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Recently I ordered a new PC. I'm a computer graphics designer and in my free time I like to write simple programs. Frequently I have some work to be done at home. I am experienced Linux user after LPIC1 preparation, so I should not have any problems with choosing correct distro. However, I was trying Ubuntu (XFCE, Unity), Debian (GNOME, XFCE, LXDE), Gentoo (with LXDE, Openbox) and none of them was really usable. There is one problem: I have no Internet at home, because I live in place where broadband connection is really impossible.

My configuration (this is important):

  • MSI B85-G43 motherboard with all possible BIOS updates
  • Pentium G3258 @ 4.5GHz with external cooling (IMO better for single-threading)
  • 16GB of RAM DDR3 with additional radiators
  • Two 4TB hard drives: one is for work, second for backups
  • DVD recorder and additional BlueRay recorder
  • MSI N730 (Nvidia GeForce GT730) card with 4GB of DDR3 (AS I SEE, IS SUPPORTED IN NEWER DISTROS)
  • Two 27” FHD HDMI IPS monitors, one of them is connected through HDMI-DVI adaptor
  • Wacom Intuos Pen&Touch M tablet (RECONIZED PERFECTLY UNDER LINUX)

Here is what I really need:

  • Extremely stable OS, as I said. With less frequent updates, like Debian. I work with really sensitive files, so I do not want to be shocked when suddenly file manager will segfault during moving files. That means: no KDE.
  • Full Disk Encryption. Something like dm-crypt + LVM + LUKS (one password to rule unlock them all)
  • Quick boot. No additional stuff like plymouth or (if possible) systemd. (Even 5-years-old Windows 7 installation is booting faster). If needed, I can switch to hibernation instead of cold booting.
  • Comfortable desktop. I like new dwm in Windows 10, where window snapping is beautiful. Something similar will be really appropriate. I need also an easy-to-use main menu (press Super → type program name → press Enter).
  • MTP support. Sometimes I'm using my Windows Phone as a USB storage if I have no space left on my pendrive. Both Ubuntu and Debian recognize my Lumia as two empty devices with sizes about 200MB...
  • Complete graphics card support. On Ubuntu, with or without Nvidia drivers, after suspending OS and waking it up screens remained black (No signal).
  • Reasonable optical discs support. Some of my discs burned under Windows were unreadable and impossible to dump using dd - output files were filled with zeros.
  • Easy installation of programs. Gentoo's “download-compile-run” method takes too much time. I prefer to download binary and use package manager/CLI/GUI to install it.
  • Good performance. This is my third computer where during copying files everything is freezing. Windows can handle it better. I want just lower priority of copying files or something else.
  • Wine. Sometimes I must open some documents in Word (twice a month or so) - I have license for 2k3 version so I want to use my software fair (huh, I know that it is really old).

Short list of apps used by me:

Screenruler, Xournal, Sqlitebrowser, Wireframe Sketcher, Android SDK/AVD/DDMS, Eclipse, FreePascal IDE, Kiwix, GoldenDict, Dia, FontForge, Inkscape, GIMP, LibreOffice, ImageMagick, Gcolor2, Mplayer, Banshee, Brasero, Audacity, VirtualBox

So, what solution will you recommend me? What distro, window manager, desktop, filesystems (and so on) will be the best? Really, I feel like a beta-tester and I am fed up with it. I want a reasonable solution that will make me more productive, not nervous. I can even switch to FreeBSD if there will be need. And no, do not recommend me switching to Windows, I do not want to pay extra for features like BitLocker.

Thank you for all your help.

closed as primarily opinion-based by jasonwryan, Marco, goldilocks, John WH Smith, jordanm Feb 9 '15 at 1:35

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • IF Ubuntu. Debian and Gentoo give you problems, I doubt any of the other Linux distributions will fare better. I suggest you pick one of those and try to fix your problems. if you want a flawless consumer experience, you are probably looking at Windows or OS X. I'm not recommending either of these, to be clear, but with Free systems, you have to expect some bumps. Personally, I'd pick Debian or Gentoo. Gentoo has precompiled binaries, I think. Though I don't know the extent of it. – Faheem Mitha Feb 8 '15 at 22:21
  • @Matthew, have you run MS-windows on this same hardware without fault, or was it on a different machine? – ctrl-alt-delor Feb 8 '15 at 23:15
  • Note that having a second drive for backup doesn't help you much if the whole computer is stolen, and that was your only backup. I know one this happened to. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Feb 9 '15 at 0:24
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Given that you have a rather modern card, it might be difficult to find a battle tested distribution that support it fully. Perhaps the best choice could be Ubuntu 14.04 LTS with the hardware enablement stack (did you try that solution?).

So you have a tradeoff to perform here.

For desktop environment, I like pretty much Gnome 3 and its shell. In its latest version, it is a pretty good contender to Windows 7 dwm, IMHO (but I tend to favor virtual desktops (aka workspaces) over snapping). In addition, while using Gnome 2, 3 or Unity in the past (ehh that would make 11 years at least), it never crashed to the point that I had a bad file system after. But I always used JFS, and then now ext4/xfs (I'm also evaluating btrfs, but it crashed a few times on Ubuntu 14.04.1 and I once lost a volume).

Here is a list of distributions that offer stable release (not complete):

  • Debian (but you tried unsuccessfully);
  • Ubuntu LTS (did you try HWE?) and its variants (such as Ubuntu Gnome);
  • CentOS 7 (however you will need to find proper support from Nvidia for the video driver if your card is too modern).

You could try also Suse or others, but I was not always happy with Suse in the past, and I have less experience with the other distros (except for ArchLinux, but I don't find it qualifies for stable ;-) but it's pretty geeky and bleeding edge!).

Recommendation 1: Ubuntu LTS + HWE

As said before, try the latest Ubuntu LTS (14.04.2 Trusty Tahr) and use the HWE stack (should improve hardware support, so perhaps better support of Windows Phone and Nvidia card)

Recommendation 2: CentOS 7

From the above list, try CentOS 7, it is based on Gnome 3 Shell but with a polished look n feel that respire Gnome 2 (CentOS is based on Red Hat which has long standing customers, so they offer a soft transition to Gnome 3). It is pretty stable, uses by default LVM+XFS, and can during set-up create full disk encryption. It uses systemd, but I find it quite cool to manage. It is also "fast" to boot (around 30 sec on my VMs).

CentOS being community, it offers many repos with lots of extra software so that you can simply search, click and install for new apps.

Recommendation 3: Ubuntu non-LTS until next one

In the past, if one does not rush the first 2 months to upgrade to the latest Ubuntu release (non-LTS), I found them all stable.

Perhaps, the latest version (14.10) supports well your hardware, or the coming one (15.04) will do so. Have you try Ubuntu 14.10? Can you wait until June to switch and try Ubuntu 15.04?

Maybe they could be temporary solutions while waiting for Ubuntu 16.04 LTS.

Last advice

If you can afford it, I would advise to use a RAID-1 (mirroring) configuration with your 2 4TB HDDs, instead of using one for real and the other for backup. But I would buy (therefore the "afford" at the beginning of this paragraph) an external (USB, e-sata, etc.) HDD to do backups.

If you can afford it, the advantage is quicker restore if one disk fails (i.-e. replace faulty HDD and rebuild the array). However if you can't afford the external disk, then your solution is safer, because proper backup allows you to go back in time which RAID does not.

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If you really, really want full support of your computer by a given distribution, your approach is wrong. Do not buy hardware and then look what works, instead choose your operating system, and buy hardware known to work with that operating system.

For Ubuntu, have a look at the Ubuntu Desktop certified hardware page at http://www.ubuntu.com/certification/desktop/

By buying one of these systems, your chances of success is as high as it gets.

Also Dell occasionally have models with Linux preinstalled.

Personally, if my top priority was trouble free hardware support on a Unix-system, I would get a Mac (but it isn't - I want "apt-get" :) )

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