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Is there only one choice for the Linux newcomer?

Can Mandriva provide the same "out of the box experience" of Ubuntu? Find out below!

Can Mandriva provide the same "out of the box experience" of Ubuntu? Find out below!

For the brand new user is there really only one choice?

Meet Mandriva 2009 (One), a distro which states a similar level of “out of the box” compatibility as Ubuntu, but does it deliver?

I decided to write this article to cover a topic that has been concerning me for a while.  Whilst Ubuntu is a great distro offering “out of the box” support, there is so much more to Linux and Linux != Ubuntu!  With that in mind Ive picked a distro which Ive dabbled with on occasion in the past, but since Heron 8.04 went on my second rig and Gentoo remains my distro of choice, I’d neglected the distro for a while.  I think (if i’m honest) there are reason for this.

As a Linux user I may have started believing myself “special” in the world of computing, that “special” feeling is increased when one stays away from the more mainstream distro’s and I think somewhere in my mind, I enjoyed telling people that not only had I found a better computing experience away from a “mainstream” Microsoft offering, but I was staying away from “mainstream” Linux distros and thus reinforcing that I’ve some sort of self esteem issue? – Who knows? but thats my psychological examination over.  The point of me bringing that up? Well, in the quest for finding the “ultimate” by repeated “distro hopping” there may well be an answer closer to home.

Mandriva is available in three flavours with nothing confusing about any of them.

Mandriva One -Includes the proprietary GFX drivers, proprietary codecs for playing all your media and Adobe Flash. You have a choice of Gnome or KDE for this LiveCD.

Mandriva Free – The version which contains no proprietary codecs.

Mandriva Powerpack – A commercial release of Mandriva which gives access to CrossOver games and includes everything of the other two.

Mandriva Flash – For installation onto USB stick or similar.

Installation

Booting from a LiveCD (from an LXF DVD released in December) you can immediately check the compatibility of your hardware.  After an about average LiveCD bootup time giving you various keyboard and desktop options, you are presented with the Mandriva desktop (running with KDE 4.2 or Gnome 2.26)  Whats more, even on Live CD my NVIDIA drivers were loaded and Compiz was running with the all too popular “cube” effect and a number of other little aesthetic tweeks such as wobbly windows!  Its worth noting that the ISO available from the website is updated since the DVD that I’m using, however the differences are minor.

For this feature I am running KDE.  My normal preference is Gnome, I tried as much as possible to come out of my “comfort zone” in order to try and get a view of Mandriva from a new user point of view.

The installation process was a simple wizard asking you questions about where you wanted Mandriva installed, but it was put in such a way that will be stress free for the new user.  Some users may find it too simplistic, however I think for a user migrating from Windows, the clear messages and simple layout will be welcome.

After approximately 25 minutes. installation was complete.  I did not know that there would be very little for me to do after re-boot!

Packages

OpenOffice 3.0.1 is the order of the day, which needs no explanation, and all your favorites can be found here such as Gimp, FireFox 3.08 and probably a whole host of packages you will neither have heard of or use (see further on this matter in conclusions)

The Mandriva package manager (Rpmdrake) is so similar to Ubuntu’s package manager, I cannot see any advantages or disadvantages.  Anyone who tries to tell you Windows software installation is easier than Linux, need look no further than the package repro’s of Ubuntu & Mandriva (to name a few) to see the advantages.  No IRC client though? (more about this in conclusions)

Its all ready for you with Mandriva.  Why should Ubuntu be the only distro being seen as a great "out of the box experience"  Mandriva is not alone, we will cover other distro's that are just as easy for the newcommer!

Its all ready for you with Mandriva. Why should Ubuntu be the only distro being seen as a great "out of the box experience" Mandriva is not alone, we will cover other distro's that are just as easy for the newcomer!

Operation –  Mandriva in action.

A liveCD never represents the true experience of an installed OS (neither does running in a VM), so when testing my hardware with it I had no idea of what was in store when the distro was installed.  After a boot-time that was certainly longer than #!CBL, I experienced about the same time as Ubuntu 8.10.  Whilst a long boot time (like I experienced with Windows many years ago) is not acceptable, a blistering fast one is not that much of an advantage to me, since when the computer is booted, it remains on for a considerable time.  Keeping in mind that I was running Mandriva on a system which only has 512mb of RAM applications ran and loaded at a blisteringly fast pace.

The pre-installed Compiz was surprisingly quick and smooth.  The test machine has the following specs: AMD Athlon 64, 512mb RAM, GeForce FX 5200, 80gb HD and since this computer is old (by my standards) the experience was that of a fresh, modern, just purchased machine.  Since this secondary PC is only used for the more mundane tasks, I am now considering promoting its position in the house to maybe a second PC for the kids.  Mandriva is really that good.

Stability wise, I had no issues and have yet to experience any crashing.  This has been par for the course for me with Linux in general,  so maybe I’m simply lucky.

Conclusions

Let me say that only the issues Ive had are common with all distro’s, that is far too many packages included and too much duplication.

I know the reason for this and its an honorable one to ensure that everyone gets something which they are comfortable with.   Mandriva is no different in this respect to any other distro, and the worst offender so far (in my experience) has to be #!CBL.  So after a little deleting of packages I’ve got the distro best suited to me (one of the main pro’s of Linux?)

In the midst of complaints of too many packages included in Mandriva 2009, there was an absence of an IRC client (or have I just not noticed?)  Since it probably would have been Xchat (or similar) and not IRSSI (my client of choice), it matters not, that issue was sorted out literally in seconds.  (Kudos to Crunchbang for including IRSSI)

So it leaves me with a question.  Why is Ubuntu becoming the new users (and established ones) distro of choice?

Please don’t take that as an insult to Canonical or Ubuntu, its not, however what I see with Mandriva is the “new user” requests of Compiz & graphics card drivers along with proprietary codecs, sorted out on install automatically, unlike Ubuntu where a little tweaking is still required.  Theres no selecting options or messing around with config files with Mandriva, its all there ready!  That to me would be a great plus if I was new user (from Windows) who wanted to get into Linux as quickly as possible and have the “fancy” effects I’d seen on Youtube!  For everyone else, taking off the un-needed features is a very simple job.

I currently run Ubuntu (9.04) on another rig which is primarily the family PC for the kids, however I am now seriously considering moving it over to Mandriva.  Package execution just seems so much faster and smoother and the system is (so far) just as stable.  There is so little to do after installation, and I found the only “tweaking” was aesthetical, with a different colour scheme and desktop wallpaper.

So if youre looking to get started in Linux, or are looking for an “out of the box experience” I would at least suggest you compare Mandriva to Ubuntu yourself, I believe its the better distro and I’ll stand by that comment when I next install a Linux distro for someone who wants to migrate from Windows.  I’ve often stated that I am concerned when people mention Ubuntu as if IT IS Linux.  Fact is it is not and the “out of the box friendliness” that we see mentioned in relation to Ubuntu is true of other distro’s out there.

You can get Mandriva from its official website here.

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com

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About Tim Sparrow

Online tech writer, novelist/author of sci-fi literature and co-host of the TechBytes Show! I believe in multi-culturism & diversity. Luton Town FC supporter.

Discussion

30 thoughts on “Is there only one choice for the Linux newcomer?

  1. Not only is Ubuntu, IMO, a bad choice for the complete newbie, it sends many users back to Windows because of the unnecessary use of the command line. Command line calls are great for the experienced, but for someone coming right from Windows or Mac, they need something like Mandriva, OpenSuse, or PCLinuxOS.

    Posted by LinuxLover | June 1, 2009, 2:12 am
  2. How about PCLinuxOS? Its Radically Simple.

    Posted by Weric | June 1, 2009, 3:44 am
  3. Mandriva (v8.1) was the distro that I finally became comfortable enough with to make Linux my primary OS and relegate Windows to occasional-boot status. I had installed and tried RedHat three times before that but just never could get going.

    Ironically, I recently bought a new PC and installed Fedora. Mandriva is still a great choice, but I decided I want Fedora’s slightly more main-stream position.

    Posted by Ken Jackson | June 1, 2009, 4:30 am
  4. The first distro I tried was PCLinuxOS (which uses Mandriva as its base). It was a great intro to the Linux world.

    Being the first distro meant, however, that I was always itching to experience other flavors. Ultimately I’m now using Ubuntu, simply because of its popularity. Being the most popular, I expected that it will have the greatest variety of applications available. Moreover, I don’t have the time or motivation to hop on to anything else right now.

    I have no clue why Ubuntu is so popular, as Mandriva is better for newcomers.

    Posted by Nigel D | June 1, 2009, 5:49 am
  5. Firstly, thanks everyone for contributing, its appreciated.

    IMO PCLinuxOS has/had an uncertain future, I believe that some of the team behind it moved on (or am I wrong?) That to me (if true) would be a warning signal against recommending it for a new user.

    I personally haven’t had to use the command line when installing/running a new Ubuntu distro for someone else, but what I’ve found with Ubuntu is that compared to the other distro’s Ive installed for people, Ubuntu is one of the slower ones (in my experience)

    Talking of popularity, I honestly believe OpenSUSE would be where Canonical is now if they hadn’t signed “the deal” with Microsoft. Regardless of peoples opinion of the deal itself, I don’t think it can be argued that for the desktop user, Novells deal left a bad taste in the mouth for some (I was one of them)

    I personally dont like the way (IMO) OpenSUSE is aimed towards a Windows experience and packed with Microsoft affiliated material, the whole reason I sought to move from Windows was because I was after a better experience and IMO OpenSUSE is probably the closest to a Microsoft approved distro you can get.

    There must be distaste from the community in regards to Novell/Microsoft, since I believe even Redhat wanted to distance themselves from the implication that their deal was similar to Novells by saying words to the effect of “Theres nothing Novellish about our deal”

    Cheers people.

    Posted by openbytes | June 1, 2009, 8:32 am
    • openbytes, for you to actually make a purposeful change to your Ubuntu installation, you need to either edit a file somewhere or run a command from a terminal. This is in start contrast to opening YaST, Mandriva Control Center, or the PCLinuxOS Control Center and doing it from a GUI environment, just as you would from a Mac or Windows.

      Ubuntu relies on heavy-handed scripts that configure your computer for you. If it gets it right, you’re in good shape. If you’re one of the unlucky ones, you have to dig into the Wiki, get help on the forum, or pull from your knowledge of Linux CLI. This is not good for the newcomer to Linux.

      The only reason for Ubuntu’s popularity is because they market it to death. It’s not a bad distro. It’s just not for the new user in this experienced user’s opinion.

      As far as your point on PCLinuxOS’s future, it has been arranged so that it is an ongoing concern. Yes, most of the major personnel from The Ripper Gang (the development team) have left and started the Unity Linux project. However, PCLinuxOS has a new slew of developers working hard at carrying on the PCLinuxOS banner and Texstar is hard at work making sure all the “i”s are dotted and the “t”s are crossed.

      Unity Linux is a base for distros to base themselves off of. There will be no actual Unity Linux distro. Instead, distros like TinyMe, Granular, Synergy Linux (formerly EeePCLinuxOS), and others will use the Unity Linux base, and differentiate themselves with their own artwork, as well as create the necessary packages they need on top of the Unity Linux base (Gnome, KDE, etc.). It’s an interesting idea, to say the least.

      Posted by LinuxLover | June 1, 2009, 1:51 pm
      • Quote LinuxLover “openbytes, for you to actually make a purposeful change to your Ubuntu installation, you need to either edit a file somewhere or run a command from a terminal. This is in start contrast to opening YaST, Mandriva Control Center, or the PCLinuxOS Contro”

        As a Gentoo user I am well used to droping to the CLI. The article was looking at things from the Newuser point of view and I doubt there are many tasks that require use of the command line for the tasks which they will be starting with. Unless you can maybe offer some examples? Ubuntu is well marketed (for a linux

        Quote “The only reason for Ubuntu’s popularity is because they market it to death. It’s not a bad distro. It’s just not for the new user in this experienced user’s opinion.”

        We’ll have to agree to differ on that one. Since I can also state quite an experience in Linux, I’ve installed 3 Ubuntu’s to family members who I am in contact with. 1 being the kids PC. 1 being my grandmother of 82 (yes she’s a silversurfer) and no issues/requests have come to light requiring the CLI and lastly being my parents.

        Maybe you or others could give examples when CLI is required for the new/average Ubuntu user?

        Posted by openbytes | June 1, 2009, 4:24 pm
  6. mandriva uses kde as default DE, ubuntu uses gnome as default DE > gnome is just more practical.

    Posted by iKonaK | June 1, 2009, 10:08 am
  7. as a newcomer I have tried to install Mandriva to lap top and desktop both of 4-6 year vintage but couldn’t manage to complete (either KDE or Gnome).

    Installed Fedora 10 and Ubuntu 9.04 respectively no problem.

    Posted by steve | June 1, 2009, 12:00 pm
    • Thanks for your experience. I hope this article did not come across as cheapening Ubuntu since its “horses for courses” but more to show that whilst in some cases Ubuntu is great, its only one choice of many.

      Thanks for posting!

      Regards
      Goblin.

      Posted by openbytes | June 1, 2009, 4:32 pm
  8. The past 2-3 years my distros of choice for newbies has been Mandriva and PCLinuxOS and I can count on one hand, the times I had any sort of install problems.

    Suse (open or not) doesnt exist to me anymore and I havent missed it.

    Btw, I believe that distro choices are overated especially for newbies.
    The big choice is the DE.
    And when given the choice, Windows user and total neophytes choose KDE overwhelmingly.

    Im running Mandriva, Gentoo and Kubuntu this month with KDE4.2 and honestly, you cant tell the difference.

    I dont mind the bubuntus, I think Shuttleworth does a good job for the whole community not just for his pet project but I think that Mandriva’s success is more important for all the distros since it is a publicly traded company with all the responsabilities and obligation it entails.

    If Mandriva can make it work, then its a model for other distros to emulate.
    Ubuntu’s success is much harder to copy without a sugar daddy. Its not really a role model in the business sense.

    Posted by guy lafleur | June 1, 2009, 10:47 pm
  9. My apologies, I didnt want to generalize and it should read:
    And when given the choice, Windows users and total neophytes choose KDE overwhelmingly.
    This is based only on my personal experience during installfests and other times when people are given a choice. This is to be expected because of the familiarity. (you wouldnt believe the amount of people who are taken aback by the top taskbar even though you can just drag the XP one to the top as well)

    Posted by guy lafleur | June 1, 2009, 10:52 pm
  10. Great post, completely agree with the Shuttleworth comment.

    To be honest, since Mandriva has been placed on my second rig, its the first time Ive spent some serious hours with KDE, as I said before I’m normally a Gnome man.

    Posted by openbytes | June 1, 2009, 11:13 pm
  11. While I agree with your main premise that Linux != ubuntu, I find it hard to follow your reasoning in the rest of your article.

    You seem to be negative about ubuntu, but there is nothing in the article as to why. In the first few paragraphs, ubuntu seems comparable to mandriva; then suddenly you find mandriva good enough for your primary pc. Why? What are the advantages? Is it primarily speed? Do you find mandriva faster? Which applications? Did you time it or is it your subjective opinion?

    The only negative point you make is too many applications in mandriva, which is actually advantage ubuntu since ubuntu chooses one application for one task and sensible defaults.

    Which config files did you have to edit in the command line?

    There seems to be a lot of hand waving, which I am sure is not your intention. More specifics will be helpful in two ways. One it would be clearer what the advantages of mandriva are, and also give ubuntu a chance to improve; a win-win situation for the community. Second, it would be much more useful for someone who wants to try out mandriva, especially coming from an ubuntu background.

    Posted by Aksel | June 2, 2009, 6:56 am
    • Thanks for the feedback. I think there has been some confusion (I hope its not my article writing skills)

      Quote “, I find it hard to follow your reasoning in the rest of your article.”

      I’ll hopefully clear this up now.

      Quote “u seem to be negative about ubuntu, but there is nothing in the article as to why. In the first few paragraphs, ubuntu seems comparable to mandriva; then suddenly you find mandriva good enough for your primary pc.”

      I didn’t say that. It was my secondary rig (the one used mainly by the family) the reason it had Ubuntu was that it was low maintanence, something which Mandriva is to. I also mention about speed. As I say Mandriva operates far faster on the same machine than Ubuntu (fair enough boot up time is slower, but Ive mentioned this aswell and its not an issue)
      I hope I made it clear (I said so more than once) that this article is not anti-Ubuntu. Its more anti the point that there is only one choice for a Linux new user. Speed wise I timed (albeit with a stop watch) for Ubuntu to first time execute Firefox it took 6 seconds, Mandriva 2. These are based also on my reactions, but its obviously faster. Switching between apps on Ubuntu had a slight pause and sometime access to the page file. Mandriva was instant. I would not like to suggest it was a global result that Mandriva was faster, but certainly in my environment it was.

      Quote “The only negative point you make is too many applications in mandriva, which is actually advantage ubuntu since ubuntu chooses one application for one task and sensible defaults.”

      Very true and since the review was made on the basis of an alternative to Ubuntu, the apps issue was only mentioned due to Mandriva having many packages, to me not an advantage when you not only have duplication, but a plethora of utils you dont use (and as I say #!CBL is the worst offender to date)

      Quote “Which config files did you have to edit in the command line?”

      This is what I asked another user who made the inference that Ubuntu required the command line, which I disagreed with. The tweeking I refered to was in order to get the compiz effects working in Ubuntu to the level of Mandriva. Its not pre-configured to the same level in Ubuntu and since its what I see new users asking about I think its an important feature that Mandriva caters for, which is why I mentioned it.

      Quote “There seems to be a lot of hand waving, which I am sure is not your intention. More specifics will be helpful in two ways. One it would be clearer what the advantages of mandriva are, and also give ubuntu a chance to improve; a win-win situation for the community.”

      Hand waving? You’ll need to explain that term.

      I’ve made clear I believe the advantages of Mandriva both in these comments and the article. Speed/Stability/ease. It would be unfair to suggest Ubuntu CANT do these things (because it can) so the advantage (as I have already said) is that Mandriva is slightly easier to get up and running (for the new user) and slightly faster (on my test machine)

      As I say Ubuntu is great. I presume you are not privy to previous articles where I have concerns about the uptake of one Linux distro over all others, I can elaborate if you wish.

      Quote “Second, it would be much more useful for someone who wants to try out mandriva, especially coming from an ubuntu background.”

      If someone is coming from an Ubuntu background then it matters not anyway. They will already be used to the Linux system (in some shape or form) my article was more to create discussion and highlight the suitability of Mandriva as another first port of call for new users.

      Posted by openbytes | June 2, 2009, 7:35 am
      • Thanks for the reply.

        My impression on reading the article was clearly wrong. I drew too many conclusions when none were intended.

        I wonder why firefox is slow. Is firefox under mandriva compiled with PGO options?

        How much bling you want in a default installation is a difficult issue. There are twice as many opinions as there are users. I think we should leave it at that.

        Hand-waving: poor choice of words. There seemed to be a negative connotation to ubuntu. As I said, my conclusions were wrong. I apologise.

        For someone coming from ubuntu or any other distro, it does matter. Switching distributions is not easy (comfort zone as you mentioned). The zone extends to more things than desktop environments (package installation, finding software for example).

        My writing skills are not as good as I would like them to be. Any nastiness is purely my fault.

        Posted by Aksel | June 2, 2009, 3:44 pm
      • No apology needed. No offense was taken and its great to have debate rather than people agreeing with each other.

        In respect to moving one distro to another, youre completely correct, although I do believe a distro to distro move is alot more familiar than a Windows to distro one.

        IMO there is nothing wrong with your writing skills, there was no nastiness that I saw in your posts. Your opinion is very welcome here and your post was exactly what I was hoping for, a difference of opinion and another side of the debate for people to consider.

        Posted by openbytes | June 2, 2009, 10:31 pm
  12. Although I am rather a Linux fan, for the user that wants the easiest transition from Windows to Linux I would advise to install Linux Mint instead. Granted it is still Ubuntu in a way, but at least it has been optimized for Windows refugees.

    I agree that some things in Ubuntu (like the user interface) are great for people used to Linux but not ideal for new users.

    Posted by Erlik | June 2, 2009, 7:02 am
  13. I guess I should comment on this too, since Mandrake (Mandriva before the Connectiva merger) was my introduction to Linux. At the time, there was no OpenSUSE, Ubuntu was still a gleam in Shuttleworth’s eye, if even that much, and Mandriva appeared much friendlier than the early Fedora Core releases. I stayed with it through around 2005, when I felt that the quality was going downhill. It was about that time that I learned of OpenSuse and wanted to try it out. It seemed a little more polished than the Mandrivas of the time, and I stuck with OpenSuse from 10.0 until 10.2. I wound up abandoning OpenSuse at 10.2 for Ubuntu 7.04. I left it primarily because I encountered a problem with zypper/rug/yast fighting with each other and effectively borking my package management. I had planned on giving Suse another change if the package management system was fixed in the next version, but soon after I left the deal happened and killed that off for me. So I stuck with Ubuntu ever since. I usually take a look around every time I do a fresh install to see if anything looks good enough to switch to, but I have grown comfortable with Ubuntu, and that has to be weighted against time spent learning the unique quirks of a different distro, even one I used to know well, at least where production use is concerned.

    As for Mandriva, from what I remember it went into a bit of a tailspin around the time that I left it, though my memory could be wrong there. Anyway, I’ve also heard that Mandriva has since then recovered and brought its quality back up. As someone that started with KDE3, I’ve been waiting for KDE4 to reach the level where it is considered a complete, mature replacement, and I might give Mandriva another try then. The thing I always appreciated about Mandriva is that they were consistently desktop environment agnostic. It didn’t matter if you ran KDE or Gnome or whatever; all desktops showed the same level of polish and integration in Mandriva and no desktop felt neglected. Nor did Mandriva have separate names for each desktop ({M|K|X}andriva, etc.) That said, I have gotten spoiled by the Debian style apt-get/aptitude/synaptic package management system. I can’t speak for Mandriva, but I haven’t found the recent package management tools for Fedora to be quite as good yet, though that may change as PackageKit matures.

    But as far as what to recommend to a newbie? Here’s what I think. I know that Ubuntu isn’t the be-all end-all of Linux. I do think that when it began it made a push for desktop polish and ease of use at a time when other Linux distros didn’t appear to be putting as much emphasis on it, but that might just be me. Even so, I think after Ubuntu’s success, most if not all Linuxes have improved to the point of roughly equal parity with Ubuntu, with most differences due to differences of distro design philosophy, rather than quality. I wouldn’t expect stock Fedora to make non-free bits quite as automagically easy to put in as Ubuntu, simply because a commitment to ship 100% free as in speech software is part of Fedora’s policy and what they stand for. Likewise, I never expect Gentoo to be a newbie distro, because it was never intended to be. It was intended for people who know exactly what they are doing and what they are getting into.

    Beyond Ubuntu’s initial start, I think one of the big reasons for their popularity is the same reason for Microsoft’s current popularity despite alternatives of equal or greater quality: marketing, plain and simple. There are other viable Linux options, but Ubuntu is the name people are most likely to know about (other than maybe Red Hat) if they know about Linux at all, and that kind of mindshare and ubiquity isn’t a bad thing when the new users have to fend for themselves with their new OS and Google. The fact that it is friendly enough for the home user and has paid-for corporate backing and support for the business user also helps.

    I’ve given some thought to what the best introduction distro is, and here’s what I’ve concluded:

    OpenSuse: ……(cricket chirping)…moving right along….

    Mandriva: (ok, honestly, I haven’t used it in years, so I’m not qualified to say much. But it was always a good KDE distro which is needed now that OpenSUSE is out, and the fact that is has gotten several good reviews makes me think the comeback might be complete. How does the current package management situation compare to a Debian-based system? (number of packages, ease of adding additional repositories or packages, etc.?)

    Fedora: not the best idea for a complete new user, but much friendlier than it used to be. The slightly lesser ease of integrating non-free parts is not as much a concern of mine as Fedora’s stance of being so bleeding edge. It serves a valuable role in the free software ecosystem and is fine for an intermediate level user, but a distro that errs a little more on the side of caution might provide a gentler, more worry-free introduction for a neophyte.

    PCLinuxOS: I must admit I haven’t followed it much because I also had concerns about its future. Even if these concerns are unfounded, I’d wonder what sets it apart from the likes of Mandriva One, Linux Mint, or Super OS.

    Ubuntu/Mint/Super OS: because of the popularity of Ubuntu, I don’t have as many concerns recommending it. I know people will be able to find help for it with Google and in the Ubuntu forums. I also know the forum community is, in general, nice and respectful and not overly of the RTFM sort. I’ve also noticed that Ubuntu’s popularity makes finding deb packages of software as least as likely, if not moreso these days, as finding rpms. The other two, Mint and Super OS, are just distros based on Ubuntu with a few baked in additions that an Ubuntu user could probably add themselves with the package manager 5 minutes after booting up, so I’m not sure which one I’d recommend. It would probably depend a little on the person and their technical confidence, though I might just give them a link to all 3 and let them decide.

    I agree that Ubuntu != Linux, and I usually make sure to refer to it as “Ubuntu Linux” and not just “Ubuntu” whenever I am speaking primarily to those unfamiliar to Linux, and I usually say that “I run Linux” as opposed to “I run Ubuntu.” But I can’t get mad at Ubuntu or it’s success. It may not make as many technical contributions to GNU/Linux, but it has done much in the way of bringing in users and mindshare. Several big things have happened with regards to Linux acceptance and perception over the last 2-3 years, and I can’t help but think that Ubuntu and Canonical have been a big part of it. I know you’ve said you don’t want to see a mass migration to Linux, Goblin. But I would like to at least see enough people using it so that companies can’t afford to ignore desktop Linux. Especially those that already use Linux in their products yet leave Linux desktop users out in the cold. Yes, at its core, Linux has always has been more about freedom than market share and always will be, but the guarantee of full recognition of and support for Linux from specialized software developers and hardware and gadget manufacturers could certainly help home and corporate Linux users as well as evaporate some FUD. (the only problem with my statement is that the conventional methods of measuring OS penetration that companies would be most likely to listen too are practically useless for accurately measuring Linux use)

    Most people like “mainstream” and are uncomfortable leaving the beaten path, even if a better way does exist. And then some people aren’t so involved (obsessed?) with a subject that they can even see or understand the difference between the two ways. And that’s true for things other than computers. The guy who couldn’t tell you the difference between Linux and BSD might be a major automobile buff and could argue for 3 hours straight on the details of why one engine is inherently superior, in his opinion, to a similarly designed one. The point I’m trying to make here is that Ubuntu now pretty much the “mainstream” of the Linux world, and if new users need to be in the mainstream to feel comfortable, or if they just happen to fall in the mainstream as the path of least resistance, what can it hurt? If they don’t like Ubuntu, they are free to switch to another distro at anytime with little to no lost investment (other than the time to install). Whichever Linux flavor they start with initially, I’d like to think they would continue to learn about Linux in general and grow more comfortable with it as they go and switch distros if they find another one at a later time that suits them better.

    Posted by Will | June 2, 2009, 7:13 am
  14. I’ve used Mint 4 & 5 (than went on sidux, now pure Debian) and it’s a great distro. But I can’t recommend Mint 7 as it includes MS’s silverlight (moonlight). I’ve installed it for a friend, but removed both silver and mono.
    But, if one puts those two issues aside, it’s a good distro for newbies.

    Posted by dawith | June 2, 2009, 7:24 am
  15. Oh, about the command line in Ubuntu: I remember there were a couple of things that required editing config files in 7.04 (like changing grub menu boot order and default or cleaning up extra kernels in the boot menu after an upgrade, etc.). But since then GUI tools have appeared that can handle those tasks. (Some of them aren’t on the Live install by default though, and why they aren’t is beyond me.) I can’t remember for sure how much Ubuntu still leaves to the command line, but I know it has decreased.

    I still like the Mandriva control center though, and wish Ubuntu would put something like that together.

    Posted by Will | June 2, 2009, 7:26 am
  16. I tried Mandriva first before Ubuntu and loved it so i was quite resistant to the idea of trying anything else. Ubuntu was much easier and asked much less questions during install (Mandriva had given me options!). Then i tried Wolvix and that was the first time i had seen an overview of the whole install process right from the start – suddenly that process made a whole lot more sense so i advise noobs to do exactly the opposite way around.

    After installing it Wolvix is a little tougher for many of us but it makes trying out these other distros much, much easier.

    http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=wolvix

    http://openbytes.wordpress.com/2009/07/11/wolvix-2-0-0beta2/#comment-1421

    I still think Ubuntu is easier for getting into linux, there’s more books in bookstores and libraries, articles in mainstream press and once you find the forums they are often kind and patient but to the point of making one want to scream.

    Paranoia in the Windows world makes some very suspicious of asking strangers for help, especially in a forum, but once they are used to it they its much easier to open up to the rest of the linux world and the beauty of Mandriva is definitely a good 3rd step imo :)

    Thanks for a great article :)
    Good luck and regards to all
    Tom :)

    Posted by Tom | July 14, 2009, 8:48 am
  17. Mandriva is still used by my family. A great distro and a little unfair that its sometimes overlooked in favor of Ubuntu.

    Quote “Paranoia in the Windows world makes some very suspicious of asking strangers for help, especially in a forum, but once they are used to it they its much easier to open up to the rest of the linux world and the beauty of Mandriva is definitely a good 3rd step imo :)”

    Completely agree. I think many Windows users come to Linux and expect everything to work and be handed to them on a plate. I think Linux is so much more and a little invested time reaps great rewards. There will always be people who dont want to learn (and thats fine) to those people I’d suggest to stick with Windows since its “one click fixes” are, IMO responsible for the bloated product we see today.

    I (and I’d say most other) Linux users have all the time in the world for new users and I have yet to visit a forum where people are not offered help by people willing to spend their time sorting their issues out.

    Regards,
    Goblin

    Posted by openbytes | July 14, 2009, 7:53 pm
  18. Mandriva is stunningly beautiful. When i tried it even the bootup sequence text was all in pretty colours, colour coded as a noob i could see differences between different types of things going on during bootup. I was not ready for the choices given during install and hadn’t heard of LiveCd. The basic choices were easy to understand but in Windows i had always found using less than the “advanced installer” led to problems later. Some other distros such as PcLinuxOS or the recovery “Cd only” Knoppix do offer some of the stunning beauty of Mandriva but to win people over on top-spec machine i think Mandriva is “the one”

    My personal favourite, Wolvix, aims at elegant simplicity and many noobs find it excellent for their 1st dabblings in linux land. Usually people i know only dare ‘risk’ their 1st forage into linux-land on some ancient old junk machine. So, while i would show off with Mandriva i would then try LiveCds of Ubuntu and Wolvix on their machine to see which would be easier to install. Ubuntu has all the support that Windows users are used to including magazine articles in mainstream press. Hopefully people would then stumble into proper linux forums and try multi-boots with other distros. I really must try Mandriva again because it is over a year and developments are quite fast in linux-land ime

    Good luck and have fun :)
    Regards to all from
    Tom :)

    PS Goblin, this was another excellent article, i hope you get your work into the mainstream press too! You deserve to get paid for articles of this quality and they seem quite mainstream-friendly too :)

    Posted by Tom | December 25, 2009, 11:37 am
  19. Wow! Many apols for my appalling grammer! All i can say is that i would rather have this bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy
    Good luck all and regards again from
    Tom :)

    Posted by Tom | December 25, 2009, 1:20 pm
  20. Thanks, but you’d be surprised I am actually very ordinary! My job is about as far removed from Linux as you can get. My grammer is often poor too! Thanks for the praise although I’d suggest anyone can do it!

    Merry xmas!

    Goblin.

    Posted by openbytes | December 25, 2009, 7:33 pm

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about.me

Tim Wilson

Tim Wilson

Writer/Novelist of many facets both in the world of technology and fantasy/sci-fi. Co-host of the TechBytes audiocast and writer for both OpenBytes and Goblin's Domain. Supporter of free and open source software.

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