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Which distro to install?

By RexWorld ·
They're upgrading me here at work to a new PC, and the old one is so old that IS doesn't want it back. So I'd like to turn it into a desktop Linux machine to play around with. Get more experience with Linux.

I know there's never going to be a definitive answer to this question, but which Linux distro do folks find the easiest to install for desktop use? I've done some Solaris and Linux work but I'm far from being an admin, so I'd like something easy to set up, configure, and maintain.

Thanks.

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You have a couple of options

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Which distro to install?

Lycoris Desktop LX {the other Redmond company} makes an easy to use Linux with an interface very like XP. It is easy to install but doesn't have Samba included so you'll have to download that if you want to network with a Windows domain.

However if you just want to dip one of your toes in the water so to speak you could try Morphix or Xandros Desktop OS both run from a CD or can be loaded onto a HDD. If you want to network with a Windows network then Xandros is the easiest to play with as it has Samba in its install but all of the above are easy to install with the Lycoris Desktop LS being the easiest to learn on and the others a bit more Linux orientated.

However if you want to visit the "Wild Side" you can always try Debian and while it comes either on 7 Cd's or a DVD I'm betting you would want the Cd's because of the age of the computer you are playing with but it is the standard for Linux for a Rock Solid almost unbreakable Linux System. While it lacks some of the nice things like SUSE or Mandrake it is really the workhorse of the current crop of Linux Distro's.

Oh if you try Morphix remember take the Red Pill. You'll understand when you load it.

Col

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Debian GNU/Linux

by apotheon In reply to You have a couple of opti ...

I'm very much enamored with Debian myself. It's all I'm using these days.

What is "easy" to install depends on a lot of factors. Just to get something running, regardless of details, on reasonably new hardware, I'd say that the easiest distro I have yet met is MEPIS (which is, incidentally, Debian-based). Knoppix (also Debian-based) is almost as easy to install on the hard drive, but requires you to know a command to enter at the shell in order to get it started. I'm afraid I don't recall the command.

Both MEPIS and Knoppix are LiveCD distros, which means they boot up a fully-featured Linux distro directly from the CD. For longer-term use, rather than simply as a demonstration, I recommend installing them on the hard drive -- which you can do from within the running OS after booting from CD.

"Pure" Debian, as of the Sarge/Testing version, is absurdly easy to install as a basic, no-frills installation. The older (Woody/Stable-era) version of the installer was kind of a pain in the arse. I recommend, if you want to use Debian, to install to a machine that has broadband Internet access, and to use the install-over-Internet installation CD ISO to burn a bootable install disk, rather than downloading and burning ISOs for the full-CD install. It's faster, simpler, and less potentially problematic to use the one-CD Internet installation.

If you choose to install Debian on a machine, I recommend installing a bare-bones system, with zero additional software installed (choose the option for no extra software, and using apt later, rather than options for dselect, aptitude, apt cetera). Once it's installed, use apt to install all the software you'll want to use. This requires learning how to navigate the apt command line tools for package management, but it's a very simple system and, once you've learned it, you'll probably soon find yourself wondering how you ever survived without it.

There are other options as well, of course, for distributions -- and most distributions have their uses. Something to keep in mind is that a lot of the modern "easy to install" distributions don't work on equipment that is too old, if only because the installer might not run if there isn't enough RAM in the machine. The Anaconda installer, used for Red Hat, requires something on the order of 128MB to run (last I checked), for instance. Meanwhile, the Debian installer runs on only 32MB of RAM.

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Ubuntu.... Warty Warthog

by richards_unsubcribe In reply to Debian GNU/Linux

Strong recommendation...

Why not try the new Ubuntu Warty Warthog distro based on Debian... done by a group from South Africa...it comes on only 1 CD (as opposed to Fedora (RH10) which I think requires 3) and it has a simple no hassle installer. Installs the Firefox browser and an email client...also supports Mozilla and Thunderbird email. OpenOffice.org is included as standard issue.... Lots of support and the plug-ins are easy to install. I'm running Ubuntu on my second machine. As this disro matures ... Bill Gates... be afraid... be very afraid....because this distro is getting close to being a granny approved plug and play installation. You don't have to be a propeller-head geek to get Ubuntu working.

Hardware? Best be running a minimum 500mhz processor and as much ram as you can. Try for 512meg... you can get away with 256 and but the box tends to run a little slower.

Richard

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by apotheon In reply to Ubuntu.... Warty Warthog

Hmm. I'll have to try that one out, m'self, though I rather suspect I'll still prefer the base Debian (since Debian itself never has conflicts with the Debian apt archives and I like to install with nothing, then add applications I need individually, ensuring a lean-running system).

What's the default desktop on Warty Warthog?

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Warty good for Grannies & Geeks but didn't work too well for me...

by Praxxxis In reply to Ubuntu.... Warty Warthog

Granted, I'm not a Gnome user, but I wanted to give 2.8 a spin and I'd been hearing a lot of glowing praise about the distro, so I gave it a whack.

Setup was easy and I don't think Granny would have any trouble using it for web browsing and email (once Evolution was configured for it), and I'm sure that Linux gurus would love it too, but for me it was not too user-friendly once I tried to configure for my needs.

I couldn't get SAMBA running; other distros I've used make this an easy matter of using a GUI, but the share browser didn't ask for a user name or password and I didn't see any way to enter it in the network config tool. I don't want to read a bunch of man pages and edit an arcane .conf file. I want GUI interfaces that work, like LinNeighborhood or smb4k that made this process painless with MEPIS, Vector, Mandrake or Yoper, to name a few that I've tried recently. The only apt-get package they seemed to offer was some WWW interface that also didn't work for me.

You can't easily boot in to a root window manager. I couldn't access my W2K as a normal user, and even when I mounted it by command line as root I couldn't so much as edit a text file in Windows (I didn't have that problem with other distros).

I broke X when trying to edit my XF86Config-4 file to work with two monitors (I never succeeded; some distros like SuSE recognize two video cards on setup and set up Xinerama for you). So I tried to edit the file from the root command line in a terminal. Guess what? The command 'vi' doesn't kick up a text editor, just gives you a 'command not recognized' feedback. Of course, there is a vi-like program, but to start it you have to type the whole non-mnenomic name (which I kept forgetting). There should at least be a sympbolic link for 'vi' to the program.

All in all, the least pleasant Linux experience I've had in a long while.

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er . . .

by apotheon In reply to Warty good for Grannies & ...

Wow. What a laundry list.

I've never configured samba except by way of smb.conf, and personally I prefer it that way. More GUI just means more resource overhead and more complexity to create possible stability and security issues. It's in part the desire to get away from that nonsense that I moved from Windows to Linux.

I don't like Gnome, either, which is part of the reason I haven't bothered to try out Ubuntu Warty Warthog yet. If you're looking for vi or vim, though, you might want to just apt-get install it (either one, though I recommend vim).

Or . . . you could go with a distro that hasn't given you the same trouble. Use what works, I suppose. I'm typically baffled whenever anyone has a strong aversion to the CLI, but if that's you, then you might want to just go back to a more GUI-intensive distro. If you still want a "serious" Debian-based distribution, but want it to be more GUI-intensive than it sounds like Ubuntu is, you could try Progeny Debian. It, too, uses Gnome by default, but should have a lot more of the GUI tools you expect than Ubuntu does.

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by Praxxxis In reply to er . . .

Rexworld is looking for something easy to setup, configure and maintain. The CLI is a powerful interface, but it has a steep learning curve. Switches vary from app to app and documentation is not Newbie friendly (man pages, for instance). They are rather cryptic to those who aren't members of the priesthood and they never give examples, it seems. None of this comports well with my notion of easy to configure.

I'd never been on a Linux system that didn't respond to the command 'vi.' Once I learned what the command was I made a symbolic link and everything was OK (actually, I was able to fix X enough to boot a single monitor).

I just don't have a very good memory, so it makes using the CLI difficult for me unless I constantly use it. Sue me, I'm not an ?bergeek and never will be, but I'd like to use Linux because I like the idea of open source software, not because I am particularly enamoured with the user-friendliness of unix. So I entered this thread while looking around for something a little gooeyier to help ease me in to Linux. I'll DL Progeny and give it a whirl, though I haven't completely given up on Ubuntu.

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Debian Linux

by AnswerMan In reply to Debian GNU/Linux

Yup I agree........

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Couple of Options and More. . .

by Gorto In reply to You have a couple of opti ...

As Hal put it there are a couple of options and possibly more. I ran Slackware for years, then Corel (Debian Based) SuSE, Redhat and Fedora and finally Debian. With Kernel 2.6 I went back to Fedora mainly for the hardware support (SATA and nVidia). It also has a very simple user interface (I prefer CLI myself). It's also dictated by what you plan to do with it. Debian is great if you have a bit of Linux know how. It uses APT for updates and installs and has a LARGE following. SuSE is slick, has great support for all kinds of hardware, and uses Yast! (easy to use) and is backed by Novell. Fedora is also quite slick, supports tons of hardware, uses rpm, APT-GET for rpms and YUM, all quite easy to update and install from. Fedora also looks and feels like the RedHat products just in case you get a job where RH Workstation or Enterprise is used. I suggest that you download 2 or 3 distro's and give them a try.

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Mandrake is quite easy

by gralfus In reply to Which distro to install?

I have installed a few different distros and Mandrake seems to have a very nice install.

On the other hand, if you want to get into the guts of things and go more command-line, look into Slackware.

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