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Ask Slashdot: New To Linux; Which Distro?

timothy posted 1 year,24 days | from the pick-and-choose dept.

Operating Systems 573

An anonymous reader writes "I'm a very new user to Linux looking for a distro that allows me to control and customize, but I'm not sure where to start. I had a friend install Ubuntu 12.04 on my computer, with the E17 window manager and somehow I managed to crash it during the copying of some non-important files and now my computer won't boot (the hardware's fine though). I've found descriptions of Arch Linux to be spot on to what I'm looking for and want (Slashdot user serviscope_minor mentioned Arch a couple weeks ago and it caught my attention), but my experience in the terminal is literally about an hour. That said, I really want to learn more, don't mind hard work, enjoy challenges, and am perfectly willing to spend hours and hours for months on end to learn command line. Any suggestions, projects to start with, books to read, or tutorials to do to try would be appreciated."

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573 comments

Reinstall Ubuntu. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43263877)

Don't go looking for trouble. If you couldn't handle Ubuntu, Arch will drive you insane.

Re:Reinstall Ubuntu. (4, Insightful)

arekin (2605525) | 1 year,24 days | (#43263947)

Don't go looking for trouble. If you couldn't handle Ubuntu, Arch will drive you insane.

1000 times this.

Re:Reinstall Ubuntu. (4, Insightful)

Gordonjcp (186804) | 1 year,24 days | (#43263991)

And a bunch more times, and I *like* Arch. I still switched back to Ubuntu for my primary desktop and laptop though, because Arch seems to spend half its time broken in some weird and mysterious way because of an inadequately-tested package somewhere.

Re:Reinstall Ubuntu. (5, Insightful)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264051)

And, as pointed out in the Firehose: if you crashed an OS (be it Windows or OSX or Linux or BSD or anything) by moving some files around, then either (i) they were not unimportant files and you must have been running with privilege escalated, or (ii) you have some kind of hardware problem, which could be intermittent.

Re:Reinstall Ubuntu. (1)

zakkudo (2638939) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264233)

Arch leaves most of their packages as vanilla as possible. Packages are generally only broken during a *large* transition or if the upstream are broken.

While I learned on Ubuntu way back when, once you have a bit of experience Arch is a far better experience. Arch is KISS, Ubuntu is not. You also don't have those awkard 6 month release cycles where you feel like your whole system was just gutten for a new architeture.

Re:Reinstall Ubuntu. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43264053)

Oh, nonsense. If you are moderately technically competent, the distros which try to be "user-friendly" are usually the worst, as you have to get used to all their complex quirks and custom methods.

Something simple like Slackware or Debian stable is a much healthier and less frustrating learning experience.

Re:Reinstall Ubuntu. (5, Insightful)

ZeroPly (881915) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264081)

As a long time Linux user, I agree wholeheartedly. I started with Slackware before version 2.0 came out, in the early 90's. I used Slackware for years, then Red Hat, and nowadays Ubuntu. If you want to be cool and different, yeah, there's plenty of niche distros out there. For my main work computer (at home), I don't want drama, and I'm not intent on making any ideological points. I just want Gnucash, LibreOffice, etc. to run reliably, updates to be easy, and maintenance time to be a small fraction of usage time. Ubuntu works great for that. If you want to experiment, throw a distro on a VM, or on a spare test machine.

Yes, there's lots of discussion about GUI and the direction Canonical is heading in. I don't care. I have an Ubuntu Server 12.04 box as a firewall in my basement, another Ubuntu Server 12.04 box right next to it for DNS/DHCP/file shares, and Ubuntu Desktop 12.04 on the computer I'm posting this through. Works great, excellent uptime, and upgrades/installs are fairly fool-proof.

Re:Reinstall Ubuntu. (3, Insightful)

1u3hr (530656) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264087)

Ubuntu has a command line, as many as you want.
Every distro does.Just open a terminal.

It just has a lot of glossy tools as well.

It's hard to get a more hands-on Linux installed and working correctly for a newbie. Ubuntu is pretty foolproof to install. Then you have an environment you can learn in.

Re:Reinstall Ubuntu. (2)

mysidia (191772) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264165)

I started with Slackware, back when Ubuntu didn't exist. If you're not happy with Ubuntu's stability, you don't have to start with it.

Re:Reinstall Ubuntu. (4, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264183)

Seriously. Walk before you run. Use Ubuntu to learn, and then move on. If you want to play with lots of different *nix just to lean, install Ubuntu, intall Virtualbox, then install anything else as a virtual machine. That way you can play and learn and if something borks just reload the backup image.

The thing is that *nix, unlike say MS WIndows, is set up to do useful work, so some of the vanity customization is not there are is other OS. Also, although there are many managers, some are more useful than others.

I disagree! (1)

quadrox (1174915) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264241)

My very first Linux distro was gentoo, and I would still prefer it over ubuntu any day (mostly because ubuntu has gone to shit the last few years).

Arch Linux is not bad for beginners, but if you want to have it a bit easier you can try Manjaro. It is based on Arch but has a somewhat more user friendly installer. Definitely give it a go, it's the only distro that allows you to have it your way without getting bogged down in too many details you don't care about. Arch really cares about KISS and it shows.

Re:Reinstall Ubuntu. (2)

JamesTRexx (675890) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264249)

I don't think it's his handling of Ubuntu but more that Ubuntu (which is just Debian testing + unstable) can do weird things.

I suggest running Debian stable (although testing and even unstable run fine here) with the stable, backported, contrib and non-free packages first.
When you're comfortable with that setup installing the latest software directly (outside the Debian repositories) from source/.deb packages is next. This should give you up-to-date software like with Arch.

E17 isn't available right now in the Debian repository, but I suggest looking at fluxbox as it keeps all the distraction away from the desktop and provides a simple way to run programs (which is what's it all about).
As an alternative look into FreeBSD, my first open source server/desktop that I used.

Re:Reinstall Ubuntu. (1)

Ruede (824831) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264251)

word ^^

i think ubuntu or better kubuntu.

kde is a bit more wholesome than gnome unity or whatever the default desktop environment

ubuntu as a base has great support etc..

Obvious choice (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43263879)

The obvious choicFreeBSD

Windows 7 (1, Troll)

soupbowl (1849394) | 1 year,24 days | (#43263883)

Windows 7, it won't crash while you are moving important files.

Re:Windows 7 (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43264021)

Windows 7, it won't crash while you are moving important files.

Ranks right up there with "I promise not to cum in your mouth" as one of the great lies of our time.

Xubuntu (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43263885)

Xubuntu. Customization + hardware support + debian repo. :-)

Seriously. (-1, Redundant)

Freshly Exhumed (105597) | 1 year,24 days | (#43263889)

1. Open a web browser

2. go to a search engine (such as https://duckduckgo.com/ [duckduckgo.com])

3. copy/paste the following text string to find everything you will ever need to know about best Linux distros for newcomers:

"best linux distro for newcomers"

4. repeat as necessary with other search engines

Re:Seriously. (5, Insightful)

pijokela (462279) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264007)

Somebody has to actually answer the question for there to be good pages for google to find. This sort of thing also ages pretty quickly, so I think it's worth reanswering at least yearly. Finally, this guy seems to want something that will teach him interesting stuff - not just something that has working flash etc.

So I definately think that this is a good question for SlashDot.

And personally I would recommend reinstalling Ubuntu. If you only have an hour of experience with the command line you probably haven't noticed that underneath Ubuntu is just about as "Linux" as any other Linux. Reinstall it and this time create a separate /home partition so that reinstalling the next time will not be painful. And then, learn to program - that's a nice 10 year project. :)

Re:Seriously. (3, Insightful)

Internal Modem (1281796) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264167)

+1

I hate following a link from a search engine, just to see a snarky "go to a search engine" reply for the question I searched.

SuSE (5, Insightful)

Rydia (556444) | 1 year,24 days | (#43263891)

SuSE has the best installation and configuration utility and has a ton of helpful user-run repos for packages. It also has builds for basically every windowing system, so you can pick your preference without any hacking, and when you do want to get down to brass tacks, the system will get out of your way (now that suseconfig is gone) and let you tinker as much as you please.

And when you screw everything up (half the fun, right?), it ships with a fantastic system repair tool to get you back on your feet. You can also use SuSE Studio to make a custom image if you have weird hardware.

It's a really great linux experience.

Re:SuSE (1)

RudyHartmann (1032120) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264061)

OpenSuse has as the default desktop KDE 4.10.1. It's a stable UI and very customizable too. I love it. I just installed it on a bunch of computers.

Re:SuSE (1)

houghi (78078) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264245)

And if you do not like KDE, you can get GNOME, XFCE and LXDE all from the same media.

It is possible to add them, but I would recommend on starting over again. Just download the DVD.

Sure, it is not needed to start the installation process all over again, but it makes you learn things on how to do it when things break. When I started with Linux (SuSE 5.4 I think) I did a LOT of re-installations.

The big point for openSUSE is YaST. Much more then just a shell around the RPM installer. I configures a lot of things.

Re:SuSE (2, Insightful)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264177)

SuSE has the best installation and configuration utility

Not to be a dick, but SuSE is the last distro any Linux enthusiast should be suggesting. Their microsoft pact f#cked the rest of the community[0]

Everyone who was using Ubuntu switched to Linux Mint[1] after Shuttleworth decided Amazon needed to know what you do online.

[0] - http://arstechnica.com/business/2006/11/8141/ [arstechnica.com]
[1] - http://linuxmint.com/ [linuxmint.com]

lmgtfy: (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43263893)

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=newbie+linux+distro

Arch Linux is for you (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43263895)

Arch Linux is a good fit for what you are describing. The wiki goes into all the detail you need, it will take time but you'll get there with perseverance. Enjoy learning Linux no matter what you decide!

Re:Arch Linux is for you (4, Interesting)

The Mighty Buzzard (878441) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264151)

I love Arch myself but NO. Arch regularly makes changes that will leave your system thoroughly hosed if you update without watching the news feed. That's not even sysadmin-friendly much less noob-friendly.

try them all (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43263897)

wasting time trying everything until things work enough the way you need or you figure out what is wrong is what Linux is all about........

Unwelcome suggestion (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43263901)

IMHO, you would find far more satisfaction studying and learning math, science, history, philosophy, even programming, etc than the trivia that is Linux command line usage.

Re:Unwelcome suggestion (0)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264235)

doubleplus good. there's a whole world of knowledge out there, and we have so little time to appreciate it. is this your top priority? do you play a musical instrument? know how to cook fine foods?

vanilla Ubuntu. (1)

taxman_10m (41083) | 1 year,24 days | (#43263903)

It's the distro with the largest user base and I'd assume the most active forums, which is a helpful thing when you have questions.

Re:vanilla Ubuntu. (1)

dkegel (904729) | 1 year,24 days | (#43263977)

+1 to that. Don't try to customize so much. Just use Ubuntu 12.04 (or 12.10) the way it comes. Once you've used to that for a month, then maybe customize. But don't go fooling around with E17 or the like until you're quite sure you know what you're doing.

Re:vanilla Ubuntu. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43264091)

And by the time you know what you're doing, you'll know why those of us who know what we're doing don't touch E. ;)

Re:vanilla Ubuntu. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43264135)

Sorry, you won't impress the other 20 year old computer science students* with Ubuntu. To really get into Linux, you need to think like a nerd hipster.

(* nobody else uses linux on the desktop so this is a safe assumption)

I've tried a few different ones (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43263905)

And I'm currently running a few different boxes with CentOS. Quite solid - it's based off Red Hat. Very secure, lots of support. GUI or command line, whichever you prefer.

slackware (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43263911)

... because it still works just like 1994

Go where the documentation is (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43263915)

As you said, you were able to find descriptions regarding arch linux. I find their documentation and message forums to be the best of any distro that I have tried. It takes time to learn the command line, but once you do, then I find it easier to follow instructions that are well documented then fixing something that isn't well documented because it is supposed to "just work."

You from Jersey? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43263919)

Which exit?

If you're interesting in an IT career (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43263921)

CentOS might be the best; it's a clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, without paid support. (Red Hat's stated position is that it doesn't mind CentOS's existence). So if you learn that, you'd be able to leverage that for job opportunities based on RHEL, which is the industry leader on the server side.

One drawback: RHEL (and by extension CentOS) is oriented towards the enterprise rather than the consumer desktop; and towards the tried and true, rather than the latest and greatest. This is response to what its customers (IT administrators who have serious work to accomplish) have told them they're interested in. So it's probably not going to be a great platform for running games, for example - well it could be, but you'll have to be spend a lot of time downloading RPMs and trying to get things to work.

Sabayon FTW~!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43263923)

if you want a solid Gentoo distro w/ all the eye-candy & futuristic desktop environment.. try Saba

what's it for? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43263929)

If for learning the command line, you want Debian stable.

Ditto if you want to learn F/OSS server software.

Why not FreeBSD ? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43263937)

It's the cleanest playground for learning the proper way to *NIX

Choose any Distro with... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43263941)

Choose any Distro with GNOME 3, Systemd and Pulseaudio and you can't go wrong.

many people will suggest LFS (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43263945)

You would lead a happier life if you chose to ignore their advice

Debian (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43263949)

I installed debian on my desktop in 2004, and I am still using it (on a desktop, a laptop and a netbook). Tried ubuntu, fedora, slackware, mandriva, always came back to debian (never as fast as the one time I gave kubuntu a chance). The only tedious thing was installing the closed-source drivers for my graphic cards.

Debian (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43263959)

Most other distros copy it anyway, might as well get the real McCoy.

If you're concerned about software freedom, consider is gNewSense, a Free-only debian derivative.

Start slow (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43263965)

I would suggest - Install Ubuntu with unity (or kde or gnome ..) for starters ... install Virtualbox and do full Archlinux installation there (up to desktop manager etc, so that everything is running and working and you know how you got there).
Then you will be able to use terminal a bit and can install Archlinux on the system itself. Day to day usage of Arch normally does not involve much work on terminal.

Linux Mint (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43263967)

If you're new to Linux, don't use Arch. Arch requires far too much hacking to get work and although I myself am a fan, a newbie will likely rage right back to Windows. The best casual distro right now is Linux Mint (With Cinnamon as a display manager) IMO. Linux Mint fixes what Ubuntu got wrong (Unity) and Cinnamon is a beautiful display manager with intuitive and familiar design.

As for working with the terminal, you need some motivation to keep you revisiting. Personally, my motivation was coding in C using gcc as a compiler, and vim as an editor. If you are up for a 'fun' time learning, use Vim exclusively as your text editor.

*snort* (2)

Aglassis (10161) | 1 year,24 days | (#43263969)

I had a friend install Ubuntu 12.04 on my computer, with the E17 window manager and somehow I managed to crash it during the copying of some non-important files and now my computer won't boot (the hardware's fine though).

Ha ha! This reminds me of my first Linux experience, c. '95 or '96 with a kernel version 1.1 (Slackware version ????) that I got from a CD in a book. I experimented with mkfs(8). I learned a good lesson!

fix it (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43263973)

If you really want to learn you might be better off having somebody walk you through fixing your existing system.

Grenade!! (5, Insightful)

RedHat Rocky (94208) | 1 year,24 days | (#43263975)

Very touchy topic, which distro to run.

I think Ubuntu is an okay start for you, mostly because it will mostly work and there's plenty of help (including various levels of help) for you to use.

Problem one for you:
1. You caused the boot issue. How?

2. Fix it.

This will start the learning process, a large part of Linux for me is it leads to learning. It's all there for one to figure out, eventually.

stick with major distros (4, Interesting)

ssam (2723487) | 1 year,24 days | (#43263993)

I recommend that (at least to start with) you stick with major distros. distrowatch has a reasonable list http://distrowatch.com/dwres.php?resource=major [distrowatch.com]

there are many hundreds of distros, mostly with little to distinguish them and some maintained by very small teams. if you use a distro that has small non-fulltime development team, then how long is it going to take for them to push a security update in to the repositories? what if one of their developers is on holiday, or has exams, or whatever. with the bigger distros they will have a security team to do this.

Impossible! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43263995)

somehow I managed to crash it during the copying of some non-important files and now my computer won't boot

Many Slashdot users, serviscope_minor in particular, have told me that Linux is reliable, stable, robust, powerful, yada, yada. Nothing but good things. They said only Windows can crash. So, you must be trolling, shilling, lying, or some other form of -ing.

Ubuntu (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43264009)

I'm a Fedora guy, but I don't think I would ever recommend that to a newbie. Ubuntu is definitely more friendly to new users.

Fedora (1)

Tamarzan (1031238) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264027)

I used to use Ubuntu, but found its system layout, window manager, desktop UI, etc. lacking. I switched to Fedora and could not have been happier. It give more control, but it good for the novice user. I recommend Fedora with GNOME 3 desktop manager.

Fix your current one? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43264029)

"Something is not working, let's reinstall" is not very Linux way of doing things, so the very first thing to do is to fix your current installation, especially that you are "looking for a distro that allows me to control and customize". "With great power comes great responsibility" as you probably heard.

Mint. (4, Informative)

jedidiah (1196) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264031)

Mint is the new Ubuntu. They have been tweaking Ubuntu for years adding things that got left out by Canonical. Now that Canoncial has gone bat-shit crazy, they are in the perfect position to accomodate users that would otherwise be good candidates for Ubuntu.

Or you could just go old school and just use Debian.

Re:Mint. (1)

heypete (60671) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264117)

Agreed. Mint is excellent.

For nearly all ordinary desktop uses, Mint is a fine choice.

In particular the update manager is fairly noob-resistant and won't make major changes that could potentially break stuff without you really intending to.

I like Mint MATE, as I prefer the Gnome 2-style desktop, but Cinnamon is quite good as well.

Re:Mint. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43264225)

When someone asks "Which Linux Distro?", answering "Linux Mint" doesn't help much because, unlike other distros, Mint has so many flavors:
- MATE
- Cinnamon
- KDE
- Xfce
- Debian Edition MATE
- Debian Edition Cinnamon
Which one to download? We're back to square one.

E17? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43264035)

Anyone who sets a beginner up with the "E" window manager probably also uses Gentoo because of their 'leetness, and is a bad source of information on how to properly operate a system either way. Reinstall Ubuntu and use the default window manager until you're read the entirety of http://ubuntu-manual.org/ and most of https://help.ubuntu.com/12.10/ubuntu-help/index.html. Ask questions on the Ubuntu forum, which has a *lot* of people. Then, after you've figured out how to get around a Linux system and have some idea of how it works, if you're finding things not working to your liking, look at other distros to see if they work in a way that you might like better.

Also, don't ever blindly follow directions from random blogs on the Internet. If you're copying and pasting commands, make absolutely sure that they were written for your specific distribution, and even then, try to figure out what those commands do before running them. And if someone tells you that you need to enable the root account for direct login, punch them in the mouth.

Mint (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43264037)

I think Linux Mint would be the ideal choice. It's easy to install, everything works out of the box and it has all the benefits of Ubuntu. Start off with something easy and explore the system from the safety of a relatively stable, friendly system. One can learn just as much working from Mint or Ubuntu as they can from Arch or Slackware. The difference is the user gets to work at the own pace, they're not thrown in the deep end and forced to learn at the system's pace.

And anyone who installs E17 on your Ubuntu system is not your friend.

You'll probably want to start with Debian. But.... (1)

bimozx (2689433) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264043)

it is pretty important to know that it is rare to find the distro you want on the first try. You'll probably be distro-hopping every few weeks until you are done comparing your experience between each distros. Then you will settle down, and invest your time on the distro you felt have the most pleasant experience with, doesn't matter whether it was because it provides more fun or just simply more stable. I've tried reading books when I began my endeavor with Linux, but it was more cumbersome than being helpful. There is simply no better suggestions than to just get wet really. Just use it on your daily lives, and you WILL encounter a problem or something you want to particularly do in Linux, I assure you. And when you do, that is when you will begin leaning all the quirks and galore of Linux.

Crunchbang! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43264049)

Crunchbang is a nice, lightweight and simple distro. One tool per task comes preinstalled. Uses a Debian base, so it's stable. Great community for questions. (Very polite with no significant noob bashing) Clean and simple.

If you want to learn how some things work, it also doesn't spoonfeed. Most things are configured by hand in text files. (although that's still quite simple) The only real pain is that the menu has to be manually edited. (not that it is difficult)

Check out the development version based on Debian Wheezy which is now quite stable. It has a relatively up-to-date set of software.

I was a serial distro hopper until Crunchbang. It's perfect for me.

SuSE/OpenSuSE (2)

blind biker (1066130) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264059)

SuSE has still the best hardware detection and fool-proof installation system of all distros - yes, even better than Ubuntu and Ubuntu derivatives.

In addition to this, SuSE comes with one of the best KDE experiences out of the box. If you're familiar with Windows, you will be familiar with KDE.

Run a live distro off a memory stick or CD (5, Insightful)

kawabago (551139) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264067)

Test the different distros live disks to see which works best in your situation. Then install it.

Depends on what you want to accomplish (2)

substance2003 (665358) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264079)

Your choice of distro depends a lot on you're needs or goals I suppose.

If you just want to learn linux for yourself and want to understand what is under the hood. Arch is definitly a good choice as you will be looking a lot to figure out stuff but you will also have a decent community and wiki pages to help you.
Ubuntu has a good community but you probably won't need to tinker as much which may or not be good depending on your goal.
I've never really tried it but Slaskware would also be a good choice as it is minimalistic. Again if you wish to work under the hood.
If you want to learn for use in a work environment. Fedora or CentOS are probably what you need to look at as they are Red Hat based.
Suse would also fall in that work category I would say.
Debian would also be a choice to look towards but I personnaly tend to not like how old the packages are and since it's for learning purposes, bleeding edge is better I feel. Debian testing would be better and again in a work environment. I personnally don't like it as a main OS for home but that's my taste.

Mint, screw Ubuntu (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43264093)

Canonical and Ubuntu are trash now, go with Mint.

VPS/VM (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43264095)

If your main goal is learning the command line and learning about installing software from a minimal base (which it sounds like appeals to you from your description and mention of Arch), I suggest practicing on a cheap VPS instead of your own desktop machine. This has a number of advantages, the biggest one being that you'll be able to nuke it and go back to a base install of your distro of choice in 5 minutes flat. There are a ton of options for hosting low cost VPSes, I recommend Linode since they are popular and have good support, an excellent web based control panel so you shouldn't ever need to contact support, and a good choice of distros.

Running a VPS also offers you a good opportunity to learn about running various services such as web hosting, email server, DNS etc. if any of those things are of interest to you.

If you're more interested in the GUI side of things, maybe consider doing something similar but using virtual machines installed under your main OS. Again this gives you easy methods to reinstall/roll back.

LFS (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43264105)

go ahead and jump in

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

Re:LFS (1)

Takatata (2864109) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264145)

Do you try to drive him away from Linux permanently? LFS is great. If you are experienced, if you are interested in Linux in general. But pointing someone who has problems with Ubuntu to LFS is just mean.

Re:LFS (1)

ssam (2723487) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264181)

its a fun project for a long weekend if you want to see how a linux distribution is put together. but do it in a virtual machine, or on old computer. I doubt there are many people who actually run LFS as their main distro. If they do, i bet they dont manage to keep it up to day with security fixes.

Go with Arch (2)

ternarybit (1363339) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264107)

I really want to learn more, don't mind hard work, enjoy challenges, and am perfectly willing to spend hours and hours for months on end to learn command line.

Then Arch should suit you nicely.

It's a very "shell-intensive" distro, but it's exceptionally well-documented. On one computer/screen, get the Arch Wiki open (possibly with linuxcommand.com in another tab), and get a fresh install of Arch on another computer/screen. If you don't have 2 computers, just load Arch in a VM. Arch is probably the best "learn Linux the hard way(tm)" distro around.

That's basically how I learned, and I'm infinitely better for it.

Install Gentoo (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43264113)

From what it sounds like, you may be in need of a distro that optimizes Linux for your hardware. In which case binary distros like Ubuntu and Arch will only cause you more headaches than you can manage. With Gentoo, that's not a problem. It's one of the easiest distros to use and it's optimized for your hardware, which makes it really fast and lean.

Timewarp (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264119)

Is this a repost from 1997?

Re:Timewarp (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43264191)

It can't be 2006, I don't see any champions for Knoppix.

Re:Timewarp (2)

IANAAC (692242) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264243)

Is this a repost from 1997?

I get the feeling it's a bored troll just trying to get a rise out of someone.

The question will never get a straightforward answer, especially here on slashdot - and because there's no one true answer.

Stick with Arch (1)

gallondr00nk (868673) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264155)

My experiences of the more "user friendly" distros (mostly Ubuntu) was that while they automated a lot of steps it left me with something not entirely dissimilar to Windows - bloated with similar performance and needing a lot of tweaking to trim it down.

The nastiest part of Arch now the beautifully easy menu system has been removed is installation, though thankfully it is very, very well documented. The effort spent in understanding it and learning the command line will pay big dividends when you come to actually use it.

As a leftfield choice have you considered FreeBSD? The documentation isn't as good as Arch, but it is very easy to get a working machine up and running.

Many choices (2)

MadX (99132) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264163)

There are really a *lot* of distributions to choose from. It really boils down to what you want to do with the desktop. Ubuntu (I use it, but not overly happy with the unity interface), fedora, SuSE, even the "lesser known" distributions all have pretty intuitive installers and interfaces.

But I cannot stress the benefit of joining a local Linux User Group. There are a lot of guys that will help you gain a better understanding of what you are actually doing - instead of copy/paste/panic (what the hell did I just do ??). You need to know WHY things work the way they do.

re linux distro (1)

freddieb (537771) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264185)

I would recommend Debian and Gnome. Ubuntu has too many bells and whistles and it can be funky to setup using bleeding edge kernels and drivers. Another alternative is Centos 6.2. It's essentially Red Hat. The desktop is quite nice. I expect you would learn more with Debian though.

I hate to break it to you, but... (4, Insightful)

XaXXon (202882) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264187)

you probably didn't crash it copying some unimportant files. Linux doesn't play that game.

The best way to learn is to fix what you've broken. That's how I learned linux.

Using or learning? (2)

geminidomino (614729) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264189)

Submitter's question seems to be asking two different things, so I'm not sure what exactly he's after.

If you want to get into *using* Linux, then the suggestions of Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora, et. al. are the ones you want to go with. With snazzy GUI package managers and "app stores", they hand-hold and shelter you almost completely from the command line and the ugly under-workings as long as you don't try to mess around with them too much. They also tend to get in your way if you ARE trying to twiddle with the guts.

If you want to LEARN Linux, then go with a minimalist, hands-dirty distro. Slackware was my first Linux love many years back, but I hear Arch is pretty good in that respect, with a few more modern conveniences. I never messed with Gentoo, personally. Using one of those, you'll learn a lot about Linux, but it'll be some time before you get a "usable" system out of it. You'll probably also end up learning bash scripting and at least one of TCL, perl, or python as a bonus.

If your aim is the latter, though, then as far as books go, I don't think you can go wrong with the ORA "Animal" books, unless that's changed in the past few years.

Linux Mint (1)

Sven Jacobs (1385749) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264197)

What about Linux Mint? It's Ubuntu-based so it has all the advantages of Ubuntu (many packages, many third-party repos, huge community) but it also focuses on an easy installation and ease of use. Plus the standard Gnome desktop should be more familiar for users coming from Windows than the Unity desktop of Ubuntu.

Ubuntu is just made for beginners (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43264201)

Stick with the default Ubuntu or, if you prefer more classic desktop, go with Kubuntu

Manjaro - it's an Arch derivative (1)

quadrox (1174915) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264209)

The very first Linux I used was gentoo which is even more notorius for being difficult, and that never hurt me. You seem like you are willing to learn, so Arch Linux is a really good choice I think.

If you want installation to be easier you can try Manjaro. It is based on Arch Linux but installation is a bit more user friendly.

This is a troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43264211)

He "crashed his Linux while he copied unimportant files and now it won't boot"? Come on, Timothy, this reeks of bullshit! (Or admit you wrote that yourself)

Mint Ubuntu Suse (1)

rueger (210566) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264223)

Mint. No question. Fast, easy, reliable. Gets you up and running entirely painlessly. I like the Cinnamon interface.

Ubuntu was what finally moved me over to Linux full time, but I don't like the whole Unity thing. Still it's the Ubuntu underpinning that makes Mint so damned reliable.

That said, I tried out running the newest OpenSuse KDE distro from USB last week, and am seriously thinking about it.

The main point is DON'T GET FANCY! Choose one of the above, and install the straight vanilla version. Then you can start playing.

Stop being gay (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43264229)

Use Justin Bieber Linux.

http://sourceforge.net/projects/biebian/files/JBL_1.0.iso/download

E17 on 12.04 (1)

StankAsPoe (2713223) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264247)

Here are the problems. 12.04 seems to be happy to crash at any time. it's a weirdest release yet. Try something newer, like 12.10. E17 doesn't have enough of a) users b) users that'll report a problem c) much developers (to my knowledge). It's fancy but has little functionality. Try KDE if you like bling.

Old timer here, I hope this helps... (4, Insightful)

rsk (119464) | 1 year,24 days | (#43264253)

I haven't posted to SD in years, but felt compelled to brush the cobwebs off and reply to your question...

1. This is a semi-religious question, so you are going to get a lot of vitriol in some of the responses; ignore it.

2. Gentoo is the "dive in the deep end, with weights tied to my feet and battle my way back to the surface" answer to your question. You build everything. You won't just learn the command line, you'll learn build tools, config scripts, environment vars, libraries, manual dependency management and more. I DO NOT think this is the right choice for you right now given how new you are to all of this. This will be the "death by a thousand paper cuts" experience that runs the risk of driving you crazy after 3 days of work and you still don't have a GUI running because of some esoteric error that you don't understand.

That said, if you insist that this is how you like to learn, go for it. The community/forums are very helpful and PACKED with information. If you do this, mentally prepare yourself for days and days of an unbootable machine. Reformatting and reinstalling over and over again. Getting a boot loader wrong, not installing Grub right, killing your install that was almost working perfectly because you changed a VGA boot option and now everything hangs... just prepare for these KINDS of things. Don't go in thinking "Awesome, I'll get this done in a day and have GNOME running" -- you won't, and if you do, something weird will break it out of no where and you won't have any idea what to do so you'll need to start over again.

I am not trying to scare you, just setting the expectation. If that sounds like heart-burn city, move onto my next suggestion.

3. Arch Linux -- You already mentioned this in your post and I just want to confirm that I believe THIS is the right choice for you. It is the perfect middle ground between Gentoo and something like Ubuntu -- you do get to know the ins and outs of the system, without the compiling/building/dependency pitfalls of Gentoo. This is an EXCELLENT place to start, get really familiar with everything and grow from (either down to Gentoo, or out of system management entirely into something like Ubuntu).

4. Ubuntu / Fedora -- Use these if you want a working computer, want to "try" Linux with a nice GUI and slowly become familiar with the underlying system through SOME GUI tools, mostly command line and have tons of support for your hardware. This is the "Mac"-esque experience you can get in Linux, in that you can live in the GUI all day if you want, but there is an underlying CLI/Unix world there under the surface if you want to mess with it.

5. Mint / SUSE / Kubuntu / Slackware / Whatever -- I have always seen these as different flavors of the same things listed above. I'd start with the primaries first and go from there.

Have fun!

Linux from scratch (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#43264257)

If you like spending hour upon scratching your head then do linux from scratch. If you don't and want to be more efficient then install Ubuntu standard or Fedora standard in a virtual machine like virtualbox, snapshot your install whenever you're getting ready to try something stupid and dangerous, and play with them. If you are as patient as you say you are, and like figuring things out then Linux is a good place to invest time. However for the most part the "base" installs work just fine for grandma, as long as hardware is stable with it.

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