Deciding on a Linux Distro?

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SpookyAction
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Deciding on a Linux Distro?

Postby SpookyAction » Fri Jul 29, 2011 11:39 pm UTC

Hey, I was considering a Linux distro for my computer, to dual boot with Windows (via drive partitions) and I'm trying to decide on which one to use. I'm going to be using it for a variety of things, like multimedia playing, work done in an office suite, and programming (in Python for now, but potentially other languages). So, my question boils down to, of the numerous distros of Linux, which few should I be checking out? Because right now it's far too much of an information overload.

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b.i.o
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Re: Deciding on a Linux Distro?

Postby b.i.o » Sat Jul 30, 2011 2:26 am UTC

The main ones I'd recommend looking at are Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian, Arch. There are plenty of alternatives, but these four are relatively widely used, all fairly different, and will get you off to a decent start. (And I've spent a fair amount of time using all of them.) Remember that experimenting is okay...you don't have to pick one and stick with it forever. I went through probably 10 different linux installs before I really started using it seriously.

Ubuntu's fairly simple and ubiquitous, but I dislike the community's focus (their focus is not power users, which is fine, but doesn't fit my needs at all), and I also think their UI team has absolutely no idea what it's doing. Not necessarily a bad choice for a first linux distro though.

Fedora is my distro of choice. It's less hand-holdy than Ubuntu, and is also generally good about getting software updates in the repos, which I like a lot. (And, if you enable the RPMFusion repos, the software selection is just as good as Debian/Ubuntu's.) In my experience, hardware support is also often better than Ubuntu's. Downsides: newer software versions does mean occasional bugs, but I've been using it for years on multiple computers and rarely have any problems that aren't very minor.

Debian is my distro of choice for use on servers, but I dislike it as a user-level distro because updates are often slow and the distro politics can mean that things don't happen for terrible reasons. I'd still rather be using Debian than Ubuntu though, since the latter inherits a lot of the things I don't like about Debian and then adds more, and its lack of frequent non-critical updates and long support period is actually a nice thing for server admin.

I use Arch on one of my computers (the motherboard was so new and so uncommon that I couldn't even get Fedora to boot). Plusses are very fast updates to software in repo, very large software selection if you're using the AUR, and the fact that it starts out very minimal. Minuses (at least for me) are the preferences for manual configuration, the tendency (and willingness) to break things, and the stupid decisions they often make (like making 'python' be python 3). With Arch, I don't restart my computer unless I know I have some free time, because updates very often break things.

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Re: Deciding on a Linux Distro?

Postby EvanED » Sat Jul 30, 2011 2:57 am UTC

If you're detail-oriented, like twiddling, and slightly masochistic, there's also Gentoo. It'll "encourage" you to get familiar with the command line faster than the other distros. My experience with it a while back was that the documentation was fantastic, although Ubuntu seems really good about that now too. It's definitely not for most people, but there is a small proportion who would fit right in.

Sorry to hijack the thread, but b.i.o. (or others): what's your feeling on RPM vs apt-based systems? Are they more-or-less the same now? It's been close to a decade since I've spent much time in an RPM system (that I had admin rights on).

Ankit1010
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Re: Deciding on a Linux Distro?

Postby Ankit1010 » Sat Jul 30, 2011 9:21 am UTC

SpookyAction wrote:Hey, I was considering a Linux distro for my computer, to dual boot with Windows (via drive partitions) and I'm trying to decide on which one to use. I'm going to be using it for a variety of things, like multimedia playing, work done in an office suite, and programming (in Python for now, but potentially other languages). So, my question boils down to, of the numerous distros of Linux, which few should I be checking out? Because right now it's far too much of an information overload.


I needed a Linux system for just that. A little bit of music, videos, and mostly office work and programming. If you want something that just works right out of the box, and keeps working smoothly and easily, I'd recommend Ubuntu. If you use the 32-bit, all your drivers will probably be installed out of the box, and you'll have a media player (Banshee), Firefox,an office suite (LibreOffice), Mail (Evolution Mail), and Python 2.7.1+ ready to go too. You can also look into Linux Mint (http://www.linuxmint.com/), which is almost identical to Ubuntu (and based off it), but has a few niceties you might like.

EDIT: Also, if you have a Core 2 Duo or above, I'd really recommend looking into virtualisation instead of dual-boot. I was running Linux Mint on dual-boot on my Macbook Pro earlier, and rebooting everytime you want to start programming or doing some office work can be a hassle. Now I'm running Ubuntu with Parallels, and it works beautifully, no issues and no lag at all.

jgn
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Re: Deciding on a Linux Distro?

Postby jgn » Sun Jul 31, 2011 3:44 pm UTC

Ubuntu or Mint are extremely simple and easy to use, so you should consider them. I don't like them because it doesn't feel like Linux. You can run them without touching a terminal or having to use the command line. That's just not Linux.

I've been using Arch for over a year and I love it. The install might be intimidating if you've never used Linux or a command line before, but reading through the beginner's guide ( https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Beginners%27_Guide ) will get the job done. I find package management (installing new programs) incredibly easy, so even though your base installation is minimal (actually minimal, not like those other distros that think they are) you shouldn't have a problem building your system. And that's the best thing about Arch: it's whatever you want it to be.

b.i.o mentioned Arch has a tendency to break things, and that's not quite true. Arch doesn't come out in discrete releases (like Windows Vista, 7, etc.) it uses a rolling release model. That means you can update all of your software as many times a day as you want (if there are updates, that is). Or, if you're worried about breaking things, just don't update. If you need certain updates, make certain updates. It's not that tricky, but if you want to avoid it altogether you could just use Ubuntu.

Arnvidr
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Re: Deciding on a Linux Distro?

Postby Arnvidr » Sun Jul 31, 2011 7:04 pm UTC

As a Gentoo user, I'm not sure I would recommend Gentoo or Arch unless you're serious about learning a bit more about how stuff works.

In Gentoo, python should always be working though, since the default package manager is a python program. Not sure about Arch in that regards, but that's the least of your worries anyway. If you can, try several different ones in virtual machines, and see what is best for you. The few distros mentioned in this thread should be a good starting point.

Carnildo
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Re: Deciding on a Linux Distro?

Postby Carnildo » Mon Aug 01, 2011 3:09 am UTC

Ankit1010 wrote:EDIT: Also, if you have a Core 2 Duo or above, I'd really recommend looking into virtualisation instead of dual-boot. I was running Linux Mint on dual-boot on my Macbook Pro earlier, and rebooting everytime you want to start programming or doing some office work can be a hassle. Now I'm running Ubuntu with Parallels, and it works beautifully, no issues and no lag at all.


Have they yet figured out how to virtualize a graphics card? If you can't run a video game under virtual Windows or hardware-accelerate video playback under virtual Linux, virtualization rather limits what you can do.

SpookyAction
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Re: Deciding on a Linux Distro?

Postby SpookyAction » Mon Aug 01, 2011 1:53 pm UTC

Thanks everyone, that limits it down to an amount I could handle. I think, however, I'll still dual-boot, because mainly I want to keep the Windows portion for gaming, and having to reboot might keep me more focused on the papers I'm supposed to be writing :)

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Jorpho
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Re: Deciding on a Linux Distro?

Postby Jorpho » Tue Aug 02, 2011 4:33 am UTC

jgn wrote:Or, if you're worried about breaking things, just don't update. If you need certain updates, make certain updates. It's not that tricky, but if you want to avoid it altogether you could just use Ubuntu.
Ha! As if making certain updates didn't have a nasty tendency to break all the things you didn't want to update.

Carnildo wrote:Have they yet figured out how to virtualize a graphics card? If you can't run a video game under virtual Windows or hardware-accelerate video playback under virtual Linux, virtualization rather limits what you can do.
3D acceleration is definitely possible in VMware and VirtualBox, but only with XP and later. (VirtualBox might be able to do it in 2K; I'm not completely sure though.) I have no idea what it's like with Linux guests.

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Re: Deciding on a Linux Distro?

Postby archeleus » Tue Aug 02, 2011 9:48 am UTC

Debian is pretty easy to install and use.
Ubuntu is even more user friendly but I'd recommend debian over ubuntu.

Then there is slack and gentoo (which I use) which I don't recommend till you get familiar with the cli.

I haven't used Arch but the documentation seems awesome and should be a great help since you're new and you decide to try it.
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SpookyAction
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Re: Deciding on a Linux Distro?

Postby SpookyAction » Tue Aug 02, 2011 10:20 pm UTC

Just to let you all know, I did choose Debian. It's going to allow me to try out the cli, before I go to a distro more dependent on it (like arch or gentoo).


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