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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Wed, 28 Oct 2015

I answered a Linux question on Quora

I answered a Linux question on Quora.

In the interest of running my own writing on my own site, here is what I said.

The question:

I want to revitialise my old Windows 7 laptop with Linux. I want to use this as an excercise in learning about Linux too. The laptop is a Samsung RV 510. What distributions could I consider?

My answer:

Try whatever strikes your fancy, as they say. Back when I was getting started with Linux (around 2007), every distribution I tried taught me something. Puppy, Debian, Ubuntu (and Xubuntu), Fedora, CentOS (I ran versions 2 through 5 at the time), Damn Small Linux, Knoppix, Slackware, Wolvix (a favorite Slackware derivative of mine) and Zenwalk all showed me something different and taught me something I carry with me today. I never did much with Mint or anything with Arch (though it has the best wiki in Linux), Gentoo or OpenSuse, but I do recommend them, too.

I also spent a lot of time with OpenBSD, which I ran as my main system for six months (installed from a floppy because I couldn't get the CD-ROM to work on my trash-bin laptop at the time) and less but very productive time with FreeBSD and DragonflyBSD.

I even ran Solaris on a Sun Sparcstation I bought over eBay.

I don't distro-hop nowadays. On my last laptop (2010-2012, RIP), I started with Fedora because I find that new hardware works better with its newer bits. When I "broke" that system, I moved to Debian and stuck with that until the laptop died.

On my current laptop (since 2012), I started with Fedora 18 and have been sticking with it ever since (now on F22) with Xfce. I love Fedora, but I still consider Debian my "home" distro, even though I appreciate the new everything that Fedora constantly brings to the table.

Since I use Linux as my daily OS and don't distro hop, I go for what's practical and what works for me. That's Fedora with Xfce right now but could just as easily be Debian or Xubuntu.

Linux distributions are more alike than they are different. That's the "secret" that you might learn (or at least I did) when you try a lot of them.

Whenever you try Linux on "new" (either really new, or new to you) hardware, you're going to need to be flexible. One distribution might work better than another, and another might need more work on your part. Your desire to do that work also matters, and I can tell you that I've stuck with Fedora for so long on my current laptop because it has worked so well for so long. There are always issues, and my laptop is at the point in its life where Debian Stable treats it quite well, so I might go for the "stability" that it offers (which is really more "not changing," than "works better," so if it works, great; if not, not so much).

tl;dr: Try it before you buy it. And since it's all free, you've got nothing to lose and everything to learn.

Now and then: I'm adding this after the original post to clarify how I went from distro-hopper to what I am now, which is a person who rides the same distro as long as possible.

What changed was that I started relying on my Linux-running computer to safeguard my real data. And it needed to work every day, every month, etc. So I go with the "big" distros, and I make them work.