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Which Linux to Put on the Desktop?

Saying Goodbye to Windows

     
9:59 pm on Jul 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I recently had a Winbox melt down. Not a simple little meltdown that can be fixed with a clean boot disk and a reinstall of the OS, but some kind of severe system damage. All the hardware checks out as functional. But...

If I try to format the drive the system powers off. If I try to boot from the XP Pro CD the OS starts to load, then powers off. As the system is loading I get strange ASCII characters in the status bar, multiple exclamation points and the odd "moading gimes" status message.

The box is less than a year old, state-of-the-art hardware, 1.5 gigs of DRAM, fast processor, etc and was relatively problem free until this meltdown. I'm not putting Windows back on the system.

I have an old Frankenputer that has Linux on it but I haven't kept up with the latest from Linux. So, without starting a distro war, I was wondering if the gurus here could perhaps list the pros and cons of the various Linux distros. I've cruised various Linux fora but the discussions always seem to end up in holy war. I'd rather have some honest input from people I trust rather than someone I don't know yammering about how distroX suckz and ferget da penguin, redhat rUleZ!

My two key concerns are ease of use and stability. I want the OS to be rock solid and I don't want to have to spend all day trying to figure out how to get my vid card recognized.

Pros? Cons? Comments?

[edited by: digitalghost at 10:10 pm (utc) on July 9, 2003]

10:06 pm on July 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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FreeBSD. :)

Seriously, though, in my experience, here's a quick summary:

Debian - Very religious, very free. Nice binary package installation/dependency system.
Mandrake - Pretty, and easy to use. Nice GUI utilities all around. Bigger installed footprint.
Slackware - Minimalist. Very loyal fanbase. You can still install a working text Slackware system on a floppy disk. Often slow to update.
RedHat - The standard for corporate enviornments. You'll find most commercial software for Linux will definitely work with RedHat. Often big installation footprint, but they've finally figured out how to turn off services by default.
Gentoo - Linux, BSD style. My personal favorite, just because of the ports tree mentality shared with BSD. You basically build your own distro from scratch. If you've got some time, installing and learning Gentoo will teach you so much about Linux that the other distros won't because there is no fancy installer.
SuSE - Don't have much experience here.

Mandrake will probably be the easiest for a first-timer to install, IMHO. But grab Gentoo if you have some time and really want to learn the ropes.

10:10 pm on July 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Just a reccomendation:

Redhat with ximian desktop.

Typically, whatever software you want to install is available for redhat as an RPM, and ximian has the slickest update tool I've seen out there.

10:19 pm on July 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Knoppix.

You don't need to know anything about hardware drivers to get it going usually. It also comes with qtparted which can resize your NTFS partitions. Once it's installed, it "becomes Debian", due to Knoppix being based on debian.

Debian was voted most popular desktop distro on a popular desktop linux website.

10:22 pm on July 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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FreeBSD rocks my socks, and Apple's too (although that's probably more of a jkh thing).

The Ports tree is beautiful, the installer doesn't need to be fancy to do its job.

Very robust, go with 4.x at least until 6-CURRENT starts up development, 5.x may cause you to run into subtle gotchas. (Then again, it may not, I would recommend it only for the adventurous.)

10:47 pm on July 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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If this keeps you posting in the *nix forum a little more, dg, I'll gladly put in my two cents...

bakedjake's post pretty much sums it up, although I'd like to add a vote for Gentoo.

If you're really interested in getting to know the inner workings of a *nix system, Gentoo is it. But Gentoo takes forever to install and even longer to tweak. What you get in the end is a high-performance, cutting-edge distro that is optimized for your hardware. It is also very well supported by the community (I just wish they used this board).

Trust me, you'll get a warm, fuzzy feeling once you have a Gentoo Stage 1 install. Any install after that will seem like a breeze.

Anything you install, you will still be required to read a lot of documentation, test and tweak, swear and try again. Post your experiences here though :)

10:58 pm on July 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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>>Post your experiences here

Of course. I'll document everything but the cursing. ;) Right now I'm still trying to format the drive so when I decide on an OS I can install it. Gentoo sounds like it will generate lots of "expletive deleted" comments but may prove the best learning experience.

After I get the drive clean I'll start deciding on which OS to use and I'll be sure to post about it.

10:59 pm on July 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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As a hardened wintel user I've found Redhat 8+ with the Blue Curve desktop the easiest Linux platform to use. Many of the things I've become familiar with in windows are included which, for me, is great.

Reliability and setup has not been a problem at all (usually on boxes made up from spare parts) but I would say that my Linux boxes get far less use than the wintel ones so a more experienced user might think otherwise.

Cheers

Stretch

11:18 pm on July 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Currently running suse with kde desktop. Very easy to install. KDE makes it pretty intuitive for windows users to get to grips with.

Mack.

11:20 pm on July 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I started with Mandrake. It was a very nice place to start, I stuck with it from 6.5 to 8.2. I have read in a couple of places that 9.x uses a couple of gimmicks to make a little $ from the end user -- but I can't confirm that.

IMO Mandrake wouldn't be for you if you like to modify your system or update your software but it might be a good place to get started.

Knoppix does make getting into Debian a lot easier. I am a huge fan of Knoppix and Debian. Yet, I think a brand new Linux user may be a bit confused by the lack of hand holding. Mandrake is very good at guiding new users.

After you get bored, move on.

after thought:
RedHat is probably very similar, the mono theme desktop may even go a bit beyond Mandrake's approach.

11:30 pm on July 9, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Just to add a bit of perspective to this project, I've downloaded the XP Pro bootdisks, no go, system powers down. So I tried the win98 bootdisk to see if I could format, no go, system powers down. So, right now, I'm pretty much at a loss as to what's wrong but this experience is driving home the need for a different OS.

There is no reason for the system to power down unless I've contracted some powerful bug that can shut a system down to keep the bug from being zapped. Anyway, I decided to walk away from the box before I solved the problem with a BFH.

7:31 am on July 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

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It sounds like a hardware fault to me. Maybe a duff motherboard, PSU or corrupt bios? Have you tried re-installing the BIOS?
3:27 am on July 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Hardware would be my guess too. Could be something as small as dust shorting your usb sockets....

You won't know until you start the long process of elimination. =(