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Ask Slashdot: Easiest Linux Distro For a Newbie 622

Posted by samzenpus
from the low-difficulty dept.
anymooseposter writes "My mom is taking a computer class at the local Community College. she asks: 'I need to download a Linux OS and try it out for class. The assignment is to use an OS different from what you normally use. Well, since I use Windows and OS X, the assignment suggests Linux. But, my question is, what is the easiest version based on Linux for me to put on CD and try? I saw several on the web. Any thoughts off the top of your head?' What Linux Disto would be easiest to set up without having to resort to dual booting and/or driver issues?"
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Ask Slashdot: Easiest Linux Distro For a Newbie

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  • Ubuntu. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Alex Belits (437) * on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @07:47PM (#36677180) Homepage
  • Ubuntu + Wubi (Score:5, Informative)

    by Galaga88 (148206) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @07:47PM (#36677190)

    Ubuntu using Wubi is pretty brain dead easy to install. No partitioning required, it lives inside your Windows filesystem and handles adding itself to your boot menu.

    Performance is slightly degraded, and bugs can come up with regards to hard reboots, but really it's the best option I know of if you're not running off a USB stick or DVD.

  • Linux Mint (Score:5, Informative)

    by tdelaney (458893) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @07:49PM (#36677228)

    Linux Mint [linuxmint.com] is easily the most Linux-newbie-friendly distribution I've ever used. It also scales well to an experienced user. It uses an Ubuntu base (unless you use Linux Mint Debian Edition but I strongly advise against that for a newbie).

    Depending on hardware capabilities there are heavyweight (Gnome, KDE) and lightweight (Xfce, LXDE) versions.

    You can install it using mintinstall (wubi) from inside Windows (you need to use the CD version for this, but it's then very simple to upgrade to the DVD version once you're inside Linux Mint). Doing this means you can dual-boot without repartitioning - for your mum this sounds like the best option.

  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @08:11PM (#36677444) Homepage Journal

    there's really only a handful of distros I'd consider to be in the same category as Ubuntu for general ease of installation/use

    I see you've never installed Windows. Every Linux distro I've tried (Except Red Hat, and that was back in 1998) was brain-dead simple to install and completely painless, even Mandrake back in 2003.

    Try typing in that forty digit key with 1s and ls and 0s and Os. And sit there having to click "yes" or "no" every two minutes for a solid hour -- with a whole lot of reboots. Then installing every application you'll need to do any actual work.

    Compare that to installing ANY Linux distro; two screens of choices (only one with many distros), wait 1/2 hour with no babysitting (maybe change the CD) and one reboot, and you have a ready-to-use, functional machine.

    Comparing installing Linux with installing Windows is like comparing driving a modern car with a model-T hand cranked Ford (Windows is the model T). People only think Windows is easy because they've used it all their lives. Those of us that cut our teeth on DOS (or even earlier machines, like a Sinclair or an Apple II or a Commodore) know better.

  • by Bastardchyld (889185) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @08:16PM (#36677480) Homepage Journal
    As opposed to a LiveCD I would recommend installing it on a flash drive instead. The flash drive can be written to, so it can behave more like a real OS (allow you to persist files and settings after a reboot) and its just quicker than CD/DVD.

    https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Installation/FromUSBStick [ubuntu.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @08:22PM (#36677550)
    Linux Mint is definitely a better choice than Ubuntu, and not just for newbies. The UI and layout of everything is a lot nicer and more logical.
  • by migla (1099771) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @09:02PM (#36677902)

    As opposed to a LiveCD I would recommend installing it on a flash drive instead. The flash drive can be written to, so it can behave more like a real OS (allow you to persist files and settings after a reboot) and its just quicker than CD/DVD.

    https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Installation/FromUSBStick [ubuntu.com]

    Yup. And this should do the trick: http://unetbootin.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net] runs on windows and Mac.

  • Easiest by far (Score:1, Informative)

    by brian2hand (1217096) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @09:40PM (#36678242)

    I use many distros and can say with absolute confidence - the easiest and most user-friendly for windows users to adapt to is PCLinuxOS.

    It has the lowest learning curve and is a fully featured distro.

  • by Chris Down (2350174) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @03:45AM (#36680330)

    I changed my mother from Ubuntu to Linux Mint around a year ago, and very quickly had to switch her back due to the endless cries of "it's doing something strange!". It was indeed doing something strange -- in around a 2 week period I came across at least two updates that insisted upon pushing Ubuntu branding to core parts of the system. What is the problem with this? Well, frankly -- some LM in-house programs broke, as they weren't expecting this change, but it was their own update system that allowed it to happen.

    The main problems that I see with Linux Mint is that it has a very small development team, which appears to have led to significant oversights in the past, which have caused various issues requiring user intervention (for example, fsck on boot was completely broken in LM9, and would simply hang. This was on the tracker for a very long time, with the only message of hope being 'it will be fixed in LM10'.). This would be fine for someone who was more familiar with Unix problem solving, but frankly my mum and many others like her just want to sit down with the computer and have it work without need for troubleshooting. Sure, other distros (including Ubuntu) have messed things up in the past, but they have had a large enough vocal community to get a decent consensus on how to solve the problem. Linux Mint simply doesn't.

    Linux Mint does a lot of things better than Ubuntu and in general seems to understand its demographic better (as it is, perhaps, a less diverse demographic). At the present time I would hesitate to recommend it for people who just want a works-out-of-the-box-and-stays-that-way experience, however, as the caveats are simply too numerous.

  • by eqisow (877574) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @09:42AM (#36682204) Homepage
    Any help relevant to Ubuntu is exceedingly likely to be just as effective in Linux Mint.

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