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Going to download Linux

By master3bs ·
I'm going to try it again. Its been a few years since I've really used linux, and I'm about to try it again on some computers here at work.

The problem with open source is I'm overwhelmed with my choices. I used Red Hat before and was happy with it. I've heard good things about mandrake and centos too; but nothing specific.

So for you Linux fans; what flavor(s) do you like and why? I'd be even happier if you tell me why and give a url to download; but I can find it if you don't. Thanks!

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by apotheon In reply to The reviewers must have b ...

Y'know, I've seen a few good reviews of SuSE floating around. What I haven't seen is good reviews of Fedora Core and Debian.

In fact, I haven't seen any reviews of Fedora Core or Debian lately.

What I have seen, though, is a lot of really ecstatic, highly positive reviews of a bunch of Debian-based distros that were spun off from the original Debian. In at least half of them, in the midst of extolling the wonderful virtues of all these Debian-based distros, the reviewer will say something like "This is a wonderful distribution of Linux, but I shouldn't be surprised: it's based on Debian, so of course it's great."

On the other hand, I seem to run into complaints about Fedora on mailing lists all the time. I think maybe you're just joined at the hip to a sinking ship, jmgarvin. Come on, join the dark side. Become a Debianista. You know you want to!

Let go the apron strings! Be a man!

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Yes the Debian spin offs are getting a lot of good reviews

by stress junkie In reply to reviews

I think the Ubuntu and Knoppix/Gnoppix distros are great for the average home or business desktop user. As far as techies are concerned, though, I think they're for girlie-men.

Real Debian is a techie distro for manly men. I'm just getting started with it myself. That apt/dselect utility has got me chasing my tail. Package names versus group names, update versus upgrade. Trying to select one package to update seems to be impossible, it's all or nothing if I read it correctly. Package source URLs. How do you know what's available for installation? Grrrrr. But I'm tough. I'll get through it eventually.

I haven't used Red Hat since 1998 so I don't really know anything useful about the current version. I still think it's probably a manly distro. The only problem that I've ever had with Red Hat is that their commercial products are so extremely expensive. As far as I can see you're just paying for some system tuning. Mind you I appreciate the potential for performance enhancement when an expert custom compiles a kernel and does some post installation tuning in the /proc system. I just think that Red Hat prices are too high even for the benefit of tuning.

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some apt help

by apotheon In reply to Yes the Debian spin offs ...

Think of "update" as an update to the local cache of available packages. You use apt-get update to update the cache, then apt-cache (whatever) to look at information in the cache. Meanwhile, "upgrade" actually upgrades a package version.

You can upgrade a single package with the "install" command, just as if you were installing from scratch. Thus, if there's a new version of the cpp package, you can upgrade to it with "apt-get install cpp". That only upgrades cpp and its dependencies, rather than upgrading all upgradable packages on your system.

For the most part, avoid using dselect until you've got a really firm grasp of apt. It's just not necessary to use dselect directly, generally.

If you want to know what's available for types of text editors, you might try "apt-cache search editor", for instance. If you want things that only have the word "editor" in the package name or summary line, instead of actually showing all packages that have the word "editor" somewhere amongst the dependencies, long description, and so on, you might try "apt-cache search editor |grep editor", which of course sorts the output of "apt-cache search editor" for instances of the word editor.

If you find a promising package and want to know more about it, such as (for instance the cpp package), use "apt-cache show cpp" (substituting whatever package name for cpp, of course).

If you have any apt-related questions, feel free to hit me up for help.

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Thanks. The man page is confusing.

by stress junkie In reply to some apt help

Thanks for the info. The problem with man pages is that they are not goal oriented so you have to figure out for yourself what options and parameters apply to a given task.

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by apotheon In reply to some apt help

Yeah, they're just documentation of the subject matter, not tutorials. Gleaning applicable knowledge from them is sometimes an interesting challenge.

Thank goodness Debian manpages are generally so well cross-referenced, at least. For instance, the manpage for apt will direct you to man pages for apt-get, apt-cache, apt.conf, and sources.list. Meanwhile, the manpage for urpmi on Mandrake 10.1 directs you . . . nowhere. You have to use a forked piece of birch to divine the other necessary commands aside from urpmi for a fully-featured package management system.

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by jmgarvin In reply to reviews

Ok, I admit it...I use Knoppix-STD and Ubuntu....DAMN YOU DEBIAN!!! ;-)

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Oh, the imagery . . .

by apotheon In reply to NO!!!!!

I can almost see you standing silhouetted against the setting sun, shaking your fist at the heavens in impotent rage as your curse the One True Distro.

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Did someone say my name? (re: Debian and more)

by apotheon In reply to Don't listen to the rest ...

I've been invoked, and nobody told me!

TR user jmgarvin said I like Debian, and he'd leave the description of it to me. I'll start with that, then, though I'll make comments about others as well.

Debian: Debian is an expert system administrator's wet dream. It's LSB- and LFS-compliant, stable as can be (even in the up to date Testing and Unstable versions), has the largest core software package repositories of any distributions out there (at close to 20,000 packages), and has the best package management system available (try convincing me otherwise) called APT, so good in part because it's so scriptable. It is not the easiest distro in the world for a rank Linux newbie to grasp, however, and if you want to try this distro first I recommend getting help from someone familiar with Debian. This is the second oldest Linux distribution still in existence, so it has had a very long time to mature, is committed to "free" (as in speech) software, and has the largest community support base of any distribution.

Fedora Core: This is the free/community version of the Red Hat distribution. It is intended to be somewhat cutting-edge, so you might run into some occasional package stability/incompatibility flake-outs from time to time. It is afflicted by the Red Hat way of doing things, which means it has a slightly nonstandard kernel, and is not exactly LSB- and FHS-compliant. It is geared toward use of GUI tools for administration in such a way that command line stuff suffers sometimes (for instance, have fun futzing with a bunch of separate Ethernet interface config files buried five levels deep in the filesystem within a scripts directory, for some bizarre reason, if you want to fine-tune network configuration by hand). Its primary package management system is YUM (adopted form Yellow Dog Linux), which is very capable but is also slow, and tries to do too much for the user at one time. There's an RPM version of Debian's APT available, as well, though its use is deprecated in favor of YUM.

Gentoo: Like Debian, this is a purely community-based distribution. It is designed to be managed completely from source code, using some automated compile-and-install tools to make the job manageable. These tools are extremely slick, and there's something to be said for the fine control you get over system configuration in this manner, but ultimately it's not all that much more fine-tune-able than Debian and Slackware and it's difficult to justify spending three days compiling and installing your OS and its operating environment software. At least, I think it's difficult to justify. It's certainly not something you'd want to use for the standard OS of an Enterprise network: the administrative overhead would bring your organization to a grinding halt. For a single hobby machine, however, many people swear by it. Oddly enough, the original creator of the Gentoo distribution is now an employee of Microsoft. I don't know what that means for Gentoo.

Knoppix: This is the original, and canonical, LiveCD distribution. That means you boot from a CD and run the OS entirely in RAM, then take the CD out when you're done. Nothing has been installed on the hard drive. There's about five hundred different variations on Knoppix for different purposes out there. Knoppix is very good at being a LiveCD distro (it detects and handles different hardware types quite well), but is clunky to install and eventually ends up having software issues if you try upgrading software on it much after installing it to the hard drive. Use some Knoppix version as a portable LiveCD OS if you like. I don't recommend it for hardware installs.

Mandriva: This is what happened when Connectiva and Mandrake combined, with Mandrake being the most recognizable influence. I hadn't really used Mandrake much personally until I got my current job, but before that I did have a vague sense from my occasional dealings with it that it wasn't what I wanted. It has a reputation for being even more flaky than Fedora, and without the excuse of really being cutting edge, for instance. It's also very GUI-centric, to the extent that it is sometimes quite bad at CLI-based things that every other Linux distro (with rare exceptions) is good at. It also inherits some of Red Hat's screwed up system configuration decisions, having evolved from sort of a Red Hat knock-off. You'll almost certainly see a great deal of similarity in default system configurations under the hood between all RPM-based distributions, since the RPM package system was invented by Red Hat in the first place, and Mandrake is definitely an RPM-based distro. Now that I've started having to deal with Mandrake far more often (more than half the Linux systems in the company are running Mandrake 10.1), I not only have a vague sense of dislike: I actively loathe it. The urpmi package manager is even worse than YUM for trying to do too much for you, and it even fails to do some things entirely. It's also damn near impossible to find good documentation for a lot of stuff on Mandrake systems, including how to use urpmi and related package tools. It really drives me up the wall. I got totally spoiled by the wealth of manpages in Debian, for instance, and Mandrake is at the other extreme. In fact, one of the Mandrake users at the company recently started asking me if there was some way to get more and better manpages on his computer: I'm not the only one that notices that Mandrake has manpages for, comparatively, almost nothing. Yeah, it's easy to install. The default desktop is very clicky and colorful. Beyond that, my honest opinion is that it's among the worst of the major Linux distributions.

OpenSUSE: This is the community version of Novell's SuSE Linux. I don't have any experience with OpenSUSE, but I rather expect it will be a lot like SuSE Linux Enterprise Server and the like, just without the proprietary add-ons. My experience with SuSE is mostly with pre-Novell versions. It's an easy distro to install, as long as you don't try to customize anything too much: just go with the options it presents most clearly, and you'll be fine. It's very much a kitchen sink distro, in that it'll include the kitchen sink in your install. The GUI management tools are very slick, but the CLI admin tools rather leave something to be desired. Novell is like an eager, naive kid in the Linux world, wanting to get involved with everything from development to marketing for Linux in general, and even seems to be willing to lose the occasional customer if such is necessary to get that customer using Linux in general rather than going to Microsoft Windows or Sun Solaris (for instance). It's all very endearing, and I rather hope that Novell SuSE continues to become the powerhouse enterprise Linux distribution it seems intent on becoming.

Slackware: This distribution is the oldest still living, even a couple months older than venerable Debian. It's maintained by one man, and is very bare-bones. You can install anything you want on it, of course, as long as you're willing to download, uncompress, compile, and install everything yourself, starting with tarballs offered by the myriad of separate open source software project maintainers in the world. Well, that's not entirely fair: Slackware does have a package manager of sorts (don't bother using it), and it does come with a big ol' pile of tarballs if you download the complete ISO set to burn to CD for installation. This is very much an old-school bare-metal hacker's distribution, though. When someone says Linux is a "hacker's OS", they mean Slackware.

Ubuntu: This is a very "user friendly" Debian-based distribution. It doesn't act much like Debian generally does, though. For one thing, Ubuntu doesn't even have a root account in a standard install. It drives me nuts. It's probably wonderful for people coming from Windows who just want a working computer and don't give a rat's *** how it works.

Yellow Dog: I mention it only because it was referenced in the description of Fedora. It's Linux designed specifically for installation on the Mac architecture. You're probably not in need of this distro, especially since there's a Mac version of Debian available, too. Heh.

There's more, but that should tide you over for a while.

Oh, yeah, and here's where you can download Debian install ISOs:
(the network installer CD of the Stable release, for use with a broadband connection)
(the network installer CD and the full CD set of the Testing release, for use with a broadband connection)
(a whole slew of options for acquiring Debian installer CDs)

In general, you'll probably want the "i386" architecture version, since that's for the "PC compatible" type computers (aka "IBM compatible", aka x86, and so on).

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that's what I'm talking about.

by master3bs In reply to Did someone say my name? ...

Everybody has been helpful; but this is the most complete description. Thanks for taking the time.

I'll probably start implementing Linux Tuesday and have something to report then.

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quite welcome

by apotheon In reply to that's what I'm talking a ...

All my experience futzing around with different distros and watching trade news developments should be worth something.

Information is meant to be shared, after all.

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