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A Linux distro that just works?
JAB Creations

 10:37 pm on Mar 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

I've been trying out different Linux distros now that I've had some time and I'm trying them out on my main system (with my data drives unplugged). First I tried Debian 6.01a 64 bit with ten different installers and the fancy GUI installer wouldn't allow me to remove the swap partition (I have 4GB of RAM, not 16KB) and it turned out the Commander Keen installer worked just fine. After finally getting Debian running my RAT5 mouse clicks weren't being registered 80% of the time and my onboard digital audio didn't work. After spending almost the entire day getting those to work (and having to mess around in the terminal) I somehow borked the entire OS from booting to the GUI when installing a package that hinted I might be able to assign the fourth and fifth buttons on my mouse, at this point was time to try a different distro.

Today I've been trying Fedora 14 64 Bit LXDE which didn't give me an install option so I have to wait an hour for it to boot from the CD. I had the same problem with my RAT5 mouse though was able to resolve the issue though it still took a solid hour. I'm not sure about my sound as it doesn't play MP3's and after two hours couldn't get Flash to work to any degree.

On top of this both distros sit around twiddling their thumbs when both booting and shutting down requiring me to press the space bar numerous times to remind the computer that I'm sitting here looking at the screen waiting.

I don't mind if the system takes a minute to boot and I don't mind learning new things associated with a different OS. I'd like to switch from XP to Linux at some point as Microsoft has been intentionally reducing the usability of their products however I can't test any production software if I can't get even the basics to work! Does any one have any recommendations on a Linux distro that just works?

- John


brotherhood of LAN

 10:45 pm on Mar 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

I use Ubuntu on my desktop and on production servers.

No complaints from it. You may find it worthwhile trying it out.



 10:54 pm on Mar 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

I would suggest testing Ubuntu (Gnome) and/or Knoppix (KDE) from live CDs.

Install afterwards if one of them meets your requirements.



 11:02 pm on Mar 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

The first question you have to ask if you want a server/stability distro, or a desktop/features distro.

In the first situation I would recommend a distro with long life support like RedHat/Centos. In the second situation Fedora/Ubuntu may be a better choice.


 11:24 pm on Mar 23, 2011 (gmt 0)



 11:50 pm on Mar 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

I am now completely on Ubuntu apart from a couple of programs I can't get linux versions for (basically genealogy and Access database).

I may be able to solve those problems under Ubuntu: my brother has recommended Crossover which I will try as soon as I have time.

I have been running Ubuntu and Windows on different machines for two or three years (began with gibbon) but for the past year I ran Windows only for the above and for Thunderbird - I know, it took about 30 minutes to transfer it all to Ubuntu! :)

I agree MS is closing itself off. I've been running three Windows 2000 machines here for years (er... from 2000?) but they are now no longer supported (ie no security updates) and I would have to upgrade the hardware to install anything after XP. I don't intend doing that as the hardware works just fine!

Problem is: one of the Windows machines is used by my wife, and it could take a while to get her used to anything non-Windows-2000. :(


 12:07 am on Mar 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

Problem is: one of the Windows machines is used by my wife, and it could take a while to get her used to anything non-Windows-2000. :(

That's why I'd recommend mint easier than windows for anyone who has never used a computor ..and the interface is similar to something between Xp and 7 ..and if you get ( download ) the bigger "all included" "dvd" iso..everything works .."out of the box" even on some really unusual hardware configs.

I always put mint into machines for newbies and or old folks ..frequently they are newbie old folks in the seventies that have memory problems ..mint is ideal ..

I keep it on this box so that if they get stuck ( I don't do this for a living ..just to help out ) I can walk them through "where the buttons" are and the "how to's" over the phone ..when they forget how to open the email or the movie of the grandchildren saying "hi".

That said it also works for pro use ..and the community is friendly and helpfull .

Only caveat is if you use thunderbird.. the version 3 is way less "friendly" to get accounts set up for beginners than the version 2 ..but you can still find thunderbird 2 for linux all over ..and the thunderbird usability /bloat problem is the same no matter what the flavour of linux it is in.


 9:38 pm on Mar 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

Interesting. I've seen several references to Mint recently. I'll take a look when I have a moment. :)


 10:08 pm on Mar 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

Been seeing references to mint as well. But probably the best route is ubuntu. It's the biggest disco out there, so lots going on.

In terms of flash and stuff, it may not come as part of the base distro if it's not open source or gpl. The distro I use has seperate repositories for all that stuff. And I subscribe to a paid version that I think gets me extra stuff like drivers.you have to install that stuff separately.


 10:38 pm on Mar 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

Mint is in large part unbuntu based ..
but is ubuntu how it should've been done ..;-)


In terms of flash and stuff, it may not come as part of the base distro if it's not open source or gpl. The distro I use has seperate repositories for all that stuff. And I subscribe to a paid version that I think gets me extra stuff like drivers.you have to install that stuff separately.

In the "complete" version of Mint .. free and downloadable at the link I gave above ..all those things are included and taken care of ;-) .no "separate" install needed ..no playing with the Terminal and CLI if you don't want to ..and easy intuitive access to the Mint repository and other repositories ...

And the same downloaded iso, when you've burned it, is a "live" version so you can test it and see if you like it ..it won't change a thing on your windows or other OS box ..

And if you want to install it permanently the onboard graphical partition manager is the easiest and most intuitive there is.

Oh and from a designer's and usabilty point of view ..Mint is so much nicer looking than ubuntu ( even tweaked ubuntu )..and you can make it better, easier than you can with ubuntu.

Btw. I've run both ..;-)


 11:34 pm on Mar 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

Yeah, I'm kind of dated. I run Mandriva because it's what my first webmaster used back in what, 99? 98? Something like that. So I only know the Mandriva way. I pay for the upgraded version, and for the most part everything just works. Mostly.

JAB Creations

 3:14 am on Mar 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

My local server is for local testing only before I upload changes to live servers (I love the base element). Generally speaking I use my machine for local web design/development, some personal media (e.g. music and videos) and some gaming. I'm not interested in playing around in the terminal all day, I have to get stuff done though I have the time now to test out different GUI applications. I don't expect to fully escape having to use the terminal since I'm a power user though I couldn't get Flash to work in Firefox on Fedora and to run the latest version of Iceweasel I was told I had to compile the software myself...really? I want to bind my fourth and fifth mouse buttons and the function keys on my keyboard, stuff like that which reduces the number of steps for me to get things moving along. The less time spent in the terminal and the greater the ability to customize things I need than more productive I can be.

I've tried Ubuntu and Kubuntu in virtual environments though I have yet to try them as regular installs. Fedora didn't allow an install without first booting to a live environment that took like an hour just to boot so if I'm going to bother burning an ISO to a CD I'd rather just install a new distro and try it without waiting for my optical drive to constantly spin up.

When I tried Kubuntu I had the same mouse problems though at the time associated it with the virtual application and not the OS itself. If LXDE and KDE are not the same though both use X11 then I think the mouse problem could probably be attributed to it since I kept having to edit the file /etc/X11/Xmodmap. I haven't had trouble with the mouse in Ubuntu though I tried Kubuntu to test out Konqueror I thought it was the virtualization software causing the problems.

Having a busy week so I'll be a bit slow to respond and reply though I'll try some of the distros that are being mentioned soon. Thanks for the suggestions so far.

- John


 9:26 am on Mar 25, 2011 (gmt 0)

Mandriva is pretty good at "just works", and its easy to configure - more so that Windows or Mac because even advanced stuff like hosts file and MTU are in the GUI.

I am currently using PCLinuxOS which is Mandriva based. Its a rolling release distro, generally reliable despite that and has a good community. Most things work out of the box.

It supports multiple desktop environments. I am using E17 which has some (minor) rough edges but is both light and pretty, but the most popular is KDE4.

A lot of just works is down to luck and your hardware. The surest way is to buy hardware with Linux pre-installed from a Linux specialist vendor.


 10:22 pm on Mar 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

I had a look at Mint yesterday: it may well be as good as advertised but is still based on Ubuntu, of which I have experience, so I wonder if I would gain by starting a new machine with Mint.

On the other hand, since it would be a new machine, I probably wouldn't have anything to lose. But does Mint have the same limitations as Ubuntu?

For the moment I still would recommend Ubuntu, although when I moved from Hardy to Lucid I noticed several features that were not as good and everything seems to be slower - I even had to tweak Firefox under the bonnet to get it to run above a crawl. And I still haven't managed to get my Brother scanner, which worked fine in Hardy, to work under Lucid except under root. :(

One thing I do know: my wife is not going to be pleased at moving to a Linux clipboard "manager". Windows Clipmate is far better than any Linux clipboard, most of which are either obsolete, frail or featureless. Klipper seems to be the best but too often the top clip loses focus.


 10:37 pm on Mar 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

But does Mint have the same limitations as Ubuntu?

 10:41 pm on Mar 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

And yet it's based on Ubuntu? Excepting security/software updates and such like "overlays", which seem to be OS-specific, I would expect several core Ubuntu features to be similarly problematical in Mint; or is Ubuntu core free of problems? :)


 10:59 pm on Mar 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

..Mint also has a "direct" Debian based version


I would expect several core Ubuntu features to be similarly problematical in Mint; or is Ubuntu core free of problems? :)

Mint is not ubuntu with "overlays" ..try it ..and see..you want 100% guarantees ? you don't get them with anything..mint is free.. no one ( least of all me ..is selling it" )..you choose the linux distro that suits you..

you find out which distro suits you by testing them .

you could always stick with 2K ..but you are going to have to be able to write your own security protections for it ;-) ..because no one else does ..not since years ago...or never let it on the web ..nor feed it anything that came from the web..;-)


 10:37 pm on Mar 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

I probably will try Mint but it will be a few weeks as I will have to get another computer - can't kill Windows until I have a convincing alternative to show my wife. :)

I've never expected guarantees but I do seek enlightenment where and when I can. :)

Whatever, I have a nasty feeling we'll still have to run Windows in some form as a lot of genealogy software only runs on it, including a LOT of CD-based censuses, indexes and directories. Some can be worked around but not all. :(


 11:06 pm on Mar 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

why not dual boot?

btw.I've still got 4 machines running 7 ulti ,and others running dual boots or other Os's ( not a linux evangelista ;-)..something tells me that maya and photoshop , lightroom and DxO etc are never going to run on linux..( but the win machines only ever connect to the net for what I consider "necessary" updates )..and my nearly prehistoric laptop ( portege 7010 ) runs XP PRO ( severely "nlighted" ) as it only has 64 megs of ram ..and XP runs the BBC player so I can receive the content without having to live in the UK..and can take the machine into the garden "wireless"..

The smallest lightest linux still wont let me do that on that little ram and the equivalent of a pentium 2 :-)..took a lot of time "thinning down" XP though.


 10:21 pm on Mar 29, 2011 (gmt 0)

It's not my machine. My wife uses the computer all day within certain programs but is not a "power user" as such. She also, like me, has a fairly low tolerance threshold for things that don't work as expected.

Apart from that the machine is only turned off about once every few months now, since I don't have to kill it for updates. Re-booting it every couple of hours to change activities is not really a good way of working. :(

I've been recommended to try Crossover to run some Windows apps on Linux but there are still a few things that it won't run. Once I find out what they really are I may be more optimistic about switching her machine and dumping Windows but sadly Linux is missing a LOT of apps that are on commonplace on Windows.


 11:17 pm on Mar 29, 2011 (gmt 0)

Crossover etc, is a pita. So is dual booting. I run linux as my base, but have an actual winXP license running as a virtual machine. Now we're cookin' with gas.

My friend was demoing me his system on the weekend. Mac laptop with a big widescreen attached. Had it running as a dual moniter setup, with the laptop screen running his mac stuff, and the monitor running windows inside a virtual machine. Mac here, jump up, there's your windows box. Way cool.


 10:16 pm on Mar 30, 2011 (gmt 0)

My brother seems to like Crossover: I'm not yet ready to try it as I need evaluation time for it.

I'm trying to get right away from Windows but doubt I'll manage it, as noted above. Never liked anything later than 2000 so I'll probably end up keeping that as my off-line genealogy machine.

Mac has always had a good multiple-monitor system - it was designed in from the start. :)


 10:04 am on Apr 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

I had a whole bunch of problems with Mint XFCE, ALL of which were upstream issues from Ubuntu.

@Leosghost I am surprised you cannot get Linux lighter than XP. Depending on your requirements Damn Small Linux, Anticx, Lubuntu, Peppermint, Slitaz and Puppy should all run on old hardware.

I used to run a heavyweight distros on a PIII (for the kids_ until about an year or so ago.


 1:51 pm on Apr 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

I can ..( re the linux distros you mention ) easily ..but the BBC iplayer won't run in them ..:(..maybe because I only have 64 megs of RAM on that laptop..an CPU is celeron/int P 400..all the linux distros tht would run the player need more RAM on "unpack" than the laptop ..old Toshiba 7010c variant titanium nad ABS case with DVD "dock") ..nice machine .did n't want to bin it..figured I could use it to listen to "digital" radio.

I based my stripped XP ( legal licensed XP pro start point ) on the ( nlite ) procedure used to make tinyXP ..installed size 358 megs, RAM use ( "idle" ) 45 megs ) RAM use running opera 9 and Iplayer 72 megs ( over run of 8 megs of RAM it doesn't physically have in RAM is via swap )..streams BBC radio 4 etc just fine..;-)

Fault is with the BBC ..not linux..and I'm OS agnostic..whatever gets the job I need doing done.;-)


 2:26 pm on Apr 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

If you like Ubuntu you will love Mint. I have never had any big issues with the Gnome version.

My wife and son who are windows babies can pop open my laptop and do stuff on there.

IMO duel boot is the way to go... that or virtubox


 9:58 pm on Apr 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

I did not even know that Iplayer Desktop as available for Linux. Not being in the UK I use the Flash version just for radio.


 10:13 pm on Apr 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

I did not even know that Iplayer Desktop as available for Linux.

I don't think it is (officially ) but I don't have enough RAM on that machine ( and can physically only add another 64 megs )..to run it via wine even if wine could run it

Not being in the UK I use the Flash version just for radio.

I'm not in the UK either ;-)


 4:53 am on Apr 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

It is officially available. I just looked at the download page. Its Adobe Air based.

Its also possible to download using this tool. [infradead.org ]

It allows Linux to download from the "iPhone" site.

IN case your wondering, the downloads are not DRMed so its perfectly legal.


 4:40 am on Apr 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

I use CentOS on my two production servers. Ubuntu is running on my desktop and Laptop. I tried Mint for a few days but numerous bugs became apparent, so I decided it wasn't mature enough. I did however prefer it over Ubuntu, if only it didn't have creases.

JAB Creations

 5:43 am on Apr 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

I think I'm going to have to stick to Gnome as I've had problems with my mouse on KDE and LXDE. I literally just downloaded Mint 10 / Gnome in a few minutes via torrent and the live boot was pretty darn fast however I insist on complaining about the lack of a direct-install option from the boot menu as previous distro live boot CD's have taken two hours to boot before even getting the chance to install. I do very much like the fact that Mint started copying files while I went through the setup options, smart! THAT is good technical design!

Got it installed and working and the guest additions installed (both from VirtualBox and from the package manager) and I'm still stuck at 800x600.

- John

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