A simple suggestion for the overwhelmed newbie

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    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Binghamton NY

    A simple suggestion for the overwhelmed newbie

    Recently, once again, some poor unfortunate tried to get advice about what distro he should start with, and once again, the contridictory cacophony of partisan voices that responded couldn't have been very helpful.

    So I had a thought. While it's perfectly acceptable to just jump in and install something, and then maybe install something else, those who are what I like to call "li-curious" and wonder if there's a way to make a logical, orderly approach might want to forget about picking a distro for a while and concentrate on picking your favorite desktop environment.

    Besides offering a choice of disributions, Linux offers a choice of desktop environments-- graphical user interfaces. Each of them approaches the question of "point and click" in its own way. The most popular and beginner friendly desktop environments are Gnome and KDE. KDE has the reputation for being the desktop most similar to Microsoft WIndows in terms of look and feel, but there's only so many ways that you can point and click, and if you're used to MS windows, you ought to find gnome reasonably intuitive and easy tp pick up.

    Gnome (my personal favorite) is fairly simple and intuitive for me, makes for a nice, uncluttered desktop, and has a couple of features I really love. (I can open a console window just by right-clicking on the desktop). KDE is flashy, powerful, and feature-rich.

    Get your hands on a couple of live CD's. A live cd is a linux operating system that doesn't need to be installed on your hard drive ; it runs entirely from the CD and from the RAM. This means that a live Linux CD is not only easy to try, you can try it without risking any of your current hard drive data. You can go online , surf, play games, play audio and video files from your hard drive, and a lot more. If you have more than one CD drive, you can burn CDs, using data from your windows hard drive. (a live CD won't write to your hard drive unless you enable it, but most can READ from your hard drive.

    Besides being an easy, no risk way to test-drive Linux, live CDs have a lot of great uses, including repair and rescue-- but that's for another post.

    You want to get a live CD for each desktop environment. Live CDs that use KDE include Knoppix and Kanotix. Live CDs that use Gnome include Gnoppix, and the live version of Ubuntu. Try them both out thoroughly, and see which you prefer.

    Remember that you're testing the desktop environment itself, and not the applications. Certain applications are associated with gnome (they tend to have names that start with "g", like gedit and gthumb, and others are associated with KDE (they tend to have names that start with "k", like kedit and k3b). On live CDs, these associations tend to be rigidly enforced due to space restrictions-- but when you pick a distribution to install to your hard drive, you can almost always mix and match with ease, according to your preferences. If (like me) you prefer gnome but love to use the CD burning utility K3B, you absolutely can have both.

    When you've decided which desktop you prefer, you're already starting to get a handle on what sort of distro you want. You can usually pick either desktop to go with most distibutions, but there are definitely distros that don't go so well with gnome (mepis, kanotix, and slackware need to have it installed. In my limited experience, it crashes a lot with SuSE) . Gnome tends to run good on those distros where it is the default: debian, red hat/fedora, and Ubuntu. (If there are distros that don't go well with KDE, I don't know much about them, ' cause I'm not a KDE guy,)

    These are only the two most popular options. I should mention that there are other, more specialized desktops that can be installed on your system, but beginners shouldn't worry about them just yet. Some are good for older systems because they don't use as many resources. Others are (to my uninformed eyes) just plain weird. And then, of course, there's the Linux Power User-- who don't need no stinkin' desktop!

    Anyway, if you find the choices of distro dizzying, there's a chance that knowing whether you prefer KDE or Gnome will give you enough practical knowledge to make it all seem less intimidating-- and there's also the chance that I have confused you further. If I have, I'm sorry. Just remember, it's all about the fun!

    I'll be back with 24 hours to dress up this post with some nice helpful links and screen shots... oh, and I'll also clean up some of the typos.

    HEY! I think that THIS IS MY 1000th post! Before I was blackbelt_jones, I was posting in here as spiderbaby1958. That was when I was posting in here with a Windows computing. When I got online with my fist superslow Mandrake system, I immediately came here and opened a new account. Therefore, I mark my beginning with Linux from the time I joined this forum as blackbelt_jones, three years ago this month.
    Last edited by blackbelt_jones; 10-11-2005 at 12:58 PM.

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