Author Topic: Distros for Beginner, Experienced and Expert Linux Users  (Read 108 times)

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Offline Jason

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Distros for Beginner, Experienced and Expert Linux Users
« on: November 18, 2021, 04:09:34 am »
Having said that really the best distribution ("distro") is probably the one you're using, here's a recent article that recommends distros for all levels of Linux users. This article is one of the few that made several recommendations based on the experience of the Linux user. It's also concise where it addresses each distro.

https://haydenjames.io/best-linux-distro/

What do you think? Agree or disagree on the choices? What do you think makes the best distro for each level? What are you using and what level of Linux user do you consider yourself as?

I think Arch is definitely for expert Linux users but Manjaro would be just as customizable and slimmed down for those that aren't ready for the daddy of geek distros.

For beginners, I think Ubuntu Desktop is the easiest followed closely by Linux Mint. If you have a slower computer, and I think many will start using Linux for this reason, then they should probably go with Linux Lite or MX Linux. Lubuntu is too much of a mishmash. I'd put it more at the experienced level. Beginners could use it but it feels awkward. Ubuntu MATE or Ubuntu Xfce would work too, though. Ubuntu MATE has the best-of-the-breed software contained within its customized software centre. That definitely puts it in the beginner category.

I'd put any distro that uses KDE Plasma at the experienced level. Plasma is highly customizable and for this reason, I don't think it's good for beginners. Too many choices.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2021, 04:20:36 am by Jason »
"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." - Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Offline fox

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Re: Distros for Beginner, Experienced and Expert Linux Users
« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2021, 01:48:19 pm »
I think his recommendations are reasonable. The only problem I have is that those classified as beginner distros (like Ubuntu) are also appropriate for intermediate and maybe expert users. At this point I would consider myself as intermediate, and I have yet to run out of challenges trying to do particular things in Ubuntu.
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Offline buster

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Re: Distros for Beginner, Experienced and Expert Linux Users
« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2021, 03:08:28 pm »
Read the article and pretty well disagree with all of it. And I think that often in these types of lists, there is a confusion between two types of users - Those who have lots of time and want to play with their computers, and those who want to just USE their computers. The latter group wants to install the distro, maybe add a few programs, maybe leave the appearance, and then use it. The former group loves being on the computer solving or improving or experimenting.

The Expert List is not for computer users. I doubt anyone in our club ever got Gentoo working in a usable form. Apparently 23 people still use Slackware, but no one I know. These distros are for people with far too much time on their hands.

The Beginner List has Mint, which is up and ready to go right after the install. It also doesn't have to be reinstalled and can be upgraded over the years. (This is a problem with Linux Lite. It has upgrade cycles and then needs a reinstall.) I think Mint is a wonderful choice for beginners or anyone else. I would also put MXLinux on this list, unless you're installing in a vert. I never feel comfortable in Ubuntu, and spend too much time adding stuff and figuring out how things work. I wouldn't put it in beginners.

For Experienced Users I would never recommend Fedora, unless you like to play with your computer. Each release has a short turn over. Straight Debian seems like too much work for what you get. OpenSUSE has a long install that in the long run, over many years and many installs has always disappointed me. And the recommended seems like something for the hobbiest, not the user. So what would I choose for the experienced?

Mint, MXLinux, Kubuntu. The defaults are pretty good, but you can optimize them, decorate them, or ignore them, and they just keep trucking along. To me they are what used to be referred to as friendly.

And Fox, of course you are expert. However, you are not out of your mind fanatical, at least most of the time.
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Offline Jason

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Re: Distros for Beginner, Experienced and Expert Linux Users
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2021, 06:36:16 pm »
The Expert List is not for computer users. I doubt anyone in our club ever got Gentoo working in a usable form. Apparently 23 people still use Slackware, but no one I know. These distros are for people with far too much time on their hands.

Arch Linux is used widely by expert users or a variant of it. Slackware and Gentoo, well, William uses Slackware I believe, and anybody that uses 'dd' to clone their hard drive is an expert in my book. Have you met William? I'll introduce you sometime. :)

Gentoo is neither hard to set up nor difficult to use. The package managing system is amazing. It's fallen out of use because some of its chief features like intelligent package management, being customized for faster CPUs, etc. have been adopted by other distros and are now the norm.

I think saying that anything is for "people who have far too much time on their hands" is a far-too casual dismissal of somebody's interests. Ouch! Experts build or create things, Buster, they don't just buy things prepackaged and use them, at least not if they're really into them.

We're talking about interests like crafts, Amateur Radio, Astronomy, working on cars, gardening, cooking, etc. There's nothing wrong if XYZ isn't your hobby and you just want it ready to go, but it's not a waste of time for others who like to tinker. It doesn't mean they're not real computer users.

I don't care for cooking so I buy convenience food. To me, food should be ready to go. Why do I need to customize it? I'm not going to tell cooks that they have too much time on their hands or that they're not actually into eating food.

If it's your thing, you enhance, extend or adapt it. You go beyond or outside the recipe. It's kind of the hacker motto - extend something beyond what it was meant for and push the boundaries. I remember a guy who once suggested the club motto should be "If it's not broke, you're not trying hard enough". I wonder what happened to that guy?

And if you customize your environment or settings you can make it better for your workflow or future use. It's like when you get a smart tv, a PVR or a streaming device. You spend more time upfront so it works more efficiently later.

The first thing I do with a new phone is changing the settings to what I like. Why? Because I'm used to how certain things work If I don't change them, I spend a lot of time trying to find things and getting frustrated because it's not doing what I expect. I think cod3poet is a serious expert computer user. That's why he likes Arch; because he can make it work the way HE wants so it works better for him when he uses it.


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The Beginner List has Mint, which is up and ready to go right after the install. It also doesn't have to be reinstalled and can be upgraded over the years. (This is a problem with Linux Lite. It has upgrade cycles and then needs a reinstall.)

So? It takes 10-20 minutes. The hard part is installing the software but even that can be easily done nowadays especially since it has a curated list of what most people use. Keep your /home and all the programs will be configured the way you like them, too, as well as the desktop. You used to like Linux Lite.

Having said that, I like Mint. I was one of its early adopters and did several presentations about new upgrades to it. But Linux Lite is not only light on resources, something I really need right now but it has some great little tweaks that I haven't seen anywhere else. A re-install isn't that a big deal. It's not like Windows.


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I never feel comfortable in Ubuntu, and spend too much time adding stuff and figuring out how things work. I wouldn't put it in beginners.

Only because you're used to the way other desktop environments work and re-learning often requires un-learning what came before it.

You're NOT a beginner, Buster. You can't look at Ubuntu objectively. I used to have a similar feeling toward Ubuntu.

But while I'm not a beginner, I've watched beginners and I know that usually beginners just want fewer features and for it to just work, not requiring customization (i.e. adding stuff). Ubuntu comes prepared with all the basic stuff you need right away.

It also has the widest amount of users that can help you when you get stuck. There's a reason it's one of the most popular distros. I bet you could plant Ubuntu in front of ANYONE that hasn't used Linux before and in 10-30 minutes they can start using it. It's like a smartphone OS. Most everyone has already seen the interface and of those that don't it's easy to get into, or it wouldn't be on smartphones.


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Mint, MXLinux, Kubuntu. The defaults are pretty good, but you can optimize them, decorate them, or ignore them, and they just keep truckin' along. To me they are what used to be referred to as friendly.

Nothing wrong with those. Except I still don't think Kubuntu fits in there because Plasma isn't for beginners. It's for people who like to customize. Even its creators say they're not trying to be like Gnome which is targeted to be simpler; they're aiming for users who like to tinker, the exact opposite of Linux users who start out. Ubuntu defaults are pretty good and if you want to tinker, as Fox says, you can. There are lots of add-ons. The point is that it has the least amount of options to start for a reason. To make it easier on beginner users and to actually allow more advanced users to not be distracted by extra options so they can just use it.

I don't know how many others notice this but Plasma also has a weird thing going on with Windows. You open a window and buttons or text selections are cut off so you have to resize the window which isn't something that beginners are going to expect. Maybe it's just because I use larger fonts. And then soon as a beginner clicks to open the settings in Plasma to change just one thing their eyes will go blurry with all the choices available. Again, you already know where things are and how to tweak them the way you like them, so it's simpler to you than Gnome.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2021, 07:25:25 pm by Jason »
"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." - Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Offline Jason

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Re: Distros for Beginner, Experienced and Expert Linux Users
« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2021, 06:38:29 pm »
I think his recommendations are reasonable. The only problem I have is that those classified as beginner distros (like Ubuntu) are also appropriate for intermediate and maybe expert users. At this point I would consider myself as intermediate, and I have yet to run out of challenges trying to do particular things in Ubuntu.

I agree with you. Anything suitable for beginners will work for experienced or expert users but I think expert uses will find that they have more work to undo in order to customize things the way they want it. Whereas, with Arch, they built what they want. Or even some Arch-based distros. With Arch, no software is installed unless you want it there. Nothing to remove. But it takes a while to get set up obviously. But if you just want to get a fast working environment ready to go, something any type of Linux user can appreciate, then Ubuntu is great. You can customize it later. But it has pretty sane defaults.

I also think you're an expert, Fox. You've used Manjaro and you built Arch and used lots of command functions. I'm not sure if Buster thinks those are fanatical things. There are times, I'm sure like you, I just want it to work right away (perhaps like Ubuntu) and other times you want to play with it more and extend it or use a more edgy distro.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2021, 07:33:35 pm by Jason »
"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." - Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Offline Jason

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Re: Distros for Beginner, Experienced and Expert Linux Users
« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2021, 06:43:02 pm »
Buster, I also wonder if you're confusing Gentoo with Linux From Scratch. Gentoo wasn't hard to set up years ago; I doubt it's any harder today. The package management system is amazing and everything is built specifically for your hardware without much intervention. But I agree I don't know anybody that uses it. But we know, let's see, a dozen Linux users? How do we know that's a good sample of Linux users? Lots of users, even in our club are pretty quiet about what they use.

It's good to have a contentious discussion even when you're wrong most of the time, Buster. ;) I enjoy your rebellious devil-may-do attitude, at least most of the time. :)
« Last Edit: November 18, 2021, 06:56:45 pm by Jason »
"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." - Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Offline fox

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Re: Distros for Beginner, Experienced and Expert Linux Users
« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2021, 07:30:43 pm »
....
The Beginner List has Mint, which is up and ready to go right after the install. It also doesn't have to be reinstalled and can be upgraded over the years. ....I never feel comfortable in Ubuntu, and spend too much time adding stuff and figuring out how things work. I wouldn't put it in beginners.
....

I don't see any difference between Mint and Ubuntu in immediate usability; both are ready to use right out of the box. The big differences to me are in default desktop environment and design aesthetics. Buster, you are a Windows user through and through, and Cinnamon, the default desktop in Mint is set up much like Windows whereas Gnome, the default desktop in Ubuntu is not. So if you mean by beginner, a non-computer savvy Windows user, then I would agree with you. But Gnome is pretty easy to figure out and once you get used to it, it's just as easy to use as Cinnamon (or Plasma).

I used Mint as my main OS for the 2 or 3 years that I was using a 2015 5k iMac. I'm not sure what it was about that computer, but it would only boot reasonably quickly with specific kernels. It happened that the Mint default was one of those kernels but Ubuntu was not; thus my choice. But when I upgraded my computer to a 2019 iMac, the slow kernel problem disappeared and I went back to Ubuntu. The reason was aesthetics as much as the desktop environment. I could customize Mint in many ways, but I couldn't make it look like something other than ... Mint. The themes that come with Ubuntu are, in my opinion, nicer looking and therefore, nicer to use as a base for other appearance customizations. Call me shallow.  ;D
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Offline buster

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Re: Distros for Beginner, Experienced and Expert Linux Users
« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2021, 08:38:21 pm »
Well, that seemed to generate a lot of words.  :)

1. I find nothing wrong with playing with computers as a hobby. But our group makes up a small percentage of the computer users in the galaxy. Most people want their computer to work like their car or their microwave. The easier the better.

2. Marilyn was introduced back when to her first computer and it had a Linux distro. It had a similar layout to Kubuntu and she took to it easily, and she is the opposite of a computer nerd. Every day she now uses Mint. She is just a 'computer user', so this is what I picked for her.

3. My main point is that a distinction has to be made in the recommend lists to distinguish between the person who wants something easy just to use, and those with the ability to create a Linux system  that is the wonder of the world.

4. I don't like squash, parsnips, or Ubuntu.
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Offline fox

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Re: Distros for Beginner, Experienced and Expert Linux Users
« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2021, 07:24:48 am »
....
3. My main point is that a distinction has to be made in the recommend lists to distinguish between the person who wants something easy just to use, and those with the ability to create a Linux system  that is the wonder of the world.

4. I don't like ... Ubuntu.

Yeah, yeah, we know. You don't like Gnome either, regardless of distro it's on.

One other thing I thought of that distinguishes Mint from Ubuntu is the Mint Update app. I will admit that it is more user friendly than the Software Update app on Ubuntu. The former goes in the menubar and it runs automatically when you boot into Mint. It shows when updates are available and you just click it and then click the install (or is it update?) button in the window and it does the rest. Ubuntu's app isn't in the menubar or the dock, although you can put it in the dock. Clicking on it results in a check for updates, which you can install by clicking on the Install Now button. Both have the option to unclick updates you don't want to install, but I don't think that beginners would do that.

On the other hand, consider the distro upgrade on the two. I have been upgrading my Ubuntu installation regularly since about 2009, and I have never had a problem with the upgrade. As far as I'm concerned, their upgrade process is as easy and foolproof as that of the Mac OS. My history with Mint upgrades is much more limited. I don't think they had an easy upgrade option until about version 17. (Correct me if I'm wrong). I had no problems with it either right up to 20.2, but I seem to recall that others have either had problems with it or found that things that worked for them in an earlier version did not in a later version.
« Last Edit: November 19, 2021, 07:33:12 am by fox »
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Offline Jason

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Re: Distros for Beginner, Experienced and Expert Linux Users
« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2021, 12:28:13 pm »
Well, that seemed to generate a lot of words.  :)

I think I made good points that were worth reading but I guess that's up to you. I like to explain things in more depth.


Quote
1. I find nothing wrong with playing with computers as a hobby. But our group makes up a small percentage of the computer users in the galaxy. Most people want their computer to work like their car or their microwave. The easier the better.

2. Marilyn was introduced back when to her first computer and it had a Linux distro. It had a similar layout to Kubuntu and she took to it easily, and she is the opposite of a computer nerd. Every day she now uses Mint. She is just a 'computer user', so this is what I picked for her.

3. My main point is that a distinction has to be made in the recommend lists to distinguish between the person who wants something easy just to use, and those with the ability to create a Linux system  that is the wonder of the world.

4. I don't like squash, parsnips, or Ubuntu.

1. Yes, the club is a small sample. That was actually one of my points. But you said nobody you know used such and such. If that applies to my point, it applies to yours.

"Most people want their computer to work like their car or their microwave."

And that's why there are beginner distros - for them. But advanced distros have their place for more experienced users. The "average" computer user is a myth. There's no such thing. "Work" is relative. Some people want fast cars, some people want trucks, some people want SUVs. They want different things based on their needs. Most people don't drive the same car as a result.


2. That's great. The more the merrier. I bet you she'd be fine with Ubuntu, too. It's not any more complicated and a lot less, IMO. Plasma is great for beginners if you stay out of the settings. And in her case, I think you said she doesn't even differentiate between browsers and has to have a shortcut on the desktop to "open" the Internet.

3. I believe that article did just that. It could have been pointed out that beginner distros really could be used by anybody that just wanted a simple system, I agree. Most distro recommendation websites just do a top 5 list without much consideration of different experience levels of Linux users.

4. I think that goes without saying. I've never understood why, though. I came around after thinking about why I didn't like it and realizing I didn't have any good reason other than not being used to it. That's a poor reason to not use something except for the lazy. We should always challenge our beliefs, especially those we hold most dear. If I didn't, I'd still be using Windows. And I'd still be a Christian and worse yet, a Liberal. :D I kid, there's nothing wrong with being a Liberal. It's what "most people use".

People deserve more credit than we give them. They don't have to have one-size-fits-all because no user is average, just as there isn't one size for clothing or even one style. But you wouldn't argue that most people just want clothes "to work".
« Last Edit: November 19, 2021, 12:50:50 pm by Jason »
"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." - Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Offline Jason

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Re: Distros for Beginner, Experienced and Expert Linux Users
« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2021, 12:53:06 pm »
On the other hand, consider the distro upgrade on the two. I have been upgrading my Ubuntu installation regularly since about 2009, and I have never had a problem with the upgrade. As far as I'm concerned, their upgrade process is as easy and foolproof as that of the Mac OS. My history with Mint upgrades is much more limited. I don't think they had an easy upgrade option until about version 17. (Correct me if I'm wrong). I had no problems with it either right up to 20.2, but I seem to recall that others have either had problems with it or found that things that worked for them in an earlier version did not in a later version.

That's enlightening, Fox. I would never have expected that. And Macs are supposed to be easier at everything. Not to knock Macs, for complete notices or those in the creative industry, I'd actually recommend them. Not that power users can't/shouldn't use them. But it surprises me that the upgrades are that hard. Do Apple users just buy new Macs or call tech support when things go wrong?
"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." - Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Offline Jason

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Re: Distros for Beginner, Experienced and Expert Linux Users
« Reply #11 on: November 19, 2021, 12:55:59 pm »
Call me shallow.  ;D

You're so shallow, Fox!

I have to admit I've grown fond of the Ubuntu look. When (or if) I get my old computer functioning again, I may give Ubuntu a whirl again. Or Pop OS which I understand has been configured better for running games. Or go completely the other way and build up an Arch system! Who knows?
"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world." - Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Offline buster

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Re: Distros for Beginner, Experienced and Expert Linux Users
« Reply #12 on: November 19, 2021, 01:47:41 pm »
Mike, I was very disappointed in your reply "Yeah, yeah, we know. You don't like Gnome either, regardless of distro it's on." There isn't a gram of humour in that Dr Fox. Whereas I think " I don't like squash, parsnips, or Ubuntu." is nicely droll. In fact it drips in clouds of drollery.

And it should be pointed out that the Anti-Gnome Linux users are legion. I'm not a solitary voice in the desert. Even our Pretending-not-to-be-President doesn't use it.

I believe a few years ago we had scheduled a meeting where Brian was going to pre-install Gentoo and demonstrate it but couldn't manage to get it on his computer. I know I had tried for a few days at the time. However maybe Brian could write in to confirm this or angrily denounce this as a lie.
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Offline fox

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Re: Distros for Beginner, Experienced and Expert Linux Users
« Reply #13 on: November 19, 2021, 05:41:36 pm »
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know" is a line from Charlie's Angels second movie. Being a movie connoisseur, I had hoped you might enjoy that line. So yes, there is a grain of humour in that reply. Oh well.

I know that anti-Gnome users are legion. Not my problem; I like it.
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Offline buster

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Re: Distros for Beginner, Experienced and Expert Linux Users
« Reply #14 on: November 19, 2021, 06:11:41 pm »
"Charlie's Angels second movie" and "movie connoisseur"

Can these two phrases actually go together????:) :) :) That is a funny line you wrote Mike.

I must admit I missed that movie. I was probably watching "The Blood Sucking Ghouls from Planet Q". A real classic! I highly recommend it for the movie connoisseur.
The Ironic Big Bust Theory: The likelihood of an advanced species imploding in apocalyptic stupidity. (Intergalactic Survey of Disappearing Civilizations: Chapter 4))