Which Linux distro would you recommend to new (non-techie) Linux users?

The received wisdom used to be Ubuntu, then it became Mint because it came with non-free codecs/drivers and the Cinnamon desktop by default.

Nowadays (judging from podcasts) it seems to be Elementary, although I've not set aside time to try it yet for myself.

For those wondering what I use, it's normally Debian or the latest LTS version of Ubuntu MATE.

However I've been using Linux in one form or another for over a decade and have carved a career working with the operating system, so I'm definitely not a "non-techie" 😂

Also, it's usually CentOS when I need to set up a server.

This is mostly because I know it inside out. Also it's different enough to my everyday driver that I've gotten into the good habit of not messing with the system once it's set up, which is exactly how you should treat a server.

@bobstechsite Elementary is fine and beautiful if you stick to a certain core of applications but if you stray outside of that (even to Firefox) the cohesive illusion quickly shatters. Ubuntu Mate is usually my go to recommendation because they have a lot of nice features to help the new user get set up like the welcome screen and more importantly the software boutique

@LibertyPaulM @bobstechsite ... and after that many releases still not icons on the desktop :)

@bobstechsite It's been a couple years but that encompasses my entire time on Linux and Ubuntu was a great gateway for me

@bobstechsite I'd stick with Linux Mint for now. elementaryOS isn't quite full featured yet and there are some weird graphical issues with dual monitors and going full screen on the second one with a maximized window

@bobstechsite I would consider myself very much a non-techie and Ubuntu Mate has been very fine for me. And the built in software centers I think would be a blessing for folks even less tech savvy than me.

@fun @LibertyPaulM I'm quite pleased Ubuntu MATE is cropping up as a suggestion.

I use it myself (I'm a techie) as my daily driver and can attest to it being a stable, user-friendly system that makes good use of system resources and keeps me productive. 👍

@bobstechsite Ubuntu id say since the drivers are easy to install there too and then you can just forget it, I don't see the great benefits of mint tbh

@bobstechsite what flavour is sort of irrelevant I feel, I would go with Plasma because that's my preference - others might not.

I would help you friend and accept to be help desk for a couple of weeks to make sure he/she stays away from weird blogs and "just copy paste this into your terminal" suggestions for now

@ohyran @bobstechsite ugly laughing because that's exactly where I started. It was a hand-me-down laptop, they didn't tell me the password, and I didn't want to bother them at 2 AM, so I was going into GRUB, resetting it using passwd, all that, based on random blog posts.

In my experience, it's way easier to fuck up your computer with Windows because there's so much malware floating around out there.

@nev @ohyran ah memories...

I originally got into Linux because Vista wouldn't run on my laptop.

I remember copying configs from the Ubuntu forums so alsa would work and I could have sound on my laptop 😂


I would vote for Ubuntu, it has the most support online and it's the easiest to install. You don't even have to create an installation disc or stick, you can buy them pre-made online.

There's even a fair number of shops that sell Ubuntu preinstalled on new or used laptops, which is the easiest possible way to get an OS.

@switchingsocial @bobstechsite I second Ubuntu, maybe even one of the spins like Kubuntu or MATE.

Hell, MATE's welcome screen is one of the best in all of Linux

@bobstechsite just recently switched my spouse over from Mac to Linux. I started her on Xubuntu (which I like and it's easy for newbies.) But she liked the Dolphin file manager over Thunar. I've got her set up on Kubuntu now and gave her a nice dock on the bottom. She's not super techy but likes an OS that makes things easy, is pretty and thinks of everything.

@bobstechsite fwiw, mint passed the test of my completely non-techy father.

after bricking his laptop, i gave him a live boot medium so he can access/backup his data & use the computer until i get time to reinstall his windows. a few days later, he asks whether we could install this linux instead. i tell him yes, there should be an install icon. 2 days later, he installed it all by himself, despite never having even installed a program on his windows box.

@bobstechsite I use Elementary but don't think it's quite ready for prime time unless you do most everything in the browser. I started with Ubuntu and I think it's a good beginner distro because there's so much support for it, and once you've learned it, it's easy to use any of the other *buntu distros.

I guess it depends on the particular user and their needs.

@nev that view on Elementary seems to be the consensus so far!

It surprises me a bit because Matt Hartley (FreedomPenguin) & Bryan Lunduke have been speaking very highly of it on their podcasts as a "noob-friendly" distro.

Judging by the responses my question seems to be getting, this sounds like it's only really the case if your needs are very basic.

@bobstechsite I'd hesitate because it uses a slightly different UI...paradigm? philosophy? that may take getting used to, and because software-wise (in variety and stability) it could be more solid.

By default they don't include the ability to add PPAs, which does eliminate a lot of possible copy-and-paste sketchiness.

@bobstechsite Debian if you get the initial setup done for them and install a nice software store.

@benrob0329 in principle not a bad choice because it doesn't need to upgraded for years, is really low maintenance and has plenty of online support.

It does leave you on the hook as their personal tech support though! I guess it depends on how close you are to the person you're making the recommendation to 🙂

@bobstechsite @benrob0329 Debian is a tough sell for someone who is a computer novice. I'm more likely to give someone an Ubuntu LTS spin than Debian simply because default Debian isn't newbie friendly.

@matt @bobstechsite I suppose I just won't recommend Ubuntu after having multiple bad experiences e.g. with broken packages.

@benrob0329 @matt that's a fair kop. My workaround since 14.04 has just been to stick with the "Long Term Support" (LTS) releases.

You do have to use PPAs if you want the new shinies, but I guess this is no different to backporting packages in Debian.

@bobstechsite @matt Generally I think a lot of people who want new stuff will run Debian testing, which isn't half bad. The only issue with it is that sometimes packages will get removed because they are broken, and will take absolutely forever to come back. (Usually its the programs that are nearly abandoned).

@benrob0329 @matt tbh with my Debian installs I find the only package I end up backporting is LibreOffice and (possibly) graphics drivers.

@bobstechsite @matt LibreOffice seems like the one package I would never need to backport, I don't use it very often lol.

@benrob0329 @matt *gasp* BLASPHEMY! 😂

I use Impress for podcast notes, Calc for my finances & Writer for most things I store in digital form.

(I've also made a decent amount of money writing tutorials about it in Linux Format magazine!)

Basically I like having LibreOffice 6.x rather than the current LTS (which I believe is 5.4)

@bobstechsite @benrob0329 Flatpaks and Snaps solve the Libre Office backport issue. I don't even use the version in the repos anymore.

I do use Intel firmware, Intel microcode, Nvidia drivers, and the latest kernel from backports though.

@matt @benrob0329 I've been wary of installing AppImages, FlatPacks or Snaps. I think on a base level I trust the package maintainers for my distribution more than I trust developers! 😂

Developers always want the "new shiny". Even when that compromises security, performance and/or the stability of the wider system.

Dependencies (while annoying at times) are a feature, not a bug. Sharing resources & libraries is part of Linux's DNA and it makes me sad that this idea is probably going away now.

@sullybiker @matt @benrob0329 Indeed. The future contains blobs that don't care which system you're running them on.

@bobstechsite @sullybiker @benrob0329 uh, you can build Flatpaks and Snaps from source super easy, no more difficult than building a .deb or .rpm. Maybe you can for AppImages?

One reason to use snaps and flatpaks is that (most of them) don't have read/write privs to your base system. .deb and .rpm files do.

@matt @sullybiker @benrob0329 I suspect that's intended to address the "I don't trust this app running in a container" concern. But it has to read/write somewhere, otherwise you wouldn't be able to open or save files.

The base system is already protected by file permissions, memory protection and process isolation with systems like SELinux/AppArmor. Package maintainers also verify that an app behaves the way we'd expect it to.

@matt @sullybiker @benrob0329 the reason containers are used on servers is because devs want the new shines and sysadmins want to run those apps without compromising the stability of the base system.

If the app crashes it doesn't matter, because you just provision another container. You can also scale & load balance apps more easily too.

I think bringing this to the desktop is good for portability, but it comes at the expense of trust & resource usage.

@matt @benrob0329 @bobstechsite The issue I have seen is developers usually put this stuff together themselves, and they're not always careful (hence the careful separation containers inherently have).

Networking can be tricky too, even for experienced admins. Recently I remember someone running a redis image in a container they'd found somewhere; it wasn't secure and being Docker the Forward chain bypassed all the input firewall rules, so it was wide open. Luckily no harm done due to inherent security features, but the risk is there.

Last couple of cons I went to container introspection and security was a big deal with vendors.

@benrob0329 @bobstechsite Testing also lags severely with security updates.

For example, Stretch stable + Sid are using Firefox-ESR 60+, while Buster (Testing) is still on 52.9.

@bobstechsite @benrob0329 yeah, I actually just gave my spouse my Thinkpad with Debian on to use as an emergency computer at first. But I wanted her to be able to do more stuff on it on her own like install games and run updates.

@bobstechsite People say Elementary because it looks like MacOS. But if RAM and CPU usage are your thing, then go for it. Otherwise, see you at the MX Linux finish line in ten years or feel free to skip the bs and use it today. It's stability vs features ratio is perfect. It also only uses about 600MB of RAM on 64-bit and about 300MB of RAM on 32-bit after login. It's cousin AntiX (better than Puppy) uses about 70ish MB of RAM. Whatever you use, make sure it's Debian-based and XFCE. M$ <3 Ubuntu

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