Linux Distros for Noobs
From Area51 Archives
I have written this as a short helpful guide for people who want to use a Linux distro, but aren't sure which one to choose. It is neither all encompassing, or completely unbiased. I have taken pains to show a few distros strengths and weaknesses, not just my recommended newb distro. This way, you can choose, and no one shouts "Rightcoast is a walking Debian billboard".
I think there are probably a dozen distros I can think of that would work well for a new user. I am going to stick with the few I think would best serve noobs though. What distro you want, even with all the advice in the world, comes down to what you need it for, and personal taste. I have ranked these in order from lowest to highest, using my judgement and weighing things like ease of use vs. power vs. long term benefits like general *nix education.
It is as powerful as any other distro, it's fast and it's clean. It is also nearly idiot proof (not saying anything bad at all, it's just made to be idiot proof). Easy hardware detection and configuration (#1 on any newbs list), and a top notch support community. This is the ultimate balanced distro.
And... for a new user, this guide is a very easy to navigate guide to using your new ubuntu system. All you old pros, if you haven't seen this, read it. Hopefully learn from it, and carry it's greatness over your distro's docs. This is what gives it the one up on any distro for a new user. Chua Wen Kiat is an open source hero...this guide is assisting the transfer to a Linux OS for many, many, many, many users. Kudos!
On a final note, I think that Ubuntu is the only distro that will mail you free CD's via USPS. This makes Ubuntu Linux free-as-in-beer for dial up users as well.
Awesome hardware detection. What this means for you is that in almost every case, you put the disk in, and everything runs. Ubuntu has worked better for some Wi-Fi equipment for me in the past, but knoppix is at least it's equal in hardware detection anyway. It's good, it's powerful, and if it weren't for Ubuntu, it's waht you would want.
The main issue I see new Linux users have with knoppix is some slight confusion about the root password. This thread will clear everything up.
A very powerful Linux distro. Many experienced users will even call it the *most* powerful. Combine that with the fact a new user can actually pull off an install, unlike other very powerful distros like Gentoo and Linux From Scratch (which isn't really a distro at all, just some docs, but that's another discussion), and you see the main reasons Slackware gets a number three on my list.
It will require you read documentation, and have previous computer experience. At least be able to read and understand technical documentation and you will be fine.
It has a graphical installer that is easy to use now, and apt-get, it's package manager. While ease of package management is this distro's primary strength IMO, it also makes an excellent server OS as well. Debian is not entirely suited to the new user, so Ubuntu gets the #1 spot.
Formerly known as Mandrake, this is one of the first distros that stressed ease of use. It is one of the top two or three in ease of use. That's also it's biggest drawback. You can't learn shit when you are clicking a button to administer every aspect of the machine. Believe it or not, when you get used to a couple commands, it is faster than a lot of GUI tools anyway. It's package management tool is urpmi. It uses rpm's, being based on Red-Hat and all.
- New users will find it easier to configure urpmi with easyurpmi
Of course, when at all possible try to test a distro out with a LiveCD version. You can run these directly from the CD drive and not have to install a single thing on your hard drive. This means you can try different Linux versions at no risk to your computer.
Bring your questions on linux over to the guys and girls at Linux Questions. This should be in every new users bookmarks. You can get help with pretty much anything there. Just find your distro's form, and ask away!
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