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tombiz 07-04-2006 12:44 AM

Choosing a Linux Distro

With the recent explosion of Linux OS Distros, I started getting into Linux a bit.
I have done some reading on the different flavors of Linux along with running the Live CD Version of Ubuntu on my Windows XP Pro desktop. I would like to know if you folks would recommend a distro of Linux for a NEWBIE?
Is Ubunto a good choice for a NEWBIE or should I select a different distro?

Any help is appreciated.

dalek 07-04-2006 01:49 AM

Mandriva is easy to install and the install is graphical. I'm not sure about the others though. I used Mandrake for a while then switched to Gentoo.

:D :D :D :D :D

edit: keep forgetting it changed it's name.

truthfatal 07-04-2006 02:09 AM

It really depends on what kind of NEWBIE we're talking about.

As a Newbie myself, I found Slackware to be my perfect choice. Many others prefer Ubuntu, others still like Gentoo, or PCLinuxOS, or Mandriva.... Any one of hundreds really.

thloh85 07-04-2006 02:24 AM

Ubuntu is quite a good choice... But if you want to know better on linux... try slackware, gentoo, or better still LFS(BEWARE: these distros are for HARDCORE FAN, but even if you are newbie you can try it out, you can learn LOTS of stuffs from these distros even if you are newbie(and lots of time of course))

dalek 07-04-2006 02:36 AM

Heck, I have done installs over ssh before. I would help you with Gentoo if I wasn't about to be going on a honeymoon. Let's just say my mind will NOT be on computers. There would be no telling what kind of mess I would make.

If you try Gentoo, it will teach you a lot. READ THE MANUAL and search the forums. I do think Gentoo has the best docs there is. Add the forums into that and you are set.

:D :D :D :D

DaneM 07-04-2006 02:53 AM

Hi, Tombiz et al.

Ubuntu (one of my current favorites) is an excellent choice for somebody who just wants *most* things to work out-of-the-box and not have to worry too much about dependencies, compiling stuff, etc. It has an easy-to-read /etc/apt/sources.list file that you can add repositories (software distribution sites) to, and a really slick package management frontend (installer/uninstaller). As with almost all Linux distros, you'll probably have to manually configure (with the help of some REALLY good How-Tos for Ubuntu that you can find on the net) 3D acceleration and multimedia playability. Ubuntu is pretty fast, compared to most other distros, and will run on (I believe) a Pentium II or better. Ubuntu has a VERY outgoing and motivated development team (I've been watching the devel lists), and utilizes a large number of patches against the base Debian system to make things really slick and user-friendly.

Slackware (one of my other favorites) is also a pretty good distro for a newbie, assuming you want a do-or-die crash course in finding dependencies, compiling, configuring, and basically doing everything by hand. It has no package management to speak of (yes, I know about .tgz files, but they really don't compare to .rpms [Red Hat, Fedora, SuSE], .debs [Debian, Ubuntu, Mepis], or even .ebuilds [Gentoo]), so you'll have to find all your packages on the net and compile them yourself. This is HIGHLY educational and can make you proficient at Linux really quickly...if you don't decide that Linux sucks because it's so much work to get anything done. Slackware is very fast, and will run on pretty much anything with enough hard drive space to install the necessary compilation libraries. Very few OSes are as customizeable as Slackware. If you want to learn about ALL linux distributions, Slackware is probably your best bet, since it's one of the originals and uses (as far as I'm aware) entirely un-patched software.

Mandriva (formerly Mandrake or Star Linux) is one of the easiest to use distros out there (right up there with Ubuntu and SuSE). It has lots of integrated utilities to make your life easier, and is reasonably easy to customize by installing new kernels, tweaking configuration files, etc. (unlike SuSE, for example, which is easy to use, but not very tweakable). The main problem I have with Mandriva is that it's fairly slow, as Linux goes, and will only run on a fairly new (Last 6 years or so) system.

SuSE is also one of the easiest systems out there, and like Mandriva uses the RedHat Package Management (.rpm) system. It has a VERY good configuration utility, called YaST, which is your one-stop-shop for all your configuration needs, just as long as something doesn't break and you aren't trying to make it do anything unusual (like I tend to do). SuSE will install using a really nice-looking and stable GUI and set you up in a nice graphical desktop environment (like most distros will nowadays), complete with most of the bells and whistles you will want. This is prime newbie material. The things I don't like about it are (1) that it's REALLY slow (in my experience about 3/4 the speed of Gentoo on my computer, but still no slower than Windows XP); (2) if something breaks and you can't fix it in YaST, you'll have a REALLY hard time fixing it through the command line (it seems like half the config files are overwritten whenever you use YaST); (3) you probably won't learn much from using it, as (unless something big breaks) you will most likely be able to get away with very little command line usage.

Gentoo (my other current favorite, and what I run on my main box) is arguably the hardest distribution (right up there with Slackware), aside from Linux From Scratch, but is also the fastest. EVERYTHING (sooner or later, through system updates) is compiled from source code, optimized for your processor, and customized to your specifications. Running Gentoo on an old machine is like turning a Pinto into a race car: difficult, but very possible. On a new machine, it's like chroming the engine, running straight headers, turbo injecting the air intake, and painting on a racing stripe. It's that fast. The How-Tos for Gentoo are even better that they are for Ubuntu, which is to say that they're darn near exhaustive, and the customizations you can do are almost limitless. It's also very easy to break if you're not sure what you're doing, but likewise fairly easy to fix if you talk to somebody who does. Unlike Slackware, however, it has a really nice package management system, through portage, that allows you to compile and install almost everything (Linux-y) under the sun with one or two commands each. What's more, it'll pull in all the dependencies for you and allow you to decide whether or not to use newer, more experimental software. Ok...enough ranting about Gentoo. Where Slackware will quickly teach you Linux from its roots, (in my humble opinion) Gentoo will quickly teach you the future of Linux.

The bottom line: For customization, optimization, speed, and the ability to learn really fast, use either Gentoo or Slackware. If you really want to have something that, for the most part, "just works," and seldom (if ever) have to use the command line, use SuSE or Mandrake. If you want something that's about half-way in between, use Ubuntu. They're all really good for what they do; it's mostly a matter of preference.

There's my three cents :-)


archtoad6 07-04-2006 07:27 AM

Do you have a local mentor? Start w/ what s/he uses. It's that easy.

If you are coming over from "Winders" & want that kind of desktop experience w/o the M$ tax & the BSOD, then [U|Ku]buntu is the best of the ones mentioned above. My preference is SimplyMEPIS, which is what I use in my "Moving to Linux" class. BTW, I tried Mandrake for the class & ran into some major problems on the old hardware I was stuck with.

Slackware, Gentoo, LFS:
In order, take you deeper & deeper into the nuts & bolts of the OS. If that is where you want to go, then fine; but not me or my students. I bought a Slack book once & it kept me out of GNU/Linux for 5 years. However, I do have friends that use each of these.

SuSE, I have never used, so I have nothing against it except the green color scheme, & that, of course, is easily fixed. We have a sizable & strong minority here @ HLUG that use this.

Assuming that you want a desktop, & furhter assuming you have the hardware (< 6? years old) to support it, the bigger decision than distro is desktop environment. KDE or Gnome? For me & most HLUG'ers it's KDE, but again there is a strong minority that favors Gnome. Once again: Do what your teacher does. You can, & I hope will, switch later.

In summary:
Do you have a local mentor? Start w/ what s/he uses. It's that easy.

Zmyrgel 07-04-2006 08:06 AM

I'd we need a big sticky thread about these linux distros so all the newbies wouldn't be asking this all the time :)

DaneM's post is great example how the sticky should be made.

Linux For Ever 07-04-2006 08:20 AM

Do you try kubuntu ?
I think that is very good for newbie user.

brianthegreat 07-04-2006 08:28 AM

Ubuntu is in all honestly the best distro that I have ever used.

It's user friendly
Good GUI
Good support
Many different options referencing (Ubuntu, Kubuntu, or Xubuntu.)
The package manager system makes life a breeze! (apt-get) Had been using rpms for years and they sucked.

tombiz 07-04-2006 08:41 AM

Local Mentor
Unfortunately, I do not have a local mentor.

kstan 07-04-2006 09:05 AM

I'll suggest the only choice for totally newbie, which is suse 10.0 (please don't go for 10.1).
Reason is simple, good hardware support, acceptable performance, even you wrong edit in fstab file, suse still allow you to boot correctly without give you kernel panic.
However, for average user I won't recommend Suse.

*For newbie i'll strongly suggest that don't use latest distro. You will facing difficulty on installing new software which is not support by your distro.


Pravab 07-04-2006 10:45 AM

Talking about UBANDU i found it a bit uncomfortable: like while creating a new USERNAME and PASSWORD i found it difficult.
From the beginning i used RED HAT and now i have switched in FEDORACORE5: i was amazed to use it, like by mistake i used SHIFT+DELETE and it woked lol

Agrouf 07-04-2006 10:53 AM

Consider PCLinuxOS as well. This distro for sure is for newbies. No text at startup, pretty desktop and a lot of useless GUI tools (it even includes ramdefrag). It has a lot of similarities with windows, like the 'My Computer' icon on the desktop. You will enjoy it for 1 month. After that it will be time to install a more serious distro though.

TuxSurfer 07-04-2006 12:42 PM

I recommend you give Kubuntu a try, all the ease of use in Ubuntu but uses KDE which I think you will find more familiar. KDE's gui is more like Windows gui IMHO. I chose Debian and this is why.

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