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Ask Slashdot: Easiest Linux Distro For a Newbie

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the low-difficulty dept.

Ubuntu 622

anymooseposter writes "My mom is taking a computer class at the local Community College. she asks: 'I need to download a Linux OS and try it out for class. The assignment is to use an OS different from what you normally use. Well, since I use Windows and OS X, the assignment suggests Linux. But, my question is, what is the easiest version based on Linux for me to put on CD and try? I saw several on the web. Any thoughts off the top of your head?' What Linux Disto would be easiest to set up without having to resort to dual booting and/or driver issues?"

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622 comments

Ubuntu + VMWare Player (2)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677114)

I assume this is going to be 99% of the suggestions. If your computer is old or slow, I suggest Xubuntu [xubuntu.org] which I've switched my old P4 to after the regular Ubuntu got a little too GUI intensive. Here's the link to VMWare [vmware.com] .

Re:Ubuntu + VMWare Player (3, Insightful)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677154)

DON'T run Linux under Windows. Just don't.

Re:Ubuntu + VMWare Player (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677176)

Don't run under windows. Ubuntu is the best for newbs.

Re:Ubuntu + VMWare Player (2)

kimvette (919543) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677200)

Why not? AndLinux makes Windows tolerable. :)

Re:Ubuntu + VMWare Player (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677258)

I've got to break some news to you - You're mother is at the local community college trying to pick up D&D players.

Re:Ubuntu + VMWare Player (1, Troll)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677336)

NOTHING makes Windows tolerable! God but I'll be glad when I retire and don't have to deal with Microsoft products.

If you like Windows, then stick with it. Me, I'd rather never see another MS program again. Well, Excel isn't too bad -- for a spreadsheet (I hate spreadsheets, too).

(Sudo mod me down?)

Re:Ubuntu + VMWare Player (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677270)

why not?

Re:Ubuntu + VMWare Player (4, Insightful)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677330)

why not?

Because.

The answer involves things far beyond newbie's understanding.

Re:Ubuntu + VMWare Player (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677370)

it's easier to install it in a vm like vmware or virtual box than it is on a modern laptop (getting power management working etc).

Re:Ubuntu + VMWare Player (0)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677438)

1. It's even easier to do nothing at all.
2. Actually modern laptops are fine -- it's the previous generation that was all messed up. At worst you can happen to have Optimus where only one of two graphics adapters is supported. I am posting this from Lenovo X220.
3. Who asked about laptops in the first place?!

I repeat, don't run Linux under Windows. Ever.

but thats how i started in 1996 (2)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677288)

if not for the crazy people who put linux ontop of a FAT filesystem (dont ask) i probably wouldnt be the successfull IT profes.. i mean .. homeless nutjob i am today.

Re:Ubuntu + VMWare Player (2)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677312)

Indeed. If you want both on the same machine, install it dual-boot. If she's running Windows on an Apple she could run it triple boot.

Of course, if you're just trying it out most distros let you run it from the CD without actually installing it.

Re:Ubuntu + VMWare Player (3, Insightful)

Bloodwine77 (913355) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677208)

Ubuntu is the most well-known distro for newbies, but I'd almost suggest Linux Mint which is just as easy but with less quirks.

Re:Ubuntu + VMWare Player (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677550)

Linux Mint is definitely a better choice than Ubuntu, and not just for newbies. The UI and layout of everything is a lot nicer and more logical.

Re:Ubuntu + VMWare Player (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677230)

Use a LiveCD, rather than running it virtualized.

Other than that, I'd have to agree. Normally I loathe Ubuntu... for Linux, it's sluggish, and somewhat erratic in how it's developped. But from a new-to-linux perspective, there's really only a handful of distros I'd consider to be in the same category as Ubuntu for general ease of installation/use. A great many are as easy to install but aren't as usable, and still many more are far more usable, but nowhere near as easy to install. For a basic project like the one described in the original post, Ubuntu would be a perfect distro.

Unless, of course, she's feeling adventurous and wants to try something like AROS or Haiku....

Re:Ubuntu + VMWare Player (5, Informative)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677444)

there's really only a handful of distros I'd consider to be in the same category as Ubuntu for general ease of installation/use

I see you've never installed Windows. Every Linux distro I've tried (Except Red Hat, and that was back in 1998) was brain-dead simple to install and completely painless, even Mandrake back in 2003.

Try typing in that forty digit key with 1s and ls and 0s and Os. And sit there having to click "yes" or "no" every two minutes for a solid hour -- with a whole lot of reboots. Then installing every application you'll need to do any actual work.

Compare that to installing ANY Linux distro; two screens of choices (only one with many distros), wait 1/2 hour with no babysitting (maybe change the CD) and one reboot, and you have a ready-to-use, functional machine.

Comparing installing Linux with installing Windows is like comparing driving a modern car with a model-T hand cranked Ford (Windows is the model T). People only think Windows is easy because they've used it all their lives. Those of us that cut our teeth on DOS (or even earlier machines, like a Sinclair or an Apple II or a Commodore) know better.

Re:Ubuntu + VMWare Player (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677536)

Comparing installing Linux with installing Windows is like comparing driving a modern car with a model-T hand cranked Ford (Windows is the model T). People only think Windows is easy because they've used it all their lives. Those of us that cut our teeth on DOS (or even earlier machines, like a Sinclair or an Apple II or a Commodore) know better.

Familiarity is part of it. Another big part (and heavily related to the topic at hand) is that Windows comes pre-installed on their machines, and since about Windows 98SE, very few people ever actually upgrade it -- they just buy a new laptop with the next NT and gripe about how different it is.

Re:Ubuntu + VMWare Player (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677290)

Why Ubuntu? She's familiar with OSX and Windows, I'd suggest something using a KDE desktop, which isn't that different than either one. Gnome is kind of weird if you ask me.

Kubunu iis a good one, combines Ubuntu with KDE. Wish Mandriva wasn't dead/dying, that was my all-time favorite.

Try Puppy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677332)

My first choice is Kubuntu, but the latest versions of Puppy Linux are very simple and user friendly, especially for running on a USB stick with persistence.

Re:Ubuntu + VMWare Player (1)

F.Ultra (1673484) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677354)

Well isn't the whole point of the exercise to expose the students (i.e his mother) to a differerent OS. Chossing one that is very similar to what she is using right now might not be the best solution then :)

Re:Ubuntu + VMWare Player (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677476)

I think choosing one that's very similar is a great idea, small changes are a lot easier than big ones after all. Maybe if she's able to figure out she can do everything in Linux that she can in the other OSes she'll stick with it.

Re:Ubuntu + VMWare Player (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677544)

Try Mageia - it's a fork of Mandriva, some of the developers from Mandriva defected to this project.
http://www.mageia.org

Rasp (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677124)

Is open solaris still around? Might give that a go. Everyone is gonna do Linux .. do something different.. be "that" guy.

And while there are lots of live-cd linux distros, for a more EXTREME experience, why not do it (or have your mother do it, wasn't clear on who was doing this assignment) in virtualbox or vmware or microsoft virtual PC (if that's still around?).. get the full experience.

Also does anyone remember what that Clint Eastwood movie is. The one where he straps a chunk of iron to his chest for this gunfight. It came up in a conversation and I can't for the life of me remember the name of it!

Re:Rasp (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677252)

A Fistful of Dollars

Re:Rasp (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677316)

Yes! Thanks!

LINUX IS NOT FOR KIDS !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677132)

Silly rabbit !!

I heard knoppix is decent... (1)

TWX (665546) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677142)

...if you don't plan to actually install. Alternatively, go download the Ultimate Boot CD [ultimatebootcd.com] and boot to the GUI for Parted Magic, which contains a browser, a command line tool, and a whole bunch of hard disk drive diagnostic and recovery tools, among other things. It's also useful for a bunch of other recovery and diagnosis stuff that doesn't use Linux, so it's good to have around for when the computer has a problem. I use it probably daily at work.

Knoppix (1)

gweihir (88907) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677144)

Can be used without installation in CD and DVD versions. Can also be installed to memory stick and to disk. You can have a persistent data area on a memory stick or a partition.

Re:Knoppix (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677294)

Same with Ubuntu. Or really any distro that you wish to install in such a manner. I've a Slackware USB drive that I use in such a way...

Re:Knoppix (1)

bahstid (927038) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677396)

Must second Knoppix.... I used one last week after not having used one for a few years and was REALLY impressed with the updates... This on a machine that neither Ubuntu (which I usually use for others (but am starting to reconsider)) or Fedora (which I always use for myself) could boot, at least with default options. Straight into Compiz too. Had kind of stopped using it after the other distro's started shipping as live discs too, but it was the most notable "Linux rocks!" moment I've had in the last few years... promised to seed it for a few months too.

Wubi (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677152)

Try Wubi with Ubuntu.

Re:Wubi (1)

Jerry (6400) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677366)

That will work until Ubuntu upgrades the kernel, which messes up the Grub, which makes Ubuntu inaccessible.

It would be better to run Ubuntu as a LiveCD IF she has enough RAM (4GB or more) and her CPU is fast enough. (dual core 2.2GHz or better) than use Wubi. IF things detect and run well she can install it as a dual boot. Or, better yet, give Ubuntu the whole HD.

Personally, I prefer Kubuntu. So would she, because Win7 copied much of KDE 4.5's look & feel in VISTA and Win7.

A live CD, duh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677160)

Just put Ubuntu on a disk and pop it in. If that doesn't work try another one like the Raptor forensic environment (those work on anything). Assuming this is just for show and tell.

Ubuntu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677164)

I know there are some that have had issues with the most recent generation of Ubuntu, so maybe try one from 2010 or older, but I have been very pleasantly surprised at how easily this distro installs and just seems to work with everything.
On my main computer I use Gentoo, which is a very different beast and I love it, but for ease of set up and use, I would suggest something in the Ubuntu family or I've heard good things about Mint as well.

Good luck!

Re:Ubuntu (1)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677524)

If you want to recommend a non-current version of Ubuntu, at least do it right -- it would be the latest LTS [ubuntu.com] release (10.04). Not that there is a good reason to run it on a personal desktop, as 11.04 is fine as it is, except for the choice of default desktop environment.

Puppy Linux (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677170)

Puppy Linux - Lucid 5.2 (it just works).

VMWare and Ubuntu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677172)

I would suggest using VMWare player to create a virtual environment and than install Ubuntu on it.

Damn Small Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677174)

Quick to download, can be loaded into RAM, runs better than having to read a CDROM all the time.

Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677182)

Grab a copy of Ubuntu 10.04 (notice not the latest). Let your mom get to know a more well developed Gnome interface which is fairly standard among distributions, and let others work the kinks out of the new Unity system.

Linux mint live CD (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677184)

By FAR the easiest and most comparable distro out of the box to Windows is Linux Mint. All of the good parts of Ubuntu with none of the broken stuff. It also comes with all the restricted multimedia drivers that make things easy to use in Microsoft land.

Re:Linux mint live CD (2)

Sinthet (2081954) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677470)

I second this. Ubuntu is a great place to start if you've already made a decision about using Linux. However, if you're unsure, Mint is the best choice. It's pretty, relatively small, and comes with all the drivers/plugins you'll need to avoid the first kiss of dependency hell you might otherwise encounter. If you want to ease someone into Linux, I'd say Mint is the best choice.

Any *ubuntu flavor is a good place to start.. (1)

intellitech (1912116) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677188)

Personally, I've found Ubuntu very useful in situations where I couldn't do any dedicated partioning for linux and only a bootable version would do. They're not the first or the only distro to offer a bootable linux kernel, but they typically provide a nice desktop interface and fair driver support. There's also an incredibly active community, with forums, where news posts are usually not even required (your question has been asked and answered countless times over, accessible via search).

http://www.ubuntu.com/ [ubuntu.com]
http://www.kubuntu.org/ [kubuntu.org]
http://www.xubuntu.org/ [xubuntu.org]

In the event she's looking to do some more serious introspection on linux, I would suggest Arch Linux. CLI from the start, and certainly not for the weak of heart. I started with Arch Linux years ago, because I like a challenge, and it definitely paid off in the long run.

http://www.archlinux.org/ [archlinux.org]

Ubuntu + Wubi (4, Informative)

Galaga88 (148206) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677190)

Ubuntu using Wubi is pretty brain dead easy to install. No partitioning required, it lives inside your Windows filesystem and handles adding itself to your boot menu.

Performance is slightly degraded, and bugs can come up with regards to hard reboots, but really it's the best option I know of if you're not running off a USB stick or DVD.

Linux Mint (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677204)

I think Linux Mint is the best, although I haven't tried too many. It comes with a bunch of software pre-loaded and it is easy to use.

If she wants some serious street cred, install BackTrack linux and get it setup...

Just go with Ubuntu (4, Insightful)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677206)

Just go with Ubuntu. Its designed to be friendlier for beginners and there is pretty good documentation on typical end user wants and needs. Some other distros can have more of a by-nerds-for-nerds orientation and the community response to beginner questions is "go read the man pages", or the distros can be more puritanical in nature, no binary drivers etc. There's nothing wrong with these perspectives, unless you are a beginner just trying out Linux rather than someone who has decided to dedicate themselves to Linux and is willing to invest the extra time. Fedora may not be bad for beginners either.

Now let the flaming begin ... :-)

Re:Just go with Ubuntu (3, Interesting)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677528)

I agree. My grandparents, my 80 year old (retired air-force mechanic) neighbour, my Aunt and Uncles all use Ubuntu and have never even used a CLI.

In my experience non-technical people have no more difficulty adapting to Ubuntu than they do upgrading from XP to Win7. Additionally, Gnome's drag n drop threshold is great for people with shaky hands, but I would suggest increasing the window border size for ease of resizing (1px resize regions?! Are you MAD?). It seems the biggest hurdle keeping average folks from using Linux is just lack of exposure.

Once I introduce them to the Application repository ("Oh, so it's a free App Store?", yes Grandma, to you it is...), and set updates to install automatically they're all set. Hell, it's so easy that my Grandpa "accidentally" upgraded to the latest LTS version.

I even install Linux instead of Win7 for my friends and family: "Try Linux out first; It's free, so why not? If you don't like we can always buy the Windows7 upgrade later." Even if someone goes with Windows, or OSX, there's no real reason not to have a Linux boot option just in case the other OS gets hosed -- This has saved me "urgent" weekend visits more times than I can count, and some folks choose to stick with Linux afterwards, heh.

Now my friends and relatives call me just to talk instead of also guiltily dropping hints that they need me to fix their computers...

minty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677210)

Linux mint is easiest, hence why it keeps rising on distro watch, a lot more useful things by default.

Download the iso to a cd or use unetbootit to install it to a USB drive and boot into it.

Start with a LiveCD (3, Insightful)

yuna49 (905461) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677214)

Whatever distribution you choose, start with a LiveCD and boot from that. You won't have to make any changes to the computer at all. If you can install to a USB pendrive [ubuntu.com] , it will be reasonably quick, too.

If the computer is reasonably hefty, with a modern processor and at least 1 GB of memory, I'd try Kubuntu 10.10 because I think the KDE desktop looks more like what someone used to Windows would expect. Otherwise, try Ubuntu 10.04LTS for the GNOME experience and avoid Ubuntu 11.04. It has an entirely different desktop environment (Unity) and is probably too buggy for someone whose never touched Linux before.

I haven't used Fedora in quite a while so I'm not competent to discuss its current incarnations. I've never taken to OpenSuSE, but I'm sure others here will tell you why to use that. Mandriva is likely to get some endorsements as well.

Try Edubuntu? (2)

olyar (591892) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677220)

You might have her try out Edubuntu. It is pretty different than just another OS, but I think it does a good job of showing how Linux can fit a specific niche in a really interesting way.

They also have a "Weblive" version where you can play with it for 2 hours online before even downloading. That's here [edubuntu.org]

Linux Mint (4, Informative)

tdelaney (458893) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677228)

Linux Mint [linuxmint.com] is easily the most Linux-newbie-friendly distribution I've ever used. It also scales well to an experienced user. It uses an Ubuntu base (unless you use Linux Mint Debian Edition but I strongly advise against that for a newbie).

Depending on hardware capabilities there are heavyweight (Gnome, KDE) and lightweight (Xfce, LXDE) versions.

You can install it using mintinstall (wubi) from inside Windows (you need to use the CD version for this, but it's then very simple to upgrade to the DVD version once you're inside Linux Mint). Doing this means you can dual-boot without repartitioning - for your mum this sounds like the best option.

Re:Linux Mint (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677520)

I've got to agree. For newbies, Mint is the way to go. The simplicity of Ubuntu, stability via its Debian roots and all with less crap to install.

Linux Mint 11 (1)

jamesgamble (917138) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677232)

It seems like Linux Mint takes the current stable version of Ubuntu and just makes it feel... tighter. It also helps that they write some of their own software to make administering the system easier.

Re:Linux Mint 11 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677348)

Yep, Mint all the way.

They make it really simple

Go Green! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677234)

I would recommend Linux Mint. It's built off of Ubuntu, but seems to be geared more to the new user.
TL:DR - Linux Mint

Ubuntu Live CD (1)

mroell (819999) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677254)

An Ubuntu Live CD is the answer. You can boot it up on any x86 system and use it to your heart's content. you won't be able to save anything, unless you mount your local drive and save there, or pop in a USB stick.

Re:Ubuntu Live CD (1)

PopCultureDiva (844267) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677306)

An Ubuntu Live CD is the answer. You can boot it up on any x86 system and use it to your heart's content. you won't be able to save anything, unless you mount your local drive and save there, or pop in a USB stick.

Yes, I would agree, run Ubuntu off the CD.

Linux Mint (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677260)

Linux Mint, hands down. Speaking from experience here.

ubuntu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677262)

I agree that Ubuntu is probably one of the most user friendly distros out there! It has all of the features you're accustomed to. Plus the community surrounding it is awesome!

Most all of the major nix distros have what are called "live cd's" which allow you to run the OS right from a burned cd/dvd which allow you to preview (and use most of the features. Those features that don't require writing to your hd) the operating system. Actually, when you burn Ubuntu to cd/dvd, and you put it in your drive to install, it will come up and ask you if you'd like to install the OS or to run it straight from the cd.

http://distrowatch.com/ is a great site that covers linux distributions.

Hope this helped.

Ubuntu! (1)

CoolVibe (11466) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677266)

Like others said, just go for Ubuntu. Easy to find, easy to install, and with WUBI easy to roll back from if the Ubuntu experience didn't convince her. If your mom doesn't like Unity, you can use the default gnome desktop (not gnome-shell) that it still ships with, or just avoid the issue alltogether and go for the other *buntu flavours. And yes, I hear good things about Mint too, because of the whole community driven software center they have had even before Ubuntu had it.

Puppy Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677274)

Puppy is small and fast enough that it's likely to run on whatever computer you've got. Plus, booting from CD is recommended s.o.p. No changes necessary to your disks. If it boots, assignment completed!

Gentoo (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677284)

Gentoo - By far the easiest!
* no need for a mouse to install it!
* don't have to boot a live cd
* don't have to dual boot (just have it take over)
* no hard to understand buttons - if you can read, you can install it!

Re:Gentoo (1)

Lucky75 (1265142) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677402)

On the negative side, you need to compile EVERYTHING.

Re:Gentoo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677532)

Compiling stuff is a negative? More like an added bonus, kick back with my 720p bash shell on my 96 inch projector and watch the magic happen while I eat dinner :)

Why not Chrome? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677304)

last i checked Hexxeh has a version of Chrome OS bootable from a USB drive.
it's an OS so it's good to go.

ubuntu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677308)

of the handful of linux distributions i've been following over the years, ubuntu proved to be the one that's most easy to install and maintain. every now and then, users who i recommended it to report it to be much easier than they expected.

(i don't actually like to use it myself because i am a longtime debian user and advocate. the layers of abstraction built on top of ubuntu's debian roots are a good simplification for newcomers, but they tend to confuse me. ubuntu may be the best (tm) distro there is out there, but i am a prisoner to my expecations from using, learning and loving the debian way to do things. i am sure you and your mom will very much like ubuntu!) .~.

Pah! Kids These Days! (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677314)

Does said University not have a computer center with miscellaneous Big Iron? Getting exposure to IBM's CMS or Dec's VMS was a high point of my college career. Teaching myself about signal handling in assembly language in VMS because no one on the staff knew how to do that was a blast.

But yeah I guess go for a Ubuntu live CD or something. You probably don't want to try to actually install the OS on a computer that's currently in-use, since doing that without clobbering something tends to be a bit of a challenge.

Sad thing is your mom can probably get away without ever opening a command prompt. If she starts doing term papers with Emacs and LaTeX, you could have a different problem on your hands...

Re:Pah! Kids These Days! (1)

kwiqsilver (585008) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677448)

...said University...

You mean the local Community College? I doubt they have anything more powerful or bigger than a 10 year old Dell server running Win2k (and no less than three different rootkits).

Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677326)

Ubuntu 10.04 LTS

Mint (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677328)

Linux Mint, it's like Ubuntu, except not rubbish.

Answer is None (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677338)

If you're going to use ANY Linux distribution as a desktop vs Windows or MAC, either do it and be very disappointed or don't...
Servers on the other hand, well we all know the answer to that one.

use a live CD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677344)

Run any of the Live CDs

Fedora (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677376)

Ubuntu documentation tends to be written by people who are just discovering linux, or are not power users. In my experience, half of the things you find on the internet regarding Ubuntu are either false, or a roundabout method to accomplish whatever task you're trying to. And as far as the IRC channel help goes, I wish anyone seeking help there the best of luck following a conversation with 1500 users join/part/quitting and five people talking over each other at a time.

Fedora is bleeding-edge, so there shouldn't be any hardware issues (unlike CentOS). Learning any Linux OS is a little rough at first--especially if one has never used a terminal--but in my experience, Red Hat systems just make more sense.

Just set her up with a heavy and slow desktop environment, and it will feel like Windows. If she's avoiding the terminal, which may very well be the case, the OS might not matter as much as the desktop environment.

Debian. (1)

Baloo Uriza (1582831) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677388)

I'm probably going to take some flack for this, but here's why I say Debian Stable:
  • Debian has the most software packages available in the default repositories. If Debian doesn't have it in it's repos, there's a good chance it doesn't exist yet.
  • Most software developers for Linux (save for a few folks targeting Red Hat Enterprise) run and test on Debian themselves. It's the closest to a "pure" Linux you're going to get without rolling it yourself at this point. Your odds of "it just works" are highest on Debian as a result.
  • The debian-installer is brutally simple. Ever install Windows? Then you'll be pleasantly surprised that installing an OS can be painless. When in doubt, just hit enter and go with the defaults...it'll work.
  • Lacks the dirty hipster factor of Ubuntu. If you want Ubuntu, but don't wear skinny jeans, ride a fixie, live in Portland or drink PBR, then you're really looking for Debian.
  • Software in the Public Interest isn't going anywhere. Canonical could fold at Shuttleworth's whim, and that would leave Ubuntu where?

Try Debian. Mikey likes it, and he hates everything!

Re:Debian. (1)

paultag (1284116) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677416)

Hi there. Ubuntu community member here. We have the "Ubuntu Foundation", which is a trust with 10 Million in it if Canonical folds. Kthx, have a nice day,

Re:Debian. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677494)

Hi there. Debian developer here.

Good luck with your $10m if we fold upstream. Just saying.

Kthx, have a nice day.

Insane! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677392)

NO beginner (which means anyone who doesn't already have a strong opinion on the best Linux) should be assigned to download and load an OS into their personal computer. The risks of driving Windows nucking futz is simply too great! The school should provide a computer with Linux already installed for students to use in order to 'experience the Linux environment'.

    Anybody who is reading this has a definition of 'easy to use and install' that FAR more difficult than any non-Slashdot reader would consider easy.

    Generally people who are beginners and successfully manage to load Linux in any distro spend about 15 minutes trying it out and then decide "What's the point of this?" and then go back to Windows forever. Nobody goes to Linux from Windows unless they are a techno freak or have no money and their computer is destroyed by viruses. Nobody who uses a Mac ever leaves the Mac for Linux. Sad but true.

Another vote for Linux Mint (1)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677408)

I was a longtime Ubuntu user until they started changing things too rapidly for no reason that made sense to me. I tried Fedora for awhile - liked it - but absolutely love Mint.

Fast, fast, fast even on my old Dell laptop and I agree with the poster above who said it just feels right. Tight, stable and what i would recommend to any newbie. I've used most of the distros over the years - since 1995 - and this one is the best.

And this might be a minor point but it seems to me that the Mint support forums are especially friendly - polite. I kind of like that.

DOS? (1)

kwiqsilver (585008) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677410)

I'd put DOS on a VM. Not because it's even a passable OS; purely for the absurdity of it. Then record a screencast of her randomly typing in words hoping that it will get the computer to do something useful, before finally giving up, sobbing. (Just make sure your birthday isn't coming up soon.)

Puppy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677478)

Has no one suggested Puppy Linux? It is the best LiveCD I've ever used, and it can easily access files from whatever OS is installed on the harddrive.

MacPup (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677482)

I run a website for non-technical users and always suggest macpup. it's small for a fast download. see http://www.healthypasswords.com/LiveDistroList.html

Save up your pennies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677492)

Go buy a real OS based on UNIX. Buy a Mac.

NOT Ubuntu -- try Mandriva. (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677516)

Everyone's going to suggest Ubuntu. But every time I've tried Ubuntu I've run into countless problems with it detecting hardware -- especially network cards. And every Ubuntu liveCD I've ever tried has been complete garbage.

Go with Mandriva. The LiveCD is excellent, the installer is the best I've ever seen, and every set of hardware I've ever thrown at it just works, straight off the install. None of the endless hours of screwing with things like Ndiswrapper that you get with Ubuntu. And it's got excellent config tools that will handle pretty much anything you want to do.

Pinguy OS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36677538)

Surprised no one has said Pinguy! It's a customized Ubuntu that I LOVE especially for laptops. Would be great for Mac users also.

Is there extra credit available? (2, Insightful)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 2 years ago | (#36677542)

If so you could go for FreeBSD or Solaris. Or get really crazy and try to find a copy of BeOS or OS/2.

After all, the summary just said "an OS other than what you usually use", it didn't say it had to be Linux. And most of the people there will likely go with Linux anyways, so why not be different?
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