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Old 07-19-2006, 10:39 AM   #1
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Registered: Dec 2005
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Comfort level in Linux - distro recommendation?

I have been trying Linux on and off for a while now, but I've always resorted back to Windows, and I was never sure why. I think I've figured it out now: I'm uncomfortable in Linux.

Now, that can be taken a number of different ways, but let me explain how I think it applies to me. In Windows, I KNOW what's on my system, how much space it's taking up, where it's installed, and what it does(for the most part). If for some reason a program isn't installed to C:\Program Files\ I can use Add\Remove Programs generally to find it.

In linux, however, my whole system is a mystery to me. I'm not sure where anything is, how much space is left on my hard drive, what each random folder I see is(or does). I've tried to learn the file system layout, but it seems to be different for each Distribution, and since I haven't stuck to one distribution yet, I haven't learned one specific file system.

I also notice that, in distributions where many programs come pre-installed, I end up not using 75% of them, and not knowing how to uninstall them, they become basically wasted space. The amount of programs, especially when I don't even know what a lot of them do, is daunting. Perhaps it's just my lack of linux software know-how, but I feel like my Linux installs get cluttered very quickly, and I don't exactly know how to clean them up(this can be big if KDE is installed by default, but I never end up using it, for example).

Setting up my system to do basic things, as well, like play mp3 files, be able to view wmv files online, or set up java, seem generally just an annoyance. It would be nice if these things come pre-installed, though I know they probably won't.

So, based upon my thoughts, I'm thinking I need a distribution that meets certain criteria:

1)Must not install a lot of bloat. Four or five programs to do one task is completely unnecessary, and I don't like default desktop environment installs. I'd like to be able to choose my program or two, and choose my default desktop environment, without installing others.

**2)Must have a fairly simple file system layout. Documentation on this would be a big plus. I'd like to know where all my programs are, where the config files for them are, how I can remove them, or upgrade them when I see fit. Anything that will allow me to learn more about the system, and where everything is. While I appreciate the simpleness of "apt-get install program" in Ubuntu, I really don't know what's going on during this process, and I have no idea where the program actually goes. I'm not entirely against Ubuntu or Debian though, if in addition to a recommendation for one of them, I could be pointed in the right direction of documents to help me learn their layouts and whatnot.**

3)Stable stable stable. I find desktop crashes back to the login manager or to the console to be extremely frustrating and unwelcome. If I'm in the middle of doing something(especially if it's important) I'd like it not to just disappear on me.

4)Support. In the form(hopefully) of both documentation and community. I'd like good documentation first, to be able to read about everything, but also a good community which I can go to and ask questions if I need to.

I'm not sure if this is specific enough criteria, but I'm hoping it'll help those more knowledgeable about the distributions to recommend me something I can stick with. I'm not afraid to work a bit more, as long as I learn a lot in the process, and become completely comfortable and familiar with my system. So in this sense, good documentation is a huge benefit I think. In the end, I ultimately hope to be comfortable enough to customize my system to my personal preferences, just as proof to myself that I know my Linux system well. I just don't want Linux to be some foreign place where everything is a mystery.

Any help is greatly appreciated.
Old 07-19-2006, 10:45 AM   #2
Registered: Feb 2006
Location: Sikkim Manipal Institute of Technology, Sikkim
Distribution: Slackware 10.2
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Man i sincerely think shorter posts would be much better. I would suggest you can try Slackware.. gives to just enough of everything you would need to start!!
Old 07-19-2006, 11:00 AM   #3
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Registered: Dec 2005
Location: Somewhere on the String
Distribution: Debian Wheezy (x86)
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You're going to get a TON of answers back of people telling you to try out their favorite distro (and I'm one of them ). But, judging from your thoughts and criteria, it seems like you are looking for something like Debian (or at least Debian based like Ubuntu).

1) With Debian, I build my systems up from the ground, only installing what I need. I do a base Debian Netinstall that will get a text prompt. Then I just install what I need. If you don't want KDE, don't install it. If you want KDE, but don't want every KDE metapackage (productivity, games, etc), install kde-core.

2) Generally the linux filesystem is the same for all distros. There will be some quirks you'll have to learn about your distro. That's just the way it is. But in general, programs you install will go to /usr/bin or /usr/local/bin. Configuration files are generally in /etc. Log files are in /var/log. If you want to know where a program is, type whereis package and it tells you where it is and where the config file is. apt-get install simply goes to a collection of packages on the web (or CD) and asks "what else do I need to make this program work?". Then it grabs all the files it needs and installs them all in one shot and keeps track of which packages need which other packages to work. Since linux is a shared library OS, each program generally uses other programs on your system to run. This saves space. If you want to remove a program, just do apt-get remove --purge package, which will look on system and see all the files related to that package and remove the whole lot of them.

3) Again, if you're looking for stability, Debian Sarge is what you're looking for. The packages are a little outdated, but they're stable. I've heard Slackware is stable also, but I have little to no experience there. Most desktop-centric distros are slightly unstable because they're using the bleeding edge. While nearly everything works the way it should, every once in a while you'll run into a glitch that drives you batty.

4) and (& For Debian, I also use these sites: -- Not desktop-centric, but very good explanation of configuring Debian and the filesystem overview -- very diverse, some basics, some howtos, some tutorials... -- howto compile your kernel the "Debian Way", a bit outdated, but still applicable. Just use newer kernel sources... -- Outdated, but still good for walking newbies through a typical Debian install and how to build your system from the ground up (i.e. install a text based system and then install everything else on top of it).

If you choose Debian and have broadband internet access, download a netinstall CD and use that. It'll be much quicker.

Good luck in your hunt for the perfect distro. My advice would be to just pick one and get comfortable using it to do the things you want to do.
Old 07-19-2006, 11:33 AM   #4
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Registered: May 2004
Location: Albuquerque, NM USA
Distribution: Debian-Lenny/Sid 32/64 Desktop: Generic AMD64-EVGA 680i Laptop: Generic Intel SIS-AC97
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I second the Debian suggestion, but hold the position that Etch is a better choice than Sarge for non-commercial applications. The important thing is outlined by PJValdez ... build the system yourself rather than getting 14 cds and installing everything.

I find that a good way to stay aware of where programs are being installed is to set up separate partitions for /usr and /var Programs are generally going to be installed in /usr, and logs and other historical installation data in /var. By keeping an eye on those two partitions, you soon develop a feeling for the effect a given type of installation will have on your system.

With Debian, you also need to study and learn "aptitude." It will fuflfill all the expectations you have developed using Add/Remove Programs, and other ControlPanel functions.
Old 07-19-2006, 11:45 AM   #5
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Registered: Nov 2003
Location: London, England
Distribution: Ubuntu
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1) Ubuntu

2) They all use the same layout - look up & learn the Linux filesystem structure rather than trying to find a distro that doesn't use it

3) That's probably a hardware problem.

4) Makes no difference, there's good forums for just about all the distros


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