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striking a balance between, "everything you need out of the box" and "everything you might ever need including 10 different text editors and 5 web browsers"
ubuntu includes most things people will need, it takes up 2.2GB and includes lots of useless applications that I'll never use.
Fedora core is the same, 4 cds.
flexbiltiy always means a bit more complexity.1
I tried Ubuntu, nice, easy install, reminded me of the old Redhat installer. Installed just fine. I get to the GDM login screen, I log in, and then it just sat at a blank desktop and never did anything. I had full control of my mouse, but other than that, notta. I couldn't even restart X.
If I booted it up to the fail-safe console, it worked fine. Unless, of course, I started up X. I'm gussing it was hanging on some driver or something, I don't know.
I've had a lot of bad luck lately as far as getting OSes to isntall on my system, even Zeta gives me problems (will only run in video-failsafe mode unless I isntall the Haiku nVidia driver, and that crashes, despite any settings changes the author said I should try, doesn't have support for nForce2 networking, and their are no drivers elsewhere either).
I think next time I upgrade the system, I'm going back to a VIA chipset.
"I tried Ubuntu, nice, easy install, reminded me of the old Redhat installer. Installed just fine. I get to the GDM login screen, I log in, and then it just sat at a blank desktop and never did anything."
Been there. It's a bug with esd, you should disable it in GConf via command line using gconftool-2. I don't remember the exact command, but as always, Google is your friend ;-) I would suggest searching with site:ubuntuforums.org first.