Perpetual Linux Distro Thread

Discussion in 'Other Operating Systems' started by Geo, Mar 30, 2002.

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  1. Geo

    Geo Member

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    This thread is to answer the frequently asked question of "What Linux distro should I use?". Please feel free to contribute to the thread, but make your information relevant and no one line "X distro roxors" posts please.

    What GNU/Linux should I use?

    GNU/Linux (Linux) comes in various forms called distributions (Distros). These are released by various companies, organisations or groups of people. Some common Linux distributions that I have used are listed below.

    Mandrake Linux www.mandrakelinux.com

    This is commonly considered the "Newbie" distro. It is generally the most user friendly, supporting most hardware out of the box and providing many GUI tools to hide command line administration and direct config file editing from the new user. It mainly uses the RPM package management system. If you are new to Linux and want to be eased into it then this is probably the distro for you.

    Redhat Linux www.redhat.com

    This distro is pretty popular in the business sector. On the difficulty scale, Redhat probably lies somewhere between Mandrake and Debian. It still provides GUI utilities for administering the system but it doesn't hold your hand as much as Mandrake. Redhat have made several customizations to the Linux file system and as a result is layed out alot differently than distros that stick the System V standard, the location of init scripts for example. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is up to the user to decide, however it may prove difficult if you are using an more recent version and want to use the more general HOWTO documentation as a guide. Having said that, Redhat is one of the most popular distros and they provide decent support on their website. Redhat uses the RPM package management system.

    Debian GNU/Linux www.debian.org

    Debian, unlike the previous two distros, is made by a group of volunteers, not a company. Debian prides itself on having a totally Free (thats free as in speech) operating system. The default install of debian contains no software that does not fit into their Free Software Guidelines ( http://www.debian.org/social_contract#guidelines ). Of course you can add software in that is non-free. Debian is probably harder to install than the previous two, it doesn?t have a graphical installer and doesn?t install any GUI config tools by default, so you have to learn how to edit config files. The main attraction of Debian however, is it package management system. It uses Deb packages, which, when combined with the apt utility, enable you to install a software package and all its dependencies with one simple command: ?apt-get install <package>?.

    Additionally the default Debian stable branch contains pretty old software, if you want the latest packages replace every instance of the word stable with testing or unstable in the /etc/apt/sources.list file. Debian testing and unstable are comparable to the current releases of Redhat and Mandrake.

    Because the debian package management system relies so heavily on remote package repository access, it is more suited to people with broadband connections or those who dont mind waiting while updating their system.


    Please feel free to add/correct my info, though try and keep this thread mostly an information thread not a converstation thread.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2002
  2. Falkor

    Falkor Member

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    Ok. i guess i'll go first

    I Would also make a recommendation on SuSE, hopefully someone will back me up here (Secretly PM's Andypoo)

    SuSE uses a completely graphical Installation with a tool called YaST, and is not much harder than windows itself to install.
    As far as i know it uses the same standard file system as every other Distro. if you go out and buy it, which BTW is well worth it you get a whole bunch of cds with every package possible on them.
    It also uses YaST for general configuration such as network and printer setup, as well as X.
    and yes, if its your thing you can install RPM and use that too..

    When i bought it i got like 6 cds.. but that was because i bought the full set.. its like 2 years old now but i still use it :)
    anyway, that ends me i'm out

    Btw just a quick note, Debian never liked my pc.. it would install fine but after a few days it would stop booting and kernel panic with some weird IO error.. *shrug*
     
  3. Bern

    Bern Mind the gap!

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    Slackware

    Slackware Linux. http://www.slackware.com
    Slackware is the oldest distro still being activly maintained. It conforms to the UNIX standard more than other distro and uses the BSD style System V init scripts. Slackware is similar to Debian in that there are no GUI configuration or installation tools and is recomended for people with either a reasonable amount of *nix experience or masochist tendencies. Slackware uses the slack package (.tgz) for installing and upgrading software but due to the standard layout of the filesystem installing from source is extremly easy.
     
  4. Dice

    Dice Member

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    nice way to start a religious war i gotta say... :)
    Personally I use redhat - I looked at most of the other distros before I installed it, and decided that;
    Mandrake(manrape?) was too simplistic - it seemed designed for the absolute novice who knew little about their system. (as most who read this are likely to be overclockers and hence with an advanced knowledge of their computers, that seems relevant). Its simplified, made too easy, and you'll barely learn a thing.

    Suse seems to be pretty...however at the time I was looking the install cds were full to the brim of gunky bloatware. As I say, that was a year or so ago - things appear to be better now. YAST and its use of rpm are what makes it niiice.

    Debian is suited for someone who has used a flavour of linux/bsd/unix before. You -can- use it with no prior experience... but do yourself a favour and keep a separate machine running and connected to the net so when you -do- stuff it up you can easily find a way to remedy it. Its primary pluses are its stability and the apt-get system.

    Slackware linux, even more so than debian, is suited for the advanced user. Ive never tried to use it, so take what i say with a grain of salt, but it looks like a very cool, cut back kinda distro thats as stable as you can get, while still being reasonably up to date.

    Redhat, which I use on my primary machine, rocks. As Geo said, its somewhere between mandrake and debian; it was my first experience with linux (oooh it took my cherry) and as long as youre willing to spend time learning and editing files, it is good. You can use a GUI to eddit system settings, but you'll learn better/faster/more if you dont. Its primary good points are its use of rpm, the fact that you can now use debians apt-get system, and the up2date feature, which lets you automagically update any part of your system when a security flaw/bug is discovered.

    Phew.
    As a side note, before installing linux I reccomend you try to find your closest linux user group (LUG). The support you receive is invaluable.

    --Dice
     
  5. mark|

    mark| Member

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  6. shift

    shift Member

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    Non-Linux Alternative OSes

    I think these rate a mention in this thread, they're not Linux of course, but they do mostly the same thing in mostly the same way, sometimes better, sometimes not as good.

    The BSDs
    Not recommended for people new to Unix.
    Generally favored more as server OSes than desktop OSes (I use Debian on my main machine, FreeBSD for my file/web/mail server and OpenBSD for my gateway).

    FreeBSD www.freebsd.org
    Latest Release: 4.5
    Excellent OS for servers. Generally marginally better performance and stability than Linux. Excellent SMP support (especially in forthcoming 5.x releases).

    Intel and Alpha only (for now, PPC support is being worked on).

    NetBSD www.netbsd.org
    Latest Release: 1.5.2
    Runs on just about anything that has a processor.
    Mininal/clean base install, with plenty of software available via packages.

    OpenBSD www.openbsd.org
    Latest Release: 3.0
    Based strongly on NetBSD, with strong emphasis on security. Full support of IPSec, and four years without a remote security exploit. Excellent for firewalls.

    Runs on most common architectures.

    I'll fill in some more info when I get time
     
  7. gemmell

    gemmell Member

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    +Sorcerer

    I've used 3 flavours of Linux, Redhat (way back at 6.0, and now 7.2), Debian and Sorcerer. Redhat and debian have been discussed already, and I'd tend to agree with everything written. I reckon Redhat is a great system to start on, and you need experience to tackle debian. Debian rocks. Sorcerer is an exciting distro, a new concept, basically you download src (now you see why it's called sorcerer?) files from a server (ala apt-get) and compile them with a string of instructions which optimizes them for your system. So instead of downloading binaries which are compiled to work on all systems, you get a nice personalized fast system. It's also very cool in that the author has gone all out on the sorcery thing, it's got a grimiore and you cast 'spells' (aka programs) to install them. So if you want to think you're a wizard....

    It's pretty hardcore, I had trouble with the installer, but it is constantly updated and shows a LOT of potential. PLUS, it makes me feel a little better about sitting on a kick arse machine and using Linux (I never even filled my RAM using debian and so my swap space went unused). Now when I get a new package I actually use RAM and CPU to compile it all up!
    Anyway, that's my two bits worth.
     
  8. Azrael

    Azrael Member

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    Ill start the push for Debian. I first learnt on Slackware, but moved to Debian after i started uni.
    I find it has the best package system, and also since its community based it gets updated fairly quickly and you can get decent support for it (#debian, irc.openprojects.net).

    Ill use Debian over RH anyday, but especially as it actually works on my laptop, a feat which RH never managed.
    Oh and its PPC and m68k dists are pretty good as well, so there is another boon for it.

    My 2c

    EDIT* Weird, two Canberra people post in 5 mins.
     
  9. Dice

    Dice Member

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    re Debian

    Agreed Debian is a nice distro - but for the rank beginner? Ive only just started mucking around with Deb, and its not the type of linux install I'd reccomend for the person that has to ask "what kind of linux distribution should I get?". Debian requires a lot of knowledge about linux terminology/the way it handles things/its little idiosyncrasies...
    Although I respect you for having Slack as your first install, I'd imagine you'd be the exception rather than the norm. (this is where the religious wars start)

    Remember that people coming straight from micro$ofts "product" are used to having a GUI to fall back on - very few users today would have a clue what DOS command youd use to compare two files, for instance. While eventually they'll find out the raw power that comes from pure text console, at first its just a leeeeeetle bit daunting.

    My 1 cent... a $3.00 surcharge applies if using a credit card.

    --Scott
     
  10. sciencewhiz

    sciencewhiz Member

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    From a true linux gumby. (althought I can set up any distro without doco now)
    I've been playing around with linux for about 4 years. I've tried RedHat, all versions from 5.2 to the latest.
    My E-smith box is Redhat based, and I love it to death.
    I've played with all versions of Mandrake and I recommend them to the linux newbie.
    I've tried Redmond linux. It wasn't the best. It tried to do a lot and had problems with most. Ultra easy to install though.
    I've tried Caldera OpenLinux 2 and 3.. Yep. okay..
    I was an active Linux Weekly News reader for three years
    http://www.lwn.net (?) ( It was imported onto the work intranet )
    I must say that my Non windows OS of choice is:
    FreeBSD.
    I have an install tuned by a FreeBSD god on my 1.4 athlon. It has been DD'd to another disk in case anything goes wrong with it from my experiments.
    Stuff RPM's. Give me the PORTS collection anyday!
    A mixture of FreeBSD and RedHat/Mandrake would be my windows deathrattle...
     
  11. Raskon

    Raskon Member

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    It will be interesting to add the financial stability of the organisation/company behind the distro as well. You dont want to get stuck with distro that no one supports

    Storm Linux and Corel Linux are 2 that come to mind in this issue

    RedHat seems to be focusing on the services side of linux (support/certification) and they seem pretty stable

    Debian, mostly because is by a volunteer group and it does have its niche.

    dont know much about the other distro. please feel free to comment.
     
  12. Sm00thY

    Sm00thY Member

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    Gotta add another vote to the Debian camp. :)

    I've played with one distro or another over the years and Debian really appeals to me. It is highly recommended by my local linux group (PLUG) so I had to give it a go. apt-get is simply wonderful so now I have a small server setup from potato and now running woody. Of course it "folds" to keep itself busy. :D
    Getting Debian happening on my own desktop took a lot more effort and couldn't quite get the USB mouse to happen. Then I picked up a copy of Libranet through the local group and installation was effortless!!! Still got a bit of tweaking to do, but being Debian based, it was a simple matter of tweaking the source list and apt-getting to woody.
    Libranet (1.9.1) comes with oodles of window managers and themes so there is bound to be something to keep most people happy.
     
  13. Azrael

    Azrael Member

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    re: Debian

    Well, lets just say ive been using *nix for going on 9 years now, and i started in ASM :).

    I studied the 2.0.38 kernel for a whole semester at uni just cos i was interested in it.
    And the sad thing is that i dont even work/study IT, im a Psych/Science (Genetics) student.

    :), ohwell /me shrugs

    As for debian not supporting USB, you have to upgrade the kernel, and a couple of packages. Does it quite well too though. Autoload of devices etc etc.

    Reminds me that i have to start contributing to the wacom project now that i have one again.
     
  14. Draffa

    Draffa Member

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    I'll put in a vote for both Debian and Slackware. My first install of linux was RedHat 5.something. never worked. Wasn't able to network, access my CDROM or my Windows partition. It was, as they say, broken. The fact it doesn't adhere to standards also worries me. Next up came a very forgetable distro. So foregetable in fact, i can't remember what it was called. TurboLinux? Also was broken. The less said the better.
    Next came Slackware. I was slightly surprised when i installed, but i had been warned in #linux before I bought it, so was fairly prepared. It worked first go, but didn't install any graphical tools by default. In fact, despite downloading the latext Xfree86 etc, i could never get it to work properly (it tried to smear a 800*600 desktop across an invisable screen measuring about 1 meter square). However, I currently run Slackware 7.1 on my small stats, database and file server.
    Currently experimenting with Debian, but the install is confusing. Still, it works with my cobbled together SCSI-based system and a motherboard that refused to run Windows. I'll be tuning it into a game server.

    linux has it's place, and each distro has it's niche. Since you can get mate with broadband to download you a distro every so often, theres nothing stopping you from trying out several of them. I'm just waiting for out-of-the-box ability to play games and goooooodbye M$.
     
  15. bpratt

    bpratt Member

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    Looks like I'm yet another one who has started out on the Slackware distributions, and then dabbled with Debian.

    Fortunately or unfortunately, I started with Slackware, and I still prefer to use it, although I have had a Debian box for a few years now and it works really well.


    A little tip for the novices out there, avoid RedHat like the plague because as it comes out of the box, it is full of security holes that need to be patched. Unfortunately most novices either won't notice or care, and possibly become compromised.

    I've installed redhat at one stage myself, and I found it "prettier" to install than Slackware, but nonetheless Slackware was not hard at all, in fact I dare say just as easy to install as a newbie as redhat was.

    Each to their own, but as far as Linux systems are concerned my money is on both Slackware and Debian, with Slackware more for the newbies.
     
  16. xhadow

    xhadow Member

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    Just want to add another distro in the list
    Its not really a distro, but for those who want to make their own distro can go here
    Linux From Scratch
     
  17. Nordic

    Nordic Member

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    My first computer was an Amiga and when I finally switched to a PC in 1995 I freaked out after a few months of using Micro$oft Windows, it was bad. So I took my PC to a friend of mine who had net access in his dorm, and installed Debian over the net (using the rescue+root floppies). Back then all you could rely upon were mailing lists and wonderful HOWTO-docs and I acquired a pretty good understanding of how a Linux system works. I was hooked.

    I've never installed any Linux distro but Debian for personal use, and I recommend it to all I know. It's faster, more efficient and easier to upgrade than any other distro I know. That was true five years ago, and I think it's true today as well. Some distros are catching up but mostly they are just getting more accessible (GUI install etc..) to people new to Linux.

    If I had to recommend any other distro than Debian, it would be SuSE, even though it uses the rpm system.
    If I had to tell people to stay away from a distro, it would be RedHat/Mandrake. They are impossible to upgrade, don't ever install these on mission critical servers..
     
  18. Noah

    Noah Member

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    I'd like to say that people who say mandrake hides stuff havent tried it for a while... Sure, it used to suck, (heaps) and Aurora and this new startup thing are annoying but removable,

    however, ones they're gone, it's not all that different to redhat, with far better RPM programs, and much better config utils...

    This rumour that mandrake hides stuff and is not good isn't true... I was fed it from lot's of people, that's why I used Redhat for ages... And still did on my servers until yesterday because I found the distro's were the same + more packages and games :) (Hey, I like the ability to easily set up encrypted dvd and divx support, ok!) :)

    I might try debian, this update thing sounds good instead of this constant reinstall upgrade cycle... sounds like a good thing for my servers that I don't wanna have to upgrade all the time :)
     
  19. Rukkh

    Rukkh Member

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    Mandrake has the advantage of being able to boot form a partition past the 1024 cyl boundry, which is great if you want to wack linux onto the end of your drive...

    ...after playing with mandrake for a little while i got really sick of it and rearranged my drive so i could go back to redhat.

    The biggest problem with linux is you generaly can't pick it up by playing with it (unlike windows) but with a brief foray into the documentation most problems can be solved. Its just most of the people ive introduiced to linux have given up before reading the manual...
     
  20. Draffa

    Draffa Member

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    All new version of LILO (LInux LOader) since about mid last year can do that...
     

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