recommendations for a starter Linux distribution?

I will shortly be coming back into possession of a Celeron 550MHz which used to be my Windoze box, and was on loan to my folks for about a year until they bought a laptop. I have been toying with the idea of setting up a Linux station to noodle with.

Can anyone recommend a good “starter” build/distribution for such an enterprise? I am reasonably savvy with mainstream computing and don’t balk at the notion of command line entry, but my Unix experience is limited to a computing project in University about 7 years ago.

Red Hat? Debian? Slackware?

Anyone? Bueller?



What do you wish to Linux for ?

If, primarily for learning rather than migrating, then Gentoo isn’t a bad distro.

Some work required, but you’ll learn.

I recommend RedHat. It’s easy to install and manage, and more importantly, it’s widely supported by hardware manufacturers and software programmers. Linux software is Linux software, but sometimes there are enough differences between distributions that you need to re-compile or tweak the system to get it to work. With a popular distribution like RedHat, chances are the software has already been tested on it and works out of the box.

I’ll second Red Hat. Easy to install, easy to use, wide support, just like scr4 says.

Yeah, Red Hat or you could try Mandrake. One of the most difficult things when starting linux is how to set up and configure your peripherals. Red Hat and Mandrake have pretty good graphical configuration tools for these (SuSE’s is not bad too).

Once you get used to poking around with shell scripts and such, Slackware is a good fast one to migrate to.

But Red Hat is not just a starter system either. I do lots of scientific computation on a large beowulf cluster which are alpha processors running Red Hat.

I’d vote getting a few. They’re cheap! Play around. Personally, I’d vote for Mandrake with the addition of the rpm apt-get. Had a link at home… try sourceforge.

Here’s a vote for Suse. It installed easily the first time and recognized all of my peripherals the first time with no probelms.

I would say either Mandrake, RedHat or SuSE.
Steer clear of Slackware until you have a little more experience (unless you really want a challenge). I cannot really comment much on Debian as I have not had a lot of experience with it, but I believe it works a little differently than most other distros.
Overall, have fun, and remember to experiment outside the GUI

I was doing the same thing. I decided on Debian, and now I’m not so sure I made the right choice. I chose it mainly because of their commitment to open source and the inclusion of only “standard” software.

The install is “relatively” straightforward, except some of the choices presented made little sense to me. I have a decent amount of Unix experience, but I was puzzled by some of the stuff I was asked if I wanted. I don’t have a specific example, though.

Once it was installed, it couldn’t recognize the hard drive enough to boot from it. If I booted from the CD or the boot floppy, I could see some of the stuff on the drive, but it seemd hosed. Most of the line commands didn’t work. I wiped it out, intending to try again, but in the intial steps, it goes thru an fdisk-like process. I wanted two partitions, one of 1G and one with the rest. When I tried to delete the partitions, it was all confused. I had to use a Western Digital utility to reset the drive to all zeros, repartition, and format it.

The list of peripherals in the install never seemed to include the hardware in the box. I have no idea how to add a peripheral after the fact.

I haven’t gotten around to trying it again.

Another vote for SuSE here - I had very little trouble installing it and getting to know it, despite having almost no Linux knowledge at the time.

When I installed Mandrake a while back (7.2, IIRC) it installed easily but I couldn’t find any good in-depth books on it at all—almost all the books I found in bookstores were for Red Hat or BSD. If you’re the sort that wants a good printed reference on hand, I’d suggest going and seeing what kind of books you can find first, and then decide which distro to install…

Debian is very pure.

And very rough, and a few source packages behind. Mandrake is essentially Red Hat with some newer packages and pretty pictures added. Easier for a new user, and more up to date, but most Red Hat stuff translates.

I want to install linux on a computer I have sitting in the living room except that it’s just a Pentium II 233mhz with 32 meg of RAM. Lately I’ve been reading that despite linux being touted as something that can run on old hardware, lots of the software is being geared towards recently purchased computers. Any suggestions on which distribution or what to install or not to install? I want linux to learn a unix-like operating system, programming and do the basic shit I do on my regular computer like word processing, do my web site and go online. I’m not looking to play Unreal 2K3.

Personally considered running a Unix app as a second OS on my system - but having no programming experience, I fear having to sit through “compiling” when I have no idea what “compiling” even is.

Why would I want to move from windows? For security reasons. I’d imagine that 98% of all released viruses and trojans target Microsoft software specifically.

Aha! This is what you want.

This is the autoupdating tool that will make your linux life much happier.

Keep in mind that Mandrake filled the French equivalent of the US “Chapter 11” bankruptcy back in January.

Don’t know what that means in terms of the software, but it’s probably important to note.

Cite – MandrakeSoft Files for Bankruptcy Protection

All of the basic, low-level software for a Linux system will run on a 386 (even the windowing system, if you have enough memory). However, most of the commercial distributions focus on recent hardware - Mandrake, for instance, includes lots of software compiled for very recent CPU architectures, because most of its customers are Linux newbies with new computers. Even though a Pentium II isn’t exactly ancient, I’d be careful to check the hardware requirements for any distribution that you’re considering. Better yet, if you purchase a boxed set of CDs, rather than downloading, you should get the source code to recompile anything that doesn’t happen to run on your computer. Trust me, it’s not as scary as it sounds, although it will take some work.

As to the OP:

[li] If you’re a total newbie, go with Mandrake. It’s got the most trouble-free install out there, and the most Windows-like default install. It’s not a power user’s system, but it really is the best introduction.[/li]
[li] If you want soething a bit more full-featured, go with Red Hat, SuSE, or Debian. Any of these include a lot of software (Suse has tons), plus easy package management, and fewer of the limitations that you’d have with Mandrake.[/li]
If you want powerful, go with Slackware, Gentoo, or LFS. These distributions are aimed squarely at Unix experts who want reliable, high-performance systems, at the expense of some ease-of-use issues. Package management is usually an afterthought, and you end up having to compile lots of stuff (with LFS, you compile everything). However, there’s nothing more fun than a system that works precisely the way you designed it to, as an extension of your will. I use Slackware myself, and I love it, but I wouldn’t recommend it for a newbie.

Stupid coding mistakes.Just pretend that my list has numbered bullet points, okay?

Might I interject that RedHat 8 uses shitloads of memory… I bought a new system with 128Mb RAM but it wanted more! Running Gnome and with minimal services started, I usually had around 3 - 15Mb free (those damn daemons…). After upgrading to 256Mb, I found that the system memory use increased slightly and fluctuates between leaving me 30 - 100 Mb to play with. Whats going on here I can’t fathom, but RedHat ain’t the memory - lite OS I assumed it to be!

I’d suggest Redhat. I found it easy to install, and it was able to detect and configure my hardware much more easily than Mandrake.