Friday, September 08, 2006

Linux distro suggestions request

I know a number of you out there use some distribution of Linux, so I need some advice and information. I'm a big fan of open source software and the general idea and ethic behind it, so I am finally going to make the jump and do an installation to see if I can accomodate all of my computing needs with a fully open source Microsoft-independent PC. Just using Firefox isn't cutting it anymore, and my hard drive with Win2000 is nearing death, so I figure now is a good time for a new hard drive and new OS.

My question is which Linux distribution would you recommend for a first-time Linux user? I know there are legion, but based on your experience what do you think?

There are a myriad of questions you will want to know about my PC hardware and computing preferences before advising me, so I'll try to list below all of the relevant information.

Computing preferences:
Software: Fairly basic needs including word processing, spreadsheet, web browsing, email, mp3, video, pdf, photo editing. Ability to interoperate with MS Office may be a necessity for work.

Hardware: Wireless, wireless, wireless.

Me: I'm an intermediate computer user, able to build a PC and troubleshoot most hardware and software problems. I'm not a coder, but I am familiar with programming structure and logic and take technical issues as a fun challenge.

PC hardware:
  • MSI motherboard, K7T Turbo Limited Edition w/RAID (using onboard sound)
  • AMD Athlon 1133 MHz
  • 512 MB RAM
  • ATI Radeon 7500 AGP, 64 MB, AGP
  • Intel Pro/100S PCI network adapter
  • D-Link AirPlus G DWL-G510 wireless PCI network adapter
  • EIDE hard drives
  • Philips PCRW404 CD-RW400
  • Generic EIDE CD drive, 48x
  • Generic 3.5" floppy drive
I also may try to make an older PC more useful with Linux:
  • ASUS motherboard, VX97
  • Intel 200 MHz MMX
  • 48 MB RAM (non-matching SIMM modules)
  • SoundBlaster AWE 32 (?) sound card
  • ELSA Victory Erazor, 4MB, PCI (thanks, Mish! that was a killer upgrade.)
  • Hauppauge! WinTV card (not a deal-killer if this is not Linux-compatible -- does the "Win" in the name automatically disqualify it? :-P)
  • Kingston PCI network adapter
  • EIDE hard drive
  • Generic EIDE CD drive, 4x (?)
  • Generic 3.5" floppy drive
If I can resurrect my laptop with a new hard drive I will also convert it to Linux:
  • IBM i1452; (Lenovo link)
  • Celeron 366 MHz
  • 64 MB RAM
  • 56K Lucent onboard winmodem, but two PCMCIA slots available for a network card
  • CD/DVD drive, 2x
What I have found so far:
Reading up on the subject, I have found Eric S. Raymond's web page to be inspiring generally about the open source movement, and he made the suggestion of finding a local Linux user group to help with a first-time installation by a Linux newbie. The nearest active one to me is the Linux User Group of Davis and wouldn't you know it, they have Linux installfests.

On distros in particular, SUSE was recommended to me long ago (pre-Novell) by a techie whose opinion I respect, but things may have changed since SUSE was bought out. I've also thought about Fedora Core since it was developed by the ubiquitous Red Hat which I assume makes it more likely to have wide hardware support and consistent technical support. Lastly I've considered Ubuntu, mainly because one of my friends has installed it, it seems to have a small footprint and is pretty much the hot new thing right now.

I haven't decided on a desktop environment yet. The general consensus seems to be "try them and use whatever you like best," so based on what I've read I'll start with KDE.

Ok, go!


McWilliams said...

I would highly recomend Ubuntu. Probably the best around.

Eric said...

I have read a lot of great things about UBUNTU, especially when it comes to hardware compatibility. I have not installed it myself,but did download the install disk. Someday I'll probably get around to installing it. The biggest problems I've had in the past with any Linux ditro is compatibility with video and sound cards. Especially sound cards.

Litlle-B said...

Go with Ubuntu it is very easy to install, and all the hardware you have listed should be supported. Whether you prefer KDE or Gnome you have your choices between Kubuntu or Ubuntu. I really like their auto update system as well.

Kevin said...

Cool, thanks for the info all. I have an ISO of Kubuntu downloaded and just need to do a checksum and burn it to CD.