I'm considering installing Linux on a separate HDD so I can play around with it and still be able to use Windows. What should I expect if I install a version like Ubuntu?
Ubuntu is a good distro. It isn't the fastest or most bleeding edge distro. There are quite a few distros that are faster than Ubuntu. Ubuntu is Debian based, and there are several distros based on Ubuntu. If you decide to install Ubuntu, I would stick with a long term support release. The current LTS version is 12.04.3. 14.04 is coming out this April.
I'm sure some people will be along shortly to tell you to use their favorite distro. I say use what you like the most. Don't be afraid to try out several different ones.
In my opinion, GNU/Linux distros are operating systems that beg to be specialized in purpose. To me Ubuntu just feels so "general purpose". In the less-than-often times I use GNU/Linux, I would rather use a distro that is more tailored to a specific purpose, like CentOS. But for your purposes, CentOS wouldn't be great at all either.
as another first timer here, I've been looking at mint, it seems to be fairly newb friendly, maybe check that out.
I think the most noob friendly version for a long time Windows user would have to be Zorin. Check that out, install it, run it for a while, get the feel of how Linux works, then move on to something else if you want to.
Yeah I've been reading around and there are alot of these distributions or "distros" as their called. I will try some of them out and see how it goes.
Another quick question. I have read that nVidia GPUs don't like to play nice with linux. Does that go for all of them? Are there any alternatives besides buying a new GPU?
Just do a google search for your specific GPU. You shouldn't have too many problems.
Nvidia drivers are fine - Nouveau drives are better.
I'd say that Fedora, Chakra, or Sabayon are worth considering for a first-time distro. All are, while not necessarily rolling release, very bleeding edge (Fedora is so far upstream, even Arch copies them), that you always have the latest kernel, proprietary drivers (gross), and all of them come with decent amounts of bloat, but mostly, just very well-made and useful software. Great distros for beginners and 'advanced' users alike.
Xubuntu , Lubuntu are very userfriendly distro that stick close to Ubuntu and run very fast even on old computers,
If your computer is at least one year old I recommend sticking with a 12.04 version
Other nice Ubuntu versions are Kubuntu & Mint.
Zorin is also very user friendly & you can theme it to fool unexperienced users into thinking that it is windows.
Open Suse is also a good candidate, it's comes with sophisticated out of the box energy saving, which makes it the ideal candidate for long battery life on Laptops.
People also like Mandriva, I have no experience with it, but the general chorus is positive.
If you are a driven person that fears no challenge and are not easily deterred by a little frustration, Arch- or Gentoo- Linux might be worth a look, it rewards your efforts with unparalleled control and ridicules speed.
get ubuntu, i tried mint before ubuntu 5 years ago and couldnt understand it while ubuntu was easier to use than windows
While I certainly couldn't recommend Arch or Gentoo(steep learning curve) I have to say, despite all the hate Ubuntu gets, it is a really good distro, probably the distro that I have encountered the least amount of issues with. Most of the time, it just works. If you want more of a challenge then just get a plain Debian distro (you probably want Jessie or Sid) and install everything to your likes. Expect a fair amount of troubleshooting, unless you are lucky and have hardware that works without an issue, which a lot of things work fine out of the box.
Debian is old and Ubuntu is bloated. Fedora, Sabayon, and Chakra are all great options, however.
Most hardware is supported at a kernel level, since so many "drivers" have been implemented into it, but for hardware that isn't, there is more than likely a driver for it.
Debian Jessie and Sid are not old. I believe Ubuntu LTS is based off of Jessie, and the standard 6 month distros are based on Sid. There isn't always a working driver. For example, I recently built my grandfather a PC after his old one crapped out, and intended on replacing his old Windows XP with a Linux distro. For whatever reason I could not get Linux Mint, or Ubuntu to work on his PC. I could, however get Arch and Debian to work. I didn't bother to check the compatibility of Linux with the AMD APU I got him, and when I got Debian up and running, I went to install the AMD drivers for the CPU, and even though I had all the dependencies installed for the driver, I would get errors every time I tried to install it. Of course this is AMD we are talking about, but still that just goes to show that not everything "works" with Linux.
Thank you all for the advise, I'll do some more reading on these before I install them as I need something more n00b friendly right now lol but it is all very interesting. :)
I went to install the AMD drivers for the CPU, and even though I had all the dependencies installed for the driver, I would get errors every time I tried to install it. Of course this is AMD we are talking about, but still that just goes to show that not everything "works" with Linux.
That just makes so little sense that it gets on my nerves to be honest... I just lit an incense stick to fend off the bad spirits...
Ubuntu, Mint, and other mcdonalds-distros are not n00b-friendly, they are n00b-distros, there is a difference...
To be honest, if it doesn't have systemd, just forget about it, because it means it's too old to invest time in, unless you get paid to invest time in it.
McDonald's distros. That's pretty funny haha. Thanks for the advice :)
in the past i have tried using ubuntu and mint. but i never really liked them. after taking zoltan's suggestion in another post, i gave manjaro a try and i really like. i haven't wanted to run away and hide in windows 7 yet. lol i still dual boot manjaro and w7 but i have another SSD mobo and a R9 280x on the way so i should be able to get better graphics support.. the command line seems to make more sense as well.
Some people still prefer an RC script setup to systemd, but I honestly can't understand why. "systemctl enable XX.service" is just as easy as messing with your rc.conf.
What do you mean it makes no sense? I meant to say drivers for the apu, sorry if I am not being extremely specific. Do you want me to specify that I mean specifically the FGLRX graphical drivers for the Radeon HD 6410D integrated graphics? Do I need to list the dependencies? Would you like to dispute that AMD has superior drivers than Nvidia(yeah right)?