For context: I understand that, generally speaking, questions of the form “Help, what distro should I use” are bad form. I am trying my best to avoid that pitfall by making my question a specific, targeted variant of the “distro choice” question that may be useful to other readers.
I am a CS major who is quite familiar with Mac OS and its Unix-like underpinnings, but wishes to expand their knowledge of Unix’s inner workings. I am comfortable in a Unix/Linux shell, can easily navigate a filesystem through the terminal, and understand the value of man (command). I use brew regularly to install Mac ports of Linux utilities. In essence, I am a Mac OS power user.
I wish to expand my knowledge of Unix by using a more modifiable variant of Unix in a VM or as a second installation, rather than mucking up my Mac OS installation due to stupid learner mistakes. Ideally, this distro will be a relatively “generic” one, in that any Linux/Unix-specific skills learned there can be transferred readily to other common distros.
To summarize, I am seeking a distro with these properties:
Conducive to learning the inner workings of Unix
Forces me to learn why, not just how, things are done in Unix
Follows common Unix conventions (I.e. skills transfer to other distros)
May require additional configuration to get it functioning as a daily-use distro
What would be a good choice of distro to accomplish this goal? Should I dual-boot or work in a VM? Which choice is more conducive to an effective learning environment?