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What are some good distributions for newbies? I'm not talking about your grandma who only uses the computer for surfing and solitaire.

I'm talking about fairly intelligent people who who know their way around windows and are tired of dealing with it.

What are the important features of said distributions?

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this should have the subjective tag added –  Hamish Downer Jul 15 '09 at 17:24
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Intelignet people != grandmas ??? What's wrong with you? –  KovBal Jul 16 '09 at 16:54
    
I've raised meta.stackexchange.com/questions/45439/… to discuss creating a faq about linux distributions. Please add any comments you have. Thanks. –  Douglas Leeder Apr 18 '10 at 8:50
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4 Answers

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Ubuntu is a good choice.

One of the features about it that I really like is what I call the "desktop swap" feature. It's basically like an alt + tab of sorts, but instead of going through applications, you have 4 (I think) desktops to play with. So you can have a dev desktop, a gaming desktop, a correspondence desktop (email, doc writing, etc.). At least that's how I used it.

Also, just FYI, I set this up on a VM on had it up and running flawlessly in like 30 minutes. The only manual thing I had to set up was the NIC, but I have a feeling that was just because I was running it as a VM. Really great way to run the distro if you don't want to whipe your windows box outright, but want to try something new (or for testing!)

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+1 - Ubuntu, hands down. –  George Claghorn Jul 15 '09 at 14:23
    
...Providing you don't have to spend two hours keying in endless and sadistic shell commands while attempting to get your notebook Wifi adapater to function. –  Matthew Ruston Jul 15 '09 at 14:27
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@Matthew This is the exact reason I can't use Ubuntu ... it's near to impossible to get my WiFi working on my laptop with it (at least with my skillset; I'm no expert, but I'm definitely a "SuperUser" :) ). It's unfortunate. –  Marc Reside Jul 15 '09 at 14:30
    
The only thing left to fix is the damn fonts. –  alerman Jul 15 '09 at 14:30
    
@Matthew and @Marc Did their troubleshooting site not help you? help.ubuntu.com/9.04/internet/C/troubleshooting-wireless.html –  Joseph Jul 15 '09 at 14:42
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Lots of people recommend Ubuntu but I find it a little too "kiddy" Linux. (I like root to have a password in the classic *nix fashion.) But then I am a long-time Linux user (Win2k was the last full-time Windows system I used for my own stuff although professionally I support all the Windows OSes). I used SUSE for years (still do in a vm hosted on my MacBookPro). Recently I've dabbled with vm's of Fedora, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Mandriva, and some of the *nixes.

It so much depends on what you want to do. A lot of the distros have live CDs which might give you a taste and a better feel for what pleases you. I know that SUSE, Ubuntu, and Mandriva all have these live CDs which you can download.

Take a look here:

http://www.livecdlist.com/

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It's not recommended for Ubuntu but you can have a root password if you want one. I, too, was a longtime SuSE user but used Ubuntu on laptops (easy Wireless setup) but converted my main machine to Ubuntu earlier this month to make use of UbuntuOne. I miss root but not enough to go back! –  mas Jul 20 '09 at 7:28
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Ubuntu is the current flavor that gets attention for "ease of use". I usually recommend starting with that, then if you want to try a few more, trying Mandriva and OpenSuse. Different flavors, but fairly equivalent to Ubuntu.

Once you've played around a little and feel comfortable, you can try using Gentoo and configuring EVERYTHING. :) It takes a lot of time, but you have (virtually) complete control of your OS.

If you have any experience with any of the Unix flavors, you might consider trying Solaris 10, as it is now freely available. However, I don't think Solaris is as usable for Desktop Computing as the others mentioned above. Solaris gives you a lot of power and works well as a server OS. I know my father uses Solaris 10 on one of his systems, but I don't think he uses that system as a primary desktop system, so YMMV.

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Solaris has been getting better for use as a main PC. –  Brad Gilbert Jul 16 '09 at 3:52
    
That's good to know. Maybe I'll give it another whirl. –  Marc Reside Jul 17 '09 at 19:31
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+1 for Ubuntu (http://www.ubuntu.com/)

Linux Mint (http://www.linuxmint.com/) is also very good.

Both distributions have a very easy to understand layout and a lot of hardware support meaning you can generally just put the CD in and go.

Mint builds in a few things that other distributions tend to leave out of the default install (such as media codecs).

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