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A Tale of Two Distros


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So I ended up with a pair of aging laptops from 2014-2015, both in need of an SSD upgrade, both consumer grade units, both struggling with Windows 10. They were perfect candidates for a fresh install of Linux. But which one? Maybe which two?

  • The Hardware - Lenovo Flex2-15D running AMD A8-6410 and HP Pavillion running Intel i5 -5200U. On paper the Pavillion is more powerful but it doesn't make a huge difference. Both have 8 GB of DDR3 RAM. The Lenovo has Linux friendly wifi, the Pavilion not so much.
  • The Distros - Linux Mint Xfce and Endeavour OS with its Xfce option. I generally choose Xfce as a starter DE if I install the Arch Way in any case.
  • Installation - Mint uses the Ubiquity installer and Endeavour the Calamares installer. Both worked great with proper partitioning and coping with the laptops' primitive UEFI. The Lenovo's wifi worked out of the box. The Pavillion's did not. I had to use a  USB dongle to get Mint installed then the Driver Manager to get the native wifi working. The Pavillion would be a frustrating machine for a new user.
  • After Install - Both distros give a welcome screen to suggest updates and configuration steps. Mint's is a bit more polished. The DE on both distros is excellent - Endeavour has a prettier set of themes and icons. Mint is pretty much full-fat and ready to go out of the box. Endeavour is quite minimal and will need some upgrading and tweaking to be functional.
  • Printing and File Sharing - I wanted to configure a wireless printer and share files from a small NAS drive attached to my router. With Endeavour printing I had a lot of Terminal work - installing packages, enabling services, configuring the firewall - but I got there eventually with the help of the ArchWiki. With Mint I checked the Printers menu and the printer was just there. Sharing with Endeavour required installing samba and a bunch of helper applications to use Thunar to see the file server. Again I followed the ArchWiki. With Mint installing samba from the Software Manager did the trick and everything worked after that. Big advantage for Mint if you are just starting out in Linux.
  • Fun versus Functional - Endeavour is pretty much an Arch clone so it sure is fun if you know what you're doing. Mint works pretty well out of the box. If you have Linux unfriendly hardware you have to know what to fix, but it seems easier with Mint's graphical tools.
  • So Which One? - For an experienced user no doubt EndeavourOS will be more interesting - in fact you might as well learn the Arch install because that'll give you more experience. For a new user Mint is undoubtedly the way to go. However if you have Linux unfriendly hardware (looking at you, Broadcom) you'll need to know the ropes. Best solution for a newcomer would be Linux friendly Lenovo Flex2-15D with Mint.
Edited by raymac46
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Hedon James

Nice rundown Ray!  I learned the hardware lesson of compatibility very early in my linux journey, with a video driver on an intel i915 chipset that crashed in random moments and could NOT be duplicated.  My bacon was saved by an experienced user who figured out my hardware and was aware of the video driver issue for that chipset.  In my defense, I tried the LiveCD first and it worked just fine; and he confirmed that was a good step, but wasn't foolproof (as proved by my experience).  He sent me the URL for a website of hardware compatibility with Linux and I learned to troubleshoot hardware components BEFORE purchasing them.  Then, I bought a used GPU for like $10 on Ebay and was good thereafter!  Lesson learned!


With more experience under my belt, I bought one of those Acer Netbooks with the famed Poulsbo chipsets, knowing in advance what the challenges were, but confident in my ability to get it done.  It was a PITA jumping through all those hoops, but I got it working without any hiccups whatsoever.  And even though I got it working with no issues along the way, another lesson was learned.


"Why go through ALL those gyrations, unless you absolutely, positively HAVE TO?!"  Hardware matters.  No more "jumping into the fire" for me, just to see if I'll burn.

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@HJ I also had Poulsbo in a Dell netbook that was supposed to offer a Linux distro (Ubuntu 9) as an option. It also had a Broadcom wifi solution. The worst Intel graphics of all time. Unupgradeable until Intel released a 2D driver for Linux. Fortunately that Dell Mini 12 has been recycled.

It blows my mind that we are still having hardware glitches with Broadcom. Still crazy after all these years.

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