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Ask Slashdot: New To Linux; Which Distro? 573

An anonymous reader writes "I'm a very new user to Linux looking for a distro that allows me to control and customize, but I'm not sure where to start. I had a friend install Ubuntu 12.04 on my computer, with the E17 window manager and somehow I managed to crash it during the copying of some non-important files and now my computer won't boot (the hardware's fine though). I've found descriptions of Arch Linux to be spot on to what I'm looking for and want (Slashdot user serviscope_minor mentioned Arch a couple weeks ago and it caught my attention), but my experience in the terminal is literally about an hour. That said, I really want to learn more, don't mind hard work, enjoy challenges, and am perfectly willing to spend hours and hours for months on end to learn command line. Any suggestions, projects to start with, books to read, or tutorials to do to try would be appreciated."
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Ask Slashdot: New To Linux; Which Distro?

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  • Why not FreeBSD ? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 24, 2013 @01:55PM (#43263937)

    It's the cleanest playground for learning the proper way to *NIX

  • by ssam ( 2723487 ) on Sunday March 24, 2013 @02:01PM (#43263993)

    I recommend that (at least to start with) you stick with major distros. distrowatch has a reasonable list []

    there are many hundreds of distros, mostly with little to distinguish them and some maintained by very small teams. if you use a distro that has small non-fulltime development team, then how long is it going to take for them to push a security update in to the repositories? what if one of their developers is on holiday, or has exams, or whatever. with the bigger distros they will have a security team to do this.

  • by The Mighty Buzzard ( 878441 ) on Sunday March 24, 2013 @02:19PM (#43264151)
    I love Arch myself but NO. Arch regularly makes changes that will leave your system thoroughly hosed if you update without watching the news feed. That's not even sysadmin-friendly much less noob-friendly.
  • Re:Reinstall Ubuntu. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 24, 2013 @02:52PM (#43264399)

    I went looking for trouble and started out with Gentoo a few years ago. Did I ever learn stuff..

    Dude seems to have the right attitude, as far as I can tell. Bite the bullet, I say!

  • Re:Timewarp (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TrekkieGod ( 627867 ) on Sunday March 24, 2013 @03:05PM (#43264473) Homepage Journal

    Is this a repost from 1997?

    I get the feeling it's a bored troll just trying to get a rise out of someone.

    The question will never get a straightforward answer, especially here on slashdot - and because there's no one true answer.

    Definitely a troll. In fact, it's so obvious I'm surprised the editors didn't realize it.

    Let's analyze this. His computer crashed while copying unimportant files with good hardware and now it fails to boot.. Even in 1997, this would have been an unreasonable scenario. I've certainly seen applications in Linux crash, about as often as I see them crashing in other OSes. In very rare circumstances, I've seen the kernel crash. A kernel crash that prevents the computer from booting again, though? What exactly would cause that?

    One thing would be if instead of copying, he was accidentally moving system files. That's pretty hard to do, he would have to get elevated privileges, and even if he did, any file that the system was currently using would remain loaded in ram, so it wouldn't be likely to crash then, he'd just have problems booting up later. Not only that, but this so guy who is self-identifying as inexperienced anticipated this response and made sure to point out the files were "non-important". I'm pretty sure he also chose that wording to avoid saying "system files", afraid that would betray his level of knowledge.

    Another possibility is that he has a failing hard drive. Again, this would be unlikely to crash his box, but copying files around in a bad drive could maybe cause corruption of the file system preventing it from successfully booting up next time. So, of course, this guy also predicted this response and made sure to point out that his hardware is a-ok.

    What are we left with here? Linux being hard on new users cliche? Check. Using a distro that is known to be user-friendly and suggesting he might want to move to a distro known to have a high learning curve? Check. Implication that Linux's reputation for stability is underserved? Check. Trying to rile up slashdot into "what's the best distro" flamewar? Check. Anonymous submission? Of course. The only thing missing is good old-fashioned vi vs. emacs debate.

  • Re:slackware (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mr_shifty ( 202071 ) on Sunday March 24, 2013 @03:15PM (#43264525) Homepage

    Even though I'm a diehard Mint user nowadays, I agree with this.

    I started out with Slackware, and I used it for 8 years before moving on to Ubuntu, and finally Linux Mint Debian Edition.

    Slackware, while it has a learning curve, is also (as odd as it may sound), actually quite simple. It does what you tell it to do. No more, no less.

    It's rock-solid stable.

    It's fast.

    It forces you to learn about how Linux works, because you have to tell it what to do and how to do it. It isn't as much work to get running as Gentoo, but it makes you think about things like kernel versioning, what's going on in /etc and where your system logs are, and how to compile applications from source from time to time.

    I've taken what I've learned from Slackware and found that it's applicable to every other Linux I've knocked around.

    I use Linux Mint more like a "casual desktop user" these days, but if I need something rock solid stable and reliable, I will go back to Slackware, because I trust it. It's not a Cadillac like Mint is, but a stock car that has everything accessible and tweakable, so you can bend it to your will and it'll serve whatever purpose you have in mind for it.

    So, to sum up, while it doesn't sound like a newbie distro, I still think Slackware is a great way to cut one's teeth in the Linux world, especially if one is truly setting out to learn Linux, not just using it as a launch platform for a browser and an email client.

  • Re:Reinstall Ubuntu. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tloh ( 451585 ) on Sunday March 24, 2013 @03:40PM (#43264669)

    While I agree with you in the strictest sense, I nonetheless feel there are legitimate grips that newbies such as this one encounter. Serious problems exist in the realm of UI design that makes usability/stability a sometimes hazardous experience, even with relatively popular and well supported projects. I've been running various distros for close to 10 years and have run into chronic intermittent issues in relatively mature software packages. The last one that I was never quit able to figure out involved panels in XFCE that would disappear for no apparent reason. More to the point, a few years ago, my Ubuntu installation manifested a misbehaving login bug that I tracked for many months on launchpad without any resolution before I finally found a way around it. Any new Linux users being introduced via the relatively user-friendly Ubuntu with the tenacity and patience to face down problems right from the get go at the login screen is not likely to develop a very good first impression. To be fair, most of my experience has been smooth sailing. Personally, the benefits of using a dirt cheap, virus free, and modern/cutting-edge OS package far outweighs the occasional problems I have to deal with. I am mostly a happy camper, but I do feel compelled to sympathize with those who might still feel Linux isn't ready for prime time.

  • Re:Reinstall Ubuntu. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nazsco ( 695026 ) on Sunday March 24, 2013 @03:51PM (#43264739) Journal

    aymous coward couldn't be wronger.

    Ubuntu makes you dumb. period.

    your goal is to find a distro with good documentation. if you are 200% serious, I'd say start with openBSD. not Linux perse, but it's the only place where documentation issues are considered high priority bugs. also you will learn a lot more about best practices (the main reason I think the parent is being obnoxious as suggestion Ubuntu for someone who is clearly already abusing sudo more than he/she should)

    also, I'd say 90% of /. started with slack ware, moved to red hat or debian based distros, then played with linux-from-scratch.

    lastly, threat every choice as life threatening :-) ...installer asks you which file system? research the hell out of every option. do not install Linux pressing next-next-next-finish.

  • Re:Reinstall Ubuntu. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Larryish ( 1215510 ) <larryish@gmail . c om> on Sunday March 24, 2013 @04:46PM (#43265033)

    LOL true dat.

    Recently downgraded the wife's old desktop machine (Dell Dimension 2400) from Ubuntu to Windows XP for Excel/Office compatibility.

    It took almost 2 days to get all the updates installed for Windows and Office.

To be a kind of moral Unix, he touched the hem of Nature's shift. -- Shelley