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Old 02-16-2010, 08:28 AM   #1
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Question A couple of questions before getting started with Linux

Hello -

I have tried Linux several times in the past with little success, but I've seen what it can do when set up properly, and I really want to try to get it working right. I wanted to try my hand at game programming, and I was looking at getting a brand new computer to work on it. I'm still up in the air about the distribution, as most of them seem to have pretty much the same features, and whatever's missing can easily be attained online.

I'm looking at an HP p6310yl, which is a quad core w/ 6GM RAM. My biggest question with this is "Does Linux effectively handle Quad Core processors, or am I just wasting money?" Also, does anyone have this particular machine, and were they able to install Linux with no problems?

Also, because I want this system to be specifically for programming and developing, I don't want all the server daemons running (I heard there's a mail daemon that always run, and I'm not sure what other ones are out there). The biggest thing I'm concerned about with the distribution is that I don't want the system to be bogged down with a bunch of programs that I'm not going to use (ESPECIALLY if they have something running in the background by default). I'm thinking I want to use KDE over Gnome. Of course the other issue is, being kinda new to Linux, I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to need.

Does anyone have any suggestions as to what distribution is easy to install yet fully customizable? I tried Ubuntu & Kubuntu recently, but I didn't really have a lot of choice as to what programs was loaded on the system. I tried Slackware a LONG time ago, and it was definitely fully customizable, but the install program basically assumed you knew what all the different programs were. I'm thinking of trying SuSE, but if someone has a better idea for what I want, I'd greatly appreciate it!!

Thanks, everyone!!
Old 02-16-2010, 08:39 AM   #2
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Welcome to LQ!!

I don't think multiple processors (cores) is going to be an issue.

The normal advice is "anything in the top ten on the hit list at distrowatch".

In any distro you can remove or disable things that you don't want. The "mail program in the background" sounds like it might be the built in terminal mail program--not sure that you can disable this, but it also will never bother you.

If you are serious about installing only what you need, you might want to look at Arch. It starts with NOTHING except the kernel and the basic utilities--no X, no GUI, no sound, etc.
Old 02-16-2010, 09:26 AM   #3
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Linux should handle the quad core fine. I'm no expert, but my understanding is that the issue is more whether a particular program/application is written to take advantage of multiple cores. Some are, some aren't. Which is a problem that would effect Windows machines as well.

If you're willing to put some effort into it, I also think Arch might suit your needs. It has a higher learning curve than an Ubuntu, though not moreso than Slackware, in my opinion, but it does offer you greater control over the system. Daemons do not run by default. You have to explicitly add daemons to an array to have them run. But the installation process is similar to Slackware in that it expects a certain level of knowledge. However, the Arch documentation is excellent.
Arch Beginner's Guide

You can achieve the same thing in other distros, it's as always in large part up to preference. In Arch you're adding just what you want to your system, in most other distros, you have to remove everything you don't want.

A full KDE install in any distro will include a large number of default KDE programs. Arch's KDE packages are modular, so it's a little easier to do a light (insofar as you can ever call KDE light) install. Some other distros do that as well, some (Fedora springs to mind), not so much.

Regarding whether you'll have any difficulties with hardware on the machine you're looking at, it's unfortunately hard to tell without actually trying a distro on it. (If you're buying it in a brick and mortar store, you may be able to convince them to let you run a live CD on the machine and see how it works.) For the most part, with desktop machines, it's rare to have insoluble problems. Probably the two most common troubles are with wireless cards (so not much of an issue for desktops), printers, and video cards. Certain ATI cards are probably the most troublesome.
Old 02-16-2010, 09:28 AM   #4
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Since Linux is closely related to Unix which was running multiple processor machines long before PC even existed, multiple processor handling in no problem in Linux.

You want your computer for gaming development. Be aware that Windows is main gaming platform. Linux does not have direct support for DirectX.

Otherwise I fully agree with pixellany.
Old 02-16-2010, 09:36 AM   #5
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Mandriva 2010 has been excellent for me as a general desktop OS. If you install via the Free DVD you can customize the installed apps by category. Also for your rig, I'd suggest the x86-64 (64bit) edition. The wiki is a great place to learn more about it.
Old 02-16-2010, 09:39 AM   #6
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My suggestions would be for Debian Squeeze or Sid (Or Sidux, which seems to be based entirely from Sid) if nothing else for the vast amount of packages in the repositories that may/may not help, closely followed by Slackware, which by default leaves you with a KDE session after installing. (Once you login and give it the 'startx' command, that is)
Slackware should handle everything nicely, and better than a few others.
Old 02-16-2010, 09:50 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by jazzyeagle View Post
I don't want the system to be bogged down with a bunch of programs that I'm not going to use (ESPECIALLY if they have something running in the background by default).
Extra background programs you don't want may slow the system boot time a little, but after that they will have no noticeable effect on performance. The system will not be "bogged down".

So I think you're wasting a lot of effort thinking about more stripped down and/or more customizable distributions. Get an easy distribution (Mepis or KUbuntu). If you care about the boot time added by some services that you don't need, it is easier to learn how to turn those off in an easy distribution than to learn to use a harder distribution.

I didn't really have a lot of choice as to what programs was loaded on the system.
Once it is installed, you can de install individual packages with the same tool (such as Synaptic) that can add other packages. First, you might want to learn enough to be accurate about which services you aren't using.
Old 02-17-2010, 08:28 AM   #8
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Thank you so much, everyone!! I'm feeling a lot more comfortable about getting started with this now!! I can't wait to get the new computer and dive in!!


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