As I talked about in my Time to Switch to Linux post, I’m ready to finally migrate away from Windows and into Linux. The biggest question for me is which Distro do I want to start with. Me being a lover of lists, I have a few criteria that I want the Distro that I select to meet:

Desired Functionality

  • Be relatively easy to install. I don’t need something so easy that my Grandmother could do it, but I also don’t want to be over-burdened with dozens of packages to install just to get the initial installation working properly.
  • Have a clean and easy GUI. I think Beryl/Compiz is really slick, but I really don’t think I need to be messing with all that stuff when I just want to start off with something that is functional.
  • Be compatible with my current hardware. I know that hardware support in the major Distros has seen vast improvements in recent years. I just want to know that I can still make full use of my Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 keyboard and my Logitech MX 518 mouse. For example, I want to use all of the buttons on my mouse (buttons 4 and 5 should already function for or be easily mapable to forward and back in the browser) and be able to easily map the Windows-specific keys on my keyboard to functions in the UI or key combinations. Just having this functionality alone will do a lot to help me ease my transition.
  • Easy hotkey assignments. I love having quick access to programs by hitting some key+key combination. I use AutoHotkey on my Windows systems to hotkey all the programs I use frequently, I’d love to be able to easily mirror the functionality on Linux.
  • Have an active and thriving community for support/troubleshooting reasons.
  • Be able to support some of my Windows programs if possible. In particular, Team Fortress 2 and Ventrilo as I’m a member of the EGO gaming clan and don’t want to give that up for an operating system. I’m sure I can have some of the Linux-running members help me with getting this set up.

After browsing around DistroWatch for a while, I have found a few Distros have grabbed my attention more than the others.

Ubuntu

I have been an Ubuntu fan for a long time now. I ordered one of the original release disks that they offered years ago and was instantly impressed. My understanding is that they’ve come a long way since then. My only reservation is the lack of support for non-open-source software, such as proprietary nVidia drivers or proprietary codecs. This probably isn’t a big deal as plenty of people have guides about adding such things.

Sabayon

Another one of the Distros I checked out a while back when I first started playing with the idea of running Linux at home, Sabayon is looking good to be my final choice. While I’m not too familiar with Gentoo, the Distro which Sabayon is built off of, Sabayon does have some interesting stuff going for it. I’m most interested in how they try to ease installation and use of many cutting edge features, such as enhanced proprietary driver support, and their unique packaging system Entropy.

openSUSE

I don’t personally have much experience with openSUSE, but I have read many good reviews and recommendations about it. My biggest reservation is I don’t like what I’ve read about Novell and Microsoft and how it relates to openSUSE.

Fedora

Most of my experience with Linux comes from Red Hat EL. Fedora is a Distro that is spun off of the main releases of RHEL, so it will have much in common. Maybe it would be best if I stick with a platform that has a similar foundation which could ease my changeover.

CentOS

My personal webserver runs CentOS, and I really like it, sometimes even more than Red Hat EL. I really like using yum as it makes updates extremely easy. Hopefully the desktop version will be able to hold up to the results I’ve experienced from the server version.

Conclusion

So those are the options that I’m currently looking at. Fortunately, all the distros I’ve decided to explore more have Live Distros available. This will make it easy for me to “try before I buy”. In other words, I can try out a basic version of the Distro without having commit to an installation of it first.

Updates will be coming with my impression of each distro and my final selection.

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