Linux

Keep up with the World Series of Linux


There's an interesting competition over at crn.com. Proceeding from the premise that Linux is ready for small and midsize enterprises, their editors are testing the best distros (out of the roughly 176) for jumping into the business world: "Put to the test of usability in a standard office environment, which is the best Linux desktop in the world?"

As there are more than 176 Linux distributions, Test Center engineers selected the most popular distributions, Debian-based and RPM-based, for the World Series. The goal is to pit the best Debian-based distro against the best of the RPM-based distro for a final smackdown. The winner of the World Series will be crowned the champion.

So who earned the right to play in the Championship from the Debian League? You can find out right now, and on Thursday, they will unveil Round Two's winner. Get your peanuts and Cracker Jacks!

About

Selena has been at TechRepublic since 2002. She is currently a Senior Editor with a background in technical writing, editing, and research. She edits Data Center, Linux and Open Source, Apple in the Enterprise, The Enterprise Cloud, Web Designer, and...

23 comments
mleach
mleach

I recently build a business workstation using Linux as the OS and tried many of the Distros in question. On all but one Distro my biggest issue was adding the machine to the existing Active Directory Windows Domain. The only one (at the time) that allowed me to easily add the machine to the domain was OpenSuSE. I also have recently installed Fedora 8, which also give the option during installation, however I have never had good luck with Fedora in general. Just to many hurtles to overcome with Fedora.. Also the fact that OpenSuSE supports "Auto yast" at the end of your first installation is a huge plus if your involved in a roll out. Ubuntu is a really good Distro, and I'm sure it will win, but I'm a SuSE supporter all the way!! :)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

There's a difference between running business apps on a desktop and running a desktop in a business environment. It looks like they loaded a distro and ran some benchmarks. Ease of installation is grossly overrated for a corporate IT shop. You're only going to install the distro once and then make an image of it. If there's a driver issue, the installer hopefully has or will acquire the skills to work through it pretty quickly. In either case, corporate shops expect have to load a driver or two; it's not the issue it is for a home user. How easily can I add it to my existing Active Directory / Networks / other network / domain? Is a VPN client included? Are drivers and utilities available for network peripherals like leased department-level printer / scanner / fax multi-function devices? Is there a remote backup solution? Can I get modem drivers for my road warriors in East Bhumphuk? How about cellular wireless modems for my VPs? I'm sure there are open source solutions to all of these, but it doesn't look like these types of questions are being taken into consideration.

craftamics
craftamics

Looks like Ubuntu from the Debian camp will win the series. All the RPM distributions, including a couple of last-minute ringers, had issues, even with a change of hardware. They should try Mepis. It may not be as polished as Ubuntu, but it used to be the best at hardware recognition and support. Don't know if it still is, or not. I don't recall the pedigree of Mepis. It may not be an RPM-based distro.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Retracted initial comments. Move along, nothing to see here.

sbalmumin
sbalmumin

The biggest threat and problem that is faced in an organization at times is licensing fees and support. The big money breaker with fees is almost destroyed by Ubuntu. I mean, you will always need support for a Datacenter. Ubuntu will be king and leave Red Hat in the dust! With more company acceptance and money pushed to the development side. I will predict 5-8 years and Ubuntu will run MANY Linux based environments. Shea

Jaqui
Jaqui

since sudo only security is critically flawed and that is what Cannonical has chosen for their distros.

TechExec2
TechExec2

. Bad, Jaqui. Bad. :p Jaqui is a smart Linux guru well worthy of respect. But, he knows full well that Ubuntu does not have any security problems. So, respect the Jaqui, but disregard his personal bias against Ubuntu. If you like Ubuntu, run it! And, be sure to read these posts: Don't fear the Ubuntu http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-12844-0.html?forumID=102&threadID=243773&messageID=2356888 I think Ubuntu has done it "just right" http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-12844-0.html?forumID=102&threadID=243773&messageID=2357001 edit: Added second link

TechExec2
TechExec2

. You missed some of the context of my comments to Jaqui & j-mart. That's why you misunderstood and saw some nits. Regarding my comments: [b][i]"...Ubuntu makes it impossible to ever run as root..."[/i][/b] and [b][i]"...Ubuntu simplifies the use of a standalone single-user no-administrator system, especially for Unix novices. It is not necessary to start both a root and a user session and switch between them in order to do both administrator and user tasks..."[/i][/b] Jaqui's gripe was/is about Ubuntu's default configuration. So, that is what I was speaking to. In the default install of Ubuntu, the root account has no password and remote logins are disabled (no SSH daemon). Otherwise, Ubuntu is just Linux. You can assign a password to the root account. And, you can install and activate the SSH daemon. Then you can login remotely to root. And, you can "su" to the root account. But, you still cannot login directly to the root account via X because Ubuntu blocks that. You're right. Ubuntu isn't really doing anything that you cannto do with any other distro. Ubuntu is not more, nor less, Linux than any other Linux distro. I was commenting on the default config vis-a-vis Jaqui's false criticisms. You can reconfigure Ubuntu to work however you like. Likewise, you can configure any other distro to work like Ubuntu works (except for the "Administrator" customizations they've made to the GUI...getting to that is more than a config change). [b][i]"...However, if you change the root password from the default (I've no idea what the detault is, but it is not blank), then one can log in as root, and one must use that new password to elevate his or her rights..."[/i][/b] In Ubuntu (default config), you elevate privilege via sudo and you must type your own password, not the root password. In the GUI, there are "Administrator" buttons on various administrator functions. A user with an "administrator" account (regular user that is in the "admin" group) can click the "Administrator" button. He will be presented with a dialog asking for his own password. After entering it, he will be permitted to make changes. This is sudo in the GUI. You are correct. If you assign a password to the root account in Ubuntu, you can "su" into root instead of using "sudo". Clearly, when you "su" to root, you must enter the root password. The full story about Ubuntu and the default account setup is here: Don't fear the Ubuntu http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-12844-0.html?forumID=102&threadID=243773&messageID=2356888 I think Ubuntu has done it "just right" http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-12844-0.html?forumID=102&threadID=243773&messageID=2357001

Larry the Security Guy
Larry the Security Guy

"Ubuntu makes it impossible to ever run as root" To be more precise, I believe, few distros allow the root account to login via X. Others disallow root logins at the local terminal and all I've tested disallow a remote root login. However, if you change the root password from the default (I've no idea what the detault is, but it is not blank), then one can log in as root, and one must use that new password to elevate his or her rights. "Ubuntu simplifies the use of a standalone single-user no-administrator system, especially for Unix novices. It is not necessary to start both a root and a user session and switch between them in order to do both administrator and user tasks." Actually, I don't believe this is necessary in any Unix system, nor has been since the invention of su and sudo. As long as you have the correct password, you can elevate your rights to perform administrative tasks.

LazLong
LazLong

That it is not that difficult & the standard Especially if one has any history/experience in any *nix & understand the underlying concepts. (Strong Passwords etc) But consider the example of Windows, where many have no log-on & boot directly into administrator account, or if have UAC, turn it off. And similarly in Linux, would/might boot into root all the time. (though on most modern systems you can no longer log-in into X as root) Then also not having root can/may also help prevent remote intrusions. All & All just another way to do it that has always been there. That may make it a little simpler for the the casual single user system. One can add root or other users as desired. Of course, I'm sure you would know, One way I like to set some of them up, with a root account, admin account & a general user with no password that logs-into automatically. (kiosk like) So Ubuntu did not really fix/change anything, just made the default a little simpler for the casual user, and one can add root if desired. At first I found that method little odd, now I see where it has some value for some. Not unlike the many choices one can make, Distro, DE/WM, Editor, MediaPlayer, etc, etc...... So no major issue there...... Choose/modify what works for you......

j-mart
j-mart

Because the separate root/user account of standard unix type systems is not a difficult concept or way of working. The first linux I used was Mandrake 6.5 and I came to use it because I was curious about this other OS alternative when I purchases a boxed set from a second hand shop for $5.00. I had absolutely no knowledge of experience of anything other than MS products, read installation manual, and followed it through as I installed, came to section when I was required to set up root account and then a user account, installer explained what this did and the reason for this and how it worked, I thought to myself, that's not hard to understand, and that makes perfect sense for the system to work that way. So why fix something thats not broken, or difficult to understand, that has worked for a long time and proved to work, to make it a bit like windows, with a different approach, that has been proven to be a bit doggy, and has not been a good way of having a multi user, multi connected system operate.

LazLong
LazLong

I personally prefer Debian and have been using it for over 5 years. To answer your query my guess would be, "to simplify good security practice for the (new) casual user on a single user system." It is its default behavior, yet a root or other accounts can be setup, modified & used as on any Linux system, if one is aware & interested. Just you can also setup su/sudo for any distro, Account, File, App, Device, etc. Unlike running as admin in win, you are not running as admin in linux. but calling/using that particular app as a different user (admin). But you can setup root if you want. $ sudo passwd root and maybe modify the sudoers. it is not that necessary as you could also setup other user accounts, without sudo privileges.

TechExec2
TechExec2

. You are entitled to your opinion. You're not "wrong" for preferring another distro over Ubuntu. But, let's stick to the facts, please. No falsehoods or exaggerations. OK? [b][i]"...everyone runs as administrator is a critically stupid decision..."[/i][/b] In Ubuntu (default configuration), no account ever "runs as administrator". No account ever "runs as root". All accounts run as normal unprivileged users at all times with one exception: Accounts in the "admin" group (so-called "administrator accounts") can explicitly elevate privilege to perform administrator functions. BIG difference. Ubuntu is nothing like Windows XP and the "administrator" account that runs as root. Ubuntu's default account setup is not "critically stupid". [b][i]"...a typical home user will not have a different password for websites, they will use the same user name and password as they use for their system login..."[/i][/b] This sounds good, but is a false argument. Let's assume it is true that "a typical home user will not have a different password for websites". That is, this user uses one password for everything. If that user is running another Linux distro instead of Ubuntu, this means his Linux "root" account, his Linux "user" account (if he even created one), and his website accounts will all have the same passwords (even his POP3 e-mail that is "authenticated" in clear text across the Net). This means a would-be hacker would easily find out [u]the root password for his Linux system[/u], not just a user account. Thus, using your measurement criteria, Ubuntu is STILL slightly safer than other distros. It is impossible to login as root on a default Ubuntu system. It is impossible to login remotely on a default Ubuntu system. Sorry, Jaqui. That is a completely fallacious argument against Ubuntu. [b][i]"...Ubuntu also enables autologin by default, which is another severe security breach. [it asks if you want to use auto login at first login ]..."[/i][/b] Ubuntu does not "enable autologin by default" if it only offers it and you must check the box to get it. I agree that autologin is a bad idea. But, it is something that some home users like to have. And, it is something that competing operating systems offer (Mac OS X and Windows in particular). Sorry. I'm just not seeing ANYTHING you've said about Ubuntu that makes it a bad or insecure distro at all.

Jaqui
Jaqui

ubuntu is targeted at home users. which is why their "everyone runs as administrator is a critically stupid decision". a typical home user will not have a different password for websites, they will use the same user name and password as they use for their system login. Ubuntu also enables autologin by default, which is another severe security breach. [ it asks if you want to use auto login at first login ] it uses one password for everything, instead of one for priviledge escalation and one for user login. I actually admin my own systems using sudo, but since I REQUIRE a root password different from user password there is two passwords that are required to be broken before any access to admin is granted, unlike the ubuntu default of using a single password where it is most likely used for non secure website logins also.

TechExec2
TechExec2

. I have not found the "official reason" from the Ubuntu people for the Ubuntu default account setup. But, I can comment on what I see. IMO, Ubuntu's default configuration is an [u]improvement[/u] on the traditional Unix configuration and makes Linux better for the masses. In the Ubuntu default configuration, the advantages are: ** Ubuntu makes it [u]impossible[/u] to ever run as root, something dangerous that novice users are much more likely to do. Thus, for end-users, Ubuntu is far safer. ** Since the "root" account cannot be used by the user, it cannot be used by a hacker either. Attacking the "root" account always fails on an Ubuntu system. ** A hacker must first [u]find[/u] a user account which has administrator privileges (guess???), then he must crack the password. But, there is more to hacking a default Ubuntu system than that because... ** It not possible to login remotely on an Ubuntu system (default configuration). So, any cracking will have to be done while sitting in front of the machine. Any criminal who gets that close to the system should just put it under his arm and walk out the door. ** Ubuntu simplifies the use of a standalone single-user no-administrator system, especially for Unix novices. It is not necessary to start both a root and a user session and switch between them in order to do both administrator and user tasks. ** In Ubuntu's default configuration, an "administrator" runs as a normal unprivileged user at all times ... [u]except when he explicitly elevates his privilege to perform a specific administrator task[/u]. Only that process is elevated (via sudo), not all processes, not the "session". Malware cannot freely run wild as "root" on an Ubuntu system unless it can also type on the keyboard (or trick the user into doing so...a risk in all systems, not just Ubuntu). ** Ubuntu's default account configuration works just like other systems that end users are familiar with such as Mac OS X and now Windows Vista. Thus, it is much more approachable for hundreds of millions of computer users. Ubuntu has the benefits of simplifed account setup without the serious security problems of Windows XP where most users must routinely run as root all of the time. Finally, if you don't like Ubuntu's default configuration, it takes just two small changes and less than 30 seconds to make it work the traditional Unix way (described in (2) ). I appreciate why Ubuntu's default configuration bothers people with Unix experience. With all due respect, this is "Unix gurus gone wild". There is nothing wrong with Ubuntu's default account configuration. -------------------------------- In case you didn't see my post above, here are two reference posts: (1) I think Ubuntu has done it "just right" http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-12844-0.html?forumID=102&threadID=243773&messageID=2357001 (2) Don't fear the Ubuntu http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-12844-0.html?forumID=102&threadID=243773&messageID=2356888

j-mart
j-mart

The reason why Ubuntu have not stuck with the standard unix type root account / user account system. I can't see any point to getting away from the standard approach and doing things their way. Can any one can give me a logical reason that makes Ubuntu a much better product for doing this ?

TechExec2
TechExec2

. [b][i]"...XP will run just fine for most apps logged in with a user account..."[/i][/b] I prefer [u]all[/u] of my apps to run, not just most of them. So... Wrong Raspberries and Wrong. :p

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"Windows XP has an UN-safe and IN-secure account setup. In order for the system and the applications to be usable, users must run as an "administrator" at all times..." Wrong. Strawberries and Wrong. Rum Wrong Raisin. Rocky Wrong Road. XP will run just fine for most apps logged in with a user account that's a member of the default local Users group. It will run all but a few apps if the user account is a member of the Power Users group. Yes, there are a few poorly written apps that require the user account to have full local Admin privs. Many of those are legacy apps that require direct access to the LPT and COM ports, which XP doesn't otherwise allow. And there are many apps that require being logged in with Admin level to run the first time, but run happily at Power User or lower after initial configuration. It's rarely necessary to run as Admin all the time. I agree there are those that unwisely do so, but the same can be said of running as root.

TechExec2
TechExec2

. [b][i]"...Ubuntu is NOT secure until they kill the no root password bs and fix the issue. right now it is no better than windows...."[/i][/b] Right now, Ubuntu is like Windows [u]Vista[/u] and Mac OS X. All three of these operating systems have disabled the "root" account and require explicit privilege elevation by the user in order to do administrator things. Ubuntu does not have the security problems that Windows XP has. If you call Ubuntu "NOT secure", you also have to call Mac OS X "NOT secure" as they both work the same way on this. So, I completely disagree with you on this. The truth is: ** Ubuntu has a safe and secure account setup. ** Mac OS X has a safe and secure account setup. ** Windows Vista has a safe and secure account setup. P.S. Windows [u]XP[/u] has an UN-safe and IN-secure account setup. In order for the system and the applications to be usable, users must run as an "administrator" at all times (which is equivalent to Unix root). This makes a Windows [u]XP[/u] system very vulnerable to complete takeover by malware. Ubuntu, Mac OS X, and Windows [u]Vista[/u] do not have this problem.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

With firewalls, anti-malware software, and users who won't be given the root / su password. Maybe it is no better than Windows; is it any worse? Is this an issue in a properly secured workplace setting?

Jaqui
Jaqui

they didn't take into concideration the stupidity of their targeted user base, to use one password for everything being that user base's habit. so, since only one user account on the system for this user base, the password for the user granting full admin access being used in non secure web logins is a critical security flaw in the Ubuntu security design. Ubuntu is NOT secure until they kill the no root password bs and fix the issue. right now it is no better than windows. edit: typo

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"I will predict 5-8 years and Ubuntu will run MANY Linux based environments." Ah, but will it be running in many former Windows-based environments? That's the real question as far as business desktops are concerned. I'm disappointed the test criteria didn't include ease of integrating into an Active Directory domain.

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