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Hi, I'm a long-time experienced(although I don't see why editing the registry makes me an experienced computer user) user(six years) of Windows, and I'm interested in migrating to Linux, to try it as an alternative to Windows. I've read a book about Red Hat Linux 7, if that counts for something.
Basically, what I want is something that will go gentle on me at first, but still be easily adaptable to my skill level as I learn more about Linux. I've heard Mandrake is pretty good, but it also seems to be quite buggy. I've also heard horror stories about installing Red Hat Linux. I'm not sure what makes SuSe stand out from other distros though - it looks the same to me compared to other distros. Supposedly Debian is good, but how hard is it to configure for someone who's never used even a Bash shell? (I do have experience on the Windows commandline, though)
Well, i were in that positions two years ago. I think RH9.0 maybe a good choise. The problemas with instalation (in my case) were with sound and video drivers, but RH9 has pretty good support now for a lot of devices. Try it.
I've heard that for the destop Mandrake is one of the best around. It seems that the best way to give them a try and see how they do the job.
In my opinion, go SuSE, Redhat is nice but it lacks something like YaST2(a comprehensive system configuration/administration tool, very nice). Suse also comes with some neat utilities such as changing your resolution/ refresh rate on the fly, and a very organized default startmenu(compared to Redhat).
I mainly use geeky distros(lol) like Slackware, Gentoo, but I'm still very impressed by SuSE, and would recommend it to any newcomers to linux.
The Debian (3.0woody) installer IMHO isn't the most friendliest one around, in fact I wouldn't say its difficult, its just badly designed..(why does it scroll back to the top everytime i load a module in kernel configuration?) and the software package installer is a mess, if you're trying to do a custom installation. Hopefully their next release Sarge will be better.
I agree, SuSE is one of the best around and one with an impressive list of apps. I once tried SuSe but it didn't configure my network card so i drop it... i think that is not a problem this days, specially with the new hot version coming soon.
all the distro's you listed are good for beginners, but dont worry about something like yast or a certain configuration tool. Your best bet would be to learn how to do those configurations yourself. Drivers for certain hardware are contained in the kernel, not the distro, and all distros ship with pretty much the same kernel nowadays (2.4). Installation is no sweat on pretty much all those distros if you dont have any fancy or bleeding edge hardware. If you have a basic graphics card and network card, you should have no problems. get to know your hardware, and look around to see if its supported. If you find that it is supported w/o having to install additional hardware, you wont have any problems getting up and running.