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I'm considering trying out something other than Ubuntu, primarily due to continuous problems in the past with audio and touchy GUI features. I'd also like to if possible have a single audio daemon - alsa. I assume this works pretty well with Intel soundcards. Question is, does this mean I should steer away from gnome? Gnome distros seem to use pulseaudio the majority of the time.
Basically I'm looking for a clockwork distro without many conflicting elements, so that I can tinker and experiment without a great deal of fear of breaking something...again. I don't think anyone here is a big fan of trawling google for a similar problem and solution!
Looking into Fedora - a maybe?
Hope I haven't been too vague, I want to find a distro I'm comfortable with and then plunge headlong into it. Ubuntu was too padded; it didn't feel like I was learning much from its problems.
I have had a lot of problems with pulse audio on a number of computers with different hardware. Last week I installed Linux Mint on a friend's laptop and again pulseaudio didn't play nicely with Skype. I ended up removing pulseaudio from the system and installing more alsa components.
Unfortunately, when pulseaudio works it's briliant (well, actually I wouldn't know it), when it doesn't (which is the case quite often), it's a pain in the back.
Why don't you try Slackware. It doesn't use pulseaudio and it's very stable. It might require more setting up than eg. Ubuntu, but it's not rocket science.
Slackware sounds like a good one to go for I must say. It sounds as though applications and dependencies will be one of the initial challenges, but I assume one could go for an ideal dependency tracker. Should I go for 64 bit or would this be too big a jump with too many compatibility issues?
When it comes to sound in Linux, most of the "pre-packed" distros I know of use Pulseaudio. There has been plenty of problems with pulse and that is because of pulseaudio, not because of the distribution.
Any of the "roll-your-own" distros will let you decide for yourself what audio system to use. Hence Arch Linux, Gentoo, Slackware and Debian would be a good choice.