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» The Ornery American Forum » General Comments » What's the best Linux OS?

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Author Topic: What's the best Linux OS?
velcro
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We got a used PC and my son would like to install a Linux OS. We looked at Mandrake, Debian and Fedora. Any recommendations or comments? Free is better, but cheap is OK [Wink]

Thanks,

V

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DaveS
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I use fedora core 5 on Athlon64 w/ 1GB RAM. I'm happy with it.
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velcro
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How about Ubuntu?
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Storm Saxon
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I am by no means a Linux guru, but I've played around with some of the distros and I think it genuinely doesn't matter a whole lot which distro you use. The CLI pretty much works the same in them all. [Wink]

I will say that I was able to install Fedora Core 5 with ease on a system with a SATA drive, whereas Ubuntu choked.

On the other hand, Fed Core 5's base install is 5 cds large, whereas Ubuntu's is one CD.

I like Gentoo for learning about Linux as it kind of forces you to interact with the OS as you set it up and explains what your choices are and why you might want to make one over the other.

Ubuntu starts you off with what was, to me, a non-standard desktop interface, which I found annoying.

All the distros are free. You have have to download them in ISO and make a bootable CD and bob's your uncle.

http://distrowatch.com/

Overview for most/many of the distros, along with links to the websites.

Oh, another option is to put Damn Small Linux on a thumb drive and use that. It's really easy.

[ September 16, 2006, 01:13 PM: Message edited by: Storm Saxon ]

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Storm Saxon
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Also, depending on what you mean by 'used system', you might just want to install Windows on the system, download MS Virtual PC (it's free) and use Linux within Windows. Damn Small Linux can be used windowed within Windows, too, I think.
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FiredrakeRAGE
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I like Fedora myself.
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velcro
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Thanks for all the help.

My son is 11, so I am looking for something relatively simple, but still educational.

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pickled shuttlecock
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I love Ubuntu. It's very simple, generally sets itself up well (I've never had it do anything drastically stupid upon install), has a very extensive package database for anything you'd want, and, of course, it's Linux, so it stays out of your way and lets you get things done. It also lets you tinker like crazy if you're into that sort of thing.

It's like Debian, but it takes less work to use. I've been using it for CS research for a year now, and I don't miss Windows whatsoever.

If you don't know whether it'll work on your hardware, download the "Desktop" ISO from ubuntu.com and burn it. Pop it in, and within a few minutes - if Ubuntu likes your hardware, which it should - you'll have a fully-functioning Ubuntu system. To make the change permanent (the live CD doesn't alter your hard drive at all), click the "Install" icon on the desktop.

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CardassianScot
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I've played with Ubuntu, SuSE, Mandriva and PCLinuxOS.

PCLinuxOS is quite windows like and has a lot of nice stuff already there and ready to go when it comes to multimedia but it's hardware recognition is not as good as the others and I've had one or two issues with getting postfix to work properly.

SuSE and Mandriva have some nice configuration tools, personally I prefer SuSE's tools but I've also found it to be slightly slower on older hardware than Mandriva or Ubuntu. I stopped using Mandrake (as Mandriva was then called) when it's automounting of CD drives and USB keys was unstable, although this has now been fixed, but I'd already moved on.

I currently use mostly Ubuntu, mainly for it's package management, easyubuntu for getting multimedia working, it's generally good default settings and xgl. In general it's great for desktop use, but if you want to get a mail server or samba or other server tools working then you're going to have to work a bit harder. I was particularly disappointed with postfix, which doesn't seem to have an out of the box configuration. It also has a few quirks like using sudo that will cause a few issues if you are used to linux and want to do something like install crossover office. Nothing that can't be solved by googling but stuff that isn't there with other distros.

So what do you want your son to do with this computer?

1. Wordprocess, surf, email, instant message, general windows replacement but introduce linux? Ubuntu
2. all of the above plus experiment with setting up mail servers, web servers, spam filtering etc.? Try SuSE as it has nice config tools to get him started which produce initial config files which he can then try to play about with if he wants to take things further.
3. Primarily multimedia? Try Ubuntu with easyubuntu.

Hope that helps. As with all things linux that's just my opinion and you'll find plenty who'll disagree.

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LetterRip
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I'd say edubuntu, a branch of ubuntu with more of focus that can be useful to that age range. It will have both more artistics, kid friendly, and educational software than most of the other installs.

LetterRip

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Adam Lassek
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In terms of simplicity, I've not seen anything better than Novell's SuSE Enterprise Desktop, with a redesigned Gnome interface and integrated Beagle search. Plus it has all kinds of cool eye candy to rival Mac OS. The downside is, it costs $50 a year.

If you're looking for free, I would check out OpenSuSE, Fedora or Ubuntu. The problem with free distros is that they are legally forbidden from including out-of-the-box support for things like DVD playback, proprietary video codecs and MP3 playback which can be a little tricky to install if you're new to Linux. Most distros have third-party package trees that will let you install support for these things, though. Check the discussion forums for each respective distro for help.

Personally I've used Gentoo for years and I love it, but I would also strongly recommend to stay the hell away [Wink] It's not for the faint of heart.

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pickled shuttlecock
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If you really want him to have a great learning experience, have him do Linux From Scratch.

Ho, boy. It was a bear to do, but I knew that system (and most others now) inside and out. Of course, you wouldn't want to scare him away...

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velcro
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Linux From Scratch looks tempting, maybe after we have a few months of Linux under our belt.

We tried downloading the desktop ISO for Ubuntu a few times, from different mirrors and with different browsers, but haven't been able to get the whole thing. I'll try from work.

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velcro
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We tried DSL (Damn Small Linux) on a Live CD and that worked. I think that is what we will go with until we get the used PC running, and then Ubuntu. We may try the LSF, but slowly.

Thanks for all the help,

V

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Adam Lassek
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If you're having trouble downloading the large ISOs, have you considered using Bittorrent? You don't have to worry about the mirror stalling partway through and you'll usually get it faster.

Fedora
Ubuntu
OpenSuSE

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LinuxFreakus
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I have tried pretty much every major distro at some point, and I have to say that my hands down favorite is Gentoo.

The reason is simple, it keeps packages up to date, it is source based and system maintenance is fast and clean using the automated build system called portage which works on many platforms. I can even build a whole system from scratch for my AlphaServer. Not many other distros even support alpha at all, let alone provide an easy way to get the same up to date applications as the x86 builds.

Gentoo Linux

[ September 18, 2006, 04:06 PM: Message edited by: LinuxFreakus ]

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LinuxFreakus
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On second thought, if he has never used linux before, I might advise the Debian distro. It is a lot more "plug and play". Gentoo does have a graphical installer now, but unless you know what you are doing you can run into trouble pretty easily. Debian is more forgiving, and the package management tool is graphical.

I forget that compling everything from source code can be a little too much for those who just want a working computer to browse the web/read email/play some games. I have no idea how old/advanced your son is.

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