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Disclaimer: Geek post follows. Proceed at your own risk!
Is there anyone out there with relatively recent experience with Linux or UNIX in a home (or small business) environment? I'm looking for suggestions for distributions that are stable, secure and relatively easy for a novice to use more or less out of the box. Actually, I'm fairly comfortable with the basic commands, but I dont''t want to have to spend a lot of time learning the esoterica of package management (what turned me off of Linux about 12 years ago) or manually creating IPSEC configurations and the like.
I'm interested in suggestions for both workstations and small servers on relatively modern hardware (desktop and/or laptop); a relatively lightweight portable (USB thumb drive) installation; and older distributions that may still be available to run on old (8-10 years) hardware (slow CPU, small memory and disks by today's standards). I'm willing to use different distributions for different configurations, if appropriate.
Suggestions for relevant discussion forums are also welcome.
Thanks in advance!
Have you looked at Ubuntu? www.ubuntu.com It gives the choice of using a traditional shell environment or GNOME GUI. I can't speak to Ubuntu's use on a server though although they offer it for servers. Also, you can run it from a USB. Caveat: I have had nothing but problems with it although 99% of everyone else seems to be able to use it fine. It won't play well with certain hardware of mine like an Nvidia card. Ubuntu seems to need more/newer tech specs than other versions--I tried running it on Dell that is about 7 years old. The little bit that I got to play around with it, I really liked it though. The Ubuntu forums are great for info.
There is a lightweight version of Ubuntu that I haven't had the time to check out yet. It's called Lubuntu. lubuntu.net Xubuntu is another lighter version based on the Ubuntu core. xubuntu.org Both of these supposedly work well with older equipment, but I haven't had time to try them out.
Thanks Steve, John, and Andrea. I appreciate the feedback!
I needed to get a Q&D Linux environment up last night and ended up grabbing the Ubuntu 13.04 distribution. I got a 1 TB WD My Passport drive from WalMart for $79, installed it on that, and was off. (Aside: Remember when a 100GB drive was about 5x the size and 2-3x the price? For that matter, I remember when a 100 MB disk pack was about 30x the size and 10x the price; the drive the pack mounted in was the size of a washing machine and well north of $10K! But then the system has a whopping 56KB (yes, *K*!) of memory to support 16 simultaneous timesharing users with 110 baud terminal connections. Those were the days!)
While I have more than enough room on the laptop hard drive to add partitions for Linux and create a separate NTFS data partition that I can mount from either, I've never had good luck partitioning a drive with Windows already installed. If I can find the restore disk for an old laptop I may try on that.
Another possibility I am considering is running Linux in a virtual machine under Windows -- which allows both to run simultaneously. Have you considered this, John? For a desktop Linux system you will need an X emulator. The only one I am familiar with (Reflection X) is not cheap; hopefully there is a decent freeware or inexpensive product out there.
I forgot to mention...
So far I am incredibly impressed with the package management in Ubuntu. When I entered a command (gawk) that wasn't installed, the system found a source for the package, offered to install it, and identified all of the package dependencies. You can't ask for better service than that!
I'm lazy and didn't feel like partitioning my HDD so I used something called Wubi. It works pretty well with XP, although with my new laptop I get a warning message that it's not compatible with 8 yet. It gives you a boot menu when you start up the machine.
Hello, brethren and fellow geeks! For stability, I prefer Debian Linux, the OS upon which Ubuntu, Mint, and a whole host of other Linuxes are built. The Debian team is very conservative with package management, so you rarely see any conflicts of any kind. It has always run rock solid for me. I have used it at home in the past as a firewall and fileserver mostly. I've mostly run headless boxes, although I've heard their installer and GUI is very nice nowadays. Way back when I used to play games, I ran it as an Unreal Tournament server on a Pentium 166 and it never dropped a packet.
In Christ through Mary-
Oh, and FWIW, I switched to Mac OS X about five years ago. Underneath the OS, at the command line, it's basically UNIX. I can still get my geek on there when I choose. I run all of my windows boxes in virtual machines using VMware Fusion. I'm currently running Windows Server 2008 64-bit, Windows 7 64-bit, and Windows XP. I think I'll install Debian 7 today and see how it goes.