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Because of office limitations, I have not worked with Linux in years and instead have worked with Windows OS since XP. I may finally be able to retry Linux and wanted to see what may make most sense for me (i.e, I want to minimize the steepness of the learning curve). I would be using the computer mostly for local analyses using open source tools such as r, octave, and no big networking needs. Any recommendations?

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Balancing user-friendly with the learning curve consideration, I would recommend Ubuntu because it is user-friendly, well-supported and easy to maintain. For a basic overview of the Ubuntu operating system the Stack Overflow Ubuntu Documentation webpage is very helpful and up to date. If you run into a problem, you can get help on Ask Ubuntu Q&A, where you can find answers that are up to date to the latest version of Ubuntu.

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I think most people would suggest Ubuntu as a free (both as in freedom and free beer) Linux distribution for novice use. Also, Linux Mint might be worth a look, since in essence it's an Ubuntu with a GUI that might be more satisfying for a Windows user.

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    ubuntu is ok, mint is better. i still cant cope with ubuntus min/max/close buttons on the wrong side
    – Keltari
    Mar 21 '14 at 0:14

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