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Choosing a Distro


It's great to see a topic with such specific information, rather than people just saying their choice distro is the best. Anyway. I'm kind of a noob. I've actually been using linux and unix for over 15 years but I've never spent enough time to learn it as well as I would like. I'd like to change that and I have been going through distros and systematically tossing them out as I find things I don't like.

Currently I can't stand Ubuntu or it's derivatives, I would honestly rather use windows. My favorites have been Gentoo, and Fedora. The first linux system I used was Redhat so I'm comfortable with Fedora, but 14 runs so slow, and nobody seems to know why. I like gentoo a lot as well and the lengthy installs were a great learning tool, however It apparently has known bugs with both Nvidia drivers and certain cards causing X to crash on exit as well as bugs with madwifi drivers.

So here's what I'm looking for, and I would really appreciate any input.

I want a stable OS that has an active community, I don't want a noob OS, I like putting some time in to installations and actually learning what I'm doing. That being said, my programming skills are mediocre, I don't much have much experience in development. I can extrapolate while following tutorials, and I honestly have a pretty good understanding of what I'm doing, but when it comes to re-coding drivers I am lost.

I have a Sony laptop with Nvidia 310m and an Atheros 9285 network card. I'm looking for OS's that will allow me to use respective nvidia and madwifi drivers without too much hassle.

So basicly, what is the most hardware friendly OS that doesn't think for me?


  • mfillpot
    mfillpot Posts: 2,177
    Dan, I see your problems and preferences. The only distro I have treid that have had issues with nvidia cards was ubuntu, in which the issues were with the ubuntu supplied drivers, once I replaced the drivers with the proprietary drivers from nvidia's website the video issue was fixed.

    The Atheroes 9285 chipset uses the ath9k driver which is supplied in the base kernel, so all distros should use those drivers.

    I personally use slackware because it gives the control I want and allows me to install apps from packages of source with ease. The only drawback (to some) is that is does not have an official apt-get type application manager and it does not resolve dependencies for you. Slackware is another distro like gentoo that allows you to get your hands dirty and learn the system without pushing too updates to the point of instability. I have never had issues using the nvidia proprietary drivers or the nouveau drivers on any of my slackware installations and I am currently using both ath5k and ath9k cards without issues. So the issues you are stating have not effected me on any slackware installation, I recommend giving it a try because I can verify the hardware and drviers.
  • asedt
    asedt Posts: 96
    I think you are looking for something like:

    Arch, Debian or Slackware

    They are all very popular distributions (for intermediate and advanced Linux users).

    You can see Arch compared to the others here:
  • marc
    marc Posts: 647
    Try Archlinux, it won't dissapoint you!
  • atreyu
    atreyu Posts: 216
    I tried Ubuntu too - didn't do it for me. I wanted more control.

    I tried Slackware eons ago, and I enjoyed the experience of installing and using it initially, but unfortunately it fell by the way side b/c I had to support RedHat/Fedora systems at work and it was best for to me to use like systems for myself.

    If you want a big support community then you've got that w/Fedora (2nd only to Ubuntu probably). It's not the bleeding edge of hardware support, but I can usually get NVidia chipsets to work, using either the distro-provided nouveau drivers, NVidia's proprietary ones, or others from one of the 3rd party repositories (livna, etc.). i don't pay much attention to the wireless hardware in my laptops, but i can say that i've got two (totally different) laptops running Fedora (pre-14) and had no prob w/wireless networking.

    Just curious, what is it that is slow about F14? Is is the desktop? Waiting for launched applications to load?

  • ben
    ben Posts: 134
    I'm an happy Gentoo user like you.
    I'm using it for a lot of reasons but mainly because it has portage, bsd-like approach and no frills around.
    I use it massively on custom made servers and some desktop environments as well, the machine I'm using in this moment has a full blown Gentoo installation and it's my "main" computer. Gentoo approach tends to give you a barebone machine and you install just what you need and only when you need it; another nice thing about it is the "make world" approach (BSD rules) so there's no minor-major version or differs, there's only "current stable" and "old version".
    I really love rolling updates distro (like Gentoo) and I prefer them in certains environments, but to be honest here are few minor thing that tends to be boring:
    - Initial installation takes ages ! You may know why, it's a minor problem but I still prefer to have it in order to customize every aspect of my installation; at the end of it you already know You don't need to install your system anymore
    - Emerge and portage are great but if you need to emerge openoffice (for example) it takes a lot of hours (emerge, emerge, emerge, ...)
    - You know what your system does and why it does it because you've built it on your own, unfortunately you may have troubles when you've a lot of packages
    - Gentoo bug reporting it's supposed to be a really nice tool, when you find the solution...

    I'm using NVidia cards like you (closed source drivers, sorry) but I've never had a trouble with it, I've never had a Sony Vaio laptop as well and I've seen a lot of people struggling around with closed source drivers and custom peripherals.

    My second option if you prefer rolling updates distro (like gentoo) is to use Arch, try it: it's really nice, you've binary packages (no source packages) but it's a really good choice if you like that approach.

    Tell me if you need help
  • marc
    marc Posts: 647
    You do have source packages in Archlinux: ABS
  • ben
    ben Posts: 134
    I know you've source packages in Arch but what I was trying to say is that in Gentoo there're no options, you've ebuilds (binary packages) but most of the time you've to deal with source packages and it's not an option. Arch is built around the idea to install your OS within few hours with binary packages (with Gentoo you need at least two hours... and just for having a core system)
  • marc
    marc Posts: 647
    It's been some years since I last installed Gentoo but... I remember having a basic binary cd to install from. From then on you could use portage.

    Anyway, Gentoo is source based and Arch is binary based that's for sure ;)

  • Goineasy9
    Goineasy9 Posts: 1,114
    I remember seeing this banner at the Gentoo booth at LinuxTag a couple of years ago.
    "If it moves, compile it"
    That's how I always remember Gentoo.
  • MikeEnIke
    MikeEnIke Posts: 88
    I just want to add on to the whole... Gentoo is a rough install thing. Definitely true, but some people swear by it. I'll stick with arch :)


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