Linux

10 things to consider when choosing a Linux distribution

Many users would argue that one Linux distribution is pretty much like another, at least on fundamentals. But when it comes down to everyday use, each distribution is different from the next. Jack Wallen looks at the distinguishing characteristics of various distros and explains how they might fit your needs.

I can't begin to tell you how many people over the years I have consulted with about choosing a Linux distribution. And even with my own personal loyalties to one distribution or another, it always amazes me how certain distributions are better suited to various users and needs. So when I set out to write a 10 Things article, it only made sense that my first one be related to choosing a Linux distribution.

Of course, times and opinions change. For nearly 10 years I road the Red Hat/Fedora wagon. And then, after considerable thought, I jumped over to Ubuntu. Why? Because it fit my evolving needs. Many will argue that one Linux distribution is just like another -- and I agree, on fundamentals. But when it comes down to everyday use, each distribution is different from the next. So why would you want to use Debian vs. Fedora or Ubuntu vs. Mandriva? Let's dive into this and find out.

Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.

#1: 100 % open or not?

Many people don't seem to know this question even exists. Average users may think that all Linux distributions are created equal, since they are released under the GPL. They are not. Some distributions are being released with proprietary drivers. In some instances, these are necessary. For example, for many laptops, getting wireless to work often requires the use of a proprietary driver. Because of this, some Linux distributions are opting to make the inclusion of proprietary drivers the user's choice. And many of these distributions are even offering downloads of free and non-free (with regards to licenses, not cost) drivers.

If you champion 100% free software, you'll want to look at the following:

Those are the only distributions that don't offer any releases with non-free software. You can also get versions of distributions like Mandriva Free, which are bereft of non-free applications. This choice will be dictated by two things: the "politics" of Linux and the need for proprietary drivers.

#2: Package management

This is one of those areas where people begin to leap up on their soapboxes. RPM vs. Apt vs. dpkg vs. urpmi. Some would say that they are all fundamentally the same: Each has a command-line tool as well as a GUI front end, and each has a configurable repository system that can be edited by hand (via text editor) or through the GUI front end. I will argue (not that I have become a Ubuntu convert) that the Apt system is much better as a package management system. I say this because RPM has a tendency to be unable to resolve dependencies, as well as to muck up a system over time. But for the average user, the biggest (and probably most crucial) difference lies in the GUI front ends. Between managers like Synaptic and GnoRPM, there is no comparison. Even after nearly 10 years of working with Linux, I have never found a stable front end for RPM. Apt front ends, on the other hand, have enjoyed stability for a long time.

So if you prefer one package management system over another, your choice will already be narrowed down. Of course, it can get a little murky with crossovers, like apt-rpm. But if you want Apt, you will be using a Debian-based system. If you want RPM, you will be using a Red Hat/Fedora-based distribution (or, in the case of urpmi, Mandriva.)

#3: Directory hierarchy

This is one of those issues that has always befuddled me. There should be a standard that all distributions stick to. But as it stands, there is not. Take the init system (the initialization system). In Fedora-based systems, you will find this in /etc/rc.d/init.d. In Debian-based systems, you will find this in /etc/init.d. Even the Linux Standards Base does not define where the initialization system should lie. But you will still have your own personal standard. When moving from Fedora to Ubuntu, it took me a while to keep from typing /etc/rc.d/init.d/mysql start and typing /etc/init.d/mysql start. If you're used to one, either stick with it or anticipate a few "command not found" errors.

#4. Desktop environment

Although you can install your desktop of choice, some users just want to install the OS and go. In that case, you will want to make sure you choose a distribution that focuses on the desktop environment you like. If you want GNOME, go with Fedora. You can check out this listing of distributions shipping with GNOME as the default. If you want KDE, check out this listing of distributions shipping KDE as the default. Of course, you are not limited to either GNOME or KDE. My preference is for Enlightenment. Some distributions ship with Enlightenment as the default, such as Elive and gOS.

Even though it's possible to install the desktop of your choice, it's not always as simple as it might seem. If you don't want to spend time resolving dependencies or figuring out what repository to add to install KDE4, go with a distribution that ships your preferred desktop by default.

#5: Security

Linux is a much more secure OS than most, although not all distributions are equally secure. In fact, there are distributions aimed primarily at security, such as Trustix, which claims to be the most secure of all Linux distributions. But truth be told, the most secure Linux distribution is the one that is properly configured. But if you want security "out of the box," the short list of distributions would include Trustix, Engarde Linux, and Bastille Linux.

#6: Intended use

Let's face it: We don't all use our computers for the same thing. Some need multimedia. Some need servers. Some need development. Some need a simple workstation to write and surf the Web. And there are Linux distributions for every need. Need a headless server? Give Ubuntu Server Edition <http://www.ubuntu.com/products/whatisubuntu/serveredition> a try. Is multimedia your game? If so, take a look at StartCom Multimedia Edition. If you're an average user (office suite, e-mail, Web), you can go with any of the distributions.

#7: Hardware

This one is tricky. As I said earlier, your hardware will sometimes dictate what drivers you will use. But it goes beyond that. There are distributions that are known for their hardware friendliness. For instance, PCLinuxOS is one of the best choices for overall hardware detection and setup (as well as being one of the simplest to install). For wireless, your best choices are Ubuntu, Mepis, and SUSE Linux.

#8: Laptop use

Another tricky spot. On top of having to deal with wireless and graphics (see #7), you also have to hope that your laptop will support hibernation. This is one of the rougher spots for modern Linux. Getting a laptop to suspend or hibernate is a matter of hoping your particular laptop will play well with your distribution. Your best bet is to simply Google your make and model of laptop along with "linux suspend" to find out which distribution is best suited for your machine.

Wireless on your laptop will be an interesting journey. But here's a good tip to help you out: Forget tools like Exalt and go directly to WICD. This tool is much better at handling various forms of wireless authentication.

#9: Installation

If you are really considering Linux, you know you have two choices: Find a vendor that will sell you a machine with a pre-installed distribution or install a distribution yourself. If you have never installed an operating system, don't fret; it's not hard. It will take some time, but rest assured that all modern Linux distributions (with the rare exception) are point-and-click GUI installations. And Linux one-ups its competition by giving you the Live CD. You can pop it into the machine, boot from it, and give Linux a try without having to install anything. A Live CD instance of Linux will run considerably slower than the installed version (and that will depend upon how much RAM your machine has), but you can get a good idea how well it is going to react to your hardware (and how you are going to react to the OS).

I would like to say that one distribution's installation routine is better than another (to help you weed out possible hurdles in your adoption of Linux). But that is not so much the case now. Personally, I prefer the installations of Ubuntu (in its many incarnations) and Fedora to any other. I find their installations to be far more intuitive and user friendly.

If installation isn't your game, just find a vendor that sells Linux pre-installed. You can go to online dealers like Hewlett Packard, Dell, Zonbu, Everex, and many others. This will keep you from having to dance around distributions to figure out which will support your hardware.

#10: Community

This aspect is a bit esoteric, but it should be addressed. Linux is more than an operating system. Linux, akin to Apple, is a community. Linux is about freedom and its communities embrace that -- some more than others. So if community (feeling like you belong to something special) is important to you, Ubuntu is the distribution for you. If not, you could go with the more enterprise-level Red Hat, where you'll enjoy a more traditional model of both customer service and support.

Which brings up a related issue: Support. Along with Linux comes many forms of support. Each distribution has its own mailing list, where you can enjoy hundreds (or thousands) of users who range from every level of experience. If you're a DIY kind of person, this type of support will be right up your alley. And it's free! If you're not the DIY type, you should stick with SuSE (which benefits from Novell's backing) or Red Hat, where you can buy a solid support package for your installations. If you do opt for the more community-drive distribution, you'll be in good hands. On many occasions I have enjoyed speaking directly to the developer(s) of the application in question. Finding such a communication line with, say, a Microsoft or an Apple wouldn't be so easy. With Linux -- you never know. You might wind up chatting up the Linux kernel with Linux creator Linus Torvalds himself. I have a few times.

So there you have it. Ten things to consider when choosing a Linux distribution. But ultimately, it all boils down to choice. And that's where Linux really shines. With Linux, you can choose on nearly every level. You aren't locked down to any one thing.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

47 comments
stephanvaningen
stephanvaningen

Ubuntu is also an example where you can get licenced support from i.e. Canonical or a local company, that in combination with a great community. -- This is not mentioned in #10

Dogcatcher
Dogcatcher

If you multi-boot or have a sophisticated system, remember that SuSE offers the most flexible setup for Grub. If you have FAT or NTFS drives that you need to access, remember that SuSE will mount those drives read-write just as easily as Ext2 drives. If you're not sure what desktop you want, or need to switch desktops, remember that SuSE will install Gnome, KDE3, KDE4, and others side-by-side for use in different sessions. If you also live in the world of Windows and don't have the time to master the power of Linux at the command line, remember that SuSE offers the powerful YaST Control Center to help you configure almost all system functions, security, and software.

ukstar
ukstar

I have Mandriva 8.1 64bit installed. It must be the most comprehensive disto so far. It "found" my HP printer AND HP scanner, also wireless router was a breeze compared to most of the others. I am going to upgrade to the powerpack. Try the DVD version.

Kris.J
Kris.J

FreeBSD. ;) FreeBSD = what Linux wants to be when it grows up.

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

#2 - remember back in Dos days when you unzipped a package to a folder and ran the program? Everything was in that folder, so it was easy to find, maintain, and remove. I miss that. #3 - I never got why this wasn't standardized. Jaqui (et al)'s thread has been interesting and informative. #4 - Bummer, nobody has KDE4 yet. I wanted to look at it, but too lazy to do any work myself ;) #5 - Well said Jack, well said. #8 - I'd sure like to get my Linux Install to be a little more competitive with my XP install (2 issues, the Wireless, which may not be resolvable, looking at the forums. I am just stuck with the wrong hardware. And Battery life, I get 4-5 hours from windows with moderate use, but only about 2 hours from Linux, doing practically nothing. I should probably post those in the question Forums...) Nice Article.

philsmithson
philsmithson

"For nearly 10 years I road the Red Hat/Fedora wagon"...anyone else?? Actually, you rode the wagon....

csaba.szigetvari
csaba.szigetvari

Fedora systems have a symlink from /etc/rc.d/init.d to /etc/init.d, this one is created by default during installation. What has happened on your Fedora installation, that it doesn't work there? Sincerely, CSIG

r_widell
r_widell

Make sure you have a printer from HP or Epson, as they seem to be the only vendors interested in providing enough information to allow their products to work with anything that's not Windows. Alternatively, get a printer with built-in ethernet and lpd (line-printer daemon) support.

alex.babinin
alex.babinin

A couple points: URPMI is nothing more than a front-end to RPM. Also, all of those systems suffer from dependency hell. The fine difference between them is really how the packages are tagged for the system in question. If a package is tagged for a 2008.1 version, there's no way a packaging system will let you install just that for a 2008.0 version. Apt-get will just pull in a HUGE update of everything just because of the way Debian tags packages for apt-get. Most of the time, it's really unnecessary, because only a few system libraries need to be updated. Compiling your own tarballs, which is another way to manage your software, will mess stuff up even more. FreeBSD's ports system is the only one I know of that addresses the problem of overtagging AND tarballs altogether. Now, if only it had a desktop that works out of the box with sound and CD/DVD burning... DesktopBSD is worth a try...

arijit_2404
arijit_2404

#Point 2 I am using Linux from last two years, full time user since mid-2007. So I am a novice (if not newbie) in Linux world. But after using Fedora8 on my laptop for 6 months, I can't say apt is too good. Even Apt doesn't remove dependencies completely. Apt has "deborphan" to detect unused packages, RPM (Fedora/RH) has package-leaves. Both works fine. During my last SIX months, I've found RPM dependency checking is smooth and works exactly like apt. May be this is due to the fact RH/Fedora guys are doing better job. In fact my Ubuntu desktop broke down once (had to reinstall). But Fedora based laptop is still going solid, same speed. Kudos to Fedora/RH guys.

dwhahn
dwhahn

A thumbs up to managing wireless with WICD! Saved my linux sanity and restored laptop sleep/resume.

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

Just because an article is written in English does not mean that it was written by an American in America.Many of these articles are not even close to the American thought process.It's a big planet and some have it getting hotter every day.

Jaqui
Jaqui

#3, Directory Hierarchy. The LSB's FSH is pretty much ignored, unfortunately. It isn't a well defined standard anyways, with roughly 50% being "optional", and every distro picking what they want to support out of it. #6, Intended Use. I just heard about a distro, based on PCLinuxOS, that is intended for Archaeological use. CAELinux. a livedvd with an install option. #7, Hardware support, PCLinuxOs is about equal with Ubuntu for wireless support, just depends on exactly what chipsets are in your devices. Mandriva's Harddrake is the tool that helps PCLinuxOS get desktop hardware support so well covered. a boot time check for new hardware and optional configuration of it at that time.

eM DuBYaH
eM DuBYaH

My favorite distro of Linux is the DVD version of Knoppix. That comes packed with EVERYTHING! Being a live version, you can run it off of the DVD of course, but I install it to HD instead. I've tried Fedora, gOS, Ubuntu, and CentOS. Knoppix is my fave.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Most modern Linux based distributions should also do everything you list. Mandriva also offers complete Grub configuration, NTFS mounting, multiple window managers and Draketools. PCLinuxOS uses the Draketools so your covered for GUI config there also. But Suse is a good distribution tool. Heck, considering any Linux based distribution is worth it.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

We always enjoy it when a new member demonstrates an open mind and strong reasoning skills.

Jaqui
Jaqui

there are even lexmark ink level utilities for linux. so they do have some sort of support for linux. panasonic, yup I've used panasonic printers and they worked perfectly. [ using the open source drivers in cups ] as a matter of fact, I have never had a problem getting any printer to function correctly in linux. they all work easily.

normhaga
normhaga

Brother offers Linux support for printers and other peripherals they make. I know because my five printers are 4070 color laser printers. Being honest, however, it was a lot of fun :( installing them.

Jaqui
Jaqui

dependency issues are not caused by the package manager software, or the package type. the issues come from badly speced packages made by the people maintaining the distro. If the spec lists the dependencies correctly, then the package manager can resolve the issues and everything works smoothly. Since most packages, even for the commercial distro options, are supplied by volunteers, there is a learning curve in those volunteers in making the specs list the requires correctly.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

He must have a file full of philosophical claptrap, and he justs autoposts a randomly selected record. That's the only explanation I can see. As they say on Car Talk, "Unencumbered by the thought process."

tracy anne
tracy anne

Yep, it's great, that's one reason why I use Mandriva. In fact I've just upgraded to Mandriva 2008.1 Spring over the internet. I simply connected to the cooker repositories (currently frozen for the release of 2008.1) and type urpmi --auto-update at the command line, I went to work and when I got home there was a brand new Mandriva 2008.1 waiting for me.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I've made a habbit of opening harddrake from the draktools control centre after a fresh install. harddrake will automatically confirm all recognized hardware when you open it. Any bits that got missed during install will be picked up there. Now, if only ATI/nVidia would get interface specs in too the Linux Driver Project team so that gear could be added into Linux and X.org natively.

jlwallen
jlwallen

that's a really stickler. it amazes me that the creators of distros are ignoring the LSB. i understand that following it, in many cases, would require some serious overhaul - but it's something each should make more of an effort to follow.

jamesgrimes
jamesgrimes

You put Knoppix onto your hard drive? How? Everything I've read states otherwise.

Kris.J
Kris.J

It's my favorite joke in a Linux discussion. ;) It gets the penguins all in a lather, which is fun to watch. That said, I do realize that what matters is what works for YOU - not what I think is best. My mind is very open - I've tried them all, and grown to love BSD.

info
info

Brother printers are great. Super reliable and fairly inexpensive to maintain in a business environment. We have 7 Brother printers across a variety of models. Additionally, we save huge money by getting our printer toner at http:www.concordsupplies.com.

j-mart
j-mart

Is working on an "Automatic Forum Posting Application" and he has just started testing an Alpha version that still has a few bugs to resolve.

Jaqui
Jaqui

does have open source drivers, included with xorg. and most code for those drivers supplied by, nVidia's developers.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It's not as easy as an install program but you can clone the system to the local hard drive then make it bootable. I've not had any reason to experiement though. Knoppix is fantastic off disk as intended and there are other distros that provide better HD installation. As Pointed out already, it is unsupported when not run as a liveCD also if that makes a difference for someone. Debian would be a better choice.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Although I've lost the link, I believe it was on the Knoppix home page. What I clearly remember is multiple warnings that Knoppix was intended as a LiveCD distro, it was unsupported if installed on an HD, and recommendations that you install Debian instead.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I have heard that the nVidia drivers are still better than the ATI ones even between binary blobs. Mind you, it's not like my AIW 9600 board is known for playing nice with others. My past joy with ATI hardware and broken drivers being the reason for a switch to nVidia. Is X.org now supporting the full functions of the 8800 GPU? I'm still eyeing an Asus 8800 to run my striker2 mobo off. (a second GPU in sli is overkill for a 1280x1024 display). Drat.. now I don't know which horse is winning this durby. ATI released specs for current boards but nVidia's developers are putting code in the kernel and X where it belongs. Oh.. come on budgets.. hurry and increase so I don't have to wait as long to properly test an nVidia. the 8900 GPU isn't going to knock the price of the 8800s down that fast. I guess now I just need to find a good howto for installing the hauppauge 500 board with. It didn't seem to "just work" on Mandriva with the first boot after I added it to the case. I've also not put more than a half hour's work into it, including labour, so MythTV liveCD should confirm if it's a hardware issue or just my host OS config.

Jaqui
Jaqui

that is good, now they just need to remove EVERYTHING they put in /opt, since nothing on the distro install media properly belongs there. then fix the assinine dependencies they have. [ sorry, but a website development workstation does NOT require apache, mysql and php, as well as email server. it only REQUIRES the editor that will be used to make / maintain the scripts. ] then they can remove the assinine requirement for virtualisation software, specially when it is being installed onto hardware, THAT DOES NOT HAVE THE RESOURCES TO USE THE SHITTY VIRTUALISATION PACKAGE THEY CHOSE. then they can remove the absolute requirement for "novell apparmour" who needs that bit of garbage? it is a 100% waste of resources on a linux system to use it. the MALWARE it is designed o defend against, DOES NOT RUN on linux. I'll stop list reasons why Novell's Suse is a stupid choice from bad decisions now, but the list of bad decisions on their part is quite extensive. edit to add: so despite the fact that Suse is one of the few distributions that would install onto an old laptop, and power all the hardware it was useless, 144 mb ram and 3 GB hard disk space doesn't allow for the bloat. [ laptop maxed out with that ram hard drive, no increase possible ]

hkommedal
hkommedal

over to /usr in order to become a bit more compliant with mainstream. gnom and kde3.5 is still in opt, but will be moved. (KDE4 is announced to go into /usr) So they are trying to correct some of the confusion.

Larry the Security Guy
Larry the Security Guy

Almost all of the directory names - usr, bin, mnt, etc - can be traced back to the earliest versions of AT&T Unix. But there were two distinct structures early on and I doubt they will ever merge.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

A Windows shortcut is a small text file that points to the physical file. I can click a shortcut and the system goes to the Windows folder for the actual file and opens it up. A link is a duplicate point within the file system to th physical file. When you open /home/you/readme.txt the OS goes to the file system's point and asks for the file. The data of that file is then fed into the requesting program. When I open /home/me/readme.txt, I am opening the same block of data but through a file system pointer in my home folder instead. The physical file is the same but we can both open it through different filenames. This can also cross users so when I open readme.txt, it's not under your security settings (I'm less sure of that last bit thoug). Basically; what if a a shortcut was a filename in the file system that pointed to the file's data instead of a redirect. So the difference is that when I open a shortcut, a text file redirects the OS too the physical file in it's location. This is all done outside the file system to fake the same effect as a link. When I open a link to a file, I am opening that file directly while that same file may also be opened directly through a different link. Shortcuts and Links are closer related and deal with multiple file access points but without duplicating the file data. Mounting is different. Mounting is akin to the letter that pops up when you add a new hard drive or insert a CD. The mount program makes drive partitions accessible to the OS through a point identified as a directory name and path. /dev/hda1 - this is my first hard drive's first partition. /mnt/firstdrive - this is the directory I have the partition mounted too. I am accessing /mnt/firstdrive which is actually reading/writing too the first drive's first partition. Now, as mentioned, a partition may be mounted multiple times. Say I have /mnt/archive which only Root is allowed to add stuff into but all users read out of. For root, I mount the partition read/write /root/archive - allows Root to read/write For users, I mount the partition read only ~/archive - "~" means current user's home directory. Each user get's a ~/archive directory that they are able to read from. The result, one user has read/write while many other users have read only of the same partition. What if windows let you mount your flashdrive on points E:, F:, J: where each mount point had different access to the flashdrive's data. In similar fashion, there is a file system that stores losless audio. You keep all your music on it then specify the type of codec and bit rate it should apear as when mounted. /mnt/musicforipod - apears as low bitrate mp3 for mobile music player /mnt/musicforhouse - apears as high bitrate mp3 too be read by the home stareo. One partition mounted multiple times at the same time. Too add on, Mount is not only about mounting hard drives and removable media. Mount crosses file systems since you can mount a win32, ntfs or ext3 partition too a directory under an ext2 or vfs partition. Mount crosses devices as I can mount /dev/flashdrive, /dev/cdrom, /dev/hardrive, /dev/diskette *and* /path/file.iso, /path/file.img, /mnt/WindowsShare, /mnt/NFSshare. I have a mounted Samba share under /mnt/vault which functions as a read-only access point for any program that does not recognize KDE opening a network share directly. I have shortcuts on my KDE desktop that open Konqueror with read/write access to that same share for when I need to move files about. Mount makes "stuff" available to Posix like OS as a directory accessible by any program. Link makes multiple file names for the same file data available by any program. The file is literally in two locations with two different security settings without being duplicated. Shortcut redirects IE fileopen and similar widget objects from a text file to the actual filename/filedata requested. Only the one file will ever be opened with it's attributes and security settings. I make use of them all but oh how I've wished for a Link in winNT at times. I think the real difference is understanding drives, partitions and the data contained in them as seporate layers. Windows hides the layers well so it always seems that C: is the first hard drive though it's only a segment of the platter within the first hard drive. D: apearing as a second hard drive is actually a second partition on the first hard drive. Of course, too the average user, this can all be handled as magic done by the window manager. I'm not sure if that helps or hinders. :)

j-mart
j-mart

The concept of mounting and unmounting file systems is not that difficult to get your head around. This way of working comes from unix which was designed as a multi - user connected system. This enabled the system admin to grant access to various file systems and devices to users only as needed, keeping a tighter control of the overall security of the system. Windows, on the other hand evolving from a single user unconnected system separate control of the mounting - unmounting of the file systems and devices was never cosideration in the original design, but of course now a windows system is more often than not connected. With Linux direct control of mounting - unmounting of devices and file systems is just how it has been designed and designed this way for valid reasons. Setting up mounts and mount points is not difficult to do, with GUI tools becoming common place, though editing config. files (eg. fstab ) is not that hard as Linux is well documented, though some people seem frightend to put in even a small effort to learn something new. Windows due to its design works one way, Linux due to its design works differently, just because Windows works differently is not a valid reason to change the way Linux works, if you want something to work like Windows use Windows. With most distros users can auto-mount CD-roms, burners, usb sticks by default which can be easily changed if this is what you want. 'Nix based systems are not Windows and as I see it trying to make them more and more windows-like blindly for the only reason to make windows users more comfortable is not a valid reason for change. For example most distros default to the Windows double click mouse system. The single click old Linux default in my mind is better, point, click seems more natural to me. I am certain if I went to live in, say, Japan "everyone would suddenly only speak English". Don't be afraid to learn another way of doing things. It's always a good day when you learn something new.

Jaqui
Jaqui

is that it isn't a shortcut / link, it is direct access. [ for end users, it's no real difference, only in a technical sense is it different. ] by mounting it in several places on the filesystem, you are closer to having a file sitting on everyone's desk so that when they put something in, it is instantly available to everyone with the file on their desk,rather than having to share the file around manually.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"you can have a partition mounted several times, in different places." Does this differ from having multiple shortcuts in different places pointing to the same partition / directory / other file resource? "it's not switching drives, it's only changing folders." From the point of view of a Windows user who opens My Computer and just clicks icons from there, what's the difference? All file storage resources are accessible from the same place, and the user clicks the appropriate icon.

Jaqui
Jaqui

the mounting of an optical disc, or thumb drive, that isn't there at boot time is automounting. with the posix systems, you can have a partition mounted several times, in different places. like a partition for sharing data mounted in every users home folder. unlike Windows, where each partition is visible as a separate device / drive, the posix systems make them invisible, so it's not switching drives, it's only changing folders.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"the problem with /mnt is most new users can not fathom the whole mounting concept." I know I can't. Why would you not want your OS to automatically have all your connected data sources available at boot? Is not automounting a holdover from the days of limited hardware resources?

Jaqui
Jaqui

saying it is perfect, only that with a descriptive name it is less confusing to anyone coming from windows. media being used for devices, not for audio / video files is confusing if you have only used windows. MS does not call it MEDIA for cds dvds thumb drives, they call it DEVICES. That is the difference that kills those coming from windows. removable device. that really makes the whole media folder look confusing doesn't it? and you know, Ubuntu was the first distro I ever saw mount hard drive partitions all under / which was a real shock, since I had EXPLICITLY said do not touch that drive at all during the install. 45 partitions that ubuntu was told not to mount at boot, and it mounted every single one. I had to physically remove th second hard drive to get ubuntu to leave them alone.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I remember the confusion of finding all my mounted media under /mnt; at the time that was only /mnt/fd0 though. I briefly relived the confusion for a moment when Mandriva started using both /mnt and /media. As it stands now, I use /mnt for mounted media like samba shares and hard drives while /media remains reserved for removable media. One over the other wouldn't be an issue and a more descriptive directory name may help. Keep the mounted media contained though.. a distro mounting media into my root folder is a distro that's not getting a second bootup.

jlwallen
jlwallen

is most new users can not fathom the whole mounting concept. and since there are still issues with automounting...well...it's a rather wormy issue. it burrows deeper than just a directory structure. think about this: should there be: /cd /thumbdrive /camera or should there be a system in place similar to what happens in current distributions where when a new media is added the respective directory would simply be automounted in /. so when i put a cd in my cd drive cdrom will appear in / instead of either /mnt or /media. or if i plug in my iPod it will appear in / and not /media or /mnt. of course i'm not the one creating these systems ;-).

Jaqui
Jaqui

in windows world, media is where you find ms storing audio clips for windows sound effects. why would anyone coming from windows think of looking there for a device like a usb drive or cdrom? They wouldn't. mnt would be better, if it was mount_point. the folder names have to be as explicit as possible to be new user friendly. proc was supposed to go away, yet it is still being used heavily. srv was to replace proc opt was intended for those few commercial apps available, yet half the distros use it for anything over the base system. [ xorg is NOT supposed to go into /opt, yet that is where Suse puts it ] I think that if the FSF's LSB team were to take the LFS book and use that to draw a base standard from, rather than the boated garbage they currently have, then we could get a base standard that would be more likely to be adopted by all distros. The LSB is not a base linux system standrd, as it's name implies, it is a DISTRO standard, that most ignore.

jlwallen
jlwallen

i think ultimately the problem is the LSB didn't really bother to think intelligently about the FSH. certainly you can't just say "let's use Red Hat's FSH because that's the one that's been most successful." not gonna happen. you have too many cooks in this kitchen saying theirs is best. in my opinion an amalgam of a few distributions make sense. for instance i would go with Red Hat's /var/www/ and i prefer the ubuntu style /media for mountable media. i think the way Red Hat did mountable media in /mnt would quickly lose new users. what i really think should have been done all along was for the LSB to create a FSH that targeted the lowest common denominator. that way even the newbie wouldn't have trouble knowing where things were located. not that too many newbies would need to know where much is located on their linux machine. but the point is a standard is never easy to arrive at. i can imagine how difficult a time they had coming up with what they did and why many distros decided not to follow the standard. but since so many have opted not to follow - maybe the LSB should realize that the standard they set is flawed.

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