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back to article Ubuntu? Fedora? Mint? Debian? We'll find you the right Linux to swallow

Linux, it is said, is all about choice. Indeed, the ability to choose, well, pretty much everything, is probably the best thing about Linux. But the huge variety from which you can choose - ranging from distro and desktop to window manager - can also be overwhelming for newcomers. If you've ever thought about abandoning Windows …

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Lets see if this self-fulfills

The biggest problem I find with Linux is that any attempt to get help tends to end up with hordes of gurus flinging abuse at me for a) not knowing the answer already and b) not just downloading the source and coding the fixes I want into the kernel

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Lets see if this self-fulfills

Sadly true far too often, I only have to read the replies from others brave enough to ask the about the problems I have, in the first place!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Lets see if this self-fulfills

Not the case on say the Linux Mint forums, where they are only too happy to help people with various queries. Although historically, yes there has been a certain amount of Linux elitism, but things are changing, and it really depends where you are going to ask for assistance.

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Re: Lets see if this self-fulfills

http://www.catb.org/esr/faqs/smart-questions.html#intro

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Re: Lets see if this self-fulfills

I've seen it all through the years on sites like Slashdot, Linux Today etc. I'd make a comment that a dialog was missing / broken / unforgiving, or that some common device didn't work, or that I shouldn't have to edit some file to make the desktop work properly and I'd be greeted with outright hostility at times.

It's like some people truly believe that Linux should mean groveling around in HOWTOs or in hand editing text files just because the desktop is too retarded to include a checkbox that would turn something on or off. This RTFM attitude and zealotry has done as much damage to Linux as anything Microsoft has done.

Fortunately Linux has moved on a lot in the last decade but this ugly arrogance and defensiveness is still there.

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Re: Lets see if this self-fulfills

Flocke: This guide is great if I'm investigating the mis-behaviour of Apache when configured to use port 8082 and accessing from the local machine (although it's fine from a remote machine on the same sub-net, or local machine filtered through a proxy). The problem is most user-based problems aren't like that. What if my Ubuntu installation crashes to a black screen immediately after install? I have no way of knowing what hardware is causing it, or if it's even hardware related. What if Firefox crashes, then refuses to re-start? It may seem obvious to a self-described 'hacker' to type 'kill -9 `pidof firefox-bin`' and re-launch it, but as a new user, that's not simple. Especially when the dialogue simply says it's still running.

In other words, this guide is largely aimed at the wrong target when talking about user-space problems.

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Anonymous Coward

@AndyS - Re: Lets see if this self-fulfills

If you don't want to be bothered to learn how a computer works, then why would you want to use Linux ?

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Re: @AndyS - Lets see if this self-fulfills

Because some people claim it's better and cheaper than Windows? Can do everythink that Windows can for free? And if most people hear free they add "as in beer" mentally. So they want "cheap" and want to use it not learn about computers.

Or because people get the idea for an application that needs internet access but not that much bandwidth, do not want to expose a Windows-box to the net / do not have a spare windows licence and look for an easy to use alternative? And quite a few distributions (Suse, Ubuntu) claim to be that. Again those people look for a box that does not need a PhD in Computer Science.

Computers are (thankfully) approaching the point where they can simply be used WITHOUT knowing how they work. Like cars, microwaves or DVD recorders. That is what people expect this days. That's why Macs and iThingys(Both Overpriced. underpowered and locked down) are so popular today.

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Re: @AndyS - Lets see if this self-fulfills

Maybe because I prefer it? Or maybe because in 10 years time I might know perfectly well how computers work, but right now something is broken in a way I can't figure out, and doesn't fit even slightly into the famous 'How to ask questions' tutorial? That tutorial is very much aimed at programmers and advanced users, in the 90s, who had technical questions. It's very helpful, and has a whole lot of other advice, but since one of the most commonly occuring lines is "...or just don't ask the question at all," it's not great for end-user advice. RTFM is a good answer if I need to know the exact ins-and-outs of ffmpeg, but not if totem crashes when I insert a DVD. Mostly, that guide would simply tell me, in the latter situation, not to attempt to contact 'hackers.' Which is valid, but doesn't make it relevant to this conversation.

As others have said, the format of answering questions advocated by the guide has done a lot of damage to Linux's usage (although if everyone asked questions like it advises, the world would be a better place.

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Re: @AndyS - Lets see if this self-fulfills

It doesn't have to be polarised between "locked down and easy to use" and "open and hard to use" - you don't have to know how it works to use Linux or Windows - or indeed, Android, which is far more popular than ios. (Plus the people I know with Macs seem to like them because they have Unix shells, hardly the "easy to use" argument...)

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Happy

Re: Lets see if this self-fulfills

Well, you know the old saying. 98% of Linux fans make the other 2% look bad.

The distro that had the friendliest user community, really not hostile at all to newbies, was MEPIS. It was a very nice distro too, but hasn't been updated enough lately.

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Re: Lets see if this self-fulfills

I haven't found that for a couple of years - and yes I was victim to the "READ THE MAN PAGES" mafia back in the day. These days I find that forums are where all of the useful info is found, and that in most cases people are really helpful.

Of course it helps that modern distros (MINT for me) are actually able to install and run with 99% no problems. By the time you run into an issue it's usually a real problem with a real solution that someone has already found.

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Devil

Re: @AndyS - Lets see if this self-fulfills

"AC" said: "If you don't want to be bothered to learn how a computer works, then why would you want to use Linux?"

Exactly right! But I do presume that your automobile of choice has the basic hand-crank starter, a carburetor mixture control, a spark advance, a maual choke, a manual gearbox sans synchro-mesh, made irrelevant by intutitive double-clutching skills -- and to eliminate the extra complexity, weight, and maintenance -- a battery-less magneto ignition sparking system? Hmmmmm ?? How's that? Hi-intensity pressure-fed kerosene headlamps and a battery-lantern tail-light system too? Oooooh... you are a fundamentalist devil! Please, show me again, that fold-down windscreen that eliminates the air-conditioning system and the need for wipers!

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@Gray

I can only assume that you've never used a modern Linux.

All mainstream distros on mainstream hardware will do pretty much everything a home user would want to do out of the box, with the possible exception of patent restricted file formats, and there is no way in hell that you can blame the Linux community for that problem.

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@Peter Gathercole

All mainstream distros on mainstream hardware will do pretty much everything a home user would want to do out of the box, with the possible exception of patent restricted file formats, and there is no way in hell that you can blame the Linux community for that problem.

Agreed ... up to a point.

Unfortunately there are some specific pieces of hardware and software that require Windows, and any user who wants or needs to use one of those has to use Windows.

In my case -- I can't update my TomTom SatNav without Windows because TomTom Home only runs on Windows (even though the TomTom device itself runs Linux), I can't use the software provided with my Canon DSLR without Windows, and I can't use my copy of the MemoryMap OS mapping software without Windows. In the latter two cases a VM is OK (but I still need a licensed copy of Windows to run in it) but the TomTom software is happier when it can connect to a real (non-virtualized) USB port. For these, I keep an old P4 box running XP.

The problem is that there is no incentive for TomTom, Canon, and MemoryMap to produce Linux versions of their tools because they can pretty-much expect that any potential customer has access to a Windows PC. As long as that remains true Windows will be the OS of choice for everyone who runs only a single PC.

On the bright side, I can use my old 16-bit Windows copy of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary under Wine on my 64-bit Linux box, whereas 64-bit Windows won't run 16-bit software at all.

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Re: @AndyS - Lets see if this self-fulfills

Hmm. Fond memories. I actually learned to drive on a '31 Ford Model A pickup. Fond memories indeed.

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The even like / dislike count suggests there's some truth and some exaggeration to this

It's nice to know I wasn't the only one scared away from Linux by hostile technical support.

Now you just need the nice ones to get on the cases of the not-so-nice ones and make them stop biting the n00bs.

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Re: @AndyS - Lets see if this self-fulfills

"If you don't want to be bothered to learn how a computer works, then why would you want to use Linux ?"

Because an OS aimed at consumers should, for the most part, just work

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@dajames

I overlooked that one (and that is strange, because I had the exact same problem with TomTom myself). Ironically, I also have problems updating my Android Phone and Tablet because the installers both need Windows (although I think the tablet could be done using an update stored on the micro-sd card if I tried hard).

But I would also wonder whether the myTomTom (or whatever it is called) would suffer the same problem as S-OED that you mention.

So, how do we pressure these shortsighted vendors to provide native Linux apps? They'll have to something to cater for tablet filled PC free households at some point.

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Re: @Peter Gathercole

"I can't use the software provided with my Canon DSLR without Windows"

I only use Linux and have 2 Canon DSLRs - I don't find it necessary to use the Canon software.

I can process the raw files to 48bit tifs, adjust exposures etc and drive the camera remotely all from Linux.

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Re: The even like / dislike count suggests there's some truth and some exaggeration to this

A perfect example regarding the use of "sticky bits".

http://forum.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.php?f=90&t=34691

In the next to last post, a user is non-plused by the attempt to not answer his question.

He/she restates the question details what he/she has done on their own to find an answer.

This results in End of Thread. No one even tries to explain practical use of "sticky bits" to them...

And this is in a Mint forum, among the better ones out there. Isolated case? Not even close, you can find these abandoned threads everywhere...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Lets see if this self-fulfills

For most of us, it is a lot easier to help someone who has already tried to help themselves.

I too, have seen plenty of rude put downs of noobs in Linux forums, but overall, I find most community users will help noobs, whenever they can, particularly if they identify themselves as such.

Like most things in life, attitude has a lot to do with it.

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"Comfortable with the terminal"

And that is the phrase that is still one of the biggest steps between Linux getting any significant market share on the desktop. While you are I are relatively happy staring at a command line, Joe Punter isn't. It's an obstacle that needs to be overcome.

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Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

""Comfortable with the terminal" "

For the last griefing time - You do NOT need to use a command line to install or use most modern Linux distros.

BUT if you do it can greatly enhance the experience.

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Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

"And that is the phrase that is still one of the biggest steps between Linux getting any significant market share on the desktop."

It's also a phrase that the (rather good) article only ever uses once, specifically in the context of a distro suitable for developers and sysadmins. Also identifiable as "people who will be comfortable with the terminal".

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Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

I've got a windows background but run linux on my main work PC and have had a macbook for about a year. I use the command line on all operating systems, not because I need to but because I can. How do you find the IP address in windows? Run, cmd, ipconfig/all, on a mac I'd use the gui in preferences but could also do it on the cli.

Pointing and clicking is good, the command line is good too, there are times when one is better than the other and I like to think that I use the best tool for a task, much like I try to use the best OS for specific tasks.

Computing is there to help us, not hinder us.

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Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

It's funny how rarely (ie, never) one sees the other side of this coin: "if you're comfortable having to do everything with a mouse/your finger". I'm not and never have been.

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Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

"For the last griefing time - You do NOT need to use a command line to install or use most modern Linux distros."

Until you want to use something that isn't in the official package manager, or an application or dependency goes wrong. Then you'll be in a command line world, and this still happens a lot even on Ubuntu.

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Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

"Until you want to use something that isn't in the official package manager,"

I do often without using the command-line - the point is that an install and use of the (GUI) installed packages doesn't need the command-line. I'm not against the CLI - indeed I use it all the time as I write a lot of programs as well as building/running scripts but there are far too many people out there who spread the FUD " Linux installations need CLI or programs compiling or whatever else. "

They don't !

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@Chemist

And THAT'S the problem. It might not be the case any more, and as a Mint user, I wholeheartedly agree that using the terminal can improve your experience. But the perception amongst the wider user community (i.e. Not Linux Users) is that Linux is still defined by the terminal, and that's an obstacle that the Linux community isn't really helping to overcome.

Honestly I think at this stage Canonical need to start running TV ads or something, and make this point in big shiny capital letters. Because Ubuntu is the closest thing we have to a household name at this point.

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Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

>For the last griefing time - You do NOT need to use a command line to install or use most modern Linux distros.

Yes, but you might, just as you might in Windows or OSX. Just the other day, I thought I would try the approach that is often recommended to novices- installing Ubuntu on a VM Ware virtual machine. I clicked 'Easy Install', and the virtual machine got stuck in a loop (VM Ware's fault- it was trying to install helper tools, but Ubuntu 12.04 was too new for it.) It took three lines of command line text to fix the Linux installation

-What makes a virtual machine suitable for novices is that they still have access to help on the internet during the installation process if they don't have a second real machine to hand. What took the time is that first few pages I consulted said "It's buggered, reinstall it" before I found one that told me how to fix it).

I usually have a Linux installation on a second partition and GRUB, 'just in case'. There are tools available for it that aren't easily found for Windows, and I thought it would make a better platform for on-line banking (if only because its exposure to nasties would be lower because I wouldn't use it as much). It is also reassuring to have an OS outside of your primary OS, for images and recovery, diagnostics and virus scans etc- though modern hardware can boot off a USB stick so partitioning the HDD isn't essential. Ironically enough, my practice of dual-booting stems from when one MS OS wasn't enough (at uni I needed both NT.40 and Win 98)

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Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

"Linux will never get any market share until XXX"

Phrases like this keep turning up. Usually XXX is already available for Linux, and was probably available before it worked on Windows. Let's pretend you actually find a statement where XXX was on Windows, but not on Linux when the statement was published. How did DOS ever get any market share?

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Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

Linux is a lot more robust these days so the console is something that a normal user shouldn't have to use. If you look at OS X or Windows, the console is for programmers and advanced admin purposes, but for every day use no OS should ever expect someone knows anything about it.

I don't think Linux is quite to the point of Windows or OS X but it's getting far closer than it used to be.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

Or you update the kernel and it fails to update the boot filesystem image (hello Centos...)

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Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

No chance, really, I recently tried installing Mint 14 on an older machine, (Pentium 4 3.2.. etc etc) and booting from the DVD yielded a grey screen and a white flashing cursor after selecting the boot option in the Mint boot menu. Yes, I'm sure someone will say I can apply a couple of switches to the boot command and it will turn off certain features and will boot OK, but that really isn't OK...

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Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

Piro, just out of curiosity; did you manage to install Windows 8, 7 or Vista on the older machines (Pentium 4 3 2... etc etc)?

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Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

"Yes, but you might, just as you might in Windows or OSX"

I did qualify it by saying it enhanced the experience, I also used the words "most modern "

You might well have had a problem with one install of one distro where you needed the command line but most people don't have with most modern distros

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@Mr C Hill - Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

But I don't give a damn about Joe Punter! That guy wants to be able to fly an F-16 in 5 minutes without first learning to read and write. Just keep him away from Linux and let the rest of us go on with our lives, OK?

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Stop

Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

Debian has a decent graphical package manager (synaptic) with a facility to add repositories - no command line needed here. Ubuntu, and I suppose Mint and other Debian or Ubuntu based distributions also should have this and possibly other possibilities. Command line use may be more convenient for some, but is unnecessary as long as the desired package can be found in some distribution compatible repository.

It becomes necessary to use a terminal at about the point where the install process has become "download, extract, configure, make, make install." Fewer do that than install an OS, and not many do that. The fact is that Gnu/Linux will not become common on user desktops until some time after a major manufacturer offers it in place of, or at least on a par with, Windows. As has happened with Android and phones/tablets other than those from Apple.

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Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

Or accidentally uninstall all the kernels and rebooting before realising this. I managed that, it's an interesting exercise getting the system back.

Bootstrapping oneself out of a cock-up is a great way to learn things, even if it's only "don't do that again".

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Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

Microsoft Office :) And no, for quite a few things OO/LO is not a full substitute.

As for MS DOS getting a market share:

It generated the market. It was as good as the alternative (CP/M 86), cheaper and IBM promoted it. And when the IBM PC and it's clones marched into the office so did MS-DOS. And with THE big player producing a cloneable hardware platform MS-DOS has something that earlier CP/M systems could not deliver - a limited, well defined hardware standard that made certain development tasks easier.

Remember that back then there was a strong division between "Office" computers and "home" computers. Sometimes with the home computers being the more capabel ones (Atari/ MegaST or Amiga2000 vs 286 based DOS-Boxes). "WinTel" units did not become the typical home unit until the early 1990s (partially because Atari and Commodore foulded up)

Windows (Dos-version) did the same. Came in at the right time, ran on existing hardware and delivered stuff that software companies liked (Like OS delivers graphics/printer/mouse driver). Here IBM dropped the ball with the technically superior OS/2. Timing was good with people that got exposed to GUIs through home computers and university (Sun Workstations) coming into the jobs and finding them useful for certain jobs. And MS delivered some useful software (Excel) quite early. Actually Win 2.11 was more often used as a base to run Excel than anything else.

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Linux

Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

Best example here, being the installation of nVidias' non-free Drivers.

Yeah have fun trying to install this w/o any cli experience.

" You appear to be running an X server please exit X before installing."

So is it...

# init 3 or

# init 5?

no it would seem that you would have to now type:

# /etc/init.d/gdm stop (or # gdm stop)

to kill X. Be sure to use CTRL+Alt+Backspace to that X11 got flushed too.

Then if your lucky the nVidia Driver will install. IF YOUR REALLY LUCKY it'll also write-up a working xorg.conf for you too. In my experience this happens about 50% of the time, On Desktop Linux.

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Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

@Michael Habel

NVIDIA drivers install perfectly in my experience (OpenSUSE) and that's on about 10-15 occasions in recent years.

I've never seen "You appear to be running an X server please exit X before installing"

I just install from the NVIDIA repository and logout and back in. NO CLI

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Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

If you enjoy doing it the hard way, go for it. Debian includes an NVidia non-free installer that works well. I would guess that Debian-derived distributions like Ubuntu and Mint do, and wouldn't be surprised if many of the others I haven't used, such as Fedora and OpenSuSE also do.

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Re: "Comfortable with the terminal" (nvidia drivers)

Have to agree with OP on this one. Recently having to install them on a couple of debian boxen recently was the single most horrible task I've ever undertaken, and I'm by no means a noob.

BUT

This is not the fault of Linux, but of nvidia for releasing their drivers with an appalling installation script.

Happily in 99% of scenarios the free (nv) drivers work just fine. To anyone reading this who is wondering about whether or not to give Linux a spin, I'd say "sure, go for it", but if you've got an nvidia card, stick with the drivers that come with the distro, until you've unless you've got access to some local expertise.

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Happy

Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

OpenSuse. From... 10 onwards?

1) Install as usual.

2) Login.

3) Open Yast (the graphical one)

4) Choose "Add Repository"

5) Select "Community Repositories"

6) Choose "Nvidia" or "ATI"

7) Open the software manager.

8) Install the driver.

No a single look at the command line. And (not so) newer versions of the X doesn't need a config file anymore. They detect the settings on the fly.

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Besides

..you can use the free drivers first and get your work done. I am smelling M$ FUD here.

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Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

Way to take things out of context. Let's put it back in context, shall we?

"Anyone planning to primarily use Linux to write software or develop web applications will likely be quite happy with Fedora, which does a good job of shipping up-to-date developer tools like Python, Ruby (and Rails) and web servers like Apache. The software installer may not be the best, but the command line Yum installer works just fine so long as you're comfortable with the terminal."

So, what's the context? First off, we're talking about "Anyone planning to primarily use Linux to write software or develop web applications". If you're writing software or developing web applications and you're not comfortable with a terminal...erf. Secondly, note the lead-in: "The software installer may not be the best". This is picking up from an earlier paragraph where Fedora's default graphical package installer (PackageKit) was criticized for not being as good as Ubuntu's and Mint's. So what this paragraph is saying is "if you're a software developer, the benefits of Fedora in terms of having a wide range of up to date development packages available outweigh the minor disadvantage of the graphical package manager not being the best, particularly since you're probably going to wind up using the command line package manager anyway, since you're that kind of person".

But no, fine, by all means, take four words out of context and stick to your two decade old bash if it makes you feel better.

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Re: "Comfortable with the terminal" @Prio

Did you check that your DVD drive worked and the disk was readable in it? This is the biggest problem I get when trying to use older systems. They may load the bootstrap, but get stuck further in on the disk. Does Mint have a 'Check Media' menu item on the boot strap?

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