back to article The Reg guide to Linux, part 1: Picking a distro

One of the common complaints about Linux is that there are too many different editions (or “distributions”) to choose from, and only a hardcore nerd can tell them apart. Well, it's true, but you can safely ignore 99 per cent of them. Welcome to The Register's guaranteed impartiality-free guide. Tomorrow, we'll tell you how to …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Ubuntu.

    Stopped using it, when they mess up the Ui by swapping the window controls to the "Mac side".

    I simply can't get along with Unbutu since they did this. Perhaps if I used ONLY Ubuntu, all the time, but in the real would, we all need Windows...

    Really bad decision by Ubuntu to change that in 10.1

    1. da_fish27
      FAIL

      @Ubuntu coward

      I don't like ubuntu that much (I use ArchLinux), so I don't usually evangelize it, but you DO know that changing this back is a matter of about 5 seconds right?

      Simple guide:

      - ALT+F2

      - gconf-editor

      - go into /apps/metacity/general

      - edit the button_layout to for example ":minimize,maximize,close" without the quotes (don't forget the ":")

      Voila! You have your windows-like button settings back!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        @ da_fish27

        ...and this is the entire reason Linux is < 1% of the OS market...what normal human being is going to do this?

        It needs to be mouse clicks...as few as possible, and controlled by a theme or something.

        All the funky multtasking, reliability, memory handling etc etc counts for jack when the damned thing is unuseable & uninteligible by Joe Public.

      2. Bill Gould
        FAIL

        Perfect example of why it's not mainstream ready.

        Title says it all really. Still decades behind the times. When we're all using Minority Report style interfaces Linux will still require some archaic tactile keyboard or something.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Actually...

          Linux has a Minority Report style interface now. It's not very widespread yet due to it being a young project and a PITA to configure, but it's out there.

        2. Ole Juul Silver badge
          Joke

          I'm old fashioned

          "Still decades behind the times. When we're all using Minority Report style interfaces Linux will still require some archaic tactile keyboard or something."

          This post was written using one of those archaic keyboards. What did you use to write yours? Did you cut and paste letters from the rest of this page?

    2. Number6

      Change the Theme

      Somewhere in there is the facility to put the buttons back where they belong. Change the theme to something more friendly.

    3. Jad
      Stop

      Moving the buttons

      As theregister pointed out in: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/04/30/ubuntu_10_04_review/ you can modify this in the gconf-editor ... and takes about 30 seconds ...

      a nice walkthrough is at this site:

      http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/13535/move-window-buttons-back-to-the-right-in-ubuntu-10.04/

      1. johnnytruant

        pfffft

        took me less than a day to get used to the new button placement.

        now on non-Lucid machines I move my mouse to the 'wrong' (ie, right) side.

        amazes me how much some people whined about this minor change. I'm quite intrigued to see what groovy stuff Shuttleworth was freeing up the right-hand side of the window for.

    4. Paul Slater

      buttons

      I was similarly annoyed when Internet Explorer moved the Home button to the right instead of the left of the address bar. I got used to it.

      And out of all the reasons why one would choose Ubuntu, the placement of Window controls is not high up my list.

    5. sisk Silver badge
      Linux

      In the real world...

      people who think we all need Windows are just brainwashed. I can do everything I need to do with Debian. I haven't had a Windows installation in my house for a while now.

      Don't get me wrong: for some people and some tasks Windows is the way to go. That's a long stretch from saying everyone needs Windows though. Most people could do everything they need to do on Linux.

      I'm not one of those people who say everyone should run Linux or anything, I just hate when people say everyone needs Windows. It's not true. It's not even close to true.

      1. John Bailey
        Thumb Up

        Seconded

        I've been using Fedora for 4 years now. I still have a Windows box. May as well use it, as I paid for the license. It works as an ok HTPC. But I only "need it" for one thing. Running the software for my Harmony remote.

        Next HTPC will have Myth and all kinds of goodies.

        If Microsoft folded tomorrow, the personal impact on me would be minimal. I might have top get a new TV remote. The horror..

        1. mfraz

          Concorance

          "But I only "need it" for one thing. Running the software for my Harmony remote."

          Have you tried Concordance http://www.phildev.net/harmony/index.shtml ?

      2. CapitalW
        Linux

        Fully agree, sisk

        The only reason I'm using Windows at the moment is that I cannot tether my Omnia (the original one) cellphone to any of my Linux boxes (we moved and that is currently the only option including satellite at the moment - getting electricity took the power company a few days to get a line down here). I'll play MS Flight Simulator, work with RAW photo (mainly because I am so used to the program I use for RAW files) files in Windows and that is about it. Most all other photo work gets done in Linux by the GIMP.

        As an aside; I use Open Office for a lot of my spreadsheet needs because as of MS Office 2003, you could not do conditional formatting with data from another sheet (it returns errors stating you can't) for a large spreadsheet I use for budgeting, billing, and bill paying. Pulling data for conditional formatting makes the summary sheet a lot easier to view at a glance.

        I know of more than one person who took a trashed and non-restorable Windows installation, replaced it with a Linux distro for lack of funds for a friend or family member and the only comment was that it booted and ran faster and the icons looked different, but they never complained about not being able to do anything they used to do.

        As a result, it seems most of people's issues with Linux and open source stems from being locked-in by proprietary formats nowadays (I know that there are exceptions to this sentence).

      3. jim 45

        an infinite time sink

        Yes I too found I could do everything I needed to do with Linux instead of Windows. It just took 20 times longer.

        1. Noons
          Thumb Down

          you mean the Office ribbon?

          I also found it took 20 times longer to do anything with it, instead of traditional menus.

          But really, what you're saying is it takes time to get used to changes. Well done, Sherlock!

          There's nothing inherently slower in Linux, YOU are slower. It gets better with practice. TTFN.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Go

        me three

        I'm with you. Ubuntu finally got their act together so I'm more disposed to make the move from XP. What Ubuntu does seems good, but it's what it won't do (for me) that will keep me dual-booting for some time. As a scientist with a few decades of (very) legacy software and data and XP tuned (at considerable effort) to execute all well, I will not - cannot - just toss that out for Ubuntu's advantages. MS will drop XP soon - I have no interest in Vista or 7 or more MS tomfoolery - so I will probably just take XP "off line", use Ubuntu for web related and conventional activity, and go from there.

        My only uber-gripe is that the Linux distros have GUIs and Apps that are just imitations of the archaic Windows (or Mac) metaphors and apps. That's a long argument and I well understand the rut that first experiences carve in one's brain, but really, someone should have re-factored the whole "desktop" and "office suite" long ago to make them more functional (and appealing to those who have real work to do) beyond the point-of-sale. Regarding the latter, it may as well have been assembled from five different vendors for all the idiosyncratic control-structures and common underlying functions between them.

        1. BorkedAgain

          Intrigued...

          I hope I won't come across as combative or argumentative here; I'm genuinely interested. What metaphors would you suggest to replace the desktop / windows / icons / mouse / pointer - based user interface that world+dog has gotten used to over the last couple of decades?

          I'm finding it hard to imagine a different approach, let alone a better one, being so used to this one by now. Sounds like you have some ideas. Have you shared them with anyone yet?

          Thing is, if you're working in, or have links to an academic institution, then there's going to be any number of Computer Science graduates looking for a postgrad thesis* subject, and building a pilot of your new interface on top of a Linux distro would be a sweet project. I'd jump at the chance myself if I hadn't all these pesky bills and clients to deal with on a day-to-day basis.

          Just promise to share the results with us back here, eh? ;)

          *this may even fall within the scope of an undergrad's final-year project. If he's REALLY good...

    6. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      GO to the themes and change back! Just three clicks!

      GO to the themes and change back! Just three clicks!

    7. Julian 1

      Re;Ubuntu by AC

      There is a simple solution to this 'problem'. Download and install Ubuntu Tweak. This programme will do lots of housework tasks including resetting the windows controls to the right side.

      I wonder that Ubuntu do not include Ubuntu Tweak in either their distribution or their repositories. It is great and safe set of tools.

  2. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
    Heart

    Sir

    At the risk of being amongst a large crowd of 'what about's'

    What about a small mention for Backtrack?

    I'm a complete duffer at linux and I've managed to not only install it on my USB stick, it's also persistent. Took a bit of farting about but I now have a dual boot security system only when I plug the usb stick in (I would highly recommend the corsair padlock 2 as well - it's hardware encrypted (as opposed to the now broken software encryption methods).

    Paranoid, moi?

    I'm now trying to work out how to use backtrack persistent with TrueCrypt on a Corsair padlock 2 hardware 8Gb encrypted usb stick - ultimate deniability :D

  3. Linuxer

    Damn Small Linux? Really?

    I was a huge fan of DSL, but the community infighting, and someone taking home their toys has all but killed off that project. Surely there was another mini-distro in addition to Puppy that could have been suggested.

  4. Mr Grumblefish

    This is madness! - This is El Reg!

    You do know we know this stuff already, don't you?

  5. Steve Graham
    Alert

    Debian's advantages over Ubuntu

    Although I am a Linux veteran of many years, and thus not really in the target audience, my recent experience with Ubuntu would make me hesitate to recommend it to a novice.

    I got an ex-corporate laptop about a year ago, wiped and with Ubuntu installed. I'd previously used Debian exclusively, but decided to keep the basically similar Ubuntu install. But over the following months I became dissatisfied by lapses in quality control of new releases of packages and by some non-standard design decisions the developers were taking. Then the major sytem upgrade to Karmic trashed my 'grub' boot. I was able to fix it and get the machine up and running again, but it took a couple of hours, and a novice just would have had no idea.

    So I changed the software repository to point to Debian, and have gradually updated and replaced packages. I've had no particular software problems, and new hardware "just works".

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Linux

    Nice

    Thanks, Liam. As a techie this is the stuff I should know (but am afraid to ask).

    1. Lou Gosselin

      Yes, thanks.

      This is a nice shift from all the damn mobile phone articles. The technical & professional coverage of interesting, yet low profile developments seems to have lost out to popular gizmos, especially those of ms, apple, google, etc. Is this the long-tail effect applied to news coverage? The bulk of news coverage is composed mostly of the largest players, meanwhile most developments occur in small shops who don't get so much as a peep.

    2. Cliff

      I know lots of clever things about lots of clever things

      But this isn't my area of strength, so I find this helpful.

    3. John Robson Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      TinyCore

      TinyCore linux is my choice.

      <10MB - lways runs from RAM.

      Easy to add software - it just get's loaded into RAM, replacing an required files, so it's trviail to uninstall as well (just delete the file, and it isn't loaded over the base system).

      MicroCore is the same but without X

      I use these as rescue systems all over the place, and would recommend a customised version for a nice netboot based school/office layout.

    4. sisk Silver badge

      Agreed

      As a long time Debian user I've always been underwhelmed with Ubuntu, especially when it comes to stability (though it does about match Windows XP for stability in my opinion). Ripping off Debian Experimental seems like a really bad way to build a distro.

      That said, it's pretty, and easier to use than a lot of distros.

      Personally I usually give newbies a Mepis disc, help them install it, and make sure they have my cell phone number in case they have trouble later on (they hardly ever do).

  7. HighlightAll
    Linux

    Dual boot

    Put Fedora on the Linux partition, format the Windows partition as Linux and put Ubuntu on that. Join the RPM/Debian war. Either way it's win/win.

  8. RJ
    Grenade

    Pretty accurate summary

    buy my god you are gonna get the distro fanbois out :p

    1. Bumpy Cat
      Joke

      No problem

      Linux fanbois are less ignorant than Windows fanbois and less fanatical than Apple fanbois, so I'm sure it will all be calm and rational.

      :D

      1. Chemist
        Linux

        Re : No problem

        Correct - but why the joke icon ?

        1. Bumpy Cat
          Happy

          Re : No problem

          I didn't want to get down-modded too much >.<

    2. Jolyon

      Either way

      it's Lin/Lin, surely?

  9. plrndl
    Linux

    More on Ubuntu

    As an old Unix hand, and long-time Linux user, I complement you on an excellent summary of the current state of play.

    The only thing I would add is that users of the standard version of Ubuntu can easily add the functions of respins such as Mythbuntu or Unbunu Studio, by selecting the relevant meta-packages from the repositries. This is easier than installing the respin, and than having to add office packages, games etc.

  10. Andus McCoatover

    Good article - thanks.

    I'd agree that Ubuntu is probably the easiest for a newbie to get going.

    I had to help a mate with Xandros on his eeepc, but it did the job - did what it said on the tin. Similarly, another mate with "Linpus" (what a name!!!) on his Acer Aspire. But again, it was enough for the job.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Grenade

    I pity you, Ms Bee...

    ...having to moderate all the unfortunate comments that will inevitably result from this piece. If there's one thing geeks are passionate about it's Linux distros. I'm not even going to read my own comment as I'm bored by the thought of it already.

  12. Cazzo Enorme

    Guide to Linux, part 1: Picking a distro

    Q. Will you be running Linux on a server?

    A. If so, use Centos

    Q. Will you be running Linux on a desktop?

    A. If so, use Ubuntu

    That's all folks!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    Did I browse the BBC website by mistake?

    Surely El Reg readers are either Linux users already or at least know what Linux is and what each of the different distros offer. This article seems more suited to that annoying BBC Click website than here.

    FWIW, seeing as though you're targeting this at people like my Mum, I think you could have explained what Linux is, i.e. the kernel, and how a distro consists of the Linux kernel plus all the GNU utilities - hence the correct name GNU/Linux.

    A bit of the history of Linux wouldn't have gone a miss either... then maybe those technically-challenged people like my Mum wouldn't assume that Linux is just an attempt at being a Windows rip off.

    Anyway, I'm looking forward to all the Windows fans getting all defensive about their choice of OS. Where's the popcorn icon when you need one? Guess the pint of lager one will have to do instead.

  14. Bassey

    others

    Obviously you couldn't cover them all but a bit surprised gOS didn't even get a mention. The wife is severely non-techy and her ancient laptop was crawling with XP so I decided to switch it to Linux to eek some extra life out of it. Ubuntu proved beyond her abilities but gOS kept her going for a good 18 months or so. Think Ubuntu designed to look a bit like OSx and with all the google stuff built in (gears, desktop widgets etc.). Highly recommended for its ease of use.

    1. Richard Morris
      Grenade

      Nearly right...

      Q. Will you be running Linux on a server?

      A. If so, use Hardened Gentoo

      Q. Will you be running Linux on a desktop?

      A. If so, use Gentoo

      Q. Will you be running Linux on your desktop?

      A. if so, use Gentoo with ACCEPT_KEYWORDS ="~$ARCH"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Nearer than you think ...

        I tried Gentoo once. I spent more time compiling than actually using it, but I suppose I was unfortunate enough to be trying it in the week when Firefox released 3 versions.

        I'm another one who goes for CentOS on the server and Ubuntu on the desktop. CentOS for the long term stability, where it doesn't matter that you don't have the latest and greatest of everything. Ubuntu for the latest and greatest of everything, where it doesn't matter if it lacks a bit of stability.

        For those who will no doubt question my comment about Ubuntu's stability, I have found, for example, that Network Manager in 10.04 arbitrarily breaks a couple of months after a fresh install to the point that even rebooting does nothing. When I asked for help I was recommended to remove it and set the networking configuration manually. I have seen this on three different machines and, while I can live with this on a desktop, I would definitely not want this happening on a server.

        And regarding CentOS not having the latest and greatest of everything? Hey, I think the pride themselves on that.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      beginners

      This article was aimed at beginners and your response had the word "meta" in it. That's why you don't get to write the articles :)

    3. Psmiffy

      Acer Aspire

      Also got an Acer Aspire with Linpus on it, looked very pretty but no where was there an option to add new users or to create an Admin user. Reinstalled with Ubuntu, no more problems :)

      1. Andus McCoatover

        Think of it as a toaster.

        (OK, it can't roast CD's but...)

        It's a personal machine. I don't need multiple users, nor an administrator account. Bit like a pocket calculator I can loan my mate. I really don't need security on my eeepc, as for my calculator - anyone can borrow it - and often do at school. My documents, etc, hide in "Google Cloud". I just whip it out (ooer, missus) when I need it.

        Yep OK, I'll 'fess up - I put eeebuntu on the asus701, but it ain't my main machine. Currently, the only pages it goes to are sanakirja.org (for school use), www.mol.fi (for a job), www.linjakas.fi (for the bus), news sites and my gmail account. Oh, and the bank, for paying bills when I'm on my lunchbreak. But, the latter's seriously protected by their one-time password and (memorised) 8-digit customer number.

        Does the trick. I wish they hadn't 'died the death' they seem to have. Damn useful thing to have in my 'man-bag'.

    4. James Dunmore

      Server = debian

      Sorry, centos on the server sucks. apt-get does all the nice magic :)

      Actually, as an earlier post says, it's win/win which ever - just personally not had much fun with centos

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        apt-get is better than yum?

        Oh, the humour.

        Also, calling Fedora "the freebie version of corporate favourite Red Hat" is incorrect. Fedora is not aimed at production environments, is more often used on the desktop and is about pushing, trying and testing new technologies.

        1. Adam Williamson 1

          Agreed

          That's a good way of summarizing Fedora's strengths, which I think the article's rather off-base on. Not many people tend to describe it as either 'shiny' or 'pretty' (actually we regularly get panned for being less pretty than Ubuntu). Fedora is likely to be of interest if you want to take a hands-on approach to being involved in Linux rather than simply using it as a black box operating system like Windows or OS X. Fedora tends to ship very recent versions of software, jumps to new technologies usually before other distros do, and has a strong connection the upstreams of many significant projects (partly because a lot of the upstreams are Red Hat developers).

          It also places as high or higher a value on software freedom as any other mainstream Linux distro, which may or may not be important to you.

          (I work for Red Hat in the Fedora QA department.)

        2. Displacement Activity

          Corporate Fedora...

          It may be about trying new technologies, but only insofar as they support RedHat's corporate goals. Look at virtualisation support in the last half-dozen Fedora releases, for example, and the attempt to sideline Xen.

    5. Happy Camper
      Linux

      Unless you hate google

      Or can't, for security reasons go near the data retaining scumbags.

    6. GazElm
      Flame

      @Bassey

      It's EKE out. EKE!

      Gah!

      /pedant

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Nope

      I'm an electronic engineer, so don't have much of a clue about linux. I have been thinking about trying it for a while, but been worrying about buggering my PC, which I need to have windows on for work stuff, so am interested and will try tomorrow night thanks to this.

      Also, I don't give a flying F about the history and think it would cause even more confusion.

      1. Displacement Activity

        @EE

        You'll need to remember that the commercial/mainstream EE (or any) tools are normally only supported on RHEL or SLES, and you'll be opening yourself to all sorts of grief if you try to install them on something like Ubuntu. Your only realistic options are Centos and possibly OpenSUSE. If you intend to compile and install open-source software then you can use any distro. Good luck.

    8. Lamont Cranston

      I know what Linux is (more or less),

      but have no idea what differentiates the available distros, so I found this to be a helpful, informative article.

      Looking forward to the next part, too, as, despite being raised on Windows, I wouldn't mind trying a dual-boot configuration, to see if it's worth switching over.

    9. SimonX
      Thumb Down

      Didn't your Mum tell you....

      ...nobody likes a smart-arse?

      If you know it, just don't bother to read it - or comment on it. It's not hard.

      Could we have a slap icon please?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Linux

        Fair Enough... seems I got it wrong

        Hmph I see I got downvoted a lot, so I guess I was wrong and this article is useful after all.

        Happy to be proven wrong and to see that there is still a sizeable audience of potential Linux users out there.

        Oh, and my Mum did tell me that nobody like a smart arse... but she also told me that all bullies are cowards. I've only just recovered from a broken nose and three broken ribs, so she was obviously a lying bitch.

    10. Ole Juul Silver badge

      Yes, a bit more please

      This article does indeed aim low. How about telling us more about how it is actually difficult to get even a small distro on old hardware like a P1 or 486 because those machines don't have, or sometimes don't support, enough memory to do an installation. Yes this can be worked around, and that is the kind of information that is suitable for an IT site. Also, how about some of the subtleties like how Ubuntu is in danger of becoming MS dependent through it's use of mono, and why one might want to chose Kubuntu instead? That is a discussion worthy of El Reg readers.

      Good article. Wrong site.

  15. Josco

    Use Ubuntu on VMWare player

    I use Ubuntu on my Dell XPS M1330 through VMWare player (free) running on Windows7. Apart from being unable to break out of a Remote Desktop Terminal Services session in full screen it's great. Not sure what to use it for though.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Contrarily to what the author suggests

    Mac OS X and FreeBSD are both descendants of UNIX BSD.

    Other than that, the article is pretty much correct, however for the pure breed hard-core Windows techies among Reg readers who would like to find out what is this all Linux madness about, I would humbly bring to your attention a rarely mentioned distribution called Linux From Scratch. This is the ultimate Linux boot-camp that will teach you how to handle the whole Linux weaponry.

  17. Bah Humbug

    Why, oh fecking why, is a title required??

    Seems like a pretty good summary of the mainstream distro's which are out there at the moment.

    Not really sure who the article was aimed at though - most people on this site surely know this sort of stuff already, and already have a favourite distro. Could be useful for those who are new to Unix/Linux though, but I'd say Linux is still not ready for them - when it works it's great, when it doesn't, it can be a real sod.

    Recently installed Ubuntu on my laptop - almost defenestrated the thing out of sheer frustration - eventually found a really obscure setting was needed as a boot parameter to get my graphics card to work properly - there's no way someone new to Linux would have had a chance in hell of getting this to work, and Ubuntu is meant to be one of the more newbie friendly ones!

  18. Number6
    Paris Hilton

    But..?

    To get the comment tone back to the normal level, one has to ask which distro Paris would use?

    It's confusing when switching between Ubuntu and RedHat-based systems because some important files are not where you left them. I've always traditionally used RH stuff but I think I want a bit more stability, so next major update will probably be to a Ubuntu LTS version. You did forget to mention that along with the twice-yearly releases, Fedora drops support for older version a lot quicker which makes it harder to maintain without a major upgrade every year or so.

    1. Chemist

      Re : Why, oh fecking why, is a title required?

      I agree that laptops are harder although I had no problems on a Lenovo or Asus 900, but installing on desktops is now generally straightforward. I've installed 4 desktops of various specs. & vintages with OpenSUSE 11.2 in the last few months and had NO issues.

    2. BristolBachelor Gold badge
      Coat

      This is a fecking title :)

      "Linux...when it works it's great, when it doesn't, it can be a real sod."

      But is Windows any better? The insides are hidden away so much, that sometimes it's impossible to sort out and the automatic answer is "Reboot and see if it's better", and then "Re-install it".

      I'd certainly agree that Linux can be a right sod to sort out when it goes bad, but I wouldn't say that Windows is better in that sense. Sorry that I can't compare with fruit flavoured computers.

  19. Jacqui

    Author in index page

    So we can skip this sort of crap please.

    As already mentioned almost anyone reading Vulture central has probably installed more versions of linux than listed here - hell I have more (as vz images) on my *home* servers than listed here.

    Come on reg - you need to keep stuff like this for APR01.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    updates?

    If you can always update packages (and even the kernel) from within the distro, what's the difference how often the distro is updated? Do you really get anything new beyond your targeted updates if you install a new distro release?

  21. hamsterjam

    The successor to DSL...

    ...is TinyCore Linux. Super small (CLI version ~6MB, desktop ~10MB) plus your choice from heaps of apps that can run direct from the repository or be locally installed, fast, great on old systems, good forum.

    I used it to convert a Neoware thin client into a music streamer for a friend. Base install plus NFS and mpd and a couple of other bits and bobs came to 22MB and fit comfortably on the Neoware's 200MB DOM. My mate picks his music via an iPod Touch app.

    Hours of fun, Lego for propellerheads...

    www.tinycorelinux.com

  22. Johnny Canuck
    Grenade

    sigh

    Complete Linux noobs should stick to Mint. No screwing around getting codecs installed (though its not that tough - except if you know how then you're not a complete Linux noob).

    1. JEDIDIAH
      Linux

      An idea so cool that Apple copied it and then ruined it.

      > Complete Linux noobs should stick to Mint. No screwing around getting codecs

      > installed (though its not that tough - except if you know how then you're not a

      > complete Linux noob).

      Nonsense.

      All you do to "get codecs installed" on Ubuntu is to try and play a file and click 'OK' on a bunch of dialog boxes.

      The whole thing is rather Windows-esque.

      It's how Windows claims to work and how MacOS should work.

    2. spencer
      Thumb Up

      +1

      Tiny Core Linux is by far the best small distribution around, it's stupidly easy to customise and you can make usb booting sticks with whatever you want on them.

  23. Dean_

    What about Slitaz?

    http://slitaz.org/

  24. AndrueC Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Alternatively..

    Or just install Windows 7 Home or Prof and let Microsoft Update do the rest.

    Not as good a solution from a technical POV but then most people don't want the best technical solution. Industry is littered with people and companies that got hung up on the technical 'beauty' of a particular solution. The world didn't adopt VHS for home recording because it was the best technical solution. I've been pointing this out to xIX proponents for nearly a quarter of a century now and this article tends to confirm that it's a lesson still not learnt.

  25. Paul Woodhouse

    another thumbs up for gOS for an easy webmachine

    dead easy to set up and novices have to really try hard to break it, works well on quite old hardware as well...

  26. andy 103
    Stop

    Stop using stupid names!

    Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu .....

    Yeah that's really helpful for people who are new to it to understand what they're supposed to be downloading!

    One problem Ubuntu sorted out was by making the installation process easy and not asking people questions about things they would have never understood. Same thing goes on the names though - make it simple and definitive and more people might get on board!

    1. spegru
      Pint

      Re: Alternatively..

      Or just install Windows 7 Home or Prof and let Microsoft Update do the rest.

      ________________________________________________________

      Really? So now you have go dicking around looking for drivers, office software, possibly getting rid of all the crapware you don't want and of course finding and installing anti -virus.

      *Seriously*, you can install Mint or Ubuntu in ~30mins and its all done

      BTW don't you think the old Betamax/VHS argument is a bit tired now? Has anything like that happened since? - I dont think so!

      (it was because it was a hardware thing)

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Not looking for anything

        'Looking for drivers'? You what? Where have you been for the last ten years?

        The reason Windows is so bloated and comes on a DVD is because it has pretty much every last driver you're ever likely to want. That and support for old applications - it probably still has support for Win16 and MSDOS although thankfully I don't have any apps to prove that.

        Oh and the VHS thing was the last of it's kind? What about Freeview then. How come everyone is going to have to replace their STB to get HD? What about the iPhone - is that the best possible hardware solution? On a related note how come the public puts up with excessively compressed video and audio? We've got hoards of people prepared to watch TV on their telephone and happy to only buy their music in MP3 format.

        Come to that Windows itself. For all the advantages of xIX the fact remains that Windows is far and away the most used desktop OS in the world - and I think we can both agree it didn't get there by technical merit.

        What most people want is convenience and simplicity. I don't know whether they accept that it means the products they buy are inferior or if it genuinely doesn't occur to them (for video/audio I think it's the latter).

        For my part I know what the limitations are (of both OSes) and I use them where they best fit. For private use that means Windows. No crashes, no CLI and support for every bit of hardware I'm ever likely to attach to my computer.

        I would actually love to see the world using an xIX variant. I fell in love with Unix when I first used it on a Bleasdale at Polytechnic. Unfortunately for home use it's just been a little too cantankerous and esoteric and needed just a tad too much hand holding. Now it seems people are having to write technical articles just to help you decide which version of the OS to install. It's madness. We're not going to get anywhere until/unless the techies amongst us realise what the public wants.

        1. Mark 65 Silver badge

          Re:Not looking for anything

          "'Looking for drivers'? You what? Where have you been for the last ten years?

          The reason Windows is so bloated and comes on a DVD is because it has pretty much every last driver you're ever likely to want. "

          Err, no it most certainly doesn't. Windows 7 distinctly cannot find any drivers for my Wi-Fi and TV card on a 2005 vintage PC that I upgraded from XP.

          Drivers are strictly the component manufacturers issue but you are in denial if you think Windows just works out of the box.

        2. Lou Gosselin

          Re: Not looking for anything

          "For private use that means Windows. No crashes, no CLI and support for every bit of hardware I'm ever likely to attach to my computer."

          It sounds like you haven't had recent experience with linux since it is generally far superior to windows at detecting and enabling hardware out of the box. So much so, in fact, that the LiveCDs will work on most computers without a fuss. It's unfortunate that manufacturers often don't support the open source drivers, but the plus is that open source drivers continue to work well after the manufacturer ceased supporting their proprietary drivers on windows.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Stop

        save your breath

        You will probably find out that the original poster makes his living de-stinking Windows to the unwashed masses. If there was no Windows, he would have to find a real job, that requires a non-drooler IQ, a smattering of education, and a non-arrogant attitude.

    2. M Gale
      Troll

      But this is a guide to Linux

      Why show people how to install RiscOS, MS DOS 3.01 or Microsoft Windows we'll-get-it-right-this-time-we-promise crippled, semi-crippled and moneygrabbing editions? It's beyond the scope of the article, don't you know?

    3. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      +1 from me.

      If only for the novelty value.

    4. C 2
      FAIL

      Ya right! Have you tried to actually USE Windows Se7en?!

      MS moved everything around again! Its a huge PITA. Its also stupid slow.

      Besides this article is about Linux!

    5. M Gale

      Re: Alternatively (take 2)

      For both AndrueC, and whoever left a downvote without explaining why:

      Many of my "support calls" (being the local person "who knows computers" has advantages and disadvantages) usually revolve around the Windows partition being so totally buggered it requires a reinstall. There's a fair few times when a run-through with various malware scanners and a general de-cluttering helps, but when the something has decided to b0rk and take out C:\WINDOWS with it, there's not much that can be done.

      And these people want me to "just install a new Windows". And yes, by that they mean they want me to download an unauthorised copy from somewhere and install it. Sorry, but no. Either you look after the disks you got with the machine, back up whatever crappy "recovery partition" came with it, or be prepared to spend Microsoft prices.

      It's funny, the amount of people who decide to find someone else who is willing to grab some virusbomb from the pirate bay for them after I've given the verdict of "it's goosed, you need a Windows disk". Personally I couldn't give a stuff, but it can be mildly amusing to get another call a couple of months later when their newly "fixed" computer is running slow because it's acting as a clandestine bestiality pr0n server.

      So yes. Just install Windows. Just don't expect anybody to pay for it unless they are made of money. And no, Windows does not come with every driver under the sun... nowhere near, in fact. Wherever all that bloat comes from, it's certainly not hardware support.

      The one or two people brave enough to take the "try Ubuntu. It's free, legal, it'll let you do youtube/music/facebook/word processing/instant messaging, and you can always buy and put Windows on later if you want games" option have generally not been disappointed, funnily enough. Plus they get rubbery windows, which is always a plus.

    6. Happy Camper
      Linux

      What if you want some software updates

      And Windows don't touch it? You need to go to the supplier, and that means finding it, or worse, praying it is still being supported. Either way it could be 90% of your actual useful stuff isn't a windows product, and solving issues via windows help or the windows answers. Linux forums tend to be techies with more time on their hands to help others. Windows answers, I have asked three questions and not even windows appointed staff can tell me why windows 7 is unable to do some basics.

      And as has been pointed out in many articles, windows are dodgy with their updates, they "break" the stuff that isn't theirs because they have their own schemes or plans or whatever MS think is best for them.

      I think most people have missed that a user can go to software update in ubuntu or urpmi in mandriva and voila, hundreds of free software which can be good, bad and rubbish. But all free and will probably let you get some experience or at least cover that one important piece of work you need to do urgently. Unlike windows where you need to go to a shop, which takes time... etc etc.

      Linux isn't for all, but productivity and support is light years ahead of bloated windows 7 (for me at least) And convenience of booting from pen drives, customisation, work on older machines, bloat etc.

  27. Jim T
    Badgers

    Fanboi shoutout - don't be fooled by the ricer image of gentoo

    Performance is only one part of the reason for the compile it yourself approach.

    The other part is to provide a true continuous release process customized to your needs, rather than the periodical big bangs provided by binary distros.

    A binary package may have to provide separate versions of a package, "Ubuntu 9.04, 9.10, 10.0.4" each compiled for the specific version of the platform you're targetting. This is one of the main reasons that they have major bumps - so that everything can be built on the same compiler, libc, etc.

    In gentoo, the whole system continouously evolves onwards as new packages are released. There's no need to package for a specific version of the platform, set your dependencies accordingly and it will keep everything in trim.

    It's not as automated as it could be, and is definitely not for the faint of heart, but there's payoff's too.

    It's another option in your choice of how to run your shop.

  28. James Hughes 1

    As a Ubuntu user

    of 5 years, I found the article informative. All those saying that Reg readers will know all this stuff already are talking out of their collective chocolate starfishes.

    Why? Because I have been using Ubuntu for 5 years, but have never bothered to look in to whether I should be using one of the other distros. Trying to get a precis summary of what each does and why is a PITA, which is why the article is useful, even to existing Linux users/reg readers.

    The result, for me was to continue using Ubuntu.

  29. Sonny Jim
    Linux

    @AndrueC

    "Not as good a solution from a technical POV but then most people don't want the best technical solution."

    Most people just want something that works and doesn't slow their computer to a crawl. If you didn't bury your head in the sand you'd realise that Linux is actually quite a viable desktop nowadays, even for non-Geeks.

    "I've been pointing this out to xIX proponents for nearly a quarter of a century now"

    Well, don't you feel pleased with yourself? Maybe we should just leave all the technical decisions to the marketing boys? You do realise that without the 'technical beauty' of all of the *nix's, the internet would be a horrible, proprietary place, where someone on a Mac wouldn't be able to view a page that was designed for PC's (oh wait, that happens anyway....)

  30. Andus McCoatover

    Alright, I gotta say it.

    The average computer user - i.e., most of them - wants to browse the web, access e-mail, write the occasional document, maybe 'excel' at a bit of number-crunching. Calculator for the bills, notes for the shopping list, find directions/bus/train/flights for the rain-drenched bank holiday.

    Just 'cos his mate can access wargames doesn't mean he wants to as well.

    Doesn't matter what frickking flavour of whatever OS he/she has, as long as it does the job.

    It's the apps, not the OS.

    Do I really give a flying fuc*k who makes my bike, as long as it gets me the 2 Km to the city centre?

    If it helps, one can think of the OS as a bed, and the application as your partner. I really don't think about the bed, unless it crashes to the floor at a "Critical Moment".

    1. The Original Steve

      True

      But didn't explain why any flavour of Linux over anything else.

      "Quite a viable desktop nowadays" doesn't fill people with confidence when what they have does the job and they know it.

    2. A J Stiles

      Gentoo

      I wanted to like Gentoo. I really did.

      But I was coming from Debian, and Gentoo really didn't do anything Debian couldn't.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      And we don't want

      to spend to much time fucking around getting the bed to work with your partner.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      riiiiice!

      "In gentoo, the whole system continouously evolves onwards as new packages are released. There's no need to package for a specific version of the platform, set your dependencies accordingly and it will keep everything in trim."

      ....right up until portage gets all confused by poppler or the qt4 split ebuilds and throws a recursive wobbly. Again.

      That said, my media server has been running the same base install of gentoo for nigh on 5 years now, despite 2 sets of new hardware.

    5. Jean-Luc Silver badge

      You're right... The OS is like a bed

      ... and you have to spray to keep the bedbugs from Windows. You can do it, sure, but you have to pay attention.

      Linux and OS X are pretty much cootie-proof out of the box 'cuz the bedbugs aint evolved yet to colonize the few such mattresses that are around. And the mattresses are more egg-proof as well.

      FWIW I agree with you, but Linux also has a sweet spot when you have a basic user that has an acquaintance/vendor who installs it and few subsequent hardware/software requirements. More automated and stable afterward than Win. Add disposable cash and you have the OS X target demographic.

    6. Andus McCoatover

      Two downvotes??

      But the downvoters - being anonymous cowards, no doubt, left no comment. Love to know why. Having re-read the post, didn't think there was anything anyone could gripe about. (Maybe they've never had the opportunity to get a bed to crash...)

      "Nowt so queer as folk!" as my mum used to say.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Two downvotes??

        Nope. -4 and counting :)

        Why? Just because.

        Also, there is no need to comment on every single article, whether you're convinced you might know what you're talking about or not.

        1. Andus McCoatover

          I just enjoy posting.

          So what?

          Oh, and it's 5 at the moment. Leave it out, "Anonymous Coward" ;-)

    7. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Exactly

      Which is the point I'm trying to make. If people want 'xIX' to take over the world (and I sort of do, actually) then bickering or having an orgy over which distro is best is not going to help. Just the mere fact there are different distros doesn't help.

      To me it's like a football team trying to win a championship but the players can't even agree what colour their shirts should be or what position they should be in.

      It's no wonder that Windows for all its very(*) many warts is still effectively 'King of the Hill'. The rest of the competition is either scrapping amongst itself in the mud at the bottom or has decided to conquer a different hill behind a walled garden with a bouncer on the gate.

      (*)Very, very, very(**).

      (**)And as IT professionals I think we all ought to be a bit ashamed about this. We come up with something better then we fail to spread it to the masses. Who are we supporting here - geeks or anyone that wants to compute?

    8. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Another spluttering fanboy

      " If you didn't bury your head in the sand you'd realise that Linux is actually quite a viable desktop nowadays, even for non-Geeks".

      And if you could get your head out of your arse for 30 seconds you'd see that I actually like xIX. That's the trouble with geeks like you. You've actually lost the ability to think rationally about your job. You make decisions based on emotion and it colours everything you read. If you can be bothered to read my posts again you'll find that what I'm saying is:

      "xIX is better than Windows. Unfortunately the xIX market is too fragmented and geeky to appeal to the masses".

      That's not a criticism of xIX. It's a criticism of the people behind it.

  31. Jim T
    Stop

    @AndrueC - Windows Update?

    Yeah, works great for updating firefox, flash, java, chrome, air, notepad++, spotify, openoffice, and all games.

    Oh wait, I mean they all implement their own updates triggered by background tasks or on startup ...

    Windows - for when you want to manage a hundred different ways of updating your apps.

  32. My Alter Ego

    Never been happier since moving to FreeBSD

    I got thoroughly fed up with the fragmentation of the various Linux flavours about 7 years ago. Trying to get a package to compile on X distro when it had been designed for Y just got massively annoying. It appears to have gotten better, but I've made my move and there are two chances of me going back.

    However, when it comes to using a desktop open source OS, I do use Ubuntu as it takes no brain power to set up.

    Can we have a Beastie icon too?

    1. Captain Thyratron

      Too bad folks don't realize open source is more than Linux.

      I don't think the number of distributions is a problem, so much as that so many of them are shoddy things that can hardly said to have been designed, but instead accreted like lint in a dryer vent and were hacked until they appeared to work right. Indeed, the solution is to avoid distributions which haphazardly disregard long-established Unix design conventions, upon which many applications had previously been able to rely, on aesthetic whims or worse.

      Which, I imagine, may be why you are using FreeBSD instead of any Linux distribution.

  33. Dyason
    Stop

    It's all moot

    I've used a Linux a lot in my time, and use all the competitors operating systems as well. My main gripe is that these new easy to use distributions like Ubuntu breed Linux fanboys (and girls) who actually know nothing about their operating system.

    There's people who claim to be die hard Linux enthusiasts and actually install different distributions until they find one that works with all of their hardware. These people know nothing of recompiling their kernel and all of the fundamentals that make Linux great.

    Mines the one without a gui thanks.

    1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

      Some might call you elitist

      But I actually agree with you

    2. Andus McCoatover
      FAIL

      Your point being?

      "...breed Linux fanboys (and girls) who actually know nothing about their operating system."

      Bit like a passenger on a transatlantic Airbus A320 plane being criticised 'cos he can't fly the fuc*ker.

      No GUI? Suppose you'd fly the thing from LHR to JFK, wearing a Biggles helmet, and with the autopilot turned off, while sticking in floppy #24/36 into the drive.

      Erm...Get a life.

      Sodding hell.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      GUI!

      Whats this fluffy GUI, thing... its WIMP (windows icon mouse pointer) remeber!

      [mutter mutter]....young wipper snappers....

      1. mfraz

        WIMP

        Windows Icons Menus Pointer.

        Thank you.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      But that's the point

      It is people like yourself that puts the vast majority of (L)users off Linux. They have no knowledge of how an OS works, all they want to do is switch and do the things they want to do. Taking you argument to the limit, if everyone knew Linux, ad used it, there would be billions of flavours of it, It would become a free-for-all.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why none of this matters

    Suppose someone goes out and buys a new PC that has Windows 7 pre-installed (like the many people do).

    How do they go from that to having a PC running (any distro) of Linux?

    When you start to think of that question, you'll realise why many people don't bother. So assume the person's actually heard of "Linux" and done some reading about its advantages. They then have to pick a distro. As someone's already mentioned, the naming conventions used can be misleading and there are so many distros out there, they're uncertain of what to download. But then assume they manage to pick one (by reading this article or a similar one), is it really the case that for most people they'll just end up with a working system without having to fanny around getting things to work? I'm not promoting Windows or anything else - so don't mod me down for that - but what I'm saying is that it's totally understandable why the number of "new" Linux users is actually much lower than some people would love to believe.

    1. Chemist

      Re : Why none of this matters

      If you need to try a distribution on your hardware then the usual route is to try a LIveCD which will let you run all your hardware without installing to the HD . When you're happy that it looks OK then most will let you then install directly to the HD from within the LiveCD system.

      In my experience OpenSUSE will install on most desktop systems.

      It's also possible to use a bootable USB drive which can then be used as a portable Linux

    2. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Hurrah!

      Another one who understands.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Heart

    Mythbuntu

    Hope the article will include Mythbuntu for those who use their home PC for tv too

    1. gerdesj Silver badge

      Mythbuntu?

      I tried it, binned it and replaced it with Gentoo.

      I also get to use my telly (err home PC) for a hell of a lot more than just a PVR.

      "emerge mythtv" after reviewing a few USE flags was not exactly the most tricky install of Myth. Setting up Myth for FreeSAT consisted of following some Howtos.

      It looks bloody lovely though with a KDE 4.4 desktop with full 3D effects ...

      Oh and it has an Asterisk PBX in it as well for the rather infrequent times someone actually calls my landline. Its handy for faxing though and blocking anon calls.

      And its my home ADSL PPPoA router and WiFi gateway.

      Well, I got this quad core Medion thing from Tescos for £500 about two years ago and it needed to do something useful. I even toyed with Vista and then Win7 on it but it really did not do it justice and nor did Mythbuntu.

      I'm even tempted to put up a TV arial, pop in a tuner and then I get FreeView as well.

  36. sisk Silver badge

    Choosing a distro

    Here's an analogy I've always liked: Choosing a Linux distro is like choosing a car. If you've got to shuttle a bunch of kids around you get a minivan. If you have to carry construction materials you get a pickup. If you just need to get yourself from place to place and want to spend the bare minimum on gas you get a smartcar or a motorcycle.

    Along those same lines, if you want something easy enough for your grandmother to use you get Ubuntu, Mepis, or Mint. If you're looking for a rock solid corporate server you get Red Hat or SUSE. If you're going to do security testing you get Backtracker. If you're just using it to fix other computers you get Knoppix.

    And then there's Debian and Gentoo, when are like buying a car parts store: You can build any kind of system you want with them but you have to know what you're doing.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    Where can you start with an fanboi rage fishhook like this?

    Let's just say I'll be amazed if the author makes it home alive.

    1. Linker3000
      Boffin

      The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits

      Yes, and someone should tell us whether, if he needs to make an emergency call as he's lynched, he'll be using an iPhone or something with Android, WinMo or Symbian etc.

  38. Peter Kay

    Not a bad summary, but..

    I'd argue about FreeBSD lacking polish - if you want something a bit raw, check out NetBSD and OpenBSD. Even then, they are remarkably easy to install these days - if the defaults are chosen both NetBSD and OpenBSD will partition the disk and fetch the files from the network.

    Once installed it's true there is no GUI by default, but there is a set of solid man pages and on OpenBSD a particularly wise choices of bundled apps. Lynx and tmux are included in the base distribution, something most other Unixes should learn from.

    Ubuntu is quite impressive, but sacrifices basic functionality for bling. I don't care if it's a graphical install if it won't work on certain graphics cards, and if it's going to include recovery modes in the boot menu they're actually supposed to work rather than dropping you to a root shell.

    I chose Debian for a 'hardware only supported by Windows and Linux' box. Ubuntu I wouldn't trust for server type applications and Slackware's packaging system now has too many awkward problems.

  39. Cody

    Bad, ill informed advice

    This is very bad advice.

    First, the problem with Ubuntu is stability. It is remixed every six months from Debian Experimental, so the laments and howls every six months when a new version comes out are due to the fact that you cannot get from Experimental to Stable in six months. Ubuntu cannot, neither can Debian.

    If you want an apt based system, get Debian. Do not go to Testing versions unless whatever name it is has been in Testing for at least a year. Otherwise, take the Stable version.

    Second, what are the other alternatives? It is not true that Damn Small Linux is a sensible alternative - its been out of active maintenance for years now, and it never was viable for end users. Puppy is a decent recommendation.

    Gentoo looks no different from anything else, and does not belong here, neither does Arch. Neither one is suitable for the audience this article is directed at.

    Mandriva is not at all bad, very worth considering, end users get along with it just fine, the main asset is the control center, which they really like a lot. The control center is shared with PCLinuxOS, and that is certainly worth considering. If you give someone Mandriva, the one to get is Mandriva One, Gnome Edition.

    Suse is fine.

    Debian is an interesting one. I would say the difference between Debian and Mandriva or Suse is who is going to set it up. If you are going to set it up, do the install and customize the desktop, give them Debian. If they are going to do it, either Mandriva or Suse. Or, if its an old machine, Puppy is a possible.

    The sleepers that should be mentioned but have been omitted, and should be there in place of Arch or Gentoo or Sabayon, are the various Slackware based distros. Vector is very nice, very fast. ZenWalk is also excellent. Slackware is a bit bare metal, not recommended for non-computer people, but the derivatives are just fine.

    So, bottom line: If you will install it, Debian. If they will, Mandriva One or Suse or PCLinuxOS. If its an old slow machine, Puppy, Vector or Zenwalk. If they want a live CD to try out, Slax rather than Knoppix.

    1. Tom Maddox Silver badge
      Stop

      So, what you're saying . . .

      . . . is that you have a different opinion about current Linux distros than the author of the article and would advise people to do something else.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bad, ill informed advice

      Indeed. The article does not appear particularly well researched, it just repeats the usual blurb found amongst bloggers who are new to Linux.

      I suggest it would have been better for the author to come up with a set of defined criteria against which he could evaluate the different distributions, for example: target platforms, target uses, installation method(s) available, software repositories, method, frequency, and quality of updates, support availability and quality (e.g., Ubuntu forums are embarrassing, Debian's effort with man pages is commendable), unique features that set them apart from other distros, etc. Then of course the point about researching properly still stands.

      FWIW, openSuSE is my personal preference for an all-around stable and versatile system which is also easy to administer either locally or remotely. I also use Debian on my netbook (at the time it was the best supported distro to replace that hideous Xandros with), servers (just because it does the job nicely and the upgrades go through smoothly as long as you stick to stable), and embedded devices (best supported distro available for my devices, didn't want or need an embedded-specific OS); I also have to deal with RH and CentOS for certains tasks at work, and don't particularly like them, even though I RH used to be my OS of choice in the late 90s, and in the past I have had surprisingly good results out of Slackware (long story, but I had to build a whole email, backup, and network management system somewhere in Africa and due to procurement cockups I had nothing to work with apart from the bare hardware... I was in FCO in transit to this job and some quick thinking saw me invest €4.50 in an Italian computer magazine which came with a Slackware CD. That was the whole software TCO for the five years this project lasted--to think I didn't even claim it back)

      Digressions apart, I very much realise this article is not aimed at people like myself, but I still think it could have been done much better.

    3. MacroRodent Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Mandriva

      Yes, the article really was unjust to Mandriva. It does a lot of things right, and is easy to use without inconveniencing power users. And the unofficial community-run PLF repository is treasure, making it easy to add and keep up-to-date the codecs and related stuff that the official distro does not dare to add because of software patent considerations in some countries.

      Too bad that Mandriva the company is not that well-run, to put it mildly. At times their management seem busy turning gold into lead (eg dabbling in some hare-brained elearning scheme, firing the project founder, and later one of the best community liaisons any distro has had).

  40. Ball boy
    Thumb Up

    Hold on a mo., folks

    To judge by the number of supporting comments we see on El Reg when there's a negative piece about the Windows OS, there's clearly a LOT of Windows IT folk out there and some of them won't be familiar with Linux of any sort. Heck, I'd bet there's a fair few admins who didn't get a uname at college and have never used anything other than Wintel systems in their entire lives and that doesn't make them bad admins - but it does suggest we have a lot of people who would value a more rounded education.

    Personally, I've got to use Windows at work these days but my background is SVR4 (oh, the days) and I rather like a well thought out article that helps me decide what to use for personal learning and so on.

    Yes, as a group we can all sit here and merrily chuff for hours about how a *real* admin pees Perl in his sleep - but that's not going to help the newer guys to whom Linux is but a confusing collection of ports, versions and X-servers. If this series of articles educates one person and they then become an adopter, I'd suggest it's more than served its purpose. I have a sneaky feeling that person might well be me so can we call pipe down so I can concentrate on the next chapter? ;-)

  41. BossHog
    Grenade

    Oh my god....

    ...we've all gone to war!!

  42. handy
    Linux

    Its not the same for Netbooks

    What is becoming the biggest market for Linux is netbooks. Moblin is a great alternative to ubuntu, very graphical, very easy and does what most people want. Jolicloud is also another good OS but not quite as polished.

    1. Christopher Blackmore
      Thumb Up

      Exactly. Netbooks need something better...

      My Asus 1000 eeePC chugged along OK with its original Xandros, and was better when I enabled the hidden full desktop instead of easy mode.

      But now it has eeeBuntu Netbook Remix on it, and it has become the machine I always needed. I can take it to Greece and use it in cafes and hotels for Skype, internet and backing up my various digital devices (sound recordings, photos, videos, etc). I can edit sound files and blog them. Google Chrome runs like a dream on it.

      I just wish the hardware had come with software this good in the first place. I'm not a fanboi, just really pleased with the way my netbook now works.

  43. Neill Mitchell

    Mandriva

    Mandriva is up for sale. They ran out of money a couple of months ago. It's a pity, Mandriva started off really well. It was the first distro that made installing and running Linux easy. Unfortunately they had a particularly stubborn core of developers that refused to listen to their user base. It was very much the case of their way or the highway. This lead to some really dreadful tools (rpmdrake for one) that never took user suggested improvements on board.

    In fact, I believe this was the main driver for the PCLinuxOS spin off. The guy who runs that got so fed up with Mandriva's recalcitrance he did his own distro. PCLinuxOS is still very much alive.

    1. Adam Williamson 1
      WTF?

      Not at all true

      "Unfortunately they had a particularly stubborn core of developers that refused to listen to their user base. It was very much the case of their way or the highway. This lead to some really dreadful tools (rpmdrake for one) that never took user suggested improvements on board."

      This is not remotely true. rpmdrake had two major redesigns. In both cases, large chunks of the new designs were based directly on user feedback, and they were further refined on the basis of more user feedback.

      "The maintainer gave me a reasoned explanation of why he had considered but ultimately rejected my personal request" is not the same as developers "refus[ing] to listen to their user base". Listening to users does not involve blindly implementing everything any single user ever requests. If you do that, you wind up with ccsm. And no-one wants to wind up with ccsm.

      1. Neill Mitchell

        Hmmm.

        A look at the forums would seem to indicate otherwise. Like the 2.5 year argument on why rpmdrake installed packages and updates from disabled sources. This was never resolved.

  44. JDX Gold badge
    Pint

    And the uber-nerds are out...

    Love the fact people are saying "Reg readers already know this stuff", as if all developers and sys-admins and techies use *nix. I'd say even amongst developers, it's a minority who regularly use *nix or have a system on their own PC.

    So, thanks Reg. I could do with knowing the basics since I plan to write some web-apps, and hosting is cheaper on Linux boxes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And the uber-nerds are out...

      > as if all developers and sys-admins and techies use *nix

      Well, they should. If they don't they have no business being where they are. Consider the old saying that "those who don't know the past are condemned to repeat it" (G. Santanaya, as quoted by esr in 'The Art of Unix Programming'): every time I come across a Windows box it looks more and more POSIX-ey (except for the GUI which nowadays looks suspiciously KDE-ish).

      There is nothing "nerdy" about assuming that IT-oriented people should already know about the very basic (and erroneous) information provided by this article. Sadly, I agree their assumption is probably very mistaken.

  45. Duvid

    PCLOS is Well Supported

    Years ago PCLOS began as a fork of Mandiva, but has since evolved as a byproduct of all that is good from many distros. It has rolling updates and a forum of great people more than willing to to guide any noobie along, or anyone who encounters a problem. After had tried many distros, I have found a "home" with this one. There last implementation of KDE4 just works out of the box. For those who like other desktops, there are five others.

  46. plrndl
    Paris Hilton

    Paris & Linux

    Presumably Paris would use Mythbuntu, so she could have the cool of using Ubuntu without the hassle of using a computer, but with the ability to automatically record every TV program that featured her.

  47. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

    Right then.

    Good article, sir.

  48. heyrick Silver badge

    Ubuntu / Xubuntu

    I was under the impression that Xubuntu was 'reworked' to remove some of the stuff that isn't necessary on a workstation machine.

    I have Xubuntu 9.something installed on an SD card (with persistence) and it works well on my eeePC 901. I don't play with it much, but getting everything running wasn't a problem. It detected my sound (Realtek HD), it detected the WiFi. It couldn't do MP3/XviD out of the box, but the video player looked for and installed the codecs with no grief whatsoever. In fact, of it all I only have three quibbles: 1. The clock is an hour out compared to Windows. 2. It's a pain in the ass to get to the alt-boot menu with fast-boot switched on (NOT a fault of Ubuntu, I should add). 3. It is a shame the live CD image is nowhere near up to date (my system update patchlist ran to nearly 120Mb!).

    I tried the real Ubuntu (v10.something-with-a-4) on a different SD card. Crap in the word I'd use. The window layout was all different. And while it isn't hard to switch it back, change for the sake of change could end up alienating users. There was more stuff installed (I quite liked the big on-screen menu gadget), but it felt, overall, slower. And don't get me started on the application installer. Bloody thing failed at pretty much everything it tried to install, so I never even tried to update the core OS files in case it broke something important. I should point out that this was using Ubuntu's OWN USB stick installer with an official ISO image. More beta testing required? Accordingly, as life is too short, I formatted the SD card and stuck it in the digital camera. I think, for now, I'll stick with Xubunu 9.xx...

    [And before anybody mentions it, the eeePC 901 has two SSDs - C:\ is 4Gb and mostly filled by Windows and patches and DLLs; D:\ is 8Gb and mostly full of my rubbish :-) At any rate, a dual-boot of Windows/anything is impractical. The SD card way is a neat compromise.]

    1. Mark 65 Silver badge

      Amen on the boot disk

      That's one of the biggest problems I have found with Ubuntu is that I'll download the live/install cd, install it and then have over 100MB of fixes to go through. Could they not keep the disk a little more up-to-date with some kind of fold-in of updates?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Unhappy

        +1

        Need another bloody 200 MB of patches as of date on the Ubuntu 10.04 Live CD.. FFS

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          That clock is Window's fault

          Windows assumes that there's only one timezone, and changes the hardware clock all the time to match what it thinks of as your 'local time'

          - So when 'daylight saving' happens or unhappens, Windows changes the motherboard clock to the new timezone.

          *nix assumes that the hardware clock stays in the same timezone, and works out what time to display by applying the relevant offset.

          - This is supposed to be UTC/GMT, but doesn't have to be.

          The *nix way is the right way, because it means you *can* change your timezone at runtime without breaking anything, because all applications have direct access to both "UTC/GMT" and "Local Time", depending on what they'd like. (The Web runs on UTC/GMT, so it matters more than you might think.)

          A side effect of this is that changing timezone or even just syncing time under Windows is very hit-and-miss. My Windows Mobile phone screws it up almost every time, and my laptop messes up quite regularly.

  49. apexwm
    Thumb Up

    Great comparison

    This is a great article for those just coming in to the world of Linux. I agree, Ubuntu us probably the leading distribution because of its ease to get up and running, and administer. Personally, I've used Red Hat / Fedora for over 13 years, and I still prefer it because I'm familiar with it and it's widely supported. However I am more than sure that Ubuntu would be just fine for my tastes as well. So, hopefully more readers will realize that using Windows is simply a waste of time and money in the long run. I have other issues with Microsoft's business activities as well, which turns me away from their products even more.

  50. RSmith
    Linux

    My $0.02

    Here's what I always suggest: If a user is new, I steer them to PCLinuxOS, Mandriva, or Linux Mint. Take your pick. All 3 are excellent newbie distros, each with their own unique take on Linux. After that, I recommend that people explore other distros until they find "their" distro. Lots of choices, all valid...

  51. richardgsmith
    Go

    Good Article

    Guys, excellent article, very useful indeed. A nice break from the continuous Apple/Google/MS news, I think that a few more in depth articles and a little less IT-tabloid stuff is what we all need now.

    Perhaps you could go further!? A comprehensive article on how an SME could move from MS systems to Open Source would be a good one too.

    Richard.

    www.creativetechnologist.co.uk

  52. Robert E A Harvey
    Linux

    Just my pennyworth

    I use Ubuntu, but agree that Mint is a good option for beginners too. I used to use Suse, and still rate YAST as excellent, and would be quite happy with that too.

    I fell out with Mandriva, not over the distro, but over the barrowboy selling techniques, where they would take cash for version x of something, then bombard you with emails the same day to spend the same amount of money again upgrading to x+2. Then spam you remorselessly for the next thousand years. Technically it worked very well indeed.

    I do have an XP partition on one machine and run andLinux on that. Recommended.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ubuntu graphics card

    I have a question: I tried to install Ubuntu onto an old (1999) laptop last year, failing because I couldn't find a driver for the SMI Linux graphics. Would any other distro be any more likely to succeed?

    PS As a result of this install SNAFU, I've never used Linux except a bit of WUBI Ubuntu on another old laptop (now deceased).

    1. Robert E A Harvey
      Linux

      try a lice CD or two

      Try booting from live CDs to see how they get on, saves the bother of installing.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Paris - because she is not like Ubuntu

    The article pimps Ubuntu. The article has little to do with GNU/Linux.

    Pardus 2009.2 easily surpasses Ubuntu + Clones for ease of install and auto config. It will also recognize USB wireless adapters on boot that Ubuntu/Mint won't. It also is updated on a short schedule but the updates are updates - not a recommendation to do a fresh install "cuz it's risky to update". Pardus has multimedia apps that work immediately. Course, no one at Pardus has been shot into space - yet.

    The best of the brain- free Linux installs are no easier to install than stuffing in Win 7 Pro 64 bit or even the Vistas. Win 7 goes in, provides the drivers and boots up. Does it require attention and configuration? Yes. But, so does LInux. Have fun chasing those wireless drivers!

  55. lee stone

    #! Crunchbang

    There is no leaner, more easily configurable and supportive community than provided by #! (Crunchbang Linux) - it works on all my devices from a v1 Eeepc701 to a Dell XPS M1330 laptop to my quad core desktop machine where it zips along at an extraordinary rate.

    The new "Statler" release is based on Debian and therefore is smooth and rock solid. A wonderful introduction to Linux and its workings.

    http://crunchbanglinux.org/

  56. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    RIP

    Also worth having around on a spare USB key is Recovery Is Possible (RIP) - handy for when somebody forgets their Windows admin passwd.

  57. McBread

    Wheres the fun?

    Personally, I'm disappointed at the lack of a super-hero/super-villain themed distro. The first question asked during install should be a choice between 'I fight for the good of mankind' or 'Tonight, we try to take over the world!'.

  58. Rick Leeming
    Happy

    OpenSUSE user here

    OpenSUSE user here, because I'm lazy and prefer everything in one place ready to go. I tried Ubuntu, but TBH I just think of it as Debian for people who aren't technically advanced enough to install Debian directly.

    1. markfiend
      Joke

      Sorry, couldn't resist

      Isn't the saying that Ubuntu is swahili for "can't install Debian"?

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just a thanks...

    As a one time Unix man who's been lazily sitting in front of a Windows machine since being put out to pasture (via the garden; best year of my working life :)) seven years ago, I could have done with that article a few weeks ago... but hey, I went for Ubuntu anyway. 32-bit. And 64-bit. And the the Studio edition, because I like messing with sound toys... I now have a triple-boot machine!

    I just wish my scanner worked, like it does with Windows.

    Apart from that, 90% of my computer use ---browsing, mail, playing music--- is identical, because I'm still using the same software, and it still looks almost identical.

    Yes: I moved those buttons to the right, choosing a theme that is reminiscent of the W2000 look I maintained throughout XP days, and I put my main bar at the bottom of the screen, so there really isn't a time when my mouse hand feels lost.

    Open Office is a disappointment, though...

    1. Mark 65 Silver badge

      @Thad

      With regards scanners, I know Canon do Linux drivers for some models and I have also read recommendations of VueScan (http://www.hamrick.com/) which supports an enormous array of scanners (http://www.hamrick.com/vuescan/vuescan.htm#supported) and is multi-platform.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Thanks

        Mine is a HP Scanjet 3690 which is supposedly supported by the Sane stuff --- It is recognised but it doesn't work. VueScan no help either.

        Canon seem to be doing good work of supporting linux for their machines. I might buy an all-in-one (yes, I know the good reasons not to, but the wife needs a photocopier) and will check support carefully before investing.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Article misses the point about Arch Linux

    All the main distributions listed are snapshots of the current state of linux development, tailored for particular target audiences. Unfortunately, for newbies, the selection by the distro developers of specific window managers is seen to be the defining point for using a particular distro (hence kubuntu, xubuntu etc).

    The whole point of Arch Linux (as a "tweeker's dream") is that the GUI can simply be made to look like any other distro as it gives easy access to many different window managers.

    For example, browse the wide variety of Arch user's desktop screenshots here: http://bbs.archlinux.org/viewtopic.php?id=98195

    More significantly, however, is the "rolling release" feature for updates to existing applications - a concept totally unknown to ex-Windows users (and many other distro users). A simple one line command updates installed packages to the latest revision. This can be done daily, or weekly as desired. The beauty of this method is that you never need to reinstall the distribution or wait for the next "major" update every six months (or whatever the release cycle is). I installed Arch in 2004 and haven't reinstalled it in 6 years, yet have an operating system more up to date that Ubuntu or Windows 7.

    Finally, Arch is one of the best distros to LEARN linux, rather than just use it, due its KISS design philosophy The result is most people who become familiar with it, although they may experiment with other distros, invariably end up returning to Arch.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Arch Linux

      That's nice, but you don't explain how is that different from say Debian or openSuSE. Both can be used with a variety of desktop environments and window managers, and both support rolling updates via a single command line (aptitude full-upgrade / zypper update).

      I'm not questioning Arch at all (I never used it), just saying I don't think the capabilities you have mentioned are what would make it stand out. Still, whatever rocks your boat... there is enough room for everyone here.

  61. Jonimus
    WTF?

    No Love for Arch Linux?

    Seriously, Arch's following has been increasing for years and has an extremely large userbase, why was it not mentioned? I have been using it for years after I got tired of how little I learned with Ubuntu. I switched to Arch because I wanted to customize my system and now it is mine from the ground up.

  62. imhennessy

    ah, guru status

    It's so good to know I'm a guru. Not only do I run Debian, I run it on two laptops and a desktop. Nevermind that all I ever do on the CLI is update and ping to make sure the network us up. Who are you people who fear Debian so much? It's surely easier than Windows, more usable than Fedora, and less crappy than Ubuntu. But I could be wrong, I haven't looked that those anymore than I have to to use someone else's computer in 18 months or so.

    If you need any advice about managing your Debian box... I dunno, GIYF, or something.

  63. gimbal
    Pint

    Aww, have a heart, friend

    Gentoo sure too could be worth a bother ;)

    I'm partial to those Linux distros that put all the free beer into a set of convenient pint glasses, I'll admit, but the home brewery approach is just as well, if that's what someone's after - as far as I'm concerned. Viva el libertad. and free/open source software too. and free beer, if one may.

  64. C 2
    FAIL

    Skipped over PCLinuxOS, how lame.

    Has no one here ever heard of PC Linux OS?! Really? It's number 5 on Distrowatch right ABOVE Debian, and 2 spots above Mandriva. Some lame writer just skipped right over it.

    First off its far better and more popular than Mandriva, which it was originally derived from.

    The developers are pretty stubborn about stability and quality. Besides now you can be middle of the road for package management, Apt with RPMs and it works very smoothly, you'd never know if you didn't look under the hood.

    Everything is clicky pointy, super noob friendly stuff.

    Hardware detection is unmatched IMHO.

    And yeah I like Mint too, just not as much as PCLOS

  65. revdjenk

    Another Title

    Mint user here( 2 yrs) although was very happy for about a year each with elive and PCLinuxOS. All three have bottom dwelling "task bars" to make it easier switching (it seems to me) from Windows. All three provide all the codecs needed for media play. All three have their own unique additions/tweaks from their "parent" distro. All three have vibrant, helpful communities.

    I currently prefer Mint for its look, safety in numbers, and its unique useful tools (like backup, software manager ) and its richer re-working of the ubuntu base.

  66. Carling

    Some ones got to be joking

    99% of distros can be ignored, Ubuntu itself is the most professional offering, that doesn't work half the time, and needs ignoring 99.99% of the time, If Ubuntu wasn't pushed by a commercial company it would be at the bottom of the top 100, I can name at least 10 Community distribution that leave ubuntu at the starting line, My point is them that spout off about Ubuntu Distribution only know one distribution, and are totally clueless as to what a good distribution is.

    For speed Pardus kills Ubuntu with the dust it leaves , For out of the box installation LinuxMint, Ultimate Edition, For netbooks Peppermint, I would never ever recommend ubuntu to newbie user, to many have tried it and gone back to broken windows

  67. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    Linux

    FYI

    The latest Ubuntu 10.04 does not like Intel integrated graphics cards and with older ATI cards you won't get very good 3D acceleration. Simple solution is to install Ubuntu 8.04 instead. (or distro of choice)

    The main advantages of Linux over Windows is:

    1) Ease and speed of install.

    2) Not spending hours trying to rid Windows of malware or bloatware.

    3) Windows gradually slows down as the Registry gets cluttered with crap.

    4) Linux is free and I don't feel the need to make Bill Gates any richer.

  68. madferret
    Coat

    I'm confused

    There am I thinking I'm a typical El Reg reader, then I discover that I should have know all about Linux distros and not need an article like this. But then I have a MacBook that, errm, just works. With Windows 7 that, errm, works (just) and Ubuntu that, errm, just sits there mostly unused because the "out of the box" solutions of the other OSes, errm, are working.

    I don't understand Linux, sorry. I would like to, but all these different flavours and the geekspeak that accompany them are too much for my delicate ears. I want to USE my computer, not spend hours reconfiguring it or working out how to get my MS Office stuff to work *properly* with Open Office or whatever just so I can qualify to use the Penguin icon one day!

  69. James Pickett

    Mint?

    "The only Ubuntu remix edition really worth bothering with"

    I replaced Mint with Lubuntu, which seems a lot quicker on my old hardware. You have tried it, I suppose?

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      I apologise

      ..on behalf of my fellow 'xIX' fans for putting you in that position. Most of them (if they bother to reply to a Mac user) will probably flame you for your ignorance.

      Presumably you're using Mac OS X in which case at least you are using one of the flavours of 'xIX' so that's something. Mind you in this discussion it'll probably get you flamed for being a traitor or some such drivel.

    2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      Lubuntu + Mint = Peppermint

      You might like to give Peppermint a try - essentially it's Lubuntu with all the Mint-derived -buntu fixes:

      http://peppermintos.com

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm confused

      Well, the assumption is that the audience of this site are the people who build, fix, hack, tweak, tinker, and ultimately break computers and software (and then it's back to step 2).

      On the other hand if you are someone who just *uses* computers then obviously this article probably does not apply to you, and in particular neither do the comments about whether you should / should not have known this stuff already, as you will either just use whatever has been given to you or you will use whatever you decide to, but you will be the sole person to bear the consequences of your decision, which is fair enough. It's those who are in IT and don't think they should have known this kind of stuff already who are the problem (trainees exempted, of course).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        WTF?

        Slack 4tw.

        Anonymous Coward wrote "It's those who are in IT and don't think they should have known this kind of stuff already who are the problem"

        I am sure that there are many experienced IT staff who read the reg, work in a Windows/Unix environment that might not know about the different distros within the Linux family, because Linux is still *seen* as a hobbyist OS. (Not my opinion, just some big business I have worked in)

        All this elitism in the comments is just arrogance, distros suit different people, there is no best distro.

        I personally have been using Slackware since 1994 and still rate it as one of the best distros *for me.*

    4. Renato
      Thumb Up

      OSX is great *nix too!

      As a fellow MacOS X user and an old timer Gentooist, I can say I got tired of tinkering with Linux on my spare time. Sometimes I need something that just works®. Ubuntu (or other distros, for that matter) are in fact Linux, and for me, they need ye olde terminal screen. I do not know how to fiddle with their GUI config tools or some "user-friendly" thingy. And I don't want to. And they aren't user friendly enough.

      On the other hand, Terminal.app on OSX is always loaded with at least some 5 tabs doing something, and there is so much fine-tuning and hacks as my old Gentoo box had. And having POSIX/BSD support, which when needed I can compile any regular Unix-like software, OSX is a great *nix box for tinkering and just working.

      For now, when I need Linux, I boot a Arch Linux VM (as that old Gentoo box was given to my mother as part of our "agreement" when I bought this Macbook, which in turn her computer became my file-server) and SSH into it.

  70. Will Stephenson
    Linux

    Ubuntu advertorial

    Yeah, I'm part of another distro, so I'm generally bitter about Ubuntu running away with our breakfast, but this article is just an Ubuntu fanboy bashing out a few preconceptions about other distros while pushing his agenda, not the Reg's usual standard of incisive journalism. Google the author's name + Ubuntu if you like.

  71. Tom 38 Silver badge
    Megaphone

    Beasty icon or it never happened

    FreeBSD isn't actually that hard, although I suppose after a succesfull install you are just left at a console login prompt :)

    Actually, you can't currently install to the sexy file systems yet from the installer, so you kind of have to do it from the rescue shell, using sh, with no tab completion or command history. Fun :)

    http://wiki.freebsd.org/RootOnZFS/GPTZFSBoot/RAIDZ1

    On the plus side, it does tend to keep the people who ask all those stupid questions using ubuntu.

  72. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    House!

    where do I claim my prize for completing my Linux Flamewar Bingo card?

  73. Waderider
    Stop

    What about Fartus linux?

    I can't believe you didn't consider Fartus linux, it's suitable for beginners.

    And why wasn't this article ten times longer, then it could have catered for all distros?

  74. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    "I want to USE my computer"

    ""I want to USE my computer"

    Well quite. So do most non-geeks, possibly even some el Reg readers. These folks might want to look at SUSE (or OpenSuse).

    Its target market, as noted in the article, is traditionally largely the corporate market. In that market, one of the main reasons for abandoning Windows is that truly sensible IT people want/need something that just works, out of the box, without hours and hours of geek-fun both before you get started and on an ongoing basis. It goes without saying that Windows has unlimited geek-fun (and associated costs, which sensible management want minimised).

    Suse just gets on with it. Geek-fun is fine if you are a geek (and the world does need geeks, but not everybody wants to, or needs to, or can, be geeky).

    I presume this lack of geek-fun is one reason why there isn't much Suse buzz in articles/comments like this. But speaking as someone who's been tinkering with Linux at work and at home since RH4, but as someone for who Linux is a means to an end not an end in itself, Suse does what I need, without the geek-fun.

    Suse even includes a printable PDF manual which is appropriate for the day to day tasks people do on PCs, and the manual is the right version for the products included in the current version of Suse - for goodness sake where's the geekiness in that?

    At home I started with SuSe 8 and have largely been happy ever since. I've tried Mandrake/Mandriva and I've tried Ubuntu and I've always come back to Suse. I've yet to try Mint but its alleged big selling point (multimedia friendliness) doesn't seem that big when Suse has one-click codec download+install for the ones that aren't installed by default (and the reason some codecs aren't installed by default is because it's legally dubious to do so, especially for a corporate setup who might be a target for the lawyers).

    At work I am using Suse 11 for some moderately heavy coding; the official platform is WinXP/Visual Studio 2005 but for the loosely-gcc-related work I'm doing, Eclipse/CDT on Suse (11, fwiw) (in a VMware Player so IT don't see me) is just so much more productive.

    As noted in the article, (Open)Suse can come on a DVD which is nearly full. One reason for this is that the "desktop war" silliness which (e.g.) keeps Kubuntu distinct from Ubuntu is hidden from you. The single Suse DVD has both popular desktops (Gnome and KDE), and one installed system can have one or both. Your choice. It's also your choice to not include the vast majority of apps on the CD (most users may not want programming tools, for example) but a known good set of apps for various fields are on the DVD for those who may want them.

    If you want to try before you download or buy the full DVD, there are two separate Live CDs, one for Suse with Gnome, and one for Suse with KDE. Don't worry if you don't know the difference. The latest Live CDs can also be used as install CDs. Again, where's the geek-fun in that? It just works.

    I'd imagine if you're an SME about to venture into Linux (which lots of them should be looking at) that Suse might be an excellent starting point. Focus on what it can do for you.

    Have a lot of fun (of the geek kind if you wish, or otherwise of whatever kind you fancy).

    ps

    Suse does have one big snag. I can't remember how to capitalise IT.

    1. Will Stephenson
      Linux

      Neither can we...

      We've got openSUSE, SUSE and SuSE scattered all over the codebase. But you've made my morning. Come to #opensuse-kde to claim your reward of a free openSUSE 11.3 RC to test :).

    2. Chemist
      Linux

      Re : "I want to USE my computer"

      Agree entirely - I've used Suse since ~5.0 I think

      Almost everything here now is OpenSUSE 11.2 and it all just works !

  75. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Quality

    Unfortunately, the excellent reputation Linux has in terms of Quality has been damaged recently by SuSE 11 and the latest Ubuntu releases. SLES11 was really terrible.

    This damages the whole Linux community and the publishers of crap should be publicly named and shamed.

    What I first and foremost want is Quality. If I need a blinking GUI I will use Windows and install a random Yahoo toolbar from superduperaddonsnomalwareipromise.com.

    Novell has demonstrated a terrible performance and Shuttleworth is pursuing a stupid strategy by releasing so often. Microsoft is doing a much wiser strategy by releasing only every two to six years and stabilizing the system with servicepacks in the meantime.

    1. Hungry Sean

      kind of agree

      Personally I'm a SuSE guy. At my previous job I used open SuSE and, after we got a corporate license, SLED and SLES 11. I'm a developer, not an IT guy, so while I hear that the enterprise editions have all sorts of nice features for managing rollouts and remote administration, what I saw was that the enterprise edition made it completely painful to get basic development packages (I eventually had to resort to using the Open SuSE repositories for most of what I needed).

      I use Ubuntu at my current job, but primarily because of the critical mass in terms of what everyone else there is using and our fragile development environment. It's a steaming pile in many ways. I still think Open SuSE is the best choice for coders, and I think version 11 was generally a good improvement, although it did have changes that made it much more difficult to install the Microsoft standard fonts.

  76. rahul

    Must make a mention for support forums for Ubuntu

    I suggest that you make a mention that Ubuntu also has a free and friendly support forum at www.ubuntuforums.org. The popularity of Ubuntu is heavily due to the friendly frequenters at that forum, and the superb support therein.

  77. viet 1
    Boffin

    Fedora...

    As a long time linux user, and after trying many of the reviewed distros as well as a couple of others more confidential ones, I've finally settled on fedora since core 2 release.

    Aside from the usual office work, I do a lot of photography, and fedora is a very clean base for me to install or build whatever tools I need in my colour-managed, 16bits workflow. Photoshop it isn't, but I can't justify the cost of the latter, so I'd rather 'pay' with my free time than from my wallet.

    But what years of hand-on practice taught me about any linux version is you can't expect a smooth experience by simply slapping linux on a computer and expect it to run better than windows. The hardware choice operated beforehand is absolutely paramount. Many linux old timers tend to forget that linux works well on their computers because they have a reflex to pick known compatible parts. Most newcomers expect linux to run whatever closed bits they own, and are plagued by troubles they blame on linux instead of the hardware manufacturer, who is the real offender here.

  78. James Pickett

    Users

    "I want to USE my computer"

    I think that's why some of us consider time spent on Linux worthwhile. It certainly beats time spent chasing bugs and file-space on Windows, not to mention re-installing when it's got so slow you don't know whether it's still loading or has just seized up (and then discovering that you saved the address book but not the emails).

  79. Graham Marsden

    All I want to know is...

    ... will whatever version of Linux I get *work* with my system!

    Twenty five or so years ago when I had plenty of time to spare, I was quite happy hacking through code and using CLIs and playing with stuff just to see what happens.

    Now I've got other stuff to think about, I don't have the inclination to mess around like that, so unless I can get a simple answer to "will it run the software (and hardware) on my system* without lots of hassle?" much as I'd like to try, the fact of the matter is that Windows *does* do that.

    *Most used programs: Firefox, Thunderbird, Photoshop, MediaPlayer Classic, Word, Excel, hardware: USB Scanner, Epson Printer, TomTom USB interface.

    Also will it read data from my windows partitions without hassle and can I use Acronis True Image to back up its partition.

    I'm no fanboi of any type, just someone who has other things to use his time for, so if someone could actually tell me I'd be grateful!

    1. Graham Marsden
      Unhappy

      So, no answers yet...

      ... three up votes, one down vote (Why, FFS? Just because I asked??) but nobody can actually *tell me* what I need to know.

      Ho hum, looks like I'm stuck with XP.

      1. Robert E A Harvey
        Thumb Up

        Do not despair

        It is difficult to imagine any modern computer that won't work fully with any Linux.

        But it is SO easy to find out. You can get nearly every distro as a 'live CD' that will boot and run from the optical drive without touching the hard disk at all. You can burn a slack handful of them and try all the distros out, without installing.

  80. rogerpjr

    On the other hand

    Ubuntu has spawned many Variants. The general purpose one I use is Super OS. Has windows support. Yet is stable, free, has an abundance of toys. THE #1 Ubuntu based OS, ( my opinion) is ULTIMATE. THAT OS, ROCKS!! More games AND serious Windows support built in. They even have a GAMERS version that is.... well for gamers. Plethora of games. BOTH need 2.5- almost 4 gigs of space. AND are rock-stable.

    For general purpose and interest PC-BSD is also worthy. Same SUPER-SECURE base as Apple's BSD based Operating System. Windows support is included. ( even runs IE 7) as well as it's MOST SECURE...

  81. Forget It
    Go

    M I N T

    I just tried Mint in the virtual box - it's so pretty!

  82. Will Hill
    Pint

    Difficult things.

    You say, "it's a bit more work to get proprietary code such as graphics or wireless network drivers working, or the official versions of Java, Flash and so on. Good for servers if you know what you're doing, but not a great desktop choice unless you're already a guru."

    That's a funny inversion. When something is hard in the Debian world, I think it is for gurus. If Flash, networking drivers and so on were free software they would be easy and a good candidate for desktop use. I've been using Debian as a desktop for more than ten years. With some care in hardware choice, there's nothing it can't do. Upgrades and cloning data for new computers has always been easy for me. That ends when I start to fool with non free software like Flash or Nvidia's drivers. Those things are not worth the trouble and make me feel like I'm running Windows or something - ICK.

  83. Richard Lloyd
    Alert

    Ubuntu for newbies, Fedora for the rest

    I would agree that as "my first Linux distro", Ubuntu is a good introduction, but I found it frustrating that they give you no software choice upon install in the Ubuntu graphical installer (strangely, the Ubuntu text installer *does* make some attempt to define categories of packages to be installed). This leads you to having to install additional packages that they left out of the install CD later on (not installing ntpd or sshd gets me particularly upset).

    I also don't think Ubuntu do enough with their DVD release either in terms of actually mentioning it on their Website (it's much harder to "find" then the CD version) or stuffing it full of packages so that there aren't any "missing" like there are on the CD version.

    Personally, I prefer Fedora with the RPM Fusion repo added - Fedora tends to lead the way when it comes to new features and is simply a better distro than Ubuntu for those experienced with Linux. The fact that we use CentOS desktops and servers at work is icing on the cake because Fedora previews (up to 2 years ahead!) what will be on the next major CentOS release. And, yes, Fedora's DVD releases are indeed jammed with packages that don't appear on Ubuntu's CD or DVD.

    I would say that the only gripe I have about free desktop distros is that the 6-monthly release cycle is probably too fast. I'd like to see an annual release, with a "rollup of updates since the annual release" come out as a minor point update 6 months later in case people want to join the party half-way through (think "I won't install Windows until after SP1 comes out").

  84. Anonymous Coward
    Alien

    Linux fanboi, but one problem....

    I'm a linux fanboi. Got screamed at by my wife a few years ago when I trashed her laptop and installed Slack on it (I've been kinder over the years, she now gets to use Ubuntu). However, there is only ever one time I need to boot into Windows - to load iTunes. There are third party addons for it (gtkpod, stuff based on that, like a Rhythmbox plugin), but no official stuff (and, the last time I checked, no support at all for the new gen ipod stuff like ipod touch and iphone - I apologise if this has been rectified since). It also didn't work under Wine when I last tried. I'm by no means an Apple fanboi (my ipod, before being stolen from my car over a year ago, is the only apple product I've owned), but a high percentage of computer literate consumers own ipods/iphones or the mysterious "iTouch" (never known so many people to own something that doesn't exist). If the Linux community and Apple could join together and create an iTunes for Linux, the last hurdle for Linux for most people would be overcome.

    Aside from that, I can't think of any other task a consumer would attempt which fails. Hardware installs with no effort (even wireless adaptors now, woo!), there's no trapseing round drivers sites to support your hardware, and the Gnome desktop is so sophisticated now, only an idiot could fail to use it.

  85. Andus McCoatover

    Losing the plot?

    Here's what I personally do, daily.

    Turn on PC. Turn on monitor. Open Firefox. Connect to thetelegraphonline.co.uk

    Read newspaper. Connect to gmail.com to see my e-mails.

    Goto Finnish school. (Goto pub after, as 'partative' screws what few braincells I have left)

    Scan jobs. If I find one...

    Write job application. Send it.

    Practice some Finnish verbs.

    Check weather, and TV schedule.

    Write drivel on El Reg.

    Tell PC to turn off, and press 'off' button on monitor. Go to bed, and see if the missus is up for it. (which usually means I repeat some of the above steps...)

    Yep, an old PC does me. Mine's a Compaq ES Desk thingy, about 10 years old. Works a treat.

  86. Anonymous Coward
    Linux

    New to Ubuntu: it's mostly great

    I used to have always Windows. You know: it comes by default with your PC and you don't bother.

    But this time someone advised me of a shop with PCs at half price. I was short of money so I decided to buy the cheapest computer of all, an AMD Athlon 64 with Ubuntu as OS for just 220 euros after taxes.

    I was a bit afraid at first because Linux had that aura of nerdiness and being for experts but actually it's pretty nice. And each new release (each six months) it gets better. I'm still two upgrades behind the last one (Lucid) but Jaunty works great anyhow.

    The only thing I really miss is the ability to play some games that are designed for Windows only (I'm afraid that Wine can only do that much). But otherwise it's smooth and has nothing to envy to Windows (probably the opposite is true for most circumstances at least). Plus the technical assistance (forums) quickly helps you around any minor problem. I've grown too old to learn how to use the terminal code autonomously anymore but I reckon that's exactly the kind of feature I missed when Windows gave up MS-DOS, which I managed quite well.

    1. Andus McCoatover
      Happy

      A couple of upgrades back?

      I'd suggest you play "Catchup" to get the latest version.

      You'll probably have to incrermentally upgrade to Karmic, then Lucid, but Lucid's supported till (IIRC) 2013 sometime.

      Open a terminal and give "sudo update-manager -d" *

      I'd advise you do, as most of the forum help is usually around the latest version. (Linux users are often a bit geeky, and want the latest, shiniest version. Bit like our partners. As long as her teeth are soaking in Sterodent overnight, I really don't care what she looks like, as long as they sparkle in the morning...).

      *If you've no aversion to purple ;-)

  87. Gareth.
    Linux

    O2 Joggler

    Last night I installed Ubuntu Netbook Remix on my O2 Joggler using the image and the instructions found here...

    http://www.stephenford.org/joggler/

    It was so easy and everything seems to work well. The tactile screen works well, and I use the on-screen keyboard whenever I need to type something, e.g. my WPA key.

    The Joggler cost me fifty quid to buy from O2, and the OS was free... all in all, that's a bargain in my book!

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