Best distro for the desktop PC

Best distro for the desktop PC

Summary: OK, I'm getting ready to try Linux on one of my desktop PCs and rather than choose a distro myself I thought I'd let you choose it for me.


OK, I'm getting ready to try Linux on one of my desktop PCs and rather than choose a distro myself I thought I'd let you choose it for me.

The question is simple - which distro should I choose for a desktop system?

[poll id=102]

I think I've entered into the poll all the most popular options from the previous post!

BTW, I want to give you some insight into how I plan of embarking on this experience.  First off, will be Linux in a virtual PC, then on some of the hardware systems I have here.  Then I'll move on to (hopefully - maybe I'll get a loaner system) looking at some pre-built systems and then build a Linux system.  I'm also going to try a number of distros - this poll is just for the first one.

My focus for this experience is going to be two-fold.  Looking at how hardware behaves under Linux (here I'm going to be honest about the ups and downs I encounter) plus how I feel about Linux.  The feelings part is going to be based on personal experience and again honest - but I don't expect everyone to agree with me here ;-).

Should be fun!

Topic: Operating Systems

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  • PCLinuxOS

    I would also suggest adding PCLinuxOS to that list.

    It will be having it's next major release in the near future which I will be trialing it myself once the final is available.
    • Added ...

      ... Thanks for the heads-up!
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
    • Best distro...

      I'm in a rush this morning, so this may have been mentioned before, but I've used SimplyMEPIS for over 2 years now. Mepis is now based on Ubuntu, but IMHO it's a lot more than a warmed-over Ubuntu. I'm not a "geek", and it's gotten me completely away from WinDOHs, and the MepisLovers community is (again IMHO) second to none. Just my nickle's worth (inflation, ya know)...
  • Wireless

    Many wireless network cards do not come with driver. You may find the following useful

    So just be aware that wifi is one of the weakest areas of most distros. You may want to ensure you have a wired connection for your early forays and maybe test out the wifi angle when you've familiarised yourself with the environment.

    If you just go "hey I'll just try it out on day one" then your series will be short.
    • Thanks

      That's a good point. Cheers.
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
      • K/ubuntu wireless

        I have read that wireless is a weak point of the Linux
        distros, but I have been playing with the Ubuntu
        distro. I have finally decided on the Kubuntu
        variation. I have had no problem getting my wireless
        card to work on either variant. Once you get used to
        the fact that you have to enable and configure the
        connection, it's seems pretty simple.
        • What card?

          Reporting a satisfying experience is certainly a positive comment. But it's a positive in a vacuum if we don't know what card it is that you aren't having a problem with.

          Anyone else not having problems with specific hardware?
          Still Lynn
          • What card?

            I have the same problem that my wireless does not work.
            I have the prism wireless card. It does not woek with AES encryption.
        • RE:K/ubuntu wireless

          It is a common problem among distros that for a given wireless chip one release of the distro will recognize and load it perfectly and the next release will not.

          Currently, the bcm43xx driver will recognize some bcm43 chips and not others. My laptop has a bcm4306 chip which MEPIS 3.4.3 recognized and loaded perfectly. MEPIS 6.0 did not, however. Neither does Kubuntu or PCLinuxOS.

          That is why a good distro will also include the FULL ndiswrapper package, not just the ndiswrapper.ko module. The final release of SimplyMEPIS32 6.5 does include the full ndiswrapper package, as does PCLinuxOS 2007 TR4. By taking the copying the Windows driver from my USB memory stick and running ndiswrapper against it I am able to get an excellent connection using either Kubunut, MEPIS32 6.5 or PCLinuxOS 2007 TR4.

          Ubuntu, Kubuntu, PCLinuxOS 2007, SimplyMEPIS32 6.5, Knoppix and many other Linux distros come on what is called a "LiveCD". This CD can be inserted into the user's CDROM drive and then booted. Linux will run off the CDROM without touching the hard drive or the existing OS, albeit much slower than if it were running off the hard drive. It makes a good way of getting the look and feel of a distro, which will help you decide which one you want to install.

          BTW, although I run MEPIS, folks migrating from Windows might want to try PCLinuxOS 2007 TR4 first because it looks and feels closer to Windows XP than any other distro I've tried. I believe they will prefer the KDE desktop over GNOME (Ubuntu) because KDE has a better mime structure than GNOME and works more like Windows than GNOME. Once they become comfortable with Linux they can run Ubuntu in the LiveCD mode and see how they like GNOME and compare it with their KDE experience. PCLinuxOS has an excellent GUI administration system, even better organized and user friendly than anything Windows has. It is also built on the 2.6.18 kernel and KDE 3.5.4 and includes Synaptics, which makes adding and removing applications child's play.
    • Too true..

      I had made that mistake when I bought a Netgear wireless router for all the computers in my house. I had tried to get the wireless USB adapter working on my machine, but to no avail. But once I bought some Cat6 cable and got wired up, DHCP kicked right in and no problems ever since.

      You might get wireless working if you try ndiswrapper, but you're right that you should go wired first.
      Tony Agudo
      • You mentioned a new router

        The router isn't the issue, it's the USB adapter.

        But I agree with everybody's consensus. Wired first, then try wireless.
        Michael Kelly
      • Wireless PCI Card

        I haven't tried getting a wireless USB adapter working
        (as a matter of fact so far I can't get USB to work at
        all on this PC) but I had no problems getting a
        wireless PCI card to communicate with my Netgear
        router. I can get on the Internet with no problem and
        the Linux box sees both the Windows machines. So far,
        though, neither of the Windows machines seem to be able
        to see the Kubuntu machine. At one point when I was
        running Ubuntu, the network would see the machine, but
        I hadn't learned enough to set up a Windows shared
        folder, so although it would see the machine,my it
        didn't recognize any of the folders on it. I'm still
        very early in the Linux learning curve myself, but I'm
        not going to Vista so I'll learn Linux just like I
        learned DOS and Windows.
    • Initial configuration in general

      is always the hardest part about Linux (and that's the #1 barrier of entry). But once you get beyond that it's pretty much smooth sailing, more so than any other OS in my opinion.
      Michael Kelly
    • I jumped in with wireless first on Fedora Core 6

      Got it working fairly quickly, but it must have been beginner's luck. I tried to install a bigger hard drive on the same Sony VAIO laptop with the same installation DVD and could not get the wireless port to work at all.

      The newer installation added another network port at wifi0 in addition to the eth0 and eth1 ports that the first install gave me. Apparently, there is a package or module that creates an alias to the eth1 port that is the Wifi adapter. This "phantom" package or module seems to frustrate everything else's functionality to the Wavelan adapter. I can't even get the iwscan program to work or Wireless Assistant to talk to the adapter.

      I haven't been able to find the package or module that creates the alias as I am still pretty new to Linux and settings are everywhere in the file system. I tried looking at the anaconda-ks.cfg (kickstart file) and could find no differences between the two installations. Looked into the modprobe.conf and /etc/sysconfig/network but found the eth0 and eth1 entries but nothing about wifi1.

      Other than the wireless networking, my experience with Linux has been nothing short of exemplary. I loaded KDE and Gnome so I can switch between them but I find I like KDE much better. The Linux apps work well and there's a ton of them. I just wish they would have better, more informative names or their menu items gave more information. For example, it's not obvious to all just what KRandRTray might do. Actually it allows you to Resize and Rotate the desktop but I never would have known by guessing from the name or menu entry.

      The samba subsystem is also great. I can access our SBS2003 server shares as well as other Windows network resources in our intranet. This leaves me as connected to the enterprise as Windows ever did.

      VMware Workstation 5.5 works very well too. I have a SUSE Linux with KDE3.5 VM that I got on the internet as well as W2K and Win98 VMs that run quite well while sharing some file folders, USB and network ports with the Linux host. I also have Windows applications in the Win2K VM that can access their hardware dongles through the VM to the USB port and run without a glitch.

      So far Linux has been able to handle everything that I have thrown at it and appears to be where my old hardware will be going in the future. Now I just want to try a Macbook Pro...
    • Older wireless cards for laptops

      If you have an older PCMCIA wireless card in a drawer somewhere, you might
      have more luck getting it to work on a laptop. I have an old Netgear WG511
      (802.11G card) that has been detected and worked fine with the last 2 distros
      I have tried (Knoppix and Ubuntu) on 2 different, old laptops (a fairly old
      ThinkPad and a really old HP). Now ... getting them to work with the built-in
      NeoMagic sound card is a different story. Both laptops are still mute.
    • This is chipmakers fault.

      Lack of Wireless support is notoriously the fault of the chip makers, ie. Broadcom, etc. The drivers would be avaiulble but the chipmakers don't give the Linux community the programming support info they need to develop the drivers.

    • Too true...

      I recently installed Ubuntu Edgy on my laptop and spent the next week haunting forums and other sites to figure out how to configure my Intel 2200BG wireless card to my Linksys wireless router (which is ridiculous since a laptop without wireless is barely worth the silicon and plastic it's made out of). The biggest problem is that WPA/WPA2 (today's standard, WEP is old school and easily sniffed/hacked) is not supported out of the box in most distros and requires wpasupplicant.

      If you roam and connect to multiple APs that use a variety of encryption methods like PEAP/EAP, the process is even more hazardous because you are basically on your own at that point to trial and error your way to wifi freedom. Bottomline, configuring wireless in Linux is NOT for the newbie. If have seen creative solutions out there but they are custom to the card, router, distro, and so on...and require expert knowledge of Linux hacks.

      This one basic feature of modern computing has me wondering if Linux is starting to have trouble keeping up because wifi has been around for quite some time.
      • The problem is with the router manufacturers

        Many of them don't publish their specs, so FOSS developers have to try and reverse engineer as much as they can. You can try using something like ndiswrapper, and/or try using a wireless adapter for your ethernet card.
        Tony Agudo
        • Yeah, I know, or alternatively...

          ...wireless card manufacturers could author Linux drivers if they feel uncomfortable with releasing chip specs, which highlights a another major problem with Linux. M$ sits idly by, hardly lifting a finger, while hardware mfg'ers race to update drivers for Vista and so on, but always consider Linux drivers an afterthought, if at all. If I spend $400 on a graphics card, I want to know that I can access the latest, cutting edge drivers. But if hardware mfg'ers feel the market for $400 graphics cards is too small to support development, a stalemate results. Bleeding edge gamers never migrate to Linux and mfg'ers never make cards for Linux. If you want to see Linux take off, convert the gaming community, that's where the hype is.
  • Hey ...

    ... I've learned I can't please everyone all the time. Poll seemed as good a way as any to get some feedback.

    Thanks for your feedback.
    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes