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Ubuntu Linux

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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  • by Alex Belits (437) * on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @07:44PM (#36677154) Homepage

    DON'T run Linux under Windows. Just don't.

  • Linux mint live CD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @07:47PM (#36677184)

    By FAR the easiest and most comparable distro out of the box to Windows is Linux Mint. All of the good parts of Ubuntu with none of the broken stuff. It also comes with all the restricted multimedia drivers that make things easy to use in Microsoft land.

  • by perpenso (1613749) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @07:47PM (#36677206)
    Just go with Ubuntu. Its designed to be friendlier for beginners and there is pretty good documentation on typical end user wants and needs. Some other distros can have more of a by-nerds-for-nerds orientation and the community response to beginner questions is "go read the man pages", or the distros can be more puritanical in nature, no binary drivers etc. There's nothing wrong with these perspectives, unless you are a beginner just trying out Linux rather than someone who has decided to dedicate themselves to Linux and is willing to invest the extra time. Fedora may not be bad for beginners either.

    Now let the flaming begin ... :-)
  • by Bloodwine77 (913355) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @07:48PM (#36677208)

    Ubuntu is the most well-known distro for newbies, but I'd almost suggest Linux Mint which is just as easy but with less quirks.

  • by yuna49 (905461) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @07:48PM (#36677214)

    Whatever distribution you choose, start with a LiveCD and boot from that. You won't have to make any changes to the computer at all. If you can install to a USB pendrive [ubuntu.com], it will be reasonably quick, too.

    If the computer is reasonably hefty, with a modern processor and at least 1 GB of memory, I'd try Kubuntu 10.10 because I think the KDE desktop looks more like what someone used to Windows would expect. Otherwise, try Ubuntu 10.04LTS for the GNOME experience and avoid Ubuntu 11.04. It has an entirely different desktop environment (Unity) and is probably too buggy for someone whose never touched Linux before.

    I haven't used Fedora in quite a while so I'm not competent to discuss its current incarnations. I've never taken to OpenSuSE, but I'm sure others here will tell you why to use that. Mandriva is likely to get some endorsements as well.

  • by Alex Belits (437) * on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @07:58PM (#36677330) Homepage

    why not?

    Because.

    The answer involves things far beyond newbie's understanding.

  • If so you could go for FreeBSD or Solaris. Or get really crazy and try to find a copy of BeOS or OS/2.

    After all, the summary just said "an OS other than what you usually use", it didn't say it had to be Linux. And most of the people there will likely go with Linux anyways, so why not be different?
  • by PNutts (199112) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @09:01PM (#36677896)

    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.

    I don't know why I still consider this a technical forum. Almost everything you said isn't true. Windows 7 installs from a USB stick in about 15 minutes (longer depending on the performance of your system). The only choice is where to put it and installation completes and the system reboots. Windows starts and then some configuration questions are asked and I assume are required on other platforms (account name and password, date and time, and yes, choosing to enter the Windows license key or not). I feel like I'm leaving something out, but after these steps the system is up and ready for use. Because my hardware is relatively static, I created a small text file that makes installation silent. I boot from the USB stick and return to Windows ready to use. Then I can use it for as long as I want without doing anything other than patching. Or not.

    I could compare that to my experiences with trying to install Linux on a set of raid disks without a wizard a few years ago but I assume it's better now so I won't condem the entire Linux platform on my bad experience (ancient history now). I also started on some of those systems you mentioned and got to be quite the DOS batch file developer along with higher level languages. I simply use and understand Windows because of the apps I develop/run and you didn't. That doesn't make Windows a less viable platform or me ignorant on the available options.

    And I prefer to install only the programs I want to use. I hear of people who have issues with not keeping everything patched or turning off unwanted services. Possibly FUD but I'm not a Linux guy.

  • by bigstrat2003 (1058574) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @09:18PM (#36678022)
    Windows runs the apps I use, and doesn't get in my way. I don't know what more I could ask of an OS, to be honest.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @09:23PM (#36678086)

    Mint is going to be your easiest bet because it is relatively stable, and has many codecs built into it. Just install and use for the most part.

    If you go with Ubuntu, log in using the classic (Gnome 2) desktop for stability. At that point, Flash won't work, DVD's won't play, etc. That is where a noob would need to download and run BleedingEdge. http://sourceforge.net/projects/bleedingedge/

    Installing on a USB is the safest (and slowest) bet. It will be even safer if you disconnect the power to your hard drive first. The idea is not to erase your pictures, taxes, or homework. Personally, I keep Windows XP in a VirtualBox for the few software titles that require it. You could do the same with any Linux distro.

    Good luck experimenting.

  • by whoever57 (658626) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @09:43PM (#36678264) Journal

    you put the CD in, boot up, click next through a few screens entering the information it asks for, and then it spits out the CD and boots to a working OS about 10 minutes later

    And then how long to install the applications you need? Plus install the updates, plus install the anti-virus, plus, plus...

    You can't compare installing WIndows 7 to installing a Linux distro.

    Oh, and if the machine is not the newest, Windows 7 may not have drivers for it -- you may have to hunt down and install a network driver, or live with a crappy generic VESA graphics driver. I speak from experience here.

    I expect some Windows fanboy will now mod me down for daring to suggest that Windows 7 isn't the solution to world peace and the answer to the eternal questions of life, the universe and everything.

  • by DuckDodgers (541817) <keeper_of_the_wo ... m ['yah' in gap]> on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @09:58PM (#36678370)
    Your experience differs from mine. I have had hardware detection issues with most Linux installations every year from 2001 to 2007. It was only in 2008 or so that I started to consistently have my video card, wireless card, and sound work consistently right out of the gate with most distributions and even now I can't get Debian Squeeze or OpenSUSE to install. By comparison Windows is tedious to install but I haven't had an installation fail or fail to properly configure hardware since Windows 95.

    I'm happy for you and the wonderful experience you've had. I haven't been so lucky.
  • by Pie-rate (1098693) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @12:10AM (#36679374)
    Historically, windows didn't fail to properly configure hardware because IT DIDN'T TRY. Only now ("only in 2008 or so") does it have even a modicum of driver detection. Windows didn't have video, wireless, or even wired networking out of the box. It worked after *you* installed drivers for it.
    The vast majority of hardware detection issues on Linux have been because of hardware vendors.
  • by smash (1351) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @01:24AM (#36679730) Homepage Journal

    Ah but you're one of those who "gets it" - that the OS is just a platform to run apps. If an os runs the apps you want and doesn't continually fuck up (and contrary to what some would have you believe, i can count the number of rebuilds i've needed to do with windows for my own systems on half of one hand in the past 3 years - and thats including a hardware upgrade) - windows vista / 7 fulfil this purpose.

    If linux runs your apps, go for it. The OS is merely a platform.

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