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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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Linux

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

This is a major reason Linux is at 2% market share. This attitude and the elitist nature of most forums. "Learn Linux BEFORE you ask for help." I have heard many new Linux users complain that it seems that the linux gurus of the world do not want a broader user base, as they seem to go out of their way to make it as hard as they can for the newbie to use it.

And the "free" part of Linux means nothing to consumers until they can buy a computer at a big box store and hear: "OK, that will be XX$, now what OS do you want loaded on it? Windows costs ZZ$ extra..." Another thing is the endless squabbling over desktop choice in Linux. Utter BS, you run apps, right? Far too much concern with look and feel. Libre Office looks the same no matter what desktop schema you run...

I feel that Microsoft inhibits innovation, is a security nightmare and is way over priced for the quality it delivers, yet Linux is going nowhere in the current environment.

Down vote away boys and girls, "The Year of Linux Desktop" isn't on the horizon now, nor will it ever be if things don't change...

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Headmaster

@mmeier

... "WinTel" units ...

WinTel?

That's "Windows" + "Intel".

Small 't' please, capital 'I' at your discretion.

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Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

... Windows (Dos-version) did the same. Came in at the right time, ran on existing hardware

Not unless your existing hardware had graphics capability it didn't! A lot of businesses had PCs with text-only IBM mono display adapters.

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Vic
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Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

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

This isn't true.

If you want to use GUI-only tools, they're there. It all works.

The reason you'll often get command-line advice is because some of us *prefer* it.

Vic.

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Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

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

I have. A *long* time ago. I exited the NVidia installer instead...

> I just install from the NVIDIA repository and logout and back in

Yep. Me too.

Vic.

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Re: "Comfortable with the terminal"

Opem case. insert card, close case. :)

Actually the Hercules card could run Windows 2.x IIRC since it was monochrome but graphics capabel.

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Whilst it might be useful to try a few distros I find that long-term sticking with one distro/desktop means a much easier life. Of course I occasionally still try new or 'improved' distros but generally in a VM.

For me OpenSUSE/KDE has proved super stable, easy to install on all sorts of hardware including by USB pendrive and has a wide range of programs including many not actually in the distribution.

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@Chemist

The easier life. That has happened to me too, I suppose it has something to do with "long-term" and like you I am still playing with "new" distros (on a spare laptop).

For new users I would suggest an open mind with plenty of playing around.

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Happy

Xubuntu for me!

All that Ubuntu goodness but with the super-fast, super-minimal XFCE desktop and none of the crap packages you know you don't need. Heck, even the Nvidia drivers worked perfectly on my old Quadro card driven dual-head setup!

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Rolling upgrade or versioned?

Another decision to add; do you prefer a distribution which releases discrete versions, or would you prefer a rolling release? The former is better for stability but means that you have the pain of upgrading every year or so to keep current. A rolling release trades the upgrade hassle for the slightly greater risk of instability.

The best rolling release distro for newbies is probably PCLinuxOS.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mint is the best distro at the mo

I have to agree. Despite being a Linux user myself, I have generally advised those who aren't particularly computer literate to go with Windows 7 in the past, as I've found Linux to be just 'not quite there', however with the advent of Windows 8, the latest versions of Mint are more Windows like than Windows now, and I find myself recommending Mint 14 as a suitable alternative, as each release of Mint seems to get better and better. Cinammon has the the familiar 'Windows 95' layout, which the vast majority of people will have experience of, rather than the oddity that is Unity, and the window controls are on the right hand side, unlike in Ubuntu (yes they can be changed easily, but someone new to Linux isn't going to know how to do that straight off). And in my experience, things 'just work' in Mint, be it detecting network and wireless cards, printers, digital cameras and whatever else you can throw at it. As Mint is based on Ubuntu, means that all the stuff now targeting Ubuntu such as Steam, also work fine on Mint.

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Re: Mint is the best distro at the mo

Not for me ... I became too large to fit on the 4 Gig SSD family netbook and got booted for Bodhi linux. The latter offers similar ease of use without the bloat. But Mint definitely created an easy transition into the Debian / Ubuntu world of Linux.

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Re: Mint is the best distro at the mo

Well put Eadon. I use Mint for the same reasons.

Also have Windows 7 PC, iOS on iPad and iPhone, Android on ASUS TF101 and a WinPhone HTC. I have to use Windows 7 at work too.

Linux is by far my preference. Normal 'end user' stuff can all be achieved through the GUI. I'm a power user so I choose to work in the shell a lot, as I get things done quicker or better automated. Funnily enough I have CygWin on my Windows 7 box, to get the same toolset on there as I have with Linux.

Security, stability and efficiency are the reasons I'm a penguin.

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All very well.

All very well, nicely written. But, the article didn't actually tell you anything. I've been (almost) exclusively using Linux for years. However, I've not managed to persuade a single one of my friends to install it, simply because they regard it as "hard to install", which it isn't. Well, at least the distro I use isn't. Most people don't want the perceived problems of installation, and will always stick with what the hardware came with. Even if it's Vista.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: All very well.

"I've been (almost) exclusively using Linux for years"

Perhaps you're overqualified for this article? :-) I believe Scott's aim was for newcomers.

C.

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Re: All very well.

I've been using GNU+Linux(Yes one of those) exclusively since 2004. I didn't bother converting friends. I showed them, explained them and then out of the blue a friend of mine switched completly to Linux on his own. With me doing nothing else to persuade him. I don't evnagelize the system. I show what it can do. I show what Open source/Free software can do. Most people in my cicrles run atleast some open source/free software apps even if it is on windows. And they get curious about the rest and try that. Some like it enough to have a permanent dual boot others try it and find it's not for them and some stick with it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: overqualified?

a beginner would still want to know something, and as said it doesn't say anything.

A droid wouldn't necessarily want to know anything. Perhaps it should be aimed at them?

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Re: All very well.

Re-read the article. It's not about distro/OS wars, it's about what to choose if YOU WANT to try Linux as a newbie.

As for converting friends, why bother? If someone is happy with the system they have, leave them alone. Linux is a powerful system, and with power comes responsiblity, and the need for knowledge. If someone wants something that "just works" I point them at Apple's wares. When I meet someone who likes constantly patching and re-booting his computer, I shall point him to Windows.

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Happy

Re: All very well.

"Hard to install" is code-word for "leave me alone, I don't want Linux on my computer". They're your friends, they don't want to hurt your feelings.

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guide for

"If you've ever thought about abandoning Windows or Mac OS X for Linux, but stopped short because you weren't sure which variety of Linux to choose, this guide is for you."

Any guide like this needs to take more time explaining the relationship between the distro and the desktop. It took me an embarresing length of time to even figure out what Gnome or KDE were and why the different distros worked so differently when I first tried Linux a couple of years ago.

Although the article mentions many by name goes on to mention some of their features, it doesnt really say enough about what they are and how they seem different to a good guide to a beginner.

Apple and Windows users dont have a choice of desktop environment so it's a fairly alien concept to majority of casual users these days

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Re: guide for

Yeah, those were the little barriers when i first tried Linux- I didn't know what I didn't know. Lots of little things that were new to me and made sense individually- SUDO, shell, mounting disks, package managers, strange names- were a bit much to swallow all at once. Fortunately, my friend and I were just installing it (Mint) for fun, to see what all the fuss was about- this was about five years ago when people recommended Linux as being a good way to get more life out of older machines- in this case an old donated Thinkpad with audio hardware that the Linux forums had warned us was tricky. We got it all working in the end, and got a sense of satisfaction out of it- though in the end he hacked a boot loader onto a PS2 and used that as media player instead.

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Anonymous Coward

Test 'em first in VMs if you can.

If your box can handle it, run a few distros up in VirtualBox/VMWare before committing to one you like. Saves so much time and hassle and you find out very quickly if you like the way things are done. You're testing on standard "hardware" that will almost certainly be supported by almost any reasonable distro.

Unlike real hardware, if it screws up you're not left without an O/S to boot to get help or download the ISO again. Nothing worse than downloading an ISO, burning it to disc or USB and then watching it crap out half-way through a real hardware install and leaving you to dig out a tablet or worse mobile phone to try to get on forums for answers!

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Re: Test 'em first in VMs if you can.

"Nothing worse than downloading an ISO, burning it to disc or USB and then watching it crap out half-way through a real hardware install"

Don't do it then. Use a LiveCD that will not affect your existing setup. Check if the hardware works that way then install.

There are several liveCDs at : http://software.opensuse.org/122/en

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Re: Test 'em first in VMs if you can.

Plus, if you try a VM you can have it on one side of of your screen, and use a web browser with a guide (or forum thread if you encounter issues) to hold your hand through the process.

To the novice, the concept of a Virtual Machine (a computer inside a computer) might seem strange, but the practice is very straightforward and unintimidating.

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One word of advice

Run any distro first from a CD/DVD and check that your internet is working in case it's the only PC you have at home. This advice may be a bit old fashion but without the internet you will not get much help. Also if it does not work "out of the box" try an other distro. And well, have a separate PC you can fuck around with to your hearts delight. It's fun and worth it. Try different desktops and distros. A distro does not have to be big to respond to questions, a small one may respond much faster.

(so much for "one word of advice")

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Anonymous Coward

Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

This article is another example of why Linux continues to fail on the desktop. Anyone who is not already a Linux person would read this article and come away even less likely to want to switch. "Life is too short."

Here's another example: how the Linux FOSS community doesn't really love tablets or phones with Android -- it's not "real" Linux to them, it's too GUI, too user-friendly, it hides the underlying kernel too much for them. If Android's kernel were swapped out for something else and the GUI remained the same, most users wouldn't even notice or care, and this wrankles the die-hard Linux FOSS fans.

My two cents: Ubuntu is the leader, so everyone please just promote that, even if it's not "best", to try to win some market share, and don't let the zealots and purists and FOSS radicals define the entire movement.

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Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

If - by "leader" - you mean the one installed on most desktops... doesn't that mean you're advocating sticking with Windows? Rather negates the point of the article wouldn't you say?

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Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

I was about to write exactly this comment - I got to half way through page two before the article started to give any advice that I could consider putting in front of someone new. Frankly they'd never see that.

This article can be summarised as choice is good but scary, now let me throw huge amounts of choice at you.... if you're still reading here are some basic summaries of leading distros.

This could have been an excellent piece, as another comment said it needed a flowchart diagram at the top.

I've used any number of distro's over the years and have contributed code to FOSS projects in the past, but be honest with yourselves. That article was of no use to anyone who didnt already know the subject well, and for them it was probably little more than an opinion piece.

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Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

PS: as it happens I did install Ubuntu for my mother about 12 months ago when she needed a little netbook bringing back to life for internet use.

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Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

Totally agree. Linux too often feels like the kit-car of the OS world. Sure you can make it be exactly what you want, but it takes so much time and effort barely anyone can be bothered.

The app stores of Android and iPhone (does Win8 have one too?) are showing it's all about the user experience of getting apps installed and working so people can get on with real-world tasks. Linux needs an equivalent but developers can't even agree between .deb or .rpm! Perhaps Steam can sort it out - at least they have a financial incentive to make it work.

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Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

"The app stores of Android and iPhone (does Win8 have one too?) are showing it's all about the user experience of getting apps installed and working so people can get on with real-world tasks. Linux needs an equivalent but developers can't even agree between .deb or .rpm! Perhaps Steam can sort it out - at least they have a financial incentive to make it work."

This is about the most ignorant thing I've ever read.

Linux has had app stores (repos) for years, way ahead of the likes of Android or iOS.

The distro devs can't *and don't need to* decide between deb and rpm because it's irrelevant. Users should never, ever have to deal with a deb or an rpm. They just install software by name straight from the repo. Years ahead of the competition. Installing new stores is trivial too.

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Go

Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

>Ubuntu is the leader, so everyone please just promote that, even if it's not "best", to try to win some market share...

Good luck with that approach, as you'll be fighting the fact that linux distros tend to metastasize. Can't be arsed to find the obligatory xkcd strip to cover the situation, but the truth is out there.

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Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

Androids problem is that it is not directly compatible with any other Linux, it is the "Windows RT" of the Linux world. We do love Android but it is not the tablet Linux we all would like to have.

Ubuntu is not the leader, the leaders are RedHat, SuSE and Debian everything else is a derivative of one of those.

No we do not want to promote Ubuntu because Ubuntu is not the best solution for anything, it is not even the best UI experience.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

@Gio Ciampa

"If - by "leader" - you mean the one installed on most desktops... doesn't that mean you're advocating sticking with Windows? Rather negates the point of the article wouldn't you say?"

FFS, and there's your typical "linux guru" being pedantic as fuck that newbies have to contend with!!!

Try reading the sentence in *context*!!! - The article and his post is about linux distro's, so do they really have to spell out the bleeding obvious?!?!

But just for you - the AC meant Ubuntu is the leader (perceived or otherwise) of the unix distro's.

It's exactly this sort of anal pedanticness** that was mentioned earlier in the comments

(** yes, I know it's not a real word)

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Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

pedantry**

...but agree totally with your post.

I was lucky when I delved into Linux, I was offered support by various users. Most were probably a step or two ahead of me and happy to share the knowledge they had accrued.

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Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

Actually Windows has more than one Appstore. Win8 has a build in for Modern UI software "ääps". And Windows 7 and 8 have amazon and other sides that sell full sized software in "download only" format. (Quite sure XP compatible software is sold there too)

Each Linux distribution has it's own "Appstore" aka Repository. If a software you need is in there and compiled for your version of the distribution it will work nicely, maybe even smoother that amazon. And a resonably sized distribution will also be a "known good" source that should deliver backdoor-free binaries. If you need stuff that is not in the repository it get's interesting. Even more if it does not support your kernel version and/or general family of distributions.

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Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

>Androids problem is that it is not directly compatible with any other Linux

Is it Androids problem or is it actually Linux's problem?

Given the popularity of Android in the marketplace, many normal users will be approaching Linux from having used Android...

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Linux

Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

"market share"

The market share Linux has in super computers, the web, embedded devices, the cloud and so forth, is so huge that Linux is more or less becoming an industrial standard.

Companies and people in those fields, are experts, they choose what ever suits them best.

The desktop is a different animal. Seen any Linux adverts lately. Any shop with pre installed Linux.

I have seen some, as a matter of fact, but none with anybody keen to tell me all about it. And I can understand it very well. Selling and delivering Windows is much easier.

No body with any power (IBM, HP, Lenovo, etc) is pushing Linux on the desktop.

The Linux desktop is for those who make the decision them selves and for large organisations with the power to pull it through. Expect more of the later in the future.

This article is just OK, the most used distros are mentioned, as in every similar article.

How could it be different, suppose you had to write an article addressing people thinking of buying their first car.

Would those people be too frightened, by the amount of cars too choose from, that they decided to take the bus in the future too.

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Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

"Ubuntu is the leader ..." - maybe not forever, though; see

http://www.linuxquestions.org/questions/2012mca.php

Almost all PCs come with a preinstalled (Windows) OS and only a tiny percentage ever install a new one. It would be interesting to see what fraction of those who do so install Linux rather than a new version of Windows. Although I doubt it's a majority, I suspect it is far larger than the fraction of Linux in the entire PC population. Furthier, I suspect that those who install Gnu/Linux now are not that much more technically sophisticated than those who install Windows; and they don't have to be to be successful with most of the major distributions.

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.. and then there were 2

SuSE is a Red Hat derivative.

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Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

Most apps are trivial to install from source code these days.

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Android's Problem?

Dev preview of Ubuntu for phones touching down February 21 (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/02/15/ubuntu_touch_developer_preview/).

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Re: Another example of why Linux fails to gain market share

'Ubuntu is the leader, so everyone please just promote that, even if it's not "best", to try to win some market share, and don't let the zealots and purists and FOSS radicals define the entire movement.'

Ubuntu depends on Debian, by "winning" - as in destroying all competitors, it would be effectively destroying it's own life support. Having said that, I'd certainly recommend Ubuntu to anyone wanting to dip a toe in the water.

Nonetheless FOSS is a bit of an oddity, inasmuch as there is lot of mutual interdependence between players that in other spheres would be seen as rivals: talking about a a distro as being "leader" really doesn't make a lot of sense.

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Happy

Re: .. and then there were 2

Weirdly enough - no. Suse is a Slackware derivative! Not much is left, but it is true. Weird, huh?

See it here:

http://futurist.se/gldt/

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Re: .. and then there were 2

"SuSE is a Red Hat derivative."

No it isn't. It uses the same package format. That's not the same thing at all.

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Re: .. and then there were 2

To add to Marcelo Rodrigues' commentary ... IMO, S.u.S.E. split from Slackware so long ago that SUSE is it's own entity these days, and no longer exactly what I would call a "derivative"..

I've been using Slack from release 1.0 (I fiddled about with it prior to that ... I was looking for a replacement for Mark Williams Company's "Coherent" when it became obvious that they were going to close their doors). In my mind, after all these years, Slackware still works like a un*x ought to work ... but then I came from the BSD world. If you haven't tried Slackware recently, give Slack 14.0 a spin. You might like it.

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Frankly, this is the problem

'Here's another example: how the Linux FOSS community doesn't really love tablets or phones with Android': have to disagree here. Mozilla and Ubuntu are desperately looking for things to do with themselves now the buzz is focused around mobile, but most Linux nerds are looking at CyanogenMod or similar, not anything else.

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'it is not the tablet Linux we all would like to have'

Your best bet, frankly, is Unity. Other than that I can't imagine full-on Linux ever getting anywhere on tablets. How could it?

A better bet is wait ten years for Android to update, expand and become more complex as users' demands magnify.

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Re: .. and then there were 2

Hmm. Last I checked, SuSE was derived from Slackware.

http://futurist.se/gldt/wp-content/uploads/12.10/gldt1210.svg

(Warning - VERY big graphic of linux distro's)

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