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I'm faced with a pending clean install due to a dying hard drive in my old Dell Inspiron 8600 laptop. I've been running Ubuntu 8.04 on it since... 8.04 and I've been more or less happy with it except that it's a PITA to recompile the kernel or do any other kernel related work. I mostly do software dev on it, gcc, gvim, c/c++/perl/php/mysql and running vmware server 2.0.

I've heard mixed reviews of 10.04, and am wondering what to put on the new HD. I'm even considering just sticking with 8.04 as it seems to mostly meet my needs.

Any suggestions?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

I suggest trying a Lucid LTS (10.04) USB Install to try it out.
I regularly use such a USB Install for my work.

This will let you retain your existing harddisk installation and you will also be able to compare the two to some extent.

You can then decide to change to to 10.04 or retain the existing setup (whenever you please, meanwhile the 10.04 will run fine from the USB flash).

You can also try other releases or distributions this way before taking the final call to install.

Remember, that a USB Install will give you a better comparison to your installed Ubuntu rather than a LiveCD or LiveUSB.

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If you go with the 'clean install'

I'd suggest Linux Mint. It's built on top of Ubuntu so there are a lot of similarities. Except, Mint is meant to work out of the box so you won't have to do much extra to get it running once installed.

Plus, Mint is meant to just 'be nicer' meaning, nicer interfaces, more appealing look, GUIs to make config simple if you don't feel like mucking around in .cfg files, pre-loaded drivers and codecs, etc...

If you're hardcore about GNU it's probably not geared to you. Otherwise, it's great.

It includes all the standard tools, apt-get, SPM, and Software Manager (SPM for dummies), wireless support, auto-mount HDD and CD's no problem (even NTFS).

It's pretty much the reason I switched to Linux-only about 9 months ago. It's the first distro I've tried that I didn't have to spend 5 hours to pound the hardware into submission after a 'fresh install'.

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10.04 will do the job I guess. You better stick to the latest version (latest LTS if you want more solid OS). I'd go with openSUSE since that is an OS which comes with a "When it's done" model. Also, Debian is a considerable choice. That's also rock-solid. (openSUSE updates the packages much more frequently and it retains the stability. Debian comes with much older/outdate packages. But if you don't mind, maybe it is the perfect choice. Some people even use CentOS / Scientific Linux as desktop OS.)

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Does vmware run on openSuse? Is kernel development easy on it? Does it have something similar to atp-get? – Robert S. Barnes Jun 15 '10 at 5:33
Yes it runs. Yes kernel development is easy (Know some lizards from there). Yes, it have "zypper" , "Yast" as a half-graphical and totally graphical manager AND apt-get is ALSO installable, usable. – Shiki Jun 15 '10 at 5:58

The answer may depend heavily on what video your 8600 has. The xorg X11 that comes with 10.04 has less support for older (Direct X 9 and before level) video cards than previous releases, ATi in particular.

If you can get by with a plain VESA driver, or an open source driver that has little to no 3D support (for now), it may not matter so much. In that case 10.04 may work well for you.

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It has an ATI video card, although I don't game and I always turn off all the eye candy, so I guess that doesn't matter so much. – Robert S. Barnes Jun 14 '10 at 20:36
I suggest googling up results of 10.04 and your particular ATi (Mobility?) card. Of course you will find someone with issues, but if you also find happy users as well, you're OK. – kmarsh Jun 15 '10 at 13:14

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