[TriLUG] Good teaching distro?
matt at noway2.thruhere.net
Tue Apr 26 05:24:08 EDT 2011
On 04/26/2011 05:00 AM, Paul Bennett wrote:
> My wife has asked me to teach her Linux. Famous last words, I'm sure,
> but I think this has the potential to go okay.
> She knows one end of a mouse from the other, but is not too
> comfortable with the ol' command line stuff (yet).
> She has experienced Ubuntu without screaming or crying (but not
> without frustration), but I'm wondering whether there might not be
> some more-useful distro out there for practical teaching purposes.
> Leading the "like Ubuntu only better" pack is probably Mint. Leading
> the "you can really get your fingers dirty if you want to" pack is
> Sabayon. Leading the "plausibly useful if she wants to take steps
> towards certification" pack might be CentOS. Other distros are
> flapping around my head, trying to roost, but I can't quite get my
> thoughts together enough.
> Please recommend a distro for me to teach her, assuming we want to
> start slow, but have plenty of opportunity to grow into the gory details.
Based upon your criteria list, my short answer would be to consider
Zenwalk, or another one of the Slackware variants, possibly even
Slackware itself. In many ways, I think these are the best 'teaching
distributions' because they don't try to hide the dog. Instead they
make you take responsibility for doing things such as making sure the
library dependencies get installed. They package management is also
source based and things are compiled on your system, bringing both a
satisfaction of doing the job yourself and showing the underlying
process. This has the advantage of putting the details of how stuff
works and is customized right out there in front of you. Again, "not
hiding the dog."
Initially, your wife's focus in distribution comparison will be on what
looks different. Aside from some cosmetics, and the Gnome vs KDE,
versus others, in many regards all the distributions have a large
portion in common: the linux kernel. The differences come into play in
how things are optimized, package management (rpm vs deb vs src), and
whether or not they use System V or BSD style configurations.
The reason I suggested Zenwalk is that it is a little more beginner
friendly than Slackware and tends to be in the middle as far as pace of
upgrades between Slackware stable and slackware-current which changes
daily. It also has a package manager that will resolve the dependencies
for you via prompt, giving you that option. Slackware does too, but you
have to specifically use the tools for this. In my opinion, this is one
of the most critical things to understand in Linux, the interdependence
of packages and the bloat effect it can have on your system. There is
the saying, and I have seen it repeated many times on LQ.org, that if
you learn <insert distribution of choice> that you learn <insert
distribution of choice> but if you learn Slackware, you learn Linux.
Now as far as the "you can really get your fingers dirty if you want
to": A little while back on this very list, I was expressing why I would
like to get away from Ubuntu, and we received a one word reply: Gentoo.
I have been reading up on it, and it looks like in many ways it is LFS -
Linux From Scratch, which would be another option for you. The real
advantage with that is that it has a book that takes you through the
entire build and customization process. I don't think that it is where
you should start teaching, but at a later date, might be a good choice.
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