Choosing a GNU/Linux Distribution
Choosing GNU/Linux over other Operating Systems is not a difficult decision to make in itself. The merits are endless, especially if you want something for a server. Even on the Desktop side of things choosing Linux can be your ticket to complete freedom and total control of your desktop. The performance, stability and security are the three USPs of Linux. You can keep your machine running for ever and never have to face any slowdown or need to reboot unlike some other proprietary operating systems. Linux is fast, I mean really fast, Your logon does not take as much time as in takes on some other operating systems. Linux is inherently secure so you don't need an antivirus. These are just a few points that any Linux user or Admin can tell you.
The real trouble starts when you take your first step towards Linux. There are various reasons for that. One of the most important reasons is that the as a Computer User, You carry with you the specific knowledge and habits of using your previous operating system. This may not be similar to Linux, and it can be frustrating at first to start using your computer the Linux way. Old habits die hard and one needs to exert a lot sometimes to learn something Like Linux. So the key is to prepare yourself for the learning. Learning is a part of using a computer all Operating Systems have a Learning Curve and so has Linux,this should not be a showstopper at all.
There are only three most important considerations in my mind which are like the must to have in any Linux Distro if you are new to Linux.
1. Desktop Environment.
2. Package Management/Add-Remove Software
3. Out of the box experience.
1. Desktop Environment.
This is the single most Important thing that will drive away most of the users from Linux. There is a huge variety of Desktop Environments available in Linux. It is always good to consider the Desktop Environment as the First thing to think about. The Desktop Environment is your single point of Interaction with the GNU/Linux System. The desktop environment you choose has to be something that you can navigate easily. It also must have enough tools to easily customize and personalize the environment. It must be responsive and resource usage should not be too much. In addition to this the workflow must be simple and must not get in the way. So how to choose ?
Go for something which utilizes the navigation techniques of your current OS to the best, don't look for 100% match as it is not possible, Try something that looks and feels familiar.Keyboard shortcuts should work for most part. And Looking for Applications must not be a pain. My recommendation, especially for people coming from Windows Background.
1) Zorin OS (Based on Ubuntu)
2) Linux Mint (Based on Ubuntu)
4) Netrunner (Based on Ubuntu)
1 Zorin OS is on top on my list as it resembles Windows 7 to the best. Menu is neat the panel is matching and it is perfect for users moving over from Windows as it feels like home. It just feels like Windows, However under the hood this is 100% Linux. Based on Ubuntu. The Zorin Desktop is my first choice for Introducing anyone from Windows to Linux as far as Desktop Environment is concerned. The experience is fluid and matches the existing workflow, Although the Super Key/Windows Key does not launch the menu by default, But everything else resembles windows 7.
2 Linux Mint is my second choice. (The Cinnamon version of Linux mint). This may not look like Windows exactly, However has the same functionality as far as menu and panel are concerned. Most Windows Keyboard Shortcuts work fine. Super Key /Windows Key launches the menu. Looks and feels like home as far as the panel and the menu is concerned. Low on resources and great functionality.
3) Netrunner is my third choice. It features a customized KDE desktop, Which also is very similar to the windows ways of doing things. It has a panel and Menu like Windows 7. It is very customizable and provides you a lot of features. This distribution is nicely themed and the Super/Windows key launches your Menu which is categorized as you might have expected. Not only this but the choice of fonts used is also great and gels well with the overall theme of the Desktop.
2. Package Management/Add-Remove Software.
This is one thing that can be intimidating to some users. After overcoming the initial challenge it is the second most important. Users need the freedom to install and remove software from their computers and need that to happen in a very easy in intuitive way. The Linux Distribution for Beginners must have this quality. It must provide easy access to software and even easier ways to add and remove software. This is where the package management capabilities of your Linux Distribution come to play. This is very Important, and for that reason. My choice of GNU Linux Distributions again remains in the same order.
Zorin Linux Mint and Netrunner are based on Ubuntu, They all have almost all major repositories enabled for most software by default. All of them provide a nice Software Center for easy access to software, The software centers with these Linux distributions provide easy ways to remove software as well. Zorin uses the Ubuntu Software center whereas Mint has its own and Netrunner Uses Muon Discover which is also great. In short I would recommend to new users only Derivatives of Ubuntu as far as software management is considered.
3. Out of the box experience.
Out of the box experience is also very very Important aspect for any GNU/Linux OS as far as adoption by common folk is concerned. Out of the BOX experience is what you get immediately after installing the System.The OS has to be production ready out of the box, It must have all required codecs, flash and all the great software for productivity use. A decent collection of Browsers, Media Players, Chat software, Office Suite, IRC Client. Steam. etc.. Depending upon the needs of an Individual. Flash must work out of the box audio and video playback as to be flawless and on top of it file Sharing must work out of the box to provide highest levels of out of the box experience. File sharing is some Important because it is so easy on Windows, and if we wanted to share something on the network, it must not be a pain in the neck.
Zorin OS only lags in terms of the codecs that it uses, If you did not select install Restricted extras during install, It might prompt you while you play videos or music and you can install easily. Otherwise it has better software selection out of the box.
Linux Mint and Netrunner on the other hand are 100% ready to go out of the box. Everything just works.In addition to above, all three of these are easy to install as well.
If you are new to linux I guess you could use this post to choose a GNU/Linux distribution.
Please do comment and share your feedback.