How I chose. What I like & want. - A newbie's experience.

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How I chose. What I like & want. - A newbie's experience.

Postby Razz » Sun Oct 13, 2013 1:54 am

My name is Razz, and for the first time ever, I have Linux on my personal computer.

My hard drive failed on my laptop, and since I had to install an OS on the replacement, I figured it was time to finally abandon Windoze. Which, of course, led me to that first newb decision: which distro? There are so many to choose from! After doing some research and reading some reviews, I decided on Mint. With a strong userbase, and a solid core background while still being at the forefront of new development, choosing Mint was the easy part .... then I find at least FIVE different versions of Mint!!! Yikes!

I (initially) decided XFCE was the version for me .. after so many years of fighting Windoze bloat, a "lightweight and fast" OS seemed like just the ticket for me. And so my journey began ...

I partitioned my new HD (OS, swap, programs, files) and installed XFCE. There I hit my first snag - no wifi. No working drivers for my Broadcom 4318 included on install. Spent a couple days figuring out how to get that working while tethered to a modem not really positioned for comfortable use. That was ... interesting. Welcome to the Terminal. This ain't Windows!

Then I decided that maybe i better dual-boot for awhile until i'm really comfortable with linux. There's just some stuff that I'll be more comfortable with using Windows ( OK, so i didn't take the plunge ... I just sort of waded in here ...) So I go to add another partition ... oops. Forgot. Need an extended partition to have 5 .... delete the Linux swap, create an extended partition, move the others around ... and I can't make a linux swap partition with Windoze ... back out of that, rename 'programs' as 'Windows' .. reinstall Win7. Go to boot and ... no XFCE???? Ooops. Should have installed Win first and THEN Linux. Learn how to repair Grub ... after learnign what Grub IS. Boot to Mint, and fix my partitions much easier from here than Windoze ...

NOW I'm ready to get dirty, right? Well .... I decide i'm not real happy with the XFCE desktop environment. It's just not as customizable as i'd like. Do some more research ... download Mint Mate and play with that for a bit ... don't really like it any better ... so I download KDE and decideI DO like that better. But I don't want to fight the wifi again, i've already synced Firefox, downloaded some software I wanted ... i don't really want to reinstall fesh ....

So, I decide to try using KDE desktop in the XFCE distro. It worked ..... briefly. I ended up trashing everything such that I couldn't login. Ooops. Guess I have to reinstall after all. Some things i don't really like about KDE. The menu sucks, and it's just not as customizable as i'd like. So I download Cinnamon.

Now I've tried all four of the ubuntu based versions. There are some things i like about each one. XFCE IS quite snappy on what is an aging laptop. But then, then they're ALL snappier than Windoze! Even running from liveCD. KDE
is the most customizable, and that's a major point for me. I don't want someone else's theme. I want to be able to tweak things the way I want them. Even KDE is lacking in that respect, but it's much better than the other three. Mate, to me, seemed to be the blandest of the four versions. Well, maybe not 'bland'. More like a store-bought suit. It fits ok, looks ok, and works .. but it's just lacking that tailored quality. Maybe not the best analogy, but .. my impression. Cinnamon is nice ... and i really like the menu.

But ultimately I went with KDE. Primarily because it's desktop was the most customizable out of the box. But also because of the repositories. There are a lot of good packages for KDE that are quite complete and that I wanted to use no matter which version of mint i chose.

I'm not completely happy with KDE. It is a bit CPU intensive at times, but still less so than Win7. I've had more crashes and lockups with the desktop and the software manager than I like. I hope I can figure out how to use the cinnamon menu in KDE. I hope i never, ever click on activities again. I'll figure out how to tweak it the way I really want to. And I need to figure out how to get my /etc/rc.local to run at boot so my mouse buttons are automatically set the way i want them. I may just decide to switch to cinnamon after all. And i need to figure out how to get my games to run in Linux - I haven't had time to play with Wine yet - and find new ways to do all the other little tweaks and things I've figured out how to do in 15 years of using Windows. I'll probably end up keeping Windows around for one reason: Excel. There's just no alternative spreadsheet with Excel's capabilities yet.

There are some general linux annoyances, especially with the Firefox build, but that's OK. They're just different than the
Windoze annoyances, I guess.

I don't know if this will help anyone decide which version to use, (or if anyone will even read the whole thing!) But I thought I'd share my story. (and if anyone can tell me how to make rc.local work, I'd appreciate that too!)

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Re: How I chose. What I like & want. - A newbie's experience

Postby fraxinus_63 » Sun Oct 13, 2013 11:00 am

Thanks for sharing your experiences, Razz.

Your comments on the different DEs are interesting. I am a long-time and very happy MATE user. However, I am fortunate that I really like the MATE desktop out of the box and scarcely feel any need to customise it apart from messing around with the fonts a bit. I don't know how easy it would be if I really wanted to change stuff.

I know how it feels enjoying changing things. For many years I ran KDE 3 and loved it, but that was partly because it was so easy to customise. Nowadays with MATE I feel little need to change things so I don't bother.

I am interested in other desktops. While MATE is my workhorse I am exploring Cinnamon too. I am running 64-bit edition of Mint 13 - I downloaded the MATE edition, but realised after a while that the Cinnamon desktop is there too. I can select it at the login screen if I wish to run it for a session instead of MATE, and this is proving a good way for me to learn about it.

For me, there is one decision that's far more important than which desktop edition I choose. Do I go for the latest edition (currently Mint 15) or one with long-term support (most recent LTS release at present is Mint 13)?

Since the latest Mint edition - thanks to Ubuntu's policy upstream - will only ever have 18 months' support I would always go for the LTS edition, which is released with five years' support. OK, in the case of Mint 13 some of that has now elapsed - but I still won't need to reinstall for over three years yet unless I mess something up. Also, lots of tasty new stuff becomes available as time goes by if you enable the backports repository in your software sources list. For one thing I look forward to Cinnamon 2.0!

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Re: How I chose. What I like & want. - A newbie's experience

Postby jharris1993 » Tue Oct 15, 2013 1:40 pm


I don't want to say "Well, welcome to Linux pal. . . :shock: You've really done it this time!" in a sarcastic manner, though it feels like that at times. :wink:

As you have discovered, Linux isn't Windows. Neither is the Mac Windows. I guess the best way to describe what has happened to you is to say that selling your Buick sedan and trading it in for a Shelby Mustang. . . . Well, a 5 liter Mustang with a short-throw six-speed manual gearbox isn't your Buick either.

I have, and use, both Linux Mint (Cinnamon), and Windows 7 as I find there are things that can be done with trivial ease in one OS that are virtually impossible in the other. Though I will admit that the gap is closing. And with distributions like Mint, I believe that Linux is finally "growing up" as an operating system. i.e. The real goal of an OS / Desktop should be to allow you to get work done in the best, most effective way possible, and stay out of your way.

If you can find issues of Linux Format, (a magazine published in the UK), you might find issue 174 very interesting as it is titled "Upgrade Your Desktop", and they compare a number of interesting desktop environments. For the desktop "Purists" they recommend either Mint or Cinnamon.

In my experience, KDE has a lot going for it, but I find it too visually noisy and (surprisingly) unscalable, as the desktop widgets are HUGE, and when I try to make it the way I like it - it feels like I'm working on a jigsaw puzzle. But that's me. Your Mileage will, most certainly, Vary.

I settled for Cinnamon primarily because I come from a Gnome background, and I know how to make it do what I want. And I want a desktop that gets the heck outta my way unless I need it. Though I have to admit, many of the KDE apps are far superior to the Gnome (Cinnamon) equivalents, kuser is a prime example. Gnome's user manager is - in essence - absolutely useless, whereas kuser lets you do the kinds of thing you might need to do, especially if you want to get under the user management's hood.

For less powerful systems, LDXE is hard to beat as a desktop. I have that running on my Raspberry Pi, and I feel like I'm sitting in front of a machine 200 times the size.

More important than the desktop - IMHO - are the tools you use to get work done, and Linux has a rich assortment to choose from. If you have chosen the "full up" versions of Mint, what you need is already there:
  • Libre Office is a wonderful replacement for MS's office products.
  • Firefox is (again IMHO) the browser par excellence, though you may want to enable the menu bar, and select "always show tabs" and "show tabs on a separate row" to make it easier to use.
  • Thunderbird has become the de facto standard for mail clients in Linux.
There are also good chat clients, photo-management applications, ranging from the "Windows Viewer" type of app, all the way to Photoshop/Dreamweaver equivalents. For typeset quality publishing, there's Scribus and LaTeX. (Though, I still miss Word Perfect.) For just plain text, Notepad++ is hard to beat. And so on.

And the sprinkles, on top of the cherry, on top of the whipped cream, on top of the icing, on top of the cake, is the fact that all of this is absolutely free - both as in "no monetary cost" as well as freedom to use/modify as you see fit.

However, there is a "quid" you pay for that "pro quo". The privilege of free software comes with the corresponding responsibility to help support it. If you are a developer, you can help bang - or critique - code. If you write well, you can support the documentation. If your native language is not English, you can help with translation into your own native tongue. Or, as many do who are not so talented in all these arts, you can participate in the various support fora established for the various products, both by asking questions and offering support - even if it's only a shoulder, a pat on the back, or a cheerful "Welcome In!" to the total newbie.

Again, let me say "Welcome to Linux!" :D You will find that it's strange at first, but it grows on you as you gain experience with it.

What say ye?

Jim (JR)
Jim "JR"

Some see things as they are, and ask "Why?"
I dream things that never were, and ask "Why Not".

Robert F. Kennedy

“Impossible” is only found in the dictionary of a fool.
Old Chinese Proverb

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