Need advice on new system components & distro pick

I am a fairly experienced computer user who has
a pretty old system right now (486/120). I am operating
in Win 98 right now, and would like to learn about
programming and generally get more in-depth computer knowledge (especially Unix-type stuff). From what I can tell, Linux (or another flavor of Unix) is probably the best place to learn programming, since so much of the Windows stuff is "Visual"-based. Also I guess Linux will be good because a familiarity with Unix may be helpful. I also think that I'll probably learn more in a command-line environment, as opposed to a GUI (not that I'll never use X-Windows, I just don't want to rely on it). Based on this, which distribution should I get? I'm figuring on picking between Mandrake, Suse, Debian, & Redhat. I know that I can download at least some of these for free, but I'd prefer to have CD's in hand, plus the book that should come with a package. Also, at least a few of these distributions
come in two versions (Home vs. Professional, or whatever). My instinct is to get the cheap version and then download whatever else I need, whether it be compilers or whatever.

Ok, the second problem is my system. I am wanting to start mostly over (I have an almost new Western Digital 40 Gig 7200 rpm HD that I'll reuse, plus my 15" monitor). I am looking to buy pretty much everything else new.
As far as Linux vs. Windows is concerned, I am looking at buying the TriOS, detailed on this website

Pretty much it's a hard drive switch, so that I can have Win XP (looking to upgrade that, too) on my first drive, and Linux on my second drive, and they'll never see each other. I know that I can dual boot onto one hard drive, but
I've heard quite a few things about Windows screwing up the Linux partitions, or Linux screwing up Windows. I could deal with these problems in the interests
of learning, but my wife will be using the computer for work, and if Windows screwed up, she would wig out.

As far as the rest of the hardware, I've been scouring the different hardware sites out there for the past two or three weeks, in addition to the Linux sites, to figure out what will work (I know Linux is I've tried to be careful).

Motherboard: Abit KR7A (no RAID, no ATA 133, based on VIA KT266A chipset)
CPU: AMD Athlon XP 1700+ (will probably buy an AMD approved heatsink/cooler along with it).
Video Card: Asus 8200 Pure T2 (Asus board based on NVidia GeForce3, Ti200, w/o extra software & stuff)
Sound Card: SB Live XGamer 5.1 (I know the 5.1 won't help in Linux, and I'm only getting the XGamer version because it's cheaper to get those particular games this way).
Hard Drive: 40 Gig, 7200 rpm, not sure of manufacturer (I've always used Western Digital, but lots of places seem to like the IBM Deskstar series).
RAM: Brand name, 512 MB, PC2100 DDR SDRAM, CL=2.0 if I can get it
Cable Modem: It seems like AT&T Broadband High Speed Internet on cable modem is the way to go in Jax. Looking at D-Link DCM100 ext. cable modem, two-way DOCSIS 1.0 certified, says it supports Unix "and other popular operating systems)
Network Card: Have no preference, will probably get something that claims Linux support
CD-RW: Not sure what to get (looking for <$100 & Linux compliant, of course), Acer seems to have some inexpensive ones out there.
Case: Mid to Full tower, looking for nice case. I'll be looking at computer show this weekend. Looking for 400W AMD approved power supply.

Well, sorry my post was so long, but I've been trying to nail down this information for the past two weeks, and it is extremely hard to weigh these options without prior first
hand knowledge. I'll likely buy a case this weekend at the computer show, but I'll be ordering the rest from a few internet sites over the weekend (been checking prices and
merchant ratings at, and I'll probably stop by BBBonline before I order).

If you have any suggestions on hardware or Linux distributions, I'd love to hear them. If you think that any of my assumptions are incorrect (about hardware, programming, etc.), please tell me so that I won't proceed in ignorance. As you've probably guessed, this computer will be spending some time playing FPS's & RPG's in Windows, but I'd like to have as much of the hardware function in Linux as possible.


Richard Mathews
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More about need advice system components distro pick
  1. You choice of hardware looks pretty good.

    Coupla things tho': Get quality RAM - I've had only good experiences with Crucial RAM so far. Sift some HD forums about the HDD: The Deskstar's have had good reviews, but many a forum and newsgroup have concerns about reliablity... I installed a 75GXP in a customers PC and it's been fine, but some folks have had big problems. YMMV.

    FWIW, I've just built a box with the following, and it's running sweet:

    Gigabyte GA-DXR7+ RAID Mobo with CT5880 Sound
    AMD Athlon XP 1600+
    Thermaltake Volcano 7 Autospeed cooler
    512 MB Crucial DDR
    2 x 40 GB Maxtor D740X 7200rpm running RAID-1 on the onboard Promise ATA133 Controller
    Matrox G450 OEM Videocard
    3Com 3c509B TX-NM 10/100 NIC
    LG GCE-8240B CDRW
    17" Viewsonic Monitor
    Black Enermax "Server" Case and 300W PSU (Beige is "unsupported" ;-)

    I've used Netgear, DLink, and "Generic" NICs sucessfully, too. Most current CDRW should work with Linux (or rather with the cdrecord app). The one change I would make is not using the TriOS. Reason being that it appears not to allow concurrent access to all disks. It sounds safe (which is good), but a little inflexible - eg what if you want a file from Windows while in Linux? That's just my opinion, and if safety is a higher priority, then go with it. nVidia Video is a good choice. Fast and resonably well supported/documented. Cable modem via ethernet should be fairly easy to get going with current distros.

    Mandrake 8.1 (or 8.2 if ready) is possibly the easiest distro to get up and running with. I'd recommend that to start with. Even the "cheap" boxed version includes all the compilers, software and what not that you could resonably want.

    Linux is a good place to learn to hack code, and all distros will be fine for your needs in this respect. The hardcore-coding using vi/emacs is a little different to the Visual Studio approach, but if you stick at it and learn the "Linux way", you will be fine. Having said that, there are a couple of IDE projects like KDevelop and Ajuita that are really nice to use...

    Good Luck with it.
  2. I was recently given a boxed copy of suse 7.3 personal edition, by a moronic friend of mine who got it with a new pc, but decided to buy winXP and have nothing to do with Linux. All the more for me then.

    I installed it and liked it straight away. I thought I'm gonna replace my redhat 7.1, with this one, not that I've had too many problems with redhat. They seem on par with each other, this one has three installation CD's, while redhat has two. But I seem to have a total of 6 CD's for my redhat Distro. I know one of them has Source RPM's but I can't recall what the others have. Anyway, SuSe has really cool startup and shutdown sequences that did it for me. Call me shallow if you like, but thats the only reason :wink: .

    I also have turbolinux. I love that one cos when I was installing it, the first question it asked was - do you have a colour display? I'm gonna setup my turbolinux box as a test webserver. This distro, had difficulty installing lilo on my hard drive. I had to delete all partitions with dos fdisk and 'fdisk /mbr' the thing and re-install linux.

    I also have Corel and Caldera. Corel is just for complete newbies, and wouldn't let me create seperate partitions for each mounting point. It insisted that I just make '/' and put everything there. I didn't like Caldera. I don't know why but I just didn't like it.

    You'll probably like Suse, cos it comes with 3 books - quick install guide, Configuration guide and Applications guide. I think the professional version has more books. That version comes on 6 cds, but also includes a dvd with the contents of all the Cd's, for an convenient no 'disk swapping' and faster installation.

    <font color=red><i>I refugee from Guatanamo Bay,
    dance around the border like I'm Cassius Clay
    </i></font color=red>
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