Setting up Shop: Which Linux to use?

Ubuntu 12.10 x64 with KDE Desktop

Eleven (11!) installs in 10 days. That’s how things worked out when I got my new Dell Vostro 2520 laptop and experimented with the operating systems I wanted to work with for the next while. Due to some mistakes on my part, I occasionally blew away things I meant to keep and sometimes experiments worked out badly, like when I tried to zero the MBR (master boot record) so I could get a cleaner menu install. My backup didn’t write back properly. At least 4 of the reinstalls were related to accidents.

The other deletes and installs occurred as I worked through distros to see which ones might be of most use in my computing and writing projects. In truth, they were all, aside from the requisite Windows install, good for projects, but some of the distros had too many rough edges or lack of support to be useful in writing for a beginner’s audience.

The first OS to go was PC-BSD. I was personally fond of it, but it was a bit too wide of the mark when it comes to writing about Linux. It also had driver issues. When it wouldn’t go wireless after installing the latest Belkin USB WiFi stick I had to give up on it. BSD is a great OS but perhaps not at a desktop level.

In its place I tried Fedora. I was initially impressed with Fedora, but the more I worked with it, the less I understood it. The interface (Gnome 3?) totally confused me and, compared to Ubuntu, I found overall documentation lacking. So Fedora was sent to the bit bucket.

Next up, Linux Mint 14 with the Cinnamon interface. Wow, I thought. This is the distribution for me. I really liked its aggressively modern approach of providing the best possible desktop for a user coming from Windows. It even offered software like Picasa.

I was getting along great with Linux Mint until I tried to set up my networked Laserjet 1300 printer. I’d done this before in other operating systems with no trouble, but Linux Mint gave me nothing but. After doubting myself and going in circles with the setup menus I began to suspect Linux Mint itself. I did some googling and, sure enough, there were others with the same problem and, worse, the problem went all the way back to Linux Mint 12. This did not bode well. I then discovered that Google had dropped development for Picasa for Linux some time ago. It seemed to me to be a kind of dishonesty to be featuring abandoned software up front, so I decided that for all the good things I saw there, Linux Mint, too, would go to the bit bucket.

By this time I realized that the one distribution I could reliably count on over and over was Ubuntu. I’d even started warming up to the Unity interface. Not to mention that I have a choice of Gnome, KDE, Xfce, and others should I go off Unity. So I deleted the current Ubuntu partition and reinstalled Ubuntu into the lion’s share of the hard disk, leaving only Windows 7 and Ubuntu as a dual-boot machine.

I set up my networked printer with no troubles, using exactly the same menus that were presented to me in Mint. The thing about Ubuntu — it just tends to work, and I appreciate the rich amount of documentation.

So, this machine is literally leaving boot camp and is now ready for action.

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