one maybe, you could set up a server or something like that. Then remotely access it from your main computer. You could also use it as a firewall, gateway, etc. if you choose. Using CentOS, SME Server or another. (I like SME Server myself but that is just because I am more use to it I think.) Which would help with practicing and learning more.
I'd recommend Slackware! It's great for learningpurposes if you need more general Linuxknowledge instead specific knowledge about a distribution.
Also check what distro is popular in your country and most used in business environment. I think in the USA this would be Readhat.
And (independent of your distrochoice) use the commandline, learn bash, vi (vim), sed, grep, find and others.
I'm a System Adminstrator in the M$ world, but there is no working without good Linuxknowledge. For example, when installing a new M$-server the first programm I install is vim. I often need a Live-CD (slax) to repair Windowsmachines or find and delete files which Windows can't handle.
Distribution: slackware 12.2, scientific linux 6.4, knoppix 7.2, salix 14.1
I am surprised you put CentOs and Ubuntu next. They are so different. The tasks you encountered
are sooner or later met by a user of any distro. You need define some additional requirements
to chose a distro well-suited for you.
I have used Ubuntu on Dell laptop without compatibility issues. Even dell shipped laptops with Ubuntu. You could start off with Ubuntu or Mint and then gradually take route to Slackware if you want. Though that is just a personal preference. I have been using Ubuntu for more than 3 years. And I changed to Ubuntu from Red Hat. You will say that does not make sense. But hey, lot of things dont.
Another thing you could do is, get Live media for all the distributions you are interested in and test all on your hardware and see for yourself what you think is best for you. My personal preference would be Ubuntu.