Open Source

Linux basics: Picking a distribution

The first thing you have to decide when thinking about the switch to Linux is which distribution to choose. In this series of Linux Basics, we'll start with resources to help you make that initial choice.

Note: A TechRepublic member wrote in and said he'd like to find a single place to find Linux tips and resources for beginners, rather than being overwhelmed by the scattered resources on the Web. Times being what they are, there is likely to be a renewed interest in Linux and open source products as a lower-cost alternative to commercial software. I'm going to start compiling these beginning-level tips and resources, and put them in one of our "Special Reports" pages called "Linux Basics," which you can see linked at the top of this post. Anything we post of particular interest to beginners will be tagged to display on this page. I'll also be tagging some older content that is appropriate for beginners so that it will be easier to find. You can subscribe to the Special Report for updates to Linux Basics so that you don't miss anything.

Choosing a distribution

This seems like a logical place to start for beginners who might be confused about all the different types of Linux, not to mention all the weird names. Each distribution has its own set of basic applications and a look and feel of its own, but for the purposes of beginners who are looking for the same things that they get with Microsoft, for example, most major distributions include an office suite, e-mail, and Web browsing applications. Jack Wallen has broken down these considerations in his post, "10 things to consider when choosing a Linux distribution."

Of course, Ubuntu has broken out as one of the most popular distributions with a strong community and good support. For that reason, it should be high on your list. The nice thing about Linux is that if you decide you want to try something else...you don't have to plunk down a bunch of cash; you just have to go download something else and learn about it. Here are some recent reviews of some of the major contenders:

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Selena has been at TechRepublic since 2002. She is currently a Senior Editor with a background in technical writing, editing, and research. She edits Data Center, Linux and Open Source, Apple in the Enterprise, The Enterprise Cloud, Web Designer, and...

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