January 17, 2012

Choosing a distro

I am considering switching (back) to Linux. I was a long time Windows user who switched to Ubuntu when Vista was released. I probably don't need to explain why. One of the things I was hoping to do with Ubuntu is actually learn the OS, but that never happened. I couldn't find any decent books or documentation to guide me through the OS. Everything was either way too basic, or too over my head. As a result, my only resource was the Ubuntu forums. However, by way of my goals, that wasn't much help either. I was expecting to have problems transitioning to Linux, but hoping they would be an opportunity to learn. Instead, I would post questions, and responders would basically just post some code (that I didn't understand) for me to copy and paste into the terminal. There was no explanation, and no learning. After a few years of that (and a desire to try a couple apps that wouldn't run in WINE), I switched to Windows 7.

However, I want to change back yet again (though not to Ubuntu) and the main reasons are:

1) I'm rekindling an old (as in 10 years old) interest in software development with the possibility (i.e. faint glimmer of hope) of designing mobile apps and maybe make a few extra bucks. Otherwise, I just want to tinker with other forms of software development (AI design, productivity apps, maybe some games). I think that developing skills with Linux will help strengthen my foundational knowledge with computers and help with programming.*

2) I like Linux better. I liked my old desktop and being able to have a cube or multiple virtual desktops running. I tinkered with Python when I was using Ubuntu and it made things much easier having a 3x3 desktop workspace. And I liked the terminal. Unlike Windows "Command Prompt", you could actually do things in the terminal.

3) All the usual sociocultural/economic reasons why people dislike Microsoft and Apple products.**

4) My computer is getting a bit older (about 5 years or so), and Linux would just be a lot faster and lighter.

* I do realize that knowing Linux won't necessarily make me a better programmer on MS or MacOS platforms, as I would need to know those systems as well, but I do believe it would strengthen my general computer skills more so than knowing Windows or MacOS. Who knows, maybe it might turn into some kind of tech job down the line.

**The irony of #1 (specifically the bit about mobile apps) and #3 is not lost on me. :P

Anyway, I'm having trouble choosing a distro. I don't like the direction Ubuntu is going (and it wasn't much help the first time around anyway), so that's out. Still, I have concerns about going with a less flashier and less user friendly distro:

1a) Too steep of a learning curve
1b) Not enough support (whether it be community or comprehensible documentation)
2) I won't be able to use it for certain media applications (I have a ton of music and movies)
3) Lack of adequate support for web browsing (especially flash)

Considering all this, can anyone suggest a distro that might work for me (and maybe explain why). I'd really appreciate it.

Thanks.