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From my understanding of Linux, all distros are are just a bunch of pre-packaged packages. In theory, couldn't I start with Ubuntu and eventually turn it into something similar to #! only by installing/uninstalling packages?

The reason I ask is that I'm new to Linux. I'm looking to pick a distribution that I can use for both my desktop and laptop. I like the way it looks, but some people have told me that if you don't know exactly what you need/want to pick Ubuntu. However, I've been looking at the posts here and a lot of the screen shots that I like are Arch/#!. I'm willing to do a bunch of research, and I feel that I might even learn to use Linux better with something other than Ubuntu?

Any input?

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    See Arch compared to Ubuntu. Arch is marketed as mainly a 'do it yourself' distro. You install almost everything by yourself. See also the 'Arch Linux' page of the ArchWiki for an overview of Arch. – kiri Oct 14 '13 at 4:48
  • And this question maybe more appropriate to unix.stackexchange.com. Even then, a lot of "opinion" would be involved. – user25656 Oct 14 '13 at 5:22
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Distro matters mainly for these reasons:

1) It will define the default (or lack of) GUI (e.g. Gnome, Xfce, KDE, Unity, Cinnamon etc)

2) It will define the default set of app software installed

3) It will define its package manager - the app that un/installs software

One option is to try some of the distros out in a virtual machine (VM) on your main machine, e.g. using VirtualBox which is free and which supports Linux in a VM on Windows (and vice versa). Personally speaking, this would involve too much time and effort :-)

Have a look at distrowatch.com . I would say the main contenders would be Mint, Ubuntu, Kubuntu or if you are of a techy disposition, Scientific Linux or CAE Linux.

In my opinion, having to choose a distro is one of the biggest barriers to using Linux :-) . Once you have installed it once though, it's easy to trash it and do it again, so it's no biggy really.

Edit: MadMike raised an important point about Long Term Support releases (LTS) - I too favour these as they give stability but provide bug fixes e.g. over several years.

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    I'm with you on your answer. What I'd like to add: The way Distros upgrade and support their systems vary greatly and, even though I also like to tinker with my system, most of the time I just like to use it and Ubuntu with its LTS release gives me exactly that. – MadMike Oct 14 '13 at 7:38
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See Arch compared to Ubuntu (below is from that link).

Arch is designed for users who desire a do-it-yourself approach, whereas Ubuntu provides an autoconfigured system which is meant to be more user-friendly. Arch is presented as a much more minimalist design from the base installation onward, relying heavily on the user to customize it to their own specific needs. In general, developers and tinkerers will probably like Arch better than Ubuntu, though many Arch users have started on Ubuntu and eventually migrated to Arch.

Arch is marketed as mainly a 'do it yourself' distro. You install almost everything by yourself (the whole installation seems to be command line). See also the 'Arch Linux' page of the ArchWiki for an overview of Arch.

If you're new to Linux, I'd suggest you stick with Ubuntu (or derivatives) or maybe Linux Mint. However, you may get more out of Arch if you put some effort in for a more customized distribution.

it is the user who decides what his Arch system will be.

As a final note, you can always install Arch (or Ubuntu) into a virtual machine and see if you like it.

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