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Old 11-14-2008, 08:59 PM   #1
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Replacing xp/vista with "nix".

I’m attempting to setup a course in a Community College for the purpose of assisting those wishing to rid themselves of Windows.

The 1st task is to select a target distribution as the one to demonstrate the ease with which this can be accomplished. Since my “nix” experience has been on servers, I’m a noob when it comes to desktop setups for personal usage.

I’ve installed DistroWatch’s top 11 to see for myself what would be the best distro to use as an intro to GUI based “nix” but am having big-time trouble with this decision.

I sure do need some help. I believe the guidelines should be which installs the easiest, is wireless friendly, and easy to configure the usual apps and devices common to most desktops.

Would appreciate any/all comments (from all “nix” user levels).
Old 11-14-2008, 09:34 PM   #2
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To be honest, if you've actually installed/tried the top 11, you (should) know more than most here.
Most of us don't try that many, so you tend to get personal fav recommendations (or top 10 at distrowatch.. )

Maybe you could post your experiences, they'd be very useful.
Old 11-14-2008, 09:47 PM   #3
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It would depend on what you have in mind. In a way, nearly all distros can be installed with equal ease - as long as you just accept the defaults. As an intro, Ubuntu would not be bad, though. It uses a seven-step installer so there is not much to confuse the user. Suse, Fedora, Mandriva, etc. have a far richer installer, which is great if you like to have tighter control over what gets installed but which can also be confusing. If you do not know the difference between KDE, Gnome or XFCE, there really is not much point in being presented with the option to make a choice.
Personally, I am still none to fond of the RPM based type of distro. Even in this year 2008, you can run into dependency issues. It now happens only occasionally but when it does, it is hardly the sort of thing that would make Linux shine in the eyes of users who are still hesitating between Windows and NIX. Fedora is doing better in this respect but every now and again, their newest release is so far on the cutting edge that you had better already know a thing or two about Linux. And of course, the sheer amount of updates that it requires can be intimidating (it is quite common to have 600MB or more right after installing...).
What is far more important than all of this is proper guidance. I see so many give up on whichever distro they picked for all the wrong reasons. They are trying to do everything from the command line - because that is what they heard Linux is all about. They try to install software from source, often failing miserably - again, because they have heard that Linux is about compiling your own. If only they were shown the alternative, they would have fared a lot better.
I would say that, ultimately, the major decisive factor will be the expectations of your audience. Do they perceive any need at all to abandon windows? If so, why?

Last edited by jay73; 11-14-2008 at 09:53 PM.
Old 11-14-2008, 09:49 PM   #4
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There are several "distribution chooser" web sites which will let you input your criteria (by answering some questions) and suggest distributions. (I don't use them, so can't reference them off the top of my head, but "Google is your friend," eh?)

Places like "distrowatch" tend to point you to the more popular, or more often downloaded, distributions rather than the one(s) most suited to your needs.

A suggestion, though: If you (or the college) can afford it, burn DVDs for the class with the distribution you choose on it, and, if it's available, a Live CD of the distribution so they can boot it to try it out. (The "afford" part is, of course, the cost of the media since there is no "license fee" to be payed.)

Last edited by PTrenholme; 11-14-2008 at 09:52 PM.
Old 11-14-2008, 11:54 PM   #5
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I agree the LiveCD would be the route to go. I suggest that you look at 'The LiveCD List'.

This link and others are available from 'Slackware-Links'. More than just Slackware® links!
Old 11-15-2008, 12:02 AM   #6
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for liveCD ubuntu/knoppix will server the purpose.
Old 11-22-2008, 04:29 PM   #7
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I applaud your effort. Keep in mind, however, that though all of us here might want it to be, it's not going to be an easy sell for everyone; you'd be surprised how many Windows users don't want to leave their comfort-zone, viruses and all, even after being given a prefectly usable alternative. That said, you're braver than I am. I stopped proselytizing about Linux to casual users about 6 months after I started using it myself; I got frustrated with trying to explain that it's not simply a "Windows replacement" and that it requires a different way of thinking.
FWIW, I have to +1 the *Buntu recommendation for your purposes. Good luck with the class.
Old 11-22-2008, 05:03 PM   #8
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I'd like to suggest Kubuntu instead of Ubuntu.

Kbuntu is Ubuntu with a KDE GUI instead of Gnome.

The best distro also depends on the hardware it is being used on. I use Sabayon because it worked best with my hardware.
Old 11-22-2008, 10:10 PM   #9
Registered: Jan 2004
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Are you going for fully free (ie open source, not money) or just easiest for a Windows user to install / use?

Linux Mint might be a good choice, as it is based upon Ubuntu and fully compatible with Ubuntu repositories, but it comes with "non-free" stuff enabled out of the box, such as mp3 support, etc.
Old 11-22-2008, 10:46 PM   #10
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If you've got several machines available, why not install a variety?

It's no use taking one to show people 'how easy' it is to set up - that's just a sales pitch. You do have to remind people that it's not Winduhs and that although people are working to make some things friendlier, some problems which may come up can't be solved by clicking a mouse. At the moment the biggest issue seems to be with wireless support; since a new IEEE802.11 stack was adopted in 2.6.21 (or was it .22) all drivers had to mutate yet again. Some manufacturers refuse to work with kernel hackers so some hardware will only work via ndiswrapper.

The next biggest issue I'd say would be display drivers; if you have NVidia or ATI cards, you have to link the proprietary binary drivers.

The next issue is sound - a lot of that free software just isn't moving away from the old OSS model. Then there's the issue of the sound daemon, mixer, blah blah blah.

So, if you want to do a demo install, pick a CD and show people, but tell them that things don't always run that well (and they certainly don't with Winduhs either). It might also be helpful if you show or tell them about some specific issues (wireless, display).


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