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Old 08-27-2012, 08:29 AM   #1
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Looking for a beginner-friendly Debian distribution

I'm looking for suggestions on the most beginner-friendly re-mix distribution based on Debian's rock solid "stable" branch and that also retains full backwards compatibility with Debain. My definition of beginner or newbie-friendly is this: very easy to install, automatically detects and configures all hardware, everything just works right out of the box, multimedia codecs are installed and working, flash is installed and working, and maybe Java is installed and working as well. I prefer stable, proven and reliable applications and desktop environment over bleeding-edge applications and desktop environment that are crash-prone or prone to flaky behaivor. If that means old applications set around an old desktop environment based on an old kernel, then so be it, so much the better. I don't consider plain, regular Debian to be "beginner friendly" so I'm looking for a stop-gap measure until I can get some more training and/or help on Debian with someone in person and that won't be until sometime later in the future.

Thank you

Last edited by punchy71; 08-27-2012 at 10:08 AM.
Old 08-27-2012, 08:42 AM   #2
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Linux Mint Debian? -
Old 08-27-2012, 08:49 AM   #3
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Debian being Debian they have a page devoted to it at Could test a few to experience them. BTW just like your "Why is Slackware for advanced users only?" thread title I consider "beginner friendly" to be just perception. If one just starts using a distribution without previous exposure and without giving thought to public opinion say then no Operating System is difficult to use.
Like everything it just takes time and the will to actually learn.
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Old 08-27-2012, 08:51 AM   #4
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I would suggest plain old Debian. I consider Debian very user-friendly.

A lot of people get hung up on the "missing" Flash and multimedia codecs. What you have to consider is this is a "feature not a bug." By excluding these "nonfree" codecs, it allows a distro to be truly "free" in the sense it can be distributed under the GPL to anyone in any country without legal or philosophical issues related to software patents. If you limit yourself to "distros with codecs preinstalled" then you are missing out on the best distros in my opinion (Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, Slackware, Red Hat/CentOS, etc.) and limiting yourself to a few fringe distros that either happen to be flying too low on the radar to attract attention or else are distributed from countries that do not have software patent laws.

Installing multimedia codecs on Debian is an easy and well-documented 5-minute procedure.

(edit: That being said, the distro I happen to be typing this from, CrunchBang Linux, is based on Debian Stable and comes with Flash and codecs preinstalled. Highly recommended! However the reason I chose Crunchbang has nothing to do with the preinstalled codecs and everything to do with its classy implementation of the Openbox windows manager.)

Last edited by snowday; 08-27-2012 at 08:55 AM.
Old 08-27-2012, 10:26 AM   #5
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Mepis might be a good choice.
Old 08-27-2012, 10:30 AM   #6
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^ +1 for snowpine..

not just for suggesting Crunchbang (which I use too on my laptop), but also for suggesting plain simple Debian.
Despite the fact that I personally consider GNOME to be bloated, it is indeed user-friendly; you can also choose XFCE if you want to be a bit more light-weighted.

Moreover Wheezy (the testing branch of Debian) is going to be moved to Stable in some months so go for it now, it is already stable enough...
Old 08-27-2012, 04:32 PM   #7
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As well, by using a "beginner-friendly" distro, you will always remain a beginner. It's learning how to do things yourself that turns you into an expert. After all, when the system does everything for you, there's no need to actually understand what's going on, is there?

I personally started out with Mandrake Linux ~10 years ago. I chose it because at that time is was supposedly one of the best "user-friendly" distros. And for sure all the configuration wizards and dialogs made it seem simple enough, at first. But after a while the reality turned out to be very different from what was promised. I always felt lost and confused, and always seemed to have to struggle to get it to do what I wanted to do, rather than what it thought it should do. And when something stopped working I was nearly always at a loss. The dependency hell when installing software was particularly annoying.

Within a year I switched to plain debian, and for the first time started to really understand what my system was doing behind all the pretty dialogs. Sure it was harder in the beginning, but it was also educational, and a hundred times more satisfying (and the apt packaging system blew Mandrake's out of the water). I realized then just how little I had really learned from my year of using Mandrake.
Old 08-27-2012, 04:53 PM   #8
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1) Install Debian
2) Edit sources.list
3) Install various multimedia apps and plugins
4) Install Synaptic
5) Add and backports repo.
6) Update Iceweasel
7) Be happy
Old 08-27-2012, 04:57 PM   #9
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craigevil gives good advice (as with all Debian-related questions).

If you are looking for a shortcut:

1) install Debian
2) run scripts from
3) be happy


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