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So, I want to learn Linux...

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
I guess the title aptly describes what I'm going to ask...sorry, if you're sick of all the "I'm a beginner threads" frown.gif

So, yeah, I want to learn the Linux O.S. and need help choosing a distro to acquaint myself with. I have installed Ubuntu before, but I gave up on it after I couldn't get my wireless driver working. That was a few years ago and on an older notebook, but I hear hardware compatibility and drivers are a lot better now. I also enjoy tweaking and whatnot, so learning terminal is something I'm not going to shy away from. I guess I should outline my hardware and needs...

Hardware: Dell XPS 14 (L401X). i5 M480, Optimus-enabled (Intel GPU w/ NVIDIA 420M GPU), 6GB RAM.

Usage: I'll be dual-booting Linux with a Windows partition, but plan to use the Linux partition as my primary operation system. As it's my University laptop as well, my main priority is that the Linux side of things is reliable. I already have a desktop computer for gaming and intensive applications, so all that the Linux-laptop needs to be able to do is browse the web (social networking sites, YouTube-esque sites, etc.), play/view multimedia, type word documents, as well as access chat clients (AIM, MSN, Skype).

Preferences: It's going to be running on a notebook, so I'd rather it be light on the battery. Also, when I last installed Ubuntu, it set my fan to run on full blast. Permanently. Only when I completely wiped my drive with PartedMagic did my fan operate normally again...I'd rather that not happen this time, haha.

I know that the two main recommendations would be Linux Mint and Ubuntu, but I've heard the latter performs worse than Windows 7. Can anyone give me guidance?
    
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post #2 of 7
I liked Mint when I tried it in a virtual machine. It is well polished. Light on battery? Easy and comes with everything you want. Probably not at the start. You will need to make a few serious tweaks, especially when it comes the Intel GPU so that it won't use too much battery. My laptop without the tweaks ran rather hot idling in comparison to Windows. Now it runs cool, like it should.

Also, expect problems with Optimus. Support for it is quite experimental and hardly stable, although there some methods like Bumblebee that can work. If you don't want problems, you might just want to disable the Nvidia card.

With Arch Linux running super tweaked, I am getting better battery life than on Windows. However, I would expect that Mint can't do that well, and probably finish getting as much battery life as Windows. Arch Linux is great if you really want to learn how things work more. You build your system from the ground up, choosing which applications you want to run. The documentation is great. But it gets difficult sometimes, and it helps to know a little bit about the command line. It is a great operating system if you like to get your hands dirty, but not dirty enough to compile your own kernel tongue.gif.

Some other notable distributions would be Fedora and Debian. Fedora, would probably be easier one out of the two. Debian requires some configuration to set up installing non-free software that I know you will want. Ubuntu is starting to go south with it's new Unity interface.

When in doubt, choose Mint I suppose. This link will help you when tweaking your intel graphics card. You will probably have to do this every distribution if you want to get the best battery life possible.
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post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rothen View Post

Arch Linux is great if you really want to learn how things work more.

I've heard a bit about Arch Linux. It sort of sounds like the middle-of-the-road; a little harder than the beginner variants i.e. Mint, Ubuntu, but a little easier than the more advanced distros. I'm not locked into using Mint and Ubuntu and I'm willing to give Arch a shot, especially if there is some guidance for beginners to use it. Besides, there's always the Windows partition to fall back on when things get frustrating tongue.gif

I'll do a little more research on Arch, since I'm one to get my hands dirty, haha.
Edited by apSlain - 2/26/12 at 4:16am
    
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post #4 of 7
Arch is a good place to start it has really excellent documentation (the install guide is great). The downside is sometimes things break and there are a lot of things that arch does differently vs generic Linux.
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post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cavallino View Post

Arch is a good place to start it has really excellent documentation (the install guide is great). The downside is sometimes things break and there are a lot of things that arch does differently vs generic Linux.

I had a look at the installation documentation and it was an amazing resource. It didn't just simply guide a novice user through installation, it gave really relevant information as to what Arch stood for. I don't really mind things "breaking" - it happens on Windows and I like to tinker around a lot - so it'll be a good learning experience. The only time I'd get angered by things "breaking" is if YouTube or Skype suddenly became inaccessible, haha.
    
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post #6 of 7
you have enough ram. you can install VM Box and use it to try various distros.

select what you feel best, then install separately. i doubt you will though. VM Box works great.

http://www.virtualbox.org/manual/UserManual.html

Edit: i see you will use it on a notebook. do the same and try them first with VM Box in your desktop.
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post #7 of 7
Depending on what you want to learn on Linux depends on the distro to choose. I'm not that knowledgeable on the distro's but i have taken every Linux course in college geared towards administration and tried CentOS, FreeBSD and other server related distros. But for beginner i would go for Either Fedora or Ubuntu just because they are very well supported and documented so you would not have any problems with the drivers at this point. Virtual machines i have used since the beginning and they are powerful and very reliable, especially for a beginner. If you mess something up you can revert back to a snapshot or just re-install with the least of hassle, and with specs like your PC you can have multiple virtual machines with different distros running at the same time with very small impact on resources. Use a VM and mess around with it before dual booting, it will be a good learning experience and give you less headaches in the end.
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