Which Linux to use is often a question people ask. Ubuntu is by far the most popular at the moment but there are still others out there to try.
When I talk about which Linux use, it is just that while Linux is a free operating system, different people put a style on top of that and package it. Groups, companies or individuals add features and ways of updating the system and adding programmes, then make them publicly available. These different types of Linux are called ‘distributions’ (or a ‘distro’ for short).
I started mucking about with Linux in 1999 with a boxed set of floppies and a book from SUSE. This was my first distro. I would not recommend SUSE now though due it’s flirting with Microsoft.
In those days it was quite a feat to partition the hard drive and decide on sizes of each partition. There was lots of reading required but eventually I got it working. The problem I could not overcome was that I had a printer that was not compatible and without a printer the machine could not be a usable work station for me. SUSE was put back on the shelf, though I would play with it from time to time.
I then started to experiment with some of the smaller distros and found that a live cd was a powerful tool for sorting computers that were playing up. A live cd is one that you put in the computer before booting up. The computer then bypasses its own operating system – great if your Windows has crashed and you want to recover files.
A live cd is not installed on the computer and leaves no trace after it has been removed.
Of the live cds I was impressed with Knoppix. I particularly liked Slax and was amazed at the speed of it. I used Slax for a wide range of task as a live cd. I tried Peanut, Beatrice, DSM and a load more.
The first distro I got to work properly in a work setting was Madrake (it later merged with another distro and now called Mandriva).
Mandrake was very good in that the look of the desktop was good and it did everything I needed at the time. It gave an old machine a new lease of life by replacing the Windows95 (yes really) with something more modern. That machine worked for about two years in the office, but that was a few years ago now.
The next one I used in the work setting was SUSE. I had been using a Windows machine but my then assistant tried to stop the Nortons anti-virus which was competing with an existing Macafee anti-virus. Removing Nortons proved almost impossible and in the process he lost the drivers for some the hardware such as the dvd drive. So much time was wasted I decided to abandon Windows and installed an up to date SUSE I had got free. It was a relief to be free of computer slowing anti-virus software, something Linux doesn’t need it. I stuck with SUSE for a few years but I eventually got frustrated with it because of the problems I encountered when I wanted to add programmes.
Then Ubuntu! I first decided to try it on my home machine as a dual boot with XP and found it so good that I stopped using Windows altoghether. I went on to replace the SUSE on the office machine with Ubuntu. I now have Ubuntu on a number of machines including a server. Also in the office, my colleague has his gorgeous Dell Mini 9 which came from Dell with Ubuntu already installed.
When changing from SUSE to Ubuntu I decided to change from KDE to Gnome as the desktop manager. KDE is more ‘Windows’ like but I have come to prefer the simple elegance of Gnome which is more ‘Mac’ like.
An advantage with Ubuntu is the online support that is available throught the community forums. Most problems I have encountered have been encountered before by others so I can get good advice there.
All in all I can recommend Ubuntu.