What's the best Linux distro these days?

I’ve been an off-and-on Linux user for the past 10 years or so. I haven’t been running it for the last few years, but was thinking about making my current XP machine dual boot. Have there been any groundbreaking developments lately? I’ve mostly used Mandriva in the past, but is there anything else out there that anyone likes for a general use desktop computer?

Follow up question: I’m also thinking about building a media center computer for the living room. Do things like the Netflix streaming service work in Linux? Is there a particular distribution that would be good for this sort of application?

Although there are lots of alternatives, I think most people are going to recommend Ubuntu - arguably the best Linux distro, simply because of the support and backing it enjoys from Canonical.

Things have really come together a fair bit for Desktop Linux in recent months - for example, users can now expect wireless hardware to be plug and play, and configuration of the wireless connection to be painless and GUI-based. That’s a massive improvement from the way it used to be.

Hey that was fast.

That’s great about the wireless card-- part of why I stopped using Linux is that I didn’t have a wired ethernet connection any more and I could never get my wireless card to work reliably.

Another question. I’ve got a Intel Core 2 Duo e8400 processor-- I should be getting the 64 bit version right? Is there any reason not to?

Edit: Also I see there’s a windows based Ubuntu installer. How does that work? Is there any reason to do a regular old CD install?

With the Ubuntu Live CD, you can do an “install inside of Windows” that’s pretty neat so you can try it out and try it on and see if it’s the distro for you. If you do decide it is though I recommend doing the actual dirty work and partitioning and installing it and all that–when you do the “install inside of Windows” option you’re limited to (I think) 30GB and you run outta room on that pretty fast these days.

I’ll unabashedly say that I originally chose Ubuntu because I liked the orange and brown color scheme, it was “warmer” than all the other cold, blue distros. (Most other people hate it and think it’s ugly, but the 8.04 Ibex desktop is my favorite!) It was that or straight up Debian, and I just liked the look and feel of Ubuntu (which is Debian based) best. It’s definitely the most user friendly, and I’ve installed and am using it on 4 different machines. Everything was plug and play, right down to the wireless, I just partitioned, installed, and magically everything worked. Actually, I think I had to remember to do apt-get update to get mp3’s to play but that’s painless.

I’ve seen a lot of people recommend Mint too, for pure plug n’ play ease of install and use. If Im’ not mistaken, it’s a Ubuntu variant.

I use it at work too, though I also maintain an XP boot because we have some Windows only software. I was able to get Rhythmbox set up and I can share music (via DAAP) and others using iTunes on our network can see and share with me too.

Give the Live CD “install in Windows” a try–you can always just uninstall it. Good luck and have fun!

I could have written that OP almost word-for-word. One of my Linux-savvy friends said ubuntu is still the go-to distro, so I burned a CD and installed it just in the last week. I’ve been getting reacclimated; so far, it’s great.

One thing I need to ask about, it never asked for a root password when I did the install. When I install new packages, it gives me sudo access through my user password, but what if I need to actually log in as root?

I’ve been using Ubuntu 9.04 for a couple months now, and hardly ever boot Windows any more. I booted the LiveCD and installed from there, not from within windows. I’m assuming if the OP installs Ubuntu, he should go with the latest version, 9.10? Someone here was having some problem with it, so I haven’t upgraded yet.

[shameless piggyback]Is it worth it for me to upgrade?[/piggyback]

And how tricky is it? Everything is running stable now, not sure if this is in the not-broken-don’t-fix-it area or the prudent upgrade. There are a couple bells that would be nice, but not sure if I should rock the boat. It’s running a RAID 1 array and an Apache web server (for internal testing). Could things go tragically wrong?

In a terminal just run sudo su or sudo bash.

I don’t think root has a password by default. This isn’t a problem since you can’t log in remotely without a password. And if someone has physical access to your computer, you’ve got worse problems than keeping your password safe.

I downloaded Ubantu and could never get it to work properply. The checksum program that checks the download was always off. Even after multiple downloads on different machines, I couldn’t get it to work.

So I ordered the disc free. It came from the Netherlands, so I figured it’d take forever, but it only took a week to get to me and like I said it was free.

It was great and I was able to test Ubantu. So if you have any troubles with the Ubantu download, send for the disc, it is free (not even shipping cost)

Here’s a thread from about a month ago from a user contemplating Linux for the first time. In it, I referenced this article about choosing a linux distro. I found it pretty informative and worth reading.

Oh – for first time linux users and/or people who just want the easiest possible general usage, I’d recommend Ubuntu. If you have a specific use (e.g., multimedia, old/underpowered hardware, server), something else might be in order.

Follow-up: I finally did install Ubuntu and it went terribly!

First there was this weird bug where the partition program on the live CD installer wouldn’t work-- after a couple of hours messing around with the partitions manually, I found out it was just a bug in the program and that there was a workaround involving uninstalling some of the packages. Then there was no Windows in GRUB-- another hour shot figuring out how to fix that!

And now I still can’t get my darn netgear USB wireless adapter dongle thingee to work so I’m having to type this in darned old windows.

Oh well… I’ll have to work on it more next weekend.

On the advice of friends, I burned a CD of gparted (a repartitioning tool), too. Backed up my important files, booted with the gparted disk, shrank the Windows partition, rebooted to ubuntu disk, installed ubuntu into unpartitioned space. Went smooth as silk.

Depends. I went for it for the improved sound management, especially for Flash and Skype. I’ve not been sorry.