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Old 04-07-2013, 12:08 PM   #1
Registered: Apr 2013
Location: Lancaster
Distribution: Mac OS X
Posts: 38

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Question Perhaps switching back to Linux; need advice.

Hi all, I am seeking a little bit of helpful advise on what I should peruse.

If you're a TL;DR, person, skip to the last couple or paragraphs.

A little history.

Many years ago I wanted something different then Windows, and tried out a few *nix-like systems.
I ended up using Ubuntu for a while stopped at Heron as Ibex didn't work with my laptop's screen.

A little later that year my parents got me an old Mac (the black MacBook) and have been using OS X since.
(I've updated the RAM and HDD since.)

I saw it, and still do, as a pretty and refined *nix system. Lets not make this a Mac-bashing.

Still using the terminal frequently, and scripting, using the knowledge I previously acquired etc.

I am currently running Mac OS X Lion, as I can no longer update the OS as the hardware is too old to support the latest OS.

Recently I've been running into issues; things breaking and bugging software-wise. (Currently abroad) when I get home, I'm planning on doing a clean install of Lion again, start afresh.

But I can see that there is a large possibility that these issues and/or similar will occur again. (As it seems to be because of the older hardware.)
Which will most likely arise In the next couple of months.

In that case I would be installing a flavour of Linux on my MacBook.

I've had the most experience with Ubuntu but not sure if it's still right for me.
I've used Ubuntu's Unity UI before, and it reminds me a lot of OS X, but I'm not sure if that's a good thing; though good for newcomers.

I'm studying Physics, though our Uni uses Windows as it's primary OS, for my Masters and PhD I would be using Scientific Linux.

Though realistically you don't need the same system for them to be compatible, it's nice to have consistency.

Everyone has their own opinion on each flavour they've seen or used, so can we keep it mainly facts with a small hint of preference and opinion.

Should I go back to Ubuntu?
Go to something similar to the Ubuntu I was used to like Linux Mint with MATE / Cinnamon?
Go for Scientific Linux, get used to it?
Something with a similar base like Fedora?
Try something completely different like FreeBSD?
(yes I know it's not Linux, but I'm just making a point)

Also, what UI (if any)?

I open the floor to suggestions.

Matt Parnell.

Last edited by parnmatt; 04-07-2013 at 01:09 PM. Reason: spelling mistakes
Old 04-07-2013, 12:37 PM   #2
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Registered: Jul 2006
Location: London
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As you can see, I have CentOS as my primary OS, so naturally I'll say CentOS, Scientific, or Springdale Linux will be fine! But basically, it's a matter of taste. When it comes to Unity, I'd sooner eat slugs: it's an interface for recreational users, not professionals, in my opinion. But that's me. What I like about the Red Hat family is the easy configuration. Compare the tools for managing the firewall and the daemons with those in Ubuntu, and it's no contest.
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Old 04-07-2013, 12:48 PM   #3
Registered: Jan 2003
Location: Cambridgeshire, UK
Distribution: Mint (Desktop), Debian (Server)
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I moved from Ubuntu to Mint Mate, and its not quite as slick as Gnome in 10.10 but pretty damn close. You get all that Debian/Ubuntu goodness without Unity! I'm loving it as a desktop distro.

Also got the Mint KDE version on my laptop as I hadn't tried KDE for a while, and I've got to say that its pretty good.

So my take is if you want to keep Ubuntu but hate Unity, get Mint.
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Old 04-07-2013, 05:05 PM   #4
Registered: Feb 2013
Location: Berlin
Distribution: Gentoo, Debian
Posts: 172

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Well Mac OS X is based on BSD, not Linux, so FreeBSD won't be so much outside, right?

But then, FreeBSD isn't my cup of tea. Some ppl like it, and i appreciate some of it's benefits, but i personally prefer Linux.

You probably desire most to know which desktop it is you want, as that determines the overall desktop workflow, so i'd recommend to look at some different desktops first before going on.

Kubuntu shows you how KDE looks like, Ubuntu/Unity you've already seen, Xubuntu shows how the Xfce desktop looks & feels, Bodhi introduces you to E17 (Enlightenment), Mint/Cinnamon for Cinnamon, and maybe Fedora/Gnome would point out where Gnome is actually heading. Then there are OpenBox and a few other desktops.

Linux distro: i can always recommend Debian. Solid, big, established, stable, wide-spread, but then, there are plenty to choose from, not just Debian.

Again, this is the toughest question as well as one of the most asked ones - which distro shall i use? It eventually comes down to what you personally like best.
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Old 04-07-2013, 07:23 PM   #5
Registered: Aug 2010
Location: Brisbane, Australia
Distribution: Gentoo, Slackware, PCLOS, Debian
Posts: 131
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If you're comfortable with the commandline, happy to weather a steep learning curve, and want to go where bleeding-edge scientists go, take the time to put a Gentoo install on one of your partitions. It has a heap of top-quality scientific stuff, esp for Physics.

If you decide on this, go here and drop me a line:

It's not always up-to-date unless I'm prompted, but I've documented an easier install process that's very useful for home users (most Gn2ers are pro's) wanting to understand and use Gentoo productively. The 'buntus are becoming the Toyota Corollas of the distro scene.
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Old 04-08-2013, 12:33 AM   #6
Registered: Mar 2013
Location: Truckee, California, United States
Distribution: Slackware, OpenBSD, openSUSE, Android
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If you're used to Mac OS X, Ubuntu's probably going to be closest in terms of user experience (thanks to Unity), though Xubuntu (or any other distro with Xfce as the default desktop environment) will be pretty close, too.

Alternately, if you prefer the old GNOME, Linux Mint with MATE (NOT Cinnamon) would be ideal for you. Ubuntu-compatible, but with a fork of GNOME2 that's under active development.

Linux Mint KDE or Kubuntu might also be worth looking at (or Slackware if you're a bro), since KDE supports hot corners in ways reminiscent of OS X, thus (hopefully) helping you feel more at home.

Whatever you do, though, stay clear of GNOME3; even though I personally like GNOME3, it's going to be a massive shift away from what you're going to be used to with OS X. Thus, that probably rules out Fedora and/or Debian Wheezy/Sid in their default configurations.

So, to summarize:

Unity would be good for you.
Xfce might be good for you.
KDE might be good for you.
MATE might be okay for you.
GNOME3 will be the bane of your existence.

Last edited by YellowApple; 04-08-2013 at 12:34 AM.
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