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I have a not so computer literate family member who wants to see what this whole linux thing is about but don't know whether to suggest Ubuntu or Slackware? Thoughts or suggestions?

Ubuntu is the best choice for a user who is not terribly computer literate. The Ubuntu devs have made an extensive effort to provide a cohesive and well-integrated system that should not require the user to drop down to the command line for most uses. No other distro has made as exhaustive an effort to insulate the user from Linux's rough edges; Ubuntu's popularity ensures that numerous online tutorials are available to assist in just about any task.

As with any operating system, installation is the biggest hurdle, particularly if the user needs to preserve existing data. Once past that point, however, if he can handle Windows or OS X, he should have no trouble using and maintaining Ubuntu.

Well, somebody has to go the other way. If you haven't looked at Slackware lately, give it a shot. The advances in the kernel and KDE and XFCE make it a really nice environment now. Yes, it still has an ncurses installer, and yes, it still boots (at least the first time) to a command prompt. But the installer really is easy, and it takes changing one number in one file to boot to a log-in screen.

Once you're in your desktop environment, the biggest difference you'll see is that Slackware is more responsive and more stable. KDE 4.4 in particular has the non-technical user covered. XFCE is easy too, but you might want to add some packages (which Robby Workman always seems to compile and have available on his site). Oh, and you should install WICD from the extra folder on the DVD if you use wireless.

Slackware also has slackpkg in by default now. You have to do it at the command line, but it updates the official packages with two simple commands.

Updating to a new release is still not as easy as a lot of other distros, but that's one of the bullets that most probably should bite and reinstall from scratch once a year or so. And if you don't want to I'm sure a Slackware install will continue working at least as long as the Ubuntu LTS version.

The thing is, Slackware still gives you vanilla packages, but the advances throughout the system have made vanilla a whole lot richer.

For not so computer literates I always would recommend Ubuntu or something like that, the only problem that they will have (at least I always have) is to upgrade to newer versions, for someone that is not a ├╝bergeek this is a nonissue and a LTS release will be just fine for some time.

Slackware. No doubt, far easier to use and maintain than Ubuntu.


He was kidding. Slackware does not install any distro specific GUI stuff so you need to know how to configure the servers that you are interested in or hope that the package maintainers have one available.

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