June 2, 2003

Answering newbies' "Which distro should I pick?" question

- by Lee Schlesinger -
Recently I asked for your help in putting together the ultimate guide for potential Linux users to advise them what distribution to use. Oh, what a fool I was. While you came through with plenty of advice, much of it quite passionately expressed, the task itself is a bit beyond the scope of a single article.

Luckily, others in the Linux community have spent a lot of time thinking about the topic. DistroWatch just updated its beginner's guide to choosing a Linux distribution. It covers 10 widely used distros, talking about each one's strengths and weaknesses.

DistroWatch's advice reflects the common wisdom. To quote a summary:

Lycoris, Xandros and Lindows are considered to be the best for new Linux users who want to get productive in Linux as soon as possible without having to master all its complexities. On the other end of the spectrum, Gentoo, Debian and Slackware are advanced distributions that require plenty of learning before they can be used effectively. Mandrake, Red Hat and SuSE can be classified as good middle-road type distributions. Knoppix is a special case - it is great for trying out Linux without getting your hands dirty as it runs directly from a CD, no installation required.

Like everything in the Linux community, DistroWatch's assessments are open to debate, but they encapsulate the facts about the distros and the accepted opinion of the community pretty well. One piece of information they don't give is the size and quality of each distro's individual community, and the tenor of their responses. On the other hand, it would take a braver writer than me to assert which communities are generally impatient with new users.

I guess that's why our comments let you post as Anonymous Reader.


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