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Linux newbies get a helping hand

A popular online quiz is helping companies and home users to choose among desktop Linux products.

A quiz that helps decide which version of Linux to install on a desktop has attracted thousands of daily hits even though it's still in beta testing, according to quiz-creator Zegenie Studios.

Daniel Eikeland, a project leader at Norwegian open-source consultancy Zegenie Studios, said Thursday that its Linux Distribution Chooser quiz has gotten about 40,000 hits every day for the last week. Those taking the quiz tend to be either home users or company employees seeking advice for which desktop Linux distribution best meets their needs.

"We get a lot of feedback from individual users, but have also had feedback from people saying, 'We're part of a company that is looking into desktop Linux, thanks for pointing us in the right direction'," Eikeland said.

The quiz asks questions such as whether participants plan to use wireless devices, how they rate their technical skills and whether they are installing the operating system on a desktop or portable computer. Once the quiz is complete, the applications recommends one particular Linux distribution and lists a number of alternative distributions, along with the criteria they failed on.

A final version of the quiz will incorporate the feedback it has had from users and will probably be available in the next month, Eikeland said. The update will include a couple of new distributions, such as OpenSuse and Ark Linux. However, Eikeland said Zegenie Studios has been careful not to add too many distributions, as this could confuse users.

While the quiz was targeted to people new to Linux, Zegenie Studios has been working on a version for experienced users. The new version is promised to help people choose a Linux distribution for other purposes, such as a server, handheld device or firewall.

The beginner-level quiz was easy to create because those users tend to ask a limited set of questions when choosing a desktop Linux distribution, Eikeland said. But the advanced quiz has been more difficult to compose.

"I've spent a lot of time in different Linux support forums and found that people often ask the same questions to find out what version of desktop Linux to use," Eikeland said. "But there are hundreds of advanced Linux distributions, so it's really hard to get an overview of all the options that there are."

Eikeland said he expects that a beta version of the advanced quiz will be available next month.

The Linux Distribution Chooser quiz is available on the company's Web site.

Ingrid Marson of ZDNet UK reported from London.