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Last post Author Topic: Making the switch-02: Which Linux distro to choose?  (Read 16066 times)

zridling

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Making the switch-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
« on: June 08, 2007, 07:16:20 AM »
Part 2 brings me to which distribution, or distro, to choose, where you'll install it, and with which desktop environment (shell). Fortunately, there's lots of help here online, perhaps the two best places to start are:

(1) DistroWatch Top Ten
(2) PolishLinux.org
(3) LinuxQuestions.org Distro Reviews

First, consider for what and how you will use GNU/Linux, as a:
  • Primary system for all your major tasks, mainly productivity or programming;
  • Secondary system for background tasks, such DVD burning, Usenet, BitTorrent, running a server, domain, etc.;
  • Server, for your home network, a domain, or whatever;
  • Test system, e.g., to learn GNU/Linux.

How you will use GNU/Linux will affect which distro you select. If you're wanting easy setup and non-open drivers, that's one consideration (often Ubuntu or Freespire). If you want a quick OS with a small installation footprint, that's another, as there are lots of "small" Linux distros available, such as MEPIS. You might also want to select a distro based on your work — graphics or video editing; programming (Ubuntu makes it easy to install codecs; other distros let you download and install them yourself). Or how much time you have to spend learning it, or how you might use it, e.g., as a server for your domain. Some think you should consider how many software packages are available for a given distro. For example, Ubuntu lists over 24,000 apps whereas Fedora 7 about 11,000. However, I can get any app I want via download or by searching inside the package manager. And don't be fooled: app lists are like binary newsgroups — most apps aren't worth downloading.

For now, my setup is as a test system, which was a five-year-old Pentium system. I upgraded the videocard and bought a cheap flatscreen monitor for it. The old videocard was too limited and my old monitor was a 15-year-old, 50-kilo dinosaur.

PolishLinux.org offers a brief survey that will return an interesting, perhaps unexpected result at http://polishlinux.org/choose/quiz/. After answering it, the survey said my best choices were: (1) Mandriva; (2) Ubuntu; (3) OpenSUSE; (4) Fedora 7; and (5) Debian GNU/Linux. Only two of those did I really care for, Fedora 7 and Ubuntu. And where the heck is PCLinuxOS? LinuxQuestions.org's Distro Reviews section allows users to write brief, forum post reviews of the distros they like. This is nice because much like product reviews on NewEgg.com, you get a wide sample of views, positive and negative by people who've used each.

If you just want to try GNU/Linux and see a distro in action, most offer Live CDs, meaning you can download and burn the ISO image as a boot disk and evaluate the distro using only the LiveCD (or DVD) version, leaving your Windows partition untouched. For this, I recommend either PCLinuxOS, Fedora7, or Ubuntu. Booting from the Live CD takes a little longer for everything to load, but it's worth a look.

A second consideration is where you're going to install your distro. For example, for years I've dual-booted a GNU/Linux distro on my Windows system; I didn't have a second computer since I'd always donated them. Now I do and it's much nicer to set aside an old computer to destroy and rebuild at will when learning. Better, I can install — even dual-boot — any distro I want at will on a second system since Windows has the occasional habit of erasing Linux's boot loader, called GRUB file, i.e., Windows will always want to boot first on a dual-boot system. The other advantage to having GNU/Linux on a second system is that I can use the first to troubleshoot it online if I completely screw something up, and being a newbie, that's already happened a few times.

The final consideration is one of desktop environment, often between Gnome and KDE. Both have been around almost as long as Windows95, but the oversimplification is that Gnome is more like Mac and that KDE is more like Windows. Yes and no. Gnome will be very familiar to Windows users, but it's different in a few ways. But don't let that fool you. Anything you don't like, you can change. And I mean anything. Most distros by default use Gnome, but you can choose to install KDE on them either during or after install. PCLinuxOS uses KDE as its default desktop environment and they make it look good. But don't commit to one over the other, since being new to GNU/Linux, you'll need a wide open mind.

[attach dilbert.2007-01-25.gif][/attach]
________________________________________________
Part-01: My journey from Windows to Linux
Part-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
Part-03: First impressions and first problems after installation
Part-04: The "User Guide" as life raft, more n00b problems
Part-05: Ten Great Ideas of GNU/Linux
Part-06: Software Management is not that different
« Last Edit: July 26, 2007, 02:57:11 AM by zridling »

Gothi[c]

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Re: Making the switch-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2007, 07:46:10 AM »
Quote
If you're wanting easy setup and non-open drivers, that's one consideration (often Ubuntu or Freespire).

... or for those, like me, who want to use an 100% free(as in freedom) and open distro, (i doubt that there will be many) there is only a handful of distro's to pick from. One of which is Blag ( http://www.blagblagblag.org ), which is surprisingly user friendly, and in my experience comes close to ubuntu as being easy to install etc,...


Darwin

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Re: Making the switch-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2007, 09:42:40 AM »
Thanks for another thought provoking post, Zaine. I'm with ubuntu at the moment because I'm still using WUBI under XP Pro and learning the ropes. However, when I return from my sojourn in Belgium next month I intend to turn my 7 year old Win2k notebook into a dedicated Linux machine. I have two harddrive caddies for it and will leave the 40GB Win2k install as it is and put a different 40 GB drive in to load Linux onto. I've been flirting with doing this for at least 6 years but have never been so motivated as I am now. This has less to do with being fecked off with M$ and more to do with how polished the new Linux distros have become. It seems like a viable alternative now whereas even two years ago I *felt* (right or wrong) that dedicating a machine to a Linux distro or two would be a waste of time...
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

Gothi[c]

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Re: Making the switch-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2007, 10:08:19 AM »
!
Darwin, me and Della be in belgium too next month.
We should have a dc get-togeather :) I'll install and setup linux for you if you want ;)

Darwin

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Re: Making the switch-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2007, 12:31:38 PM »
Cool! I'll be close to the city of Namur, at a cave site called Scladina. Maybe we should try and arrange something for any European DC'ers that can and wish to meet up?
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

Lashiec

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Re: Making the switch-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2007, 01:41:49 PM »
If you see my list of Linux distributions, you'll faint instantly. I have like 15 or something that I want to try.

During the summer, I'll be celebrating the first Linux Distribution Contest (LDC) to see what's the perfect Linux distribution for my needs and interests. If you were traveling to hotter countries than Belgium we could celebrate it in the meeting ;D

</shameless plug>
« Last Edit: June 08, 2007, 01:43:36 PM by Lashiec »

Gothi[c]

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Re: Making the switch-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2007, 04:08:52 PM »
Quote
During the summer, I'll be celebrating the first Linux Distribution Contest (LDC) to see what's the perfect Linux distribution for my needs and interests.

One thing I've noticed over time is that the linux distribution only makes a difference initially. Eventually when you're comfortable enough playing with *nix you usually end up setting them up the same, and the only thing that makes the difference from one distro to the other is the package management system and aviable packages, like Zaine mentioned. Be it debian's apt-get, gentoo's portage, or fedora's yum, they are all good tools. And with many distributions you can find multiple installed. Blag, for example has both yum and apt. And portage can be installed on any distro, it doesn't have to be gentoo. So really, the lines between distributions really start to get blurry, as you get your hands dirty.

For users migrating from windows, the distribution is of massive importance however, because these don't have the experience required to fix something if it doesn't work out of the box, and having to do too much fiddling often leads to massive overwhelm, misunderstanding, and eventually giving up, since the unix culture is vastly different from what you're used to on Windows. Some of these distributions do a very good job at gradually introducing you to that culture, as opposed to throwing you in for the wolves.

Personally, I have used slackware, freeBSD, gentoo, ubuntu, blag, mandrake, suse, DSL, and many others, and I can honestly say that I don't have much of a preference. I run blag because of it's philosophy (free software only, no closed source) not because of how it looks and behaves as a distribution. And that's something you'll find with many *nix users. They go for a certain philosophy behind a distribution (be it political, or more technical); the mechanics and software are easy enough to change to your liking regardless of distro.

Hardware support is not an issue because all GNU/Linux distributions use the Linux kernel (this of course excluding bsd and solaris, but those aren't Linux distro's anyway ;)), and you can compile your own kernel with whatever drivers you want relatively easily. However for new users, this again is of great importance, because they want things to 'just work'. I have seen new users switch distribution countless times, just because some device wasn't automatically detected (usually because the developers of the distro have opted to not include whatever driver module) in one distro, but it was in another.

Besides distro, what DOES make a bigger difference is the kernel, I'm expanding beyond the scope of just Linux here, but whether you're new or a guru, there IS going to be a difference between say a BSD kernel, a Linux kernel, and a Solaris kernel. Different linux kernels are easily interchangable though. You can easily use a 2.4 kernel if your distro uses a 2.6 kernel, and the other way around. (Gentoo even lets you use a bsd kernel instead of a linux kernel)

Quote
Cool! I'll be close to the city of Namur, at a cave site called Scladina. Maybe we should try and arrange something for any European DC'ers that can and wish to meet up?

We'll be in Ghent, though Scladina sounds like an interesing place to go see. I remember going there as a kid with my parents :P The Han and Spy caves are very interesting as well. Maybe we should start a new thread about this and invite anyone in who wants to come.
 :Thmbsup:
« Last Edit: June 08, 2007, 04:15:19 PM by Gothi[c] »

Darwin

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Re: Making the switch-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2007, 06:26:12 PM »
Quote
We'll be in Ghent, though Scladina sounds like an interesing place to go see. I remember going there as a kid with my parents  The Han and Spy caves are very interesting as well. Maybe we should start a new thread about this and invite anyone in who wants to come.

Sounds good!
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

zridling

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Re: Making the switch-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
« Reply #8 on: June 10, 2007, 04:49:01 AM »
Lashiec, share your list!!

Gothi(c), thanks for your input here, we're grateful. So far, what you say has been true to my experience; that is, a particular distro is a matter of comfort, and will likely change, which is good. And in Part-03 of this serial, I had to switch off of Ubuntu again because I didn't have the time or energy over the weekend to fix a reboot death.

And Darwin, that's exactly what you should do, just play with some of the distros — for isn't the definition of learning "meaningful play"? At the least, you'll be able to gauge how far GNU/Linux on the desktop has come over the past two years. It's no Windows replacement, but it's giving more people an excuse to be lured away.

Darwin

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Re: Making the switch-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
« Reply #9 on: June 10, 2007, 09:09:59 AM »
Lashiec - if the previous four or five summers are anything to go on, western Europe will be sweltering (mid to high 30's C - ok, that's sweltering to me, anyway) in July! Don't know if that is enough to lure you to Belgium or not? I'll also be in the UK (Cambridge) at some point and plan to travel to Paris, Leiden, Hamburg on my weekends off. Of course, these plans are completely flexible, other than Cambridge.

Zaine - I guess it's a geek thing... I've been mucking (muddling) around with computers for so long that I have a very limited idea of what is practical for non-computer literates anymore. Ubuntu seems to me to be very much load it, launch it, get your work done with no real requirement that the user have much of an idea about what they're doing. If all your relying on is the "add and remove" software feature, installing new apps is a breeze. Of course, if you have to open a terminal to get something installed this quickly becomes far more complex than a casual computer user will be able to deal with. However, this is just a learning curve as I imagine that the first time one opens a CMD console in Windows to be pretty daunting too - don't really remember as the first computer I touched was either a TRS-80 or a Commodore-64. I suspect the difference is that the necessity of doing this is very rare when playing with Windows but more common in Linux.

No matter, I'm having fun!
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

Gothi[c]

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Re: Making the switch-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
« Reply #10 on: June 10, 2007, 12:03:08 PM »
Of course, if you have to open a terminal to get something installed this quickly becomes far more complex than a casual computer user will be able to deal with. However, this is just a learning curve as I imagine that the first time one opens a CMD console in Windows to be pretty daunting too

I recently guided a 70 year old buddy of mine, who is trying to switch from Windows through a more complex installation process over the command line, after which he made the comment:

"All this linux stuff 'LOOKS' complicated, but once you start getting some grokking of it, it really makes sense."

Renegade

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Re: Making the switch-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
« Reply #11 on: June 10, 2007, 12:28:09 PM »
(1) DistroWatch Top Ten

From that page regarding Ubuntu:

Quote
Other special features of Ubuntu include an installable live CD, creative artwork and desktop themes, migration assistant for Windows users, support for the latest technologies, such as 3D desktop effects, easy installation of proprietary device drivers for ATI and NVIDIA graphics cards and wireless networking, and on-demand support for non-free or patent-encumbered media codecs.

So, is that paid for, or is it just stealing?

I'm curious. Not bringing judgement here.

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Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

Darwin

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Re: Making the switch-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
« Reply #12 on: June 10, 2007, 12:31:07 PM »
Of course, if you have to open a terminal to get something installed this quickly becomes far more complex than a casual computer user will be able to deal with. However, this is just a learning curve as I imagine that the first time one opens a CMD console in Windows to be pretty daunting too

I recently guided a 70 year old buddy of mine, who is trying to switch from Windows through a more complex installation process over the command line, after which he made the comment:

"All this linux stuff 'LOOKS' complicated, but once you start getting some grokking of it, it really makes sense."

There's hope for me yet :P!
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

Lashiec

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Re: Making the switch-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
« Reply #13 on: June 14, 2007, 07:32:07 AM »
Darwin - I think my city has the European record in temperature. Forget about southern Spain, I live in the north and we have been "enjoying" a temperature like 40 ºC or something... in summer, though. That's what I said "hotter places"... Belgium is like the North Pole to me ;D

But who knows? We're in the middle of June and it's been raining like in winter :huh:

Zaine - OK, here it goes. I hope I remember everything!

Quote
Fedora, Freespire, Gentoo, Knoppix, Mandriva, MEPIS, OpenSuSE, Pardus Linux, PCLinuxOS, Slackware, Trisquel (and derivatives), Ubuntu (and derivatives), Yellow Dog Linux and Xandros

I think I miss one or two, but as you see I'm considering quite a few options, although most of them come from the same pack of roots. I didn't list Debian, also, because I think that all its forks are quite nice by themselves. Probably I'll test all of them under a virtual machine (Virtual Box?), I don't feel like repartitioning and reinstalling so many distros.

By the way, thanks for the PolishLinux page. Very informative and well designed.

EDIT: Clarification for enjoying
« Last Edit: June 15, 2007, 04:59:50 AM by Lashiec »

zridling

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Re: Making the switch-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
« Reply #14 on: June 14, 2007, 07:40:30 AM »
Lashiec, you ol' distro-hopper!

Darwin

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Re: Making the switch-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
« Reply #15 on: June 14, 2007, 09:24:16 AM »
Raining here, too, Lashiec. We had a week of temperatures near or at 30 C at the end of May and now it's rain, rain, rain. Kind of comforting as it conforms to the stereotype of life in the Pacific Northwest! Summer is going to be HOT here (mid to high 30's where I am, over 40 in the interior of BC). I find your use of the term "enjoying" interesting as I find anything over about 27 too hot!

Anyway, I'm still enjoying the ubuntu experience. I'm not so thrilled about using wine. For some reason, apps installed this way are blind to the partition that contains my apps, or at least so far as I can tell. I'm not actually that concerned about wine at this point - more interested in checking out Linux apps - so haven't really pursued the matter. Will try to do so later in the day/week.
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

jared1999

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Re: Making the switch-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
« Reply #16 on: June 17, 2007, 05:16:10 AM »
One of the things I really enjoy about Linux distributions is that they are more or less tuned to a certain skill level (and philosophy). Windows often wants to do some hand-holding no matter how proficient you are.

This has been my journey so far: I started out with the typical distros; Mandriva, Fedora, Ubuntu. Then I wanted more flexibility and power, and moved to Gentoo. Gentoo is great (and fast!), especially as a server OS, but compiling everything from source can sometimes be very time consuming. So I moved on to my current distro, Arch Linux, which in short can be described as Gentoo without compilation (but you can if you want to). If you're really hardcore (and have a lot of free time), you can also make your own distro via Linux From Scratch.

In the Linux world there is something for everyone, which is both its strength (diversity) and weakness (too much diversity).

Lashiec

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Re: Making the switch-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
« Reply #17 on: June 18, 2007, 01:10:20 PM »
So, is that paid for, or is it just stealing?

I'm curious. Not bringing judgement here.

Depending on the country you live. The MP3 algorithm is not patented in every country, so you can use it without worrying about the Fraunhoffer/Thomson/Alcatel/Lucent lawyers coming after you. What are the countries? I don't know, but so far no one sued individuals, so...

Edvard

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Re: Making the switch-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
« Reply #18 on: June 18, 2007, 07:18:30 PM »
Renegade: When a Linux folk says "non-free" he doesn't mean that if you use it you're stealing, it means it is not available in source code so you are "free" to do as you see fit with it.

...and here comes the obligatory link to Wikipedia's entry for Free Software

Edvard

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Re: Making the switch-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
« Reply #19 on: November 29, 2007, 03:22:50 PM »
OK, I dug this topic back up because I just found a very nice tool for choosing a distro.
It asks a few questions and then directs you to a handful of distros to choose from.


lanux128

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Re: Making the switch-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
« Reply #20 on: December 12, 2007, 07:15:48 PM »
this seems like the correct thread so i'll post my q here: if i wanted a distro that comes with most of the popular video codecs and TV-out support, which would that be?

Armando

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Re: Making the switch-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
« Reply #21 on: December 12, 2007, 07:31:30 PM »
I'd say Ubuntu/Kubuntu, Mandriva, PCLinuxOS and maybe OpenSuse. There are other good options (like Mint, Mepis or ZenWalk) but those are the most user friendly and polished IMO.
You should check the forums first if your hardware is well supported.

lanux128

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Re: Making the switch-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
« Reply #22 on: December 12, 2007, 07:40:14 PM »
i had Kubuntu/Mepis on my mind but this is not for me. it's for a friend who wants to watch DivX movies on his TV as he had heard of Windows Media Center. so i'm not sure how he'll find Linux but i'd like to pick someone's brain here before venturing into the respective distro's forums.. amoung the points for consideration:

• codecs come with the box.
• good hardware detection (auto-detect would be nice)
• the least tinkering to get the TV-out working.
• a smaller, specialized type of distro

Armando

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Re: Making the switch-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
« Reply #23 on: December 12, 2007, 08:09:03 PM »
why not something like the open source mediaportal then ? http://www.team-mediaportal.com/
Or even mythTV, if it has to be Linux compatible. http://www.mythtv.org/

And to answer the more detailed considerations, I think you'd have to know what video card he uses.

The distributions I mentioned (I forgot Xandros...) are supposed to have some of the best hardware detection, out of the box multimedia codecs working, etc.

For specialized Linux distros... He could try Mythbuntu ( http://www.mythbuntu.org/)... Go there to see all the options : http://www.mythtv.or...ing_system#Mythbuntu

the only one I really saw working is KnoppMyth/mysettopbox.tv  ( http://mysettopbox.tv/ ) which is based on Knoppix -- Knoppix is known for good hardware detection, but... I believe Ubuntu and the other ones I mentioned are now better.


PS : I just found that review : might be worth a look. But consider that it'S 4 months old, and the new Unbuntu 7.10 (mythBuntu) is out. http://www.linux.com/feature/118668

PPS : as I predicted, here's someone who swears by mythbuntu : http://www.phoronix....p;item=919&num=5 ; But this guy likes it a bit less : http://lunapark6.com...untu-710-review.html

PPS : if you consider Mythdora : http://rkp4k.blogspo...ra-vs-knoppmyth.html  :D
« Last Edit: December 12, 2007, 08:22:03 PM by Armando »

lanux128

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Re: Making the switch-02: Which Linux distro to choose?
« Reply #24 on: December 12, 2007, 08:27:57 PM »
thanks a lot, Armando! i think Mythbuntu fits the bill as it is based on Ubuntu and that should help to keep things simple. as for the video card, i'm not sure but i have a GeForce4 MX440 lying around so i'll just take it along with me.. :)