Linux distro for a novice

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joby_toss
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Linux distro for a novice

#1 Post by joby_toss » Sun Feb 01, 2015 10:29 am

Hi, guys!
I'd like to continue this discussion here.

In 2-3 months I plan to acquire a new laptop and I'd like to see if I can manage my daily tasks with a different OS than my current Windows 7 (yes, I'm scared of Windows 10) and I don't think I have other option than Linux. I understand it's not easy to recommend something like this without knowing the specific hardware, but still...
The only "serious" interaction I had with Linux was a few years back when I had to use a Knoppix live CD to troubleshoot a machine, so I hope you can recommend something very intuitive to work with and less needing of console commands (actually, 0 need would be awesome :) ).

@lautrepay: Linux Mint looks very nice, I'll try it for sure. Thanks!

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Re: Linux distro for a novice

#2 Post by Midas » Sun Feb 01, 2015 10:40 am

I answered at the other topic already (Knoppix would fit my bill nicely, BTW), but just want to add one thing about Mint: it's one of the best Linux based distros for sure, but if you don't want to be forever upgrading your OS every six months, you'd better choose a distro that's Ubuntu LTS (Long Term Support, meaning five years) based or else, following SYSTEM's example, a rolling distribution.

A less vanilla option but rather popular with software people would be Puppy Linux...

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Re: Linux distro for a novice

#3 Post by joby_toss » Sun Feb 01, 2015 10:54 am

I've heard of Peppermint and Puppy Linux before. Noted. Thanks!

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Re: Linux distro for a novice

#4 Post by joby_toss » Sun Feb 01, 2015 11:01 am

@SYSTEM: Siduction seems more complex than I'm comfortable with, but "rolling release model" sounds good. Thanks!

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Re: Linux distro for a novice

#5 Post by webfork » Sun Feb 01, 2015 11:26 am

joby_toss wrote:Linux Mint looks very nice
Everything I've read over the past 3 years points to that as the route for folks new to Linux. I've also heard good things about Korora, a Red Hat-based desktop, which just about converted an admittedly fairly techy Mac user I know.
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Re: Linux distro for a novice

#6 Post by Userfriendly » Sun Feb 01, 2015 1:50 pm

webfork wrote:techy Mac user.
Techy and Mac would seem like an oxymoron but then if you watched the Windows 10 keynote all the tech journalists had macbook pros :D

Linux Mint is your best bet if you wanna try a distro. I have an install of it and it's really a painless experience (depending on your hardware some drivers can be finicky).

I would recommend dual booting Windows and Linux. Easiest method to dual-boot without messing with boot managers is to unplug your Windows drive or disable it in BIOS while you install Linux on a separate drive. Enable it again when your done and just choose which drive to boot with when you start your computer. Usually pressing F12 when you power on.

However Linux is mostly a glorified web browser OS for me since I'm I can't really find any good equivalent Linux application for my most used Windows stuff. I'm also a gamer on top of that. So that means Windows for me till the end of time unless Microsoft somehow goes under and everyone switches to Apple/Linux for gaming. But depending on how you use your computer, Linux could provide you everything you need.

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Re: Linux distro for a novice

#7 Post by joby_toss » Sun Feb 01, 2015 3:21 pm

I'll do my best to try and stay away from Windows with my next machine, so dual boot is not an option for now (no games for me, also).
Mint looks better and better from what I've read until now.

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Re: Linux distro for a novice

#8 Post by TP109 » Sun Feb 01, 2015 6:49 pm

Midas wrote:but if you don't want to be forever upgrading your OS every six months, you'd better choose a distro that's Ubuntu LTS (Long Term Support, meaning five years) based or else, following SYSTEM's example, a rolling distribution.
I agree with the LTS suggestion. LTS distros are what I normally use, although all my PCs are multiple boot, with Windows and from anywhere from 3-10 Linux distros on each one. I settled with mainly using LTS Debian/Ubuntu type distros after trying at least 50 different Linux distros, although testing new ones is still an ongoing process. Once you try a Linux distro, you will probably become curious about the others.

Installing Linux is usually MUCH faster and takes up MUCH less space than Windows, so it's easy to try new ones. It's worth learning Linux because of its many advantages such as speed on old HW, fast shutdown/boot speed, better security, free SW and more.

Linux distros range from those that imitate the Windows environment down to command-line based only distros. Size of the installation can range from 10MB up to several GBs. With all the choices, you don't need to be a command-line expert to competently use most Linux distros.

Some disadvantages are that the filesystem is different from Windows and takes some getting used to. HW compatibility and driver issues are fairly common, so some distros won't run on certain machines OOTB. And although some distros can imitate Windows, below the the surface, it's a different environment. There is also a wide variety of DEs (desktop environments) available. All this can be confusing.

I could go on, but will keep it short. Based on my experience installing different distros to different machines, those with the most complete packages, ease-of-use, easiest installation, and with the least HW compatibility issues are:

Ubuntu/Debian based - Mint, Ubuntu/Xubuntu/Lubuntu, LXLE (LXLE is my favorite right now)
Slackware based - Salix (hands down best Slackware-based distro IMO, but not as easy use as above)
LiveCD - Puppy (has many different flavors and can be installed to the HD as well)

Most Gentoo and Arch-based distros are more difficult to install and configure. Below is Distrowatch's top 15 Linux distro recommendations for beginners based on the overall popularity in parentheses:
1. Linux Mint (1)
2. Ubuntu (2)
3. elementary OS (9)
4. PCLinuxOS (13)
5. Robolinux (21)
6. Netrunner (39)
7. Sabayon Linux (50)
8. HandyLinux (52)
9. Korora Project (71)
10. Pinguy OS (88)
11. Emmabuntüs (91)
12. MEPIS Linux (105)
13. UberStudent (111)
14. Ubuntu DesktopPack (120)
15. Kwheezy (156)

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Re: Linux distro for a novice

#9 Post by Enternal » Sun Feb 01, 2015 9:24 pm

Hahaha! This is funny since everyone is recommending Linux Mint and... I'm going to do the same. Try Linux Mint. Been playing with it since version 4 and it was always great. A very likable and easy to use system. Just to note but there is also a Linux Debian Mint version and that has a slower update cycle and is stable too.

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Re: Linux distro for a novice

#10 Post by joby_toss » Mon Feb 02, 2015 12:00 am

I'm pretty set on Mint for now (also because of the big community behind it). Until I get my new machine, I'm going to install it in a VM (hope VirtualBox is OK for this) on my son's machine (much more powerful than mine), hoping to get a better understanding of the whole experience (and make sure it's worth it).

Can anyone explain if their is such thing as portable software on linux? Or is this a stupid question? I'm looking for not losing my apps settings in case something goes wrong and I have to format the system partition.

Found this diagram, but can't get much out of it:

Image

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Re: Linux distro for a novice

#11 Post by SYSTEM » Mon Feb 02, 2015 1:18 am

Userfriendly wrote: However Linux is mostly a glorified web browser OS for me since I'm I can't really find any good equivalent Linux application for my most used Windows stuff. I'm also a gamer on top of that. So that means Windows for me till the end of time unless Microsoft somehow goes under and everyone switches to Apple/Linux for gaming.
I'm in the exact same situation. GNU/Linux is a secondary operating system for me.
joby_toss wrote: Can anyone explain if their is such thing as portable software on linux? Or is this a stupid question? I'm looking for not losing my apps settings in case something goes wrong and I have to format the system partition.
Portable software isn't really doing well on GNU/Linux. Programs save their preferences in the /home directory by convention.

However, there is another way to avoid losing settings if you need to format the system partition. Because GNU/Linux uses an unified virtual file system instead of drive letters, the /home directory can, and often does, reside in a partition of its own. In that case, most system stuff, applications and the like are in the / partition, but your program settings and personal files are in the /home partition, and you can reinstall the operating system without losing your settings. In fact, some people even share a /home partition between multiple distributions!

To use a separate /home partition, you need to choose "Something else" in this screen. In the following screen, create two partitions. Set the Mount point of the main partition to / and of the other partition to /home.

Don't be afraid of making mistakes here. Because it's a new computer, you can't accidentally wipe an existing operating system. If you screw up, just try again! :)
joby_toss wrote:Found this diagram, but can't get much out of it:
That diagram is a programmer thing. Ignore it. :)
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Re: Linux distro for a novice

#12 Post by Midas » Mon Feb 02, 2015 4:43 am

SYSTEM wrote:
Userfriendly wrote: However Linux is mostly a glorified web browser OS for me since I'm I can't really find any good equivalent Linux application for my most used Windows stuff. I'm also a gamer on top of that. So that means Windows for me till the end of time unless Microsoft somehow goes under and everyone switches to Apple/Linux for gaming.
I'm in the exact same situation. GNU/Linux is a secondary operating system for me.

[...]

Portable software isn't really doing well on GNU/Linux.
  • As am I -- my computing savvy is anchored in Windows; I love Linux, I really do, but beyond the trivial I just can't depend on it for my daily computing... :oops:

    BTW, 0install isn't exactly a Linux portable platform, but it's the closest I've seen: http://0install.net/why.html. Techies might enjoy the intricacies of GoboLinux, too (http://www.gobolinux.org/).

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Re: Linux distro for a novice

#13 Post by TP109 » Mon Feb 02, 2015 1:54 pm

Midas wrote:As am I -- my computing savvy is anchored in Windows; I love Linux, I really do, but beyond the trivial I just can't depend on it for my daily computing...
I'm mostly in agreement with Midas and Userfriendly - that Linux does have a lot of limitations. I personally don't use it as a primary OS, except for PCs with old HW. On an old PC, Linux flies in comparison to Windows. It can make an older machine useful and responsive again. Without Linux, I probably wouldn't use those older machines at all.

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Re: Linux distro for a novice

#14 Post by joby_toss » Tue Feb 03, 2015 11:42 am

It's true that I am not sure I'll succeed in this endeavor, but I will not forgive myself if I will not try.

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Re: Linux distro for a novice

#15 Post by sgp » Wed Feb 04, 2015 6:28 am

Others have already mentioned Puppy linux. Try Puppy linux because:

- it's lightweight (ISO size 100MB and up, rarely over 400MB depending on how many apps it includes)
- community forum is supportive
- you can install it to a USB key (how's that for ultimate portability?)
- you can run it entirely in RAM (they call this "Live") - not even touch your hdd (if you so wish)
- you can install it to your hdd too - or mix ram/hdd (community calls that "frugal")
- there are many (maybe too many) variants (mixing window manager, packaging system, boot method, etc.)
- you run superuser without resorting to sudo (a linux command)
- it can (does) use self-contained dynamic application packages (they call this "SFS")
- it comes with all basic application needs covered (email,web,editing,writing,spreadsheet,music,video,etc.)
Cons:
- doesn't look as polished as Mint (it's not for the looks, but it ain't ugly either)
- "minority" distro (like most of them anyway, except for Ubuntu and Mint)
- you want to choose one puppy variant and stay with it, and there are many variants to choose from - consider: Precise and or Tahr 6, to begin with, then Slacko 6, then one puppy variant with LXDE (see top forum posts) - there's also a couple of outsiders with lots of merit: DebianDog, really a puppyized Debian distro at its core, BluePup and Chromebook, two chromebook like concepts that run very smoothly with a tile-based "desktop"

I've been through your same "struggle" - wanting to move away from Windows and towards linux as the only other sensible choice. I have discovered that getting rid of Windows after so much time invested in it is really hard. But puppy linux, with its ability to boot from USB, has helped me a lot. I would say that in order to succeed you do need to find an application of yours that really benefits from running on linux. If you don't have one, most likely you'll go back to Windows; your path of least resistance. In my case I found higher benefits in running some scientific applications in linux 64bit and some web-automation applications in 32 and/or 64 bit linux. I'm still using Windows, about 50% of my time, after about 12 months into my transition. I think it'll be another 6 to 12 months before I can stop using Windows - and maybe never, who knows.

If you're buying new hardware, it will most likely be 64 bit with UEFI boot. That kind of limits your choices of linux distros, including most puppy variants. For 64bit puppy look at Fatdog64 and the new (unstable) April64.

Have fun, you'll be learning a lot no matter what.

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