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Linux Distro Reccomendations?


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So I've been thinking of getting into Linux for a while now. It just so happens I have a spare HDD, I have some free time and I realised that most of my frequently used software has dedicated Linux versions – no reason to put it off any further. So, like the title says, what should I install? I guess I'm looking for something that would help me learn more about the OS, and give me the chops I need if I decide to switch to another distro later on? Does that make sense? I plan on dual booting, so not everything has to be covered, and gaming doesn't have to be on the menu just yet, though it would be nice to see how that looks as well.

 

I should stress that I'm a noob with regards to Linux, I really would be starting from scratch. I know it's not rocket science, but still. I'd like to give it a fair go, so I'm not looking for completely dumbed-down distros that try to be carbon copies of Windows. However, I feel that despite not being afraid to tinker and fool around with the software, if it's overwhelming or unnecessarily complicated, I'll just be too lazy to give it a chance. I guess I'm looking for a happy medium? I realise I'll have to learn a lot of OS conventions, the point is just to have that learning be a pleasant experience?

 

I've seen a lot of recommendations for Linux Mint, and it looks nice, I guess? Problem is, I have no frame of reference. Is that the go-to for what I'm looking for? I did check out some tutorials outlining the abysmal world of branches, distros and their variations, and it quickly went over my head. I get the theory, but I have no idea on how all that relates to practice. That's why I'm looking for your input, because I can bet there are folks here that tried out many distros and know the score.

 

So, based on what little I've said here, could you recommend something? Is there a distro that strips the worst tedium and unnecessary complications from Linux (whatever those elements may be) and streamlines the experience, while remaining true to Linux? Maybe I'm asking all the wrong questions? Anyway, thank you all for reading, and I'm looking forward to your input!

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I am no linux expert but a friend i no is..

@steven36 recommended this for Beginners...

 

Quote

https://ubuntubudgie.org/

 

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I have tried 3 so far, Ubuntu 16.04, Pop OS 20.04, Linux Mint 20, which are all LTS releases. I have not tried Ubuntu 20.04 but since Linux Mint 20 and Pop OS are based on it, I don't think I have to test it.

 

Out of the 3, since I am very familiar with Windows, I recommend Linux Mint 20 Cinnamon as a starting point. I have tried Linux distro in the past which is Ubuntu but now after testing Linux Mint I find it the easiest distro for me.

 

There are others that would mimic or to be as close as possible with how Windows looks and I have not tried any. I am also a beginner with Linux but I am finding Linux Mint my preference.

 

You can also video reviews of other Linux distro and choose the one that suits your taste.

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MX Linux is a super stable distro that is great for both beginners and experienced users - this is what I am using.

 

MX Linux is a cooperative venture between the antiX and MX Linux communities. It is a family of operating systems that are designed to combine elegant and efficient desktops with high stability and solid performance.  MX’s graphical tools provide an easy way to do a wide variety of tasks, while the Live USB and snapshot tools inherited from antiX add impressive portability and remastering capabilities. Extensive support is available through videos, documentation and a very friendly Forum.

 

 

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Hey guys, just wanted to say – keep the recommendations coming! I'm slowly doing my own due diligence and putting your suggestions into a list to research more thoroughly. 

 

In the meantime, I have another dilemma. What's your opinion on the rolling vs release cycle of updates? If I understand correctly, release updates are fixed, and combine Linux and all the system components in one complete package, and rolling releases update each component individually as new versions are released?

 

Are the rolling updates that unstable? On the other hand, do the release updates miss out that much, not being on the bleeding edge?

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Using linux mint (=don't know for the other distros). The latest installed is v19.3. 20 was released about 4 months ago. The updates (kernel and apps) are coming regularly and so far none of them created a single problem for me to use this distro. So, not sure about your dilemna 😉 Just try the lives and select the one you prefer. Don't know what you are using your pc for, but not 'being on the bleeding edge' does not seem to be a problem. If you don't like or if there are troubles with the latest release, just revert back to the previous one.

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@Alanon

 

Since you are new, I strongly advice against dual booting, and installing Linux on a physical device:

  • Dual booting Windows and Linux is a whole different league than dual booting Windows. It can get tricky (or downright nasty) - enough to confuse even the most seasoned of users.
  • When installing Linux on a Physical box, you can always end up with hardware or software problems and issues, just like you do on Windows. Troubleshooting Linux is an unwanted layer of complexity that a newcomer should avoid at all costs. It can easily put any curious soul off.
  • Mistakes are inevitable when trying something new. You don't want to spend your time on wiping out data and reinstalling things over and over - especially because of things that can go wrong in dual boot scenarios. That also brakes any cadences you might have developed up to the point of error.

Solution: I recommend installing Linux on a Virtual Machine (preferably Virtual Box). Better yet, grab a VM with linux pre-installed and save yourself of unnecessary hiccups. OsBoxes.org has some for you to try.

 

Once you got your Virtual Linux Desktop set up, forget about the UI, forget about the apps, forget about the aesthetics. Focus solely on learning how to use the Linux terminal. That command line window is where all the magic happens in Linux. It is the one thing all Linux distros have in common, and it is the one that all documentations, tutorials, and references are based upon.

 

There are a whole bunch of resources out there that you can use. My favorite are Pluralsight tutorials by the Linux guru, Andrew Mallett. I keep finding something new in his lectures after all these years!

 

If you are into books, then a good place to start is "The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction" by William E. Shotts Jr., published by No Starch press. (I have only seen the initial pressing of the book, but I noticed just now that a second edition is out as well).

 

There are also tons of web resources too, but I wouldn't recommend those. They are often written in a truly esoteric manner, they may assume you already know certain things whereas you don't, they may dive too deep into technicalities that are unnecessary for an entry course, or you may follow them step by step and yet find yourself unable to reproduce the same results (only because they omitted a step, or you missed typing a ","), etc, etc..

 

Once you feel reasonably comfortable with the Terminal, you can study the available distros in a new light. You can install anything, knowing that no matter what differs on the surface of things, you are comfortable with heart of the Linux, and you can find your way around easily. That's when you can decide for yourself which distro is right for you. It is wrong to ask the community for advise on that. Its like cars. Just because many people vouch for Toyota, I may ignore a good deal on Mazda, but that Mazda might have been the best option for me all along! (Just an illustrative example here, no need to start car wars!)

 

Now you might ask, hey, if I were to install on a VM, I'd still need to choose a distro! What about that?

 

For learning scenarios, a Ubuntu VM comes highly recommended, strictly because there are far more resources for it out and about, and there are less chances of VM host incompatibilities. But like I said, you can try anything. It is the Terminal that you should be learning and the command line works about the same on all distro for your current needs.

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6 minutes ago, BimBamSmash said:

Since you are new, I strongly advice against dual booting, and installing Linux on a physical device:

  • Dual booting Windows and Linux is a whole different league than dual booting Windows. It can get tricky (or downright nasty) - enough to confuse even the most seasoned of users.
  • When installing Linux on a Physical box, you can always end up with hardware or software problems and issues, just like you do on Windows. Troubleshooting Linux is an unwanted layer of complexity that a newcomer should avoid at all costs. It can easily put any curious soul off.
  • Mistakes are inevitable when trying something new. You don't want to spend your time on wiping out data and reinstalling things over and over - especially because of things that can go wrong in dual boot scenarios. That also brakes any cadences you might have developed up to the point of error.

Solution: I recommend installing Linux on a Virtual Machine (preferably Virtual Box). Better yet, grab a VM with linux pre-installed and save yourself of unnecessary hiccups. OsBoxes.org has some for you to try.

Installing linux on the physical drive and having access to the real hardware is also a good way to see if all is fine, or not. If there is a spare drive somewhere, one drive with win and one drive with linux is another option (instead of both OS on the same drive). Nowadays, making an image and recovering from it does not take long if something goes too bad.

No need to be an expert to install linux on a physical drive, just have to go step by step and read/understand what is on the screen, there are many tutorials too.

It's the opposite here, the main system is linux and win is in a vm when needed.

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Still, I think given our friend's background, a slow, step-by-step approach is more likely to keep him interested in the platform. It is so easy to get overwhelmed when everything behaves differently than what one is used to.

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You can think of rolling release as version 1903, 1909, 2004, 20H2 and earlier releases of Windows 10 while the stable is Windows 10 LTSC.

Edited by PeRTeX
incomplete response
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@BimBamSmash@mp68terr Thank you both for your input!

 

I don't want to give myself too much or too little credit, it's just that I have a lazy streak and feel like too steep a curve might just prove detrimental and make me give up. The ideal would be to keep me titillated enough to go past the most obvious frustrations, so I'm trying to pre-empt potential problems and nip them in the bud by being smart with how I approach things. That's why I'm here looking for advice and not on some Linux veteran forums.

 

Right now, I've got the book BimBamSmash recommended and I'm slowly perusing it, and I'm also looking into some basic practical differences – what package manager is the most intuitive/easiest to use, and what interface should I go with (I figure these two components are the ones that will have the most value initially, regardless of anything else). Once I figure that out, I can at least decide on a branch to investigate further.

 

My initial plan was pretty much to do as mp68terr described, a separate HDD that I could dual-boot, so that Linux could have uninhibited access to the hardware. Some time ago I used to dual-boot Windows and LibreELEC on an old PC, and that was an involved setup, as I had to format and partition a hard drive from within Linux for the approach to work. It's been a while, and I've forgotten the exact process, but I remember it was anything but fun.

 

I had presumed that having a separate, independent HDD would be much easier to set up than what I had to do back then, partitioning and messing poking about one HDD. Perhaps I'm wrong? Are there any inter-OS concerns?

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Something I forgot: keep a place/partition that both OS can access to, convenient to share documents. Linux will see win partition(s), but likely not the opposite except if you install some driver/3rd party app.

As for the learning curve, the (old) hardware was recognized fine and the GUI made things simple to adjust. Both linux and win are OS, IMHO the usage depends on the apps you have/plan to use, then forget about the OS.

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23 hours ago, Alanon said:

Are there any inter-OS concerns?

 

There are quite a few - especially in the presence of Windows 10, or modern hardware's Secure Boot feature. Though I suppose I'd reserve the term "concern" only for scenarios in a production environment.

 

There is also the topic of bootloaders which one might need to reconfigure under certain scenarios. Things can always go south if one makes a mistake with these - again probably a bigger concern in production machines than a home PC.

 

In short - too much inconveniences and counterproductiveness for so little gain.

 

If you really insist on going for Dual Boot, it is best to look up Best Practices for Installing Windows and Linux together for the distro of your choice, and follow accordingly.

 

Here is a community-provided guide for installing Ubuntu and Windows 10. A little rough and unpolished for my liking, but it gives a good picture.

Edited by BimBamSmash
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On 10/7/2020 at 5:48 AM, Alanon said:

It just so happens I have a spare HDD,

 

Which generation of Intel CPU are you going to use your HDD on?

On 10/7/2020 at 1:37 PM, prasetyoit said:

I am quote for Debian Linux.

 

The learning curve is a bit steep for those new to Linux.

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9 hours ago, caraid said:

 

Which generation of Intel CPU are you going to use your HDD on?

 

The learning curve is a bit steep for those new to Linux.

 A lot of community support is available on the internet for debian and its derivatives.

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12 hours ago, prasetyoit said:

 A lot of community support is available on the internet for debian and its derivatives.

 

True but for someone who is not used to typing DOS-like commands and the terminal/command line, it is indeed daunting.

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