Which Distribution Should I Try?

A lot of people have written articles criticizing the sheer number of choices offered by Linux and it’s true there are over 300 distributions but there’s an easy way get past a lot of the confusion caused by that reality. All it takes is a visit to DistroWatch. Scroll down and watch the right hand side of the screen for “Page Hit Ranking”; if you’ll then reset the time frame from six months to 30 days and click on “Refresh” you’ll see a fairly accurate indication of which Linux distributions are currently the most popular. Choosing a distribution from the top ten on this list will improve your chances of avoiding a negative experience your first time out. As well as selecting a distribution, Linux users can choose a desktop environment and while there are a fair number of choices, there are only three popular choices; Gnome is by far the most popular, KDE is number two and Xfce is a distant third. Generally speaking, Windows refugees (like me) tend to like KDE because it seems familiar and quickly becomes intuitive while Xfce requires far fewer system resources than its “siblings” and is thus very popular with linux users who have older hardware.

I spent a lot of time trying to sort out the best way for a new user to get a look at several distributions and different desktop environments as well and the only thing that made sense was a small collection of live CDs so I went looking for such a collection and couldn’t find one I liked so I got in touch with OSDisk.com and asked if they could put together a special package of Linux CDs and they liked my idea so they did. It’s called the Serious Sampler Pack and it costs less than $20 delivered to anywhere in the world. Let me tell you what’s in it and why.

Ubuntu and PCLinuxOS, respectively, use the Gnome and KDE desktop environments and they are currently the top two most popular Linux distributions. Damn Small Linux is the most popular distribution which uses the Xfce desktop environment. Knoppix wasn’t exactly the first live CD (that honor belongs to Yggdrasil or so I’ve read) but it was the first live CD that really captured people’s imaginations and it’s still very popular. Puppy and Xubuntu are both popular with older or RAM challenged systems. KateOS is specifically designed for older hardware and Slax is a comparatively small but very nice distribution which uses KDE. These are all live CDs and by the time you’ve tried them, with luck, you’ll know if you prefer Gnome, KDE or Xfce. Ubuntu, PCLinuxOS and Xubuntu can all be quite easily installed to your hard drive from the live CD, if you so desire. Damn Small Linux, Knoppix, Puppy and Slax were all designed to be run as live CDs and I don’t recommend installing them to your hard drive unless or until you’ve gotten past the beginners stages in learning Linux.

So, the Serious Sampler Pack gives you installable live CDs of the Current top two Linux distributions and a good look at both the similarities and the differences in a diverse group of mostly popular distributions. Or, if you have a fast connection, a CD-RW drive and some patience, you can download each of these distributions, for free, and burn your own live CDs. DistroWatch lists links to all of the downloads and, for that matter, other CD vendors as well.

Still To Come:

How Can I Find Help With Linux?

Stay tuned…

Don Crowder, Buchanan Lake Village, served by the U. S. Post Office in Tow (rhymes with "cow"), Texas
These words were written in gedit on my 800 MHz Debian Etch computer.

[tags]Which LInux Distro, live cds, Serious Sampler Pack[/tags]

  • http://profiles.google.com/gregzeng Greg Zeng

    Distrowatch is a geeks-only site; not for noobs. It fails to show that most server & desktop distros (numbers of distros & endusers) choose DEB-operating systems. RPM is not ready for desktops IMO; not as ready to detect users’ hardware. The other distros (Gentoo, Arch, BSD … based) are so CLI, which is opposite to the Desktop GUI.
    KDE, unlike Windows, cannot ‘restore’ to the last working version. It deters Linux-noobs in very great numbers, by being irreversibly too flexible. Noobs prefer Pinguy, Zorin or other debian based Mac work-alikes.
    For serious computer users, only Xubuntu is light enough on resources to allow heavy multi-tasking of overweight apps. Gnome, KDE … crash & slow to a M$ level. Lighter interfaces (LXDE, Enlightenment, … ) are limited in flexibility & user support. Xubuntu has ‘forks’ as well. I did list these, but now these forks are so strong, I created them as unique distros.