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Linux Distribution Conundrum

posted 26 Jun 2012, 04:54 by Alistair Hamilton   [ updated 6 Sep 2012, 00:54 ]
Linux distributions, or distros as they are known, are many and varied. Therein in lies one of the many benefits of Linux - if one distro doesn't suit, simply try another.

This wide and varied choice also applies to the desktop environment. Unlike Microsoft's offering where users have to use what Microsoft gives them, us Linux users can select from Unity, Gnome, KDE, Mate, Cinnamon, XFCE, Fluxbox to name but a few and swap them any time we choose.

That gives me a problem. As someone who actively promotes Linux and endeavours to persuade clients that it is in their best interests to go the open source route, what environment do I suggest? For older machines, I go the Xubuntu route with the XFCE environment being a great option for lower specified machines.

However, in general terms, I have two options. Go with a distro environment that is clearly different from the MS Windows environments that the user is familiar with, or go with something that looks reasonably familiar in an attempt to ease them into Linux. No doubt, there are some Linux hard core fans who will criticise me for doing so, but I'm angling towards the latter.

Those with a technical bent, can always tinker away with Linux until their hearts are content. I'm aiming at those users who do not have those skills but would clearly benefit from the advantages that Linux brings to the table - even if it does mean that I ultimately get less work as a direct result of the stability and reliability that Linux has.

Having used Ubuntu since I started in Linux some six years ago, I tend to stick with distros based on Ubuntu. It is stable, reliable and has an excellent user community if support is needed.

I don't want to be in a situation where I am, potentially, having to support lots of distributions and environments. I'm one of the old guard and prefer to have some form of 'taskbar', so Unity is out. It is just far too different for Windows based refugees.

I've been watching the Zorin OS distro with interest as it is specifically configured with an interface that looks like Windows 7.0. This morning I've had the opportunity to install and test it on a replacement computer I've recently obtained for my mother.

My first impressions where extremely favourable as it took a mere 16mins to install from a Live USB including all the applications that the average user is ever likely to need. That's something that Microsoft would never come near to matching.

I have to say, it is running very well on a machine that certainly cannot be described as 'state of the art'. With a Celeron D processor running at 2.66GHz and a mere 1GB RAM, this machine isn't going to be setting any benchmark records, but Zorin 6.0, along with its desktop effects, is running very smoothly indeed.

Zorin OS 6.0 desktop

I shall use this opportunity to use my mother as a guinea pig. If she can get on successfully with this particular distribution and its MS Windows-centric look, then this may well be the way I go for others. I want to get as many people as I can to switch to Linux, and if this helps, then so much the better.