Choosing the right distribution will ease your migration - gHacks Tech News

Choosing the right distribution will ease your migration

For those of you considering a migration from Windows to Linux, I have a very simple piece of advice that will make the migration much easier. That advice: Choose the right distribution.

Let me begin at the beginning, or at least the best starting point. The Linux operating system is built with a number pieces. The most underlying piece is the kernel - that is the heart of Linux. On top of the kernel rests a ton of libraries, drivers, and system applications. Overlaying that is user-space console applications. The next layer is the X Windows system. X Windows is the piece that gives Linux a graphical environment. The final layer is the desktop.

Linux is separated into distributions. A distribution is, for all intents and purposes, a "brand" of Linux. There are many distributions: Ubuntu, Fedora, Red Hat, Mandriva, PC/OS, gOS, SuSE, etc (hundreds of them in fact). Each distribution is based on a different base. There are five main bases: Debian, Slackware, BSD, RPM, and Gentoo. Each "base" is formed around a package-manager (a package manager is a system for installing, removing, and managing the software that is on the system.)

How a distribution puts together its version of Linux defines their audience. Some distributions are better suited for new users. These are:

Some distributions are better suited for mid-level experience users:

And some distributions are better suited for advanced users:

NOTE: As gHacks user MrBuddha has already pointed out, BSD is not actually a Linux distribution but a variant of the BSD operating system. I do generally lump BSD in with Linux because they are both UNIX-derived operating systems and share a number of similarities.The lumping in of BSD is two-fold: 1) simplicity and 2) applications created for Linux generally can be used on BSD.

If you are a new user your choice of distribution should be limited to the top four listed. That will make your learning curve far more shallow. Distributions such as Ubuntu have done everything they can to make using Linux simple. From the installation to the desktop, you will find these distributions to be the easiest operating systems you have ever used.

But what makes them easier?

Let's take a look at the Linspire distribution. The Linspire mission has always been to make Linux the easiest operating system available. And many of the easier-to-use distributions are following suit. Linspire and Ubuntu can be found on many pre-installed computers. One of the aspects that makes these distributions so much easier is package management. Each of the easiest distributions have a centralized location for software installation. If you want to install something, you fire up Synaptic (or whatever opens when you click Add/Remove Software) and search for a package to install. It's simple. But don't think, for a second, that you'll have your operating system up and running and have to install a bunch of software. A Linux operating system usually comes complete with everything you need. You could effectively install the operating system and never have to install another piece of software again.

Another piece of the puzzle that makes one distribution easier than another is choice of desktop. There are some Linux desktops that make the migration from Windows a no-brainer. Both KDE and GNOME can be made to mimic the look and feel of Windows so well some users wouldn't know they are using Linux.

Freedom of Choice

Ultimately the choice is yours. Do you select a distribution that targets new users or do you go for a more advanced Linux? Don't fret. Most modern Linux distributions offer Live versions of their operating systems. This means you can boot from the LiveCD and run the operating system without making any change to your computer. This allows you to test-drive Linux. Do this with the easiest distributions and I bet you'll find one that meets your needs.

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Choosing the right distribution will ease your migration
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For those of you considering a migration from Windows to Linux, I have a very simple piece of advice that will make the migration much easier.
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Ghacks Technology News
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    Comments

    1. MrBuddha said on December 8, 2008 at 5:28 pm
      Reply

      FreeBSD is a Linux distribution? Whow, didn’t know that! An article obviously written by a real expert who knows what he talks of… I’m not impressed so far.

    2. jack said on December 8, 2008 at 5:36 pm
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      No FreeBSD isn’t a Linux distribution – it is a BSD-based distribution. But it is often categorized with Linux distributions. I often lump BSD-variants in with Linux distributions for simplicity sake. I like BSD (FreeBSD to be precise) and feel one of the best ways to help people get to know BSD is to include it with Linux. The average user is starting to become familiar with Linux – but not UNIX. If I were to say to an average user “Try BSD, it’s like UNIX” most average users wouldn’t know what I was talking about. If I say, however, “Try BSD, it’s a variation of Linux.” the average user might be so inclined to try.

    3. Anupam Shriwatri said on December 8, 2008 at 6:19 pm
      Reply

      Nice article. Thanks a lot. I often wondered about so many linux. This article will give a right direction to many people who want to use linux.
      Looking forward to more articles from you Jack.

    4. Dotan Cohen said on December 8, 2008 at 7:37 pm
      Reply

      > I often lump BSD-variants in with Linux
      > distributions for simplicity sake.

      People who know me call that principle “Dotan’s Razor”: An insignificant inaccuracy can save a lengthy explanation.

    5. Beginners said on December 8, 2008 at 8:27 pm
      Reply

      Thank you! Great and useful article!

    6. Sameer said on December 8, 2008 at 8:45 pm
      Reply

      I have been using ubuntu for quite some time and i am impressed with it really. I do have some problems configuring pppoe on it though it has a built in one

    7. Roman ShaRP said on December 8, 2008 at 9:26 pm
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      Here around me people recommend to start from Ubuntu or Mandriva too.

      But I think that virtual machine like VirtualBox is better way of learning than LiveCD.

    8. BRasulov said on December 8, 2008 at 10:22 pm
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      @jack
      good start, mate!
      but u forgot ab slackware – the father of linuxes.

      @Roamn ShaRP
      If u wanna taste linux dont use virtual machines. without loosin ur windows box n spending ur weekends readin docs u cant learn linux:)

    9. pospam said on December 9, 2008 at 12:06 am
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      I can also recommend Linux mint for the beginner. It is pretty similar to Ubuntu with the advantage that it has all the codecs and some other stuff you need to have a computer ready right after install. Also it really has a nice desktop theme.
      http://www.linuxmint.com/

    10. yehoni said on December 9, 2008 at 4:08 am
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      I haven’t done more than take a quick look at it myself, but I have to ask, how did gOS make it into the mid-range category? My understanding is that it’s basically a modified Ubuntu, and was supposed to actually be *simpler*, since it was designed basically as an “easy mode” for netbooks. A desktop with links to webapps. How is this at all complex?

    11. Walter said on December 9, 2008 at 12:43 pm
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      what do you suggest if user are looking @ the lightest linux, i have try installing ubuntu on IBM t21 with 256mb, it seems heavier than WFLP, can anyone kindly suggest?

    12. Roman ShaRP said on December 9, 2008 at 12:55 pm
      Reply

      what do you suggest if user are looking @ the lightest linux, i have try installing ubuntu on IBM t21 with 256mb, it seems heavier than WFLP, can anyone kindly suggest?

      I succeeded with installation of branch of the Ubuntu, Xubuntu Linux (7.04, 7.10) on machine with 256 Mb RAM.

      There are also Damn Small Linux, but I chose Ubuntu as one of the most popular, and, because of this, bigger community distros. :)

    13. Roman ShaRP said on December 9, 2008 at 12:59 pm
      Reply

      BRasulov
      If u wanna taste linux dont use virtual machines. without loosin ur windows box n spending ur weekends readin docs u cant learn linux:)

      I prefer to start learning in the virtual environment. :)

      As for docs – I’m reading “Ubuntu Linux for non-geeks” now, and have got some more docs and books. I’m geek, but not yet in Linux :)

    14. Roman ShaRP said on December 9, 2008 at 3:58 pm
      Reply

      2 Walter

      It seems that antispam plugin ate one my comment because of link in it. :)

      I would recommend to you to try Xubuntu, Ubuntu branch with XFCE desktop. I installed it on 256 Mb RAM PC myself.

      If you look for lightest Linux, I heard about Damn Small Linux, branch of Knoppix. But I hadn’t personal experience with it.

    15. MartinJB said on December 9, 2008 at 6:18 pm
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      So far I am very happy with gOS – it installed easily and dual boots with XP – still have a lot to learn about ‘nix but then again I started with MS DOS 2.11 many years ago ;)

    16. BRasulov said on December 11, 2008 at 1:33 pm
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      @Roman ShaRP

      :) ur funny, mate. u cant say ur geek if ur:
      1. reading commercial books;
      2. using ubuntu;
      3. saying that ur geek;
      4. afraid of risks.

    17. Roman ShaRP said on December 11, 2008 at 1:47 pm
      Reply

      I’m geek in Windows, not in Linux. :)

      Now I want to confront Murphy’s Law and read instruction before nothing else helps :) I think it will save me some time. :)

    18. BRasulov said on December 11, 2008 at 2:08 pm
      Reply

      @Roman ShaRP

      take it easy mate:)

    19. Walter said on December 12, 2008 at 6:10 am
      Reply

      Thanks Roman, i will give Xubuntu a try and come back with comments later

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