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Ideal Linux System for Newbies? 486

Posted by Cliff
from the gotta-start-somewhere dept.
spiffyman asks: "In the next year, I'll begin advanced work in mathematics, and I'll also be upgrading my desktop box. In light of the advantages of Linux and FOSS in the area of science and mathematics, I want to convert from a Windows system to a dual-boot one with Linux. Primary tasks aside from math/logic activities will include learning intermediate programming, web maintenance, some computational linguistics (in Python), and LOTS of LaTeX work for my publishing activities. What do Slashdot readers recommend in terms of hardware, OS, software, and perhaps reading for a quasi-power Windows user (with no previous Linux experience) to convert to an all-Linux system?"
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Ideal Linux System for Newbies?

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  • No Experience? (Score:5, Informative)

    by pkcs11 (529230) <pkcs11@msn.AAAcom minus threevowels> on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @06:00PM (#17371176) Journal
    Most people (myself included) will suggest ubuntu, since it's a great Out Of The Box solution.
    But Fedora might be a good fit as well.
    Try out 3-4 distros and use what is most comfortable for you.
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @06:02PM (#17371194) Homepage Journal

    Step 1: Whatever hardware you get, be sure to make sure that it is compatible. The easiest way to do this is to buy a centrino system, because that means all the major hardware will work properly :)

    Step 2: Use Ubuntu. It's the easiest, bar none. It gives you access to gigantic repositories (debian.) It has by far the most support today, meaning that you're more likely to find an install package for software on Ubuntu.

    Step 3: Get lots of RAM. This is the most important hardware-related advice I can give any user of any computer :)

    As for reading, I suggest The Unix Programming Environment by Kernighan and Pike. It will help you understand Unix, which will help you whether you're using Linux or Slowlaris. [bell-labs.com]

  • cygwin (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lord Bitman (95493) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @06:06PM (#17371242) Homepage
    Use Windows until you have reason to use Linux. Don't use Linux until it's better for you.
  • I concur. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Alaren (682568) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @06:09PM (#17371276)
    Ubuntu. I personally decided to switch a few months back. I tried Fedora and some others and Ubuntu adjusted quickly to the switch. The ideology wars (Linus hates Gnome, x distro is more powerful, why coddle n00bs, just buy them a Mac, etc.) are always great flamebait, but in terms of sheer usability for the masses, Ubuntu is the clear choice.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @06:11PM (#17371298)
    I believe there is a distro called scientific linux (check at distrowatch.com) which (again, I think) is based on redhat/fedora, and includes many mathematical/scientific applications out of the box. Ubuntu would be fine, but I would suggest SimplyMepis first. Both are debian-based (SimplyMepis is actually ubuntu-based now), which gives you easy access to about 18,000 debian packages, including most packages I could imagine you desiring in the math/science realm. SimplyMepis is a slightly easier installation, and includes more proprietary audio-visual compatibility out of the box.
  • Re:Virtualization (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @06:23PM (#17371456)
    You apparently have no idea what VMWare is. You downloaded it, but didn't even take the time to look at the site to see what the freakin' software does.

    If you would have taken the 5 minutes to do some research rather than post this pathetic question here, you would realize that it would have no risk whatsoever to your existing system.

    Step 1: Install VMWare

    Step 2: Go through the nifty wizard to install Ubuntu in a VMWare virtual machine

    Step 3: Fuck up your Ubuntu install

    Step 4: Close VMWare (Click the button with the X on the VMWare Window)

    Step 5: Delete your virtual machine (somewhere in My Documents)

    Step 6: Start over at step 2...

  • I disagree (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @06:24PM (#17371474)
    If he's using mostly python and LaTeX, he might as well use a system that has those integrated out of the box. I have used both Python and LaTex on Win32 and I have to say that both seem better on a Unix-like OS.
  • by Quenyar (560924) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @06:25PM (#17371484) Homepage

    As a newby Linux user, I'd go with the majority and suggest ubuntu - except that the tetex debian package that is available for download onto ubuntu is flawed. Fedora has a better standard load of LaTeX it works better out of the box for LaTex. I really like Kile (GUI front end to LaTeX available in both Fedora and ubuntu) and it is a time-saver that doesn't automagically break things, like most GUI front ends. There are some long-term weirdnesses you should be aware of with Fedora - when you install it, choose as your user some other ID than the one you want to use for yourself - the opposite of the ubuntu advice, where you want to be the install-user.

    Another alternative - you're probably a TUG member. You can very easily install LaTex from the TeX Live CD/DVD. It's easier than installing MiKTeX in Windows (from that very confusing PDF) - this gives you the advantage of a dead stable LaTeX set on your computer - rather than one that automatically updates and might become temporarily unstable with respect to your personal custom code.

    So, I guess, I'd suggest a best of both worlds approach - installing ubuntu and then installing LaTeX manually. You'll be really happy. It's so simple to do things - such as dvi2pdf - you'll never want to go back to Windows. Which reminds me, do go and get the Acrobat reader for Linux and install it - it works better than the standard app (in Fedora). In ubuntu the standard reader works OK. Drop me a line if you want assistance.

  • n00b too. (Score:2, Informative)

    by uglybracelets (1043862) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @06:31PM (#17371562)
    I myself started using Linux at the behest of my boyfriend about a week ago, and I would have to say Ubuntu was really easy. He walked me through some stuff, but I am really comfortable with it already. But this is the only thing I have ever looked at, and it may be hard if you don't have someone behind you helping you, but I like it.
  • by dilute (74234) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @06:40PM (#17371652)
    It is REALLY easy. The easiest thing to do is install VMWare Player under Windows - it is a little simpler to deal with than VMWare server (which is also a free - as in beer - download). Then go to http://www.vmware.com/vmtn/appliances/directory/ [vmware.com] and pick out any one of the many pre-packaged Linux VMs that they have up there. Just open the VM in VMWare Player and you're off to the races. You mayt want to play around with the screen resolution after you get into your VM, but otherwise, it should be good to go.

    The easiest distro to play with is probably a Ubuntu Dapper (6.06) one from this month. After you start it up, you can upgrade it to the latest "Edgy" version of Ubuntu (by changing your repositories in the Synaptic upgrade tool from Dapper to Edgy). You can alos create VMs from scratch (go to www.easyvmx.com)

    Other distros you'll find up there include Debian Etch (the latest, still-in-process one), various Fedora Core versions, Knoppix. It is pretty sweat-free (except for the download time and the disk space) to DL a bunch of these and see which one (or ones) you like best. In truth, they are all very similar, except for their upgrade mechanisms and the places they stash system files.

    If you go to the Mono web site (a completely separate web site), they have a VM with a recent version of SUSE Linux. Though their version is slanted toward setting up Mono (.NET-style) services), it is very nice.

    To do this stuff smoothly you should have at least 1 gig of memory (preferably 2 gigs or more), and a BIG hard drive. Be sure to delete VMs you are not going to use.

    After you get used to this, you may indeed want to go to VMWare Server, because it has more opearation options and a very nice snapshotting capability that allows you to make wild experimental changes and easily revert to the last good running state of the server, if things go bad.

    Me? - I go the other way, and run Linux on my real hardware, and Windows in a VM (using VMWare Server for Linux). I find I don't need Windows that much, and it runs fine from a VM (you do a full install from a CD, same as with a real machine).
  • by mmadsen (593489) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @06:44PM (#17371708)
    Most of the comments here seem to be more about the Linux distro than Spiffyman's domain-specific requirements. Speaking from that perspective, I'd check out the Quantian Scientific Computing Environment (http://dirk.eddelbuettel.com/quantian.html). It's a complete Knoppix LiveCD distro, pre-loaded with every FOSS math and science app around, including a fairly comprehensive TeX/LaTeX set of tools, IDE's, etc. The best part about Quantian is that you can run it as a LiveCD, boot it on an existing Windows system while you get up to speed and learn the toolset, and you don't have to immediately reformat/repartition/dual-boot your existing box. Personally I'm a big fan of Ubuntu, and especially Edgy Eft, but I still boot up a Quantian VM anytime I'm sitting on Windows or Mac and need to use R for stats, or use some math libraries. Hope this helps. Good luck!
  • Re:No Experience? (Score:3, Informative)

    by mordors9 (665662) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @06:49PM (#17371758)
    I am fairly new to Slackware (c. 2001), but have never experienced a bug like this. Patrick Volkerding is usually pretty diligent in testing his packages prior to putting them into the patches.
  • Re:No Experience? (Score:3, Informative)

    by donaldm (919619) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @07:28PM (#17372084)
    I don't really like to suggest a specific distro since there are so many around. I think it is best of you ask yourself if you are going to require paid support from a commercial company such as Novell (I know but they still produce a good distro) or Redhat. You could also look at their free versions such as OpenSuse or Fedora Core 6 or CentOS (basically Redhat Enterprise 4). Other distros such as Ubuntu and Debian from what I have heard are also excellent. There is always fantastic on-line support for nearly all distros but please before you ask RTFM. It is best to subscribe to a forum for beginners first then graduate to the more serious groups.

    Before you get any distro make sure it is going to support all (laptop) or nearly all (desktop) of your PC peripherals otherwise you will be disappointed and will go back to MS Windows (a dual boot is excellent to test this although some will say get a test CD). One thing people should realise is that if you are going to use graphical packages such as Gnome or KDE you should look at at getting a PC/laptop with at least 1GB of memory. MS Windows Vista will require this as well.

    Since many newer PC/laptops are coming out with Dual Core 64 bit processors (AMD and Intel) you should get a 64 bit Linux OS, however you will probably need a bit of patience while packages are updated to reflect this trend (this is going to impact MS Windows as well). Of course you could compile the source but if you don't have any programming experience you will most likely have problems. Obviously if you do have a 32 bit processor you should not have problems but you still need to be aware that 64 bit apps don't run on 32 bit processors however if you do have a 64 bit processor you can most likely run 32 bit apps.

    When you find a distro that you can easily install (most are) which supports all peripherals and you like it, then get rid of your dual boot and have a pure Linux machine. Before anyone says "But you can't get back to Windows" my answer is you really need to burn your bridges otherwise even with the best of intentions you will slide back to MS Windows.

    A word of caution. Most modern Linux distros are very easy to install out of the box but the main sticking point with a new person is partitioning and what packages you want. It is usually safer to accept the defaults for partitioning and select everything for your software (4GB to 8GB) otherwise you may have problems and have to get involved with package management too early in the game.

    Now to address another problem with Linux, Games! Well there are a few mainly retro games and some good emulators but you are not going to get the latest PC games so basically get over it and get the latest console (your choice) if you like to play games. The PS3 does support Linux which may have some interesting potential, while the Wii does look like fun. The Xbox360 is the closest you will get to PC gaming but I thought you want to get away from Microsoft.
  • Re:No Experience? (Score:3, Informative)

    by kosmosik (654958) <kosNO@SPAMkosmosik.net> on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @07:35PM (#17372146) Homepage
    > If a linux distro has a gcc installed by default (Hopefully
    > the same one that was used to compile the kernel, cough,
    > unlike redhat, cough), it chould be a sign that the
    > distro may be bloated and a heavy weight.

    I don't want to judge about bloat and stuff. But for sure *casual* Linux distro will include GCC installed since you usually need it to install (link it) closed only software like nvidia/ati drivers and vmware. Also GCC is needed by stuff like DKMS framework etc.

    In fact you should not care if a compiler is installed or not. If it does what it is there for automagically then there is no problem at all. It is as transparent as having a printer spooler or whatever other component in system.
  • Re:No Experience? (Score:3, Informative)

    by tacocat (527354) <tallison1.twmi@rr@com> on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @07:38PM (#17372182)

    Seriously, it's kind of a lame question to ask. But if someone really ahs to ask...

    If you want a distribution that just works and doesn't screw your installation from upgrade to upgrade then go with Debian. It doesn't a great job supporting LATEX and everything else you mentioned. And it works. It's stable.

    I'm going to assume that if you are using this for your school projects and reports you would rather choose an older more stable distro over volitale latest and greatest. Debian, unlike unbuntu et al, prizes itself in their indisputable stability and consistency of performance over the notion of being the latest and greatest installation even if it fries your database or desktop environment.

  • by hotzeyboy (725567) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @07:47PM (#17372246)
    Argh, I wrote the above, did not intend for it to be posted as anonymous coward.
  • Re:No Experience? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @08:11PM (#17372450)
    If a linux distro has a gcc installed by default (Hopefully the same one that was used to compile the kernel, cough, unlike redhat, cough), it chould be a sign that the distro may be bloated and a heavy weight.

    More packages installed by default == more space used, more security vectors and more clutter.

    I don't understand this kind of comment. We're not talking about embedded Linux here, it's probably a workstation where disk space and even RAM is not going to be an issue. Even with laptops built in the last few years, using up disk space with the OS is just *not* an issue. There are MANY good reasons to not install what you don't expect to use, but using up space on your workstation's HD is not one of them, the OS and its parts will still be a very small minority of the disk volume. In my opinion...

  • Re:I concur. (Score:2, Informative)

    by snilloc (470200) <jlcollins@hotGAU ... m minus math_god> on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @08:23PM (#17372550) Homepage
    Debian really isn't that hard - even the install. Ubuntu's main advantage that I can see is newer and more frequent stable releases. I had a serious upgrade issue with Ubuntu (freezing gui) that I eventually reinstalled over. This was after attempting to avoid known upgrade errata. Running Debian unstable I only had a minor upgrade/dependency issue that was solved with a peek at the bboards, requiring only about three "apt-get" commands from the prompt. (iirc, "remove a", "upgrade b", "install a"). Heck, even the X11 to X.org switch was relatively simple. Not that ubuntu is bad, but I think there is a trade-off between usability and "stability" (in multiple senses of the word).
  • Re:I'd suggest ... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Karzz1 (306015) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @08:27PM (#17372590) Homepage
    "Any app that runs on Linux can also be downloaded for the Mac. "

    100% Wrong! Please turn in your /. ID at the door.

    *If* the source code is available you may be able to port it to OSX, but native Linux binaries will not run on OSX. Keep in mind that while the userland tools are similar/identical in many ways, you are still dealing with 2 completely different kernels.

    Many software packages written for BSD or Linux may be recompiled to run under Mac OS X; such software is often distributed precompiled for Mac OS X in the form of Mac OS X packages. -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mac_OS_X [wikipedia.org]
  • by dc29A (636871) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @09:22PM (#17372910)
    On the other hand, Windows works with my KVM switch, while Ubuntu seems to go into epileptic seizure mode upon being switched back to.

    I use a simple Trendnet USB KVM. Works like magic with Ubuntu. However with Windows ... it takes ages for the mouse/keyboard to get "active" again. As soon as I switch to Ubuntu, keyboard and mouse are operational. Also, every time I switch back to Windows, I get 2-3 second freezes when Windows activates the mouse/keyboard. Something that does not happen in Ubuntu.
  • Re:No Experience? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Kwiik (655591) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @09:33PM (#17372982) Homepage
    Umm, Ubuntu is based off of Debian.. in addition to that, how is it such a great accomplishment that a distro does a great job of supporting LaTeX? They can all work pretty much the same with it. Save the distro wars for somewhere else..eesh

    Anyways, my suggestion is to give a live CD a try. If you want to take your system from computer to computer and have it work flawlessly between boots (plus making it ultra easy to install apps that don't come on the live CD) then give a Live USB a try. There are many distros mostly based off of Debian for this. I recommend to check out linuxonusb.com since they make it easy to choose a distro. DSL-N's homepage is pretty good too - both give you the ability to buy a USB drive preloaded with a bootable linux partition at about the same cost as a regular USB drive, and they both claim to directly support the community.

    Good luck to the poster
  • by bl8n8r (649187) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @09:53PM (#17373078)
    A nice way to test-drive a distro before installing it. Check out distrowatch.com [distrowatch.com]. Since your inclined to torment yourself with Advanced Math, you might be interested in Scientific Linux.

    1) Debian == Knoppix, Ubuntu
    2) Redhat == CentOS, Fedora, Mandriva, Scientific Linux
    3) Slackware == Slax, Vector Linux
    4) SuSE == Microsoft (see: techp.org [techp.org] )

  • Re:No Experience? (Score:3, Informative)

    by dhasenan (758719) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @11:32PM (#17373602)
    More like going to a dealership, telling the salesman what you need a car for, and having the salesman point out the types of cars that would best suit the needs you outlined.

    As to the question at hand, most any distribution will work; most older/more popular distributions (Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, RHEL, SuSE...) will have good default installations for desktop use. After that, it's merely a matter of installing tetex, basic dev tools, an IDE, and possibly apache. (I think there may be one or two distros out there that provide all that by default, but finding it probably isn't worth the effort.)
  • by tbg58 (942837) on Tuesday December 26, 2006 @11:43PM (#17373660)
    It's been about two years ago now that I embarked on a similar journey to your own. I wanted to find a good Linux distribution that met several criteria:
    1. An installation routine that would allow me to dual-boot with Windows easily. My wife still uses Windows and is not yet ready for the transition, and since I earn my daily bread as a Windows sysadmin, I still need to keep it around for some of the things in my job.
    2. A community which would be as newbie-friendly as the distribution itself. In the past I had bad experiences with some Linux experts who thought that Linux was, and should remain, the exclusive province of uber-geeks. In non-newbie-friendly support community forums, one may post a question, no matter how well formulated, and one of these fellows will offer helpful replies such as, "what a n00b- if you can't read the man pages, maybe you should go back to window$ or get a commodore64."
    3. A reasonably good set of apps and tools built into the distro do to the things I need to do, and a reasonably good package manager to add new apps.
    I loaded Mandrake (just prior to the change to Mandriva), looked at Suse, and Fedora. All of them met criteria 1 and 3, though correspondence to criteria 2 was a bit spotty. At that time I heard about a new distribution that was gaining a lot of popularity that had an African-sounding name: Ubuntu. I downloaded the then-current version, and loaded it with no problems. The forum users were hospitable and winsome, and welcomed me home to the distro, and the community tries to live up to the ethos of the word Ubuntu, which is used in several southern African languages, and means something like compassion for fellow human beings (very loosely paraphrased.) Where my previous experiences had been technically adequate and interesting, Ubuntu felt like coming home.
    Since one of the reasons I was loading Linux was to join the free software community, I also decided that I would limit myself to obtaining whatever manuals and documentation I could also find that was free and open, in the same spirit of the Free Software Community, and here are some links that I think you'll find helpful:
    The first stop on your documentation journey outside of the forums of your chosen distribution and the help guides and wikis therein should be the Linux Documentation Project at http://www.tldp.org/ [tldp.org]
    Full length guides are here: http://www.tldp.org/guides.html [tldp.org] Especially helpful to me were Machtelt Garrels Introduction to Linux: A Hands-On Guide and his Bash Guide for Beginners, but all the docs here are worthwhile, freely downloadable and printable.
    Another good guide is RUTE: Rute User's Tutorial and Exposition Very well written and thorough. The author writes, "You can find out what book a person needs by asking the question, "Do you want to be a Muggle or a Wizard?" (1) If they answer "Wizard", then you give them Rute. (2) If they answer "Muggle", then you give them "Linux for Dummies." (3) If they answer "What's a Muggle?", then you give them "Harry Potter". I had just finished reading the first few Harry Potter books to my kids, and so this tickled me. RUTE is a great starter manual: http://linux.2038bug.com/rute-home.html [2038bug.com]
    Bruce Perens is one of the brighter stars in the firmament of the Free Software movement, and his publisher, Prentiss Hall, has a number of books in the Bruce Perens Series available in PDF format for download here: http://www.phptr.com/promotions/promotion.asp?prom o=1484&redir=1&rl=1 [phptr.com]
    No list would be complete without including the O'Reilly Open Book page. This page includes books such as the Linux Network Administrator's Guide, but also some books on the history and philosophy of the Free Software movement such as Eric S. Reymond's The Cathedral and the Bazaar
  • NOT a Mac (Score:3, Informative)

    by JoeCommodore (567479) <larry@portcommodore.com> on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @12:21AM (#17373862) Homepage
    If you want to learn Linux and not Fink or whatever bottleneck app you need to run to get your Linux stuff working don't get a MAc. While OSX is all nice and fluffy trying to get stuff running on Macs via X11 w/fink or whatever will add a whole new level of frustration.

    Go with Linux, Ubuntu is nice, Centos is good too. (If you don't have high speed internet, go with something that has all the whistles pre-loaded on a CD/DVD like the retail SuSE, as you won't have to wait and download all the goodies.)

    Get some books, I reccomend the older "Red Hat Linux Bible" for its completeness of covering wall that is GNU/Linux is in general (regardless of distro) as well as grab more in depth tomes on getting skilled in specific areas (especially for programming,) do browse your bookstore and peersonally check out the books for yourself, some are real dogs. Get used to using Google, google groups and hearing a lot of "Read the ####ing Manual" as you start, it's not really hard, just different.

    As for hardware get something Intel/AMD with at least a Ghz of speed (I would not worry about 64 bits if you can't afford it right off, the support of 64 bit apps is still a bit behind 32) and at least 512 MB RAM, Nvidia Cards have some of the best performance for low prices and are not hard to configure, some ATI cards super right out of the box (careful on many other manufacturers video cards your experience may be really bad when starting with the wrong video card). A really good keyboard and mouse are helpful too (
    lots more typing in Linux).

    An external drive for backups is a nice thing, and if you are dual booting consider getting a second hard drive for Linux to live on (so you don't have to futz with Windows repartitioning).
  • Re:No Experience? (Score:2, Informative)

    by justinchudgar (922219) <justin@@@justinzane...com> on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @12:36AM (#17373922) Homepage
    For what it's worth, this is my transition experience... I have been working as an IT professional first with NetWare on the server and DOS/Win9x clients and for the last few years in totally Windows environments. My current project is automating software distribution and maintenance for a municipal government with tools like SMS, RIS, etc. In the 99-00 timeframe, I had downloaded and dual-booted RedHat's distro for a few months. After the novelty wore off, I ended up never using Linux, so, I eventually gave the experiment up. About 8-9 months ago, I decided to give it another go. My initial try was Gentoo, because it seemed sensible to use a source based distro for open-source software. Well, it was cool in a "taking apart the old mechanical clock" sort of way; but, it took forever to download and compile everything. Now, I know that if I had been more careful about my approach it might have gone somewhat quicker; but, a multi-day OS install while googling on another PC was not what I wanted. So, I tried Fedora, Slackware, SuSE, Debian and Ubuntu. I really like both Debian and Ubuntu (a Debian derivative) because of the apt package management tools. I had difficulty with Debian because I do not have a wired ethernet connection to my desk; and, having to pick the PC, monitor and keyboard up and go to the router was not convenient, and, Debian does not have the non-free wireless drivers I need as part of their base installer CD. Ubuntu, on the other hand, installed quicker than XP; and, everything worked immediately. While I know that there are the ocassionaly hardware problems with Ubuntu's installation, It was the smoothest thing to Windows that I have experienced. Since then I have found that the Ubuntu and Debian communities provide tons of useful information for just about everything I want to do; and, there are Ubuntu or Debian packages available for just about every piece of software I have wanted I have liked it so much that I have just removed the Windows partition from my system since I had not used it in over 6 months. I've had great experiences with developers from Gnome, Ubuntu and other projects when I have reported a bug; most of them getting fixed within a few weeks, not an entire release cycle like commercial software. I just got a DVD burner for my PC; and, somewhat to my surprise, burning a DVD was easier that the process was for the first time in Windows. My MP3 player, a Creative ZEN something, works flawlessly; as does the scanner, the digital camera, etc. Since I manage Windows servers and clients, the fact that Gnome's RDP client works flawlessly is a blessing. I thoroughly enjoy Ubuntu; and, I give live CDs to anyone who is interested in experimenting; but, as many other posters have mentioned, trying a few different major distros is a very good practice. I would not buy a car without test driving several makes and models and I only spent ~1.75 hours a day in my car. I spend more time with my OS; so, that choice impacts my daily experience even more. I wish you luck finding the perfect distro for you.
  • coupla thoughts.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Sfing_ter (99478) on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @02:11AM (#17374284) Homepage Journal
    Test your hardware first with a boot cd:
    Try slax; ubuntu; kubuntu; mandriva-move; free-spire; vector; knoppix;

    1) maximum out of the box windows compat: xandros
    2) good capabilities on older hardware: vector, slax
    3) debian based distros - (ubuntu; kubuntu; freespire; knoppix; xandros), I cannot say enough about apt; it rocks; it works: updating or installing on bleeding edge unstable it sometimes has issues but is mostly rocksolid.
    4) Realize that you are using an os that is ideologically against proprietary software/codecs and on some of them you will need to take extra steps to play mp3s, wmvs et. al.
    5) do not play the comparison game. the os' are different and approach the same ideas from different angles. In linux you don't need to login as root/admin in order to install software etc. that is what the 'su' (superuser) command is for.
    6) create a seperate partition for the /home; the reason is, that no matter what distro you use, you can use your same data folders without having to tweak things to find your data :)
    7) make sure you use the ext3 file system to create your home partition as that will be mountable from windows (since you will be dual booting)
    8) programs that are not os critical can be installed into your user folder; I like to keep more recent versions of azureus, sun java, firefox and tbird than most distro's have time to get to so I install from the software creators sites to my home folder and then when I need the latest version i just update them no need to su or anything.
    9) when you do find something that is working, stay with it for a while, and don't listen to the "but x distro can do this!!!" there is a tendency to play with all the "new" distros/versions but if you need the machine for day to day work keep it stable and keep it simple.
    10) no matter which decision you make it will be right/wrong depending on who you talk to, so go have fun.

    Commander Data - Engage Flame Drive!!!
  • Re:I concur. (Score:3, Informative)

    by smilindog2000 (907665) <bill@billrocks.org> on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @02:44AM (#17374416) Homepage
    I agree with your point of view, and I use and recommend Debian over Ubuntu on servers, for example, or for guys who are going to make solid use of apt-get or do lots of open-source development. However, the post seems to be asking what's good for a typical Windows user, new to Linux. I feel this has been Ubuntu's monomaniacal focus, and that they edge out a slight advantage over Debian. All the Debian based distros are very similar, and the really good work is done in Debian. However, the additional contribution made on top of Debian helps focus it for particular applications. I find Ubuntu less frightening to Windows users, partly because of the live-CD, partly because of the pretty picture on boot, etc. Frankly, I wish the distro would smile at users, like the old Macs use to do. The other interesting area Ubuntu seems to be going after is users who want a company they can call at when things don't work. While I can get excellent Debian support, there's not a single company that I can point to as the default go-to-guy. I know it would turn off us open-source guys, but I think it would be wise to advertise Canonical's phone number and web site during the install for anyone who feels they want to pay a few bucks to figure out how to log-in and start Firefox.

    Prior to Suse going evil, I would have strongly considered Suse for newbie Linux users. I have a Windows sys-admin friend who recently told me he felt Suse was the best distro for those comfortable with administration of Windows servers. He says it tries harder than the others to look and feel more like Windows. It's a huge shame they decided to turn-off the open-source community, but on the bright side, it's one less distro for us all to waste our time on. Well before Ubuntu came along, we already had waaaay too many distros. Of course, it might be fun creating one, and I'm a pretty good hacker... maybe I'll cone Debian and call it Bill-ian ;-)
  • by rantingkitten (938138) <(kitten) (at) (mirrorshades.org)> on Wednesday December 27, 2006 @04:06AM (#17374682) Homepage
    This article explains why Ubuntu is ideal for new users [mirrorshades.org], using criteria that users actually care about, instead of the usual holy wars surrounding distro of choice discussions amongst geeks. Check it out.

It was kinda like stuffing the wrong card in a computer, when you're stickin' those artificial stimulants in your arm. -- Dion, noted computer scientist

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