Linux Distro Thread
Jan 27, 2005 at 10:15 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 78

Stephonovich

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Some of us have discussed various Linux Distros on and off in various topics, so I felt a dedicated topic would be interesting. I've listed all the distros I've used, with a brief opinion and rating.

wallijonn, I apologize in advance for the Ubuntu bashing
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Figured the forum needed another splash of, er, sticky. Thread. Moving on...

[size=medium] Arch[/size]

Ah, Arch. Such a shame. A brilliant idea in theory, but ultimately, a large hassle. Basically, they have the customization of Gentoo, in that you have to build your system from the ground up, except they use pre-compiled (yet still performanced-geared) packages rather than compiling everything by hand. Like Gentoo, although in reverse, there is an option to get source and compile yourself if you wish.

However, I ran into entirely too many bugs with Arch. If it wasn't X refusing to launch for no apparent reason, dependency issues would crop up even though they were taken care of, or programs would refuse to launch seemingly at random. I will give it one thing, it re-installs extremely fast. If you know what you're doing, you can have a desktop in 15 minutes. May not be able to do much with it, but hey, you'll have it...

1/5

[size=medium]Debian[/size]

I love Debian. Simple as that. I have never felt this connected with a distro. No problems with anything so far. Even managed to put a new kernel in. apt-get is just brilliant, too. I can see now why Mike (of UF) insisted on it. It's just that good.

5/5

[size=medium]Fedora Core 3[/size]

Meh. It's based on Red Hat. What more needs to be said? It takes the insanely boring core of Red Hat, adds some useless packages they think home users need, and makes it act more like Windows than Linux. Enough said.

2/5

[size=medium]Gentoo[/size]

Gentoo is actually very good. It's extremely fast, installs only what you want, and you get that glowing "I'm such a nerd" feeling (whether or not that's a good thing is up to you) after doing a successful install. However, having to compile packages, and the easier-yet-nearily identical Debian convinced me there was no need for this. It's great; don't get me wrong, but I don't feel like spending all that time. The one thing Gentoo does have that it can (and should) proudly parade among all the others is it's forums. It's like on-call 24/7 tech support. If you post a question (it'll already be answered in a previous thread, for one, but that's not the point), you'll have multiple answers within the hour, if not sooner. The Gentoo forums are wonderful.

4/5

[size=medium]Gnoppix[/size]

Gnoppix is a derivative of Knoppix, differing mainly in that it uses Gnome as it's default DE as opposed to Knoppix's KDE. (G, K... clever, no? No) It, like Knoppix, is based on Debian, and is a highly stable, feature-packed Live CD (with the option to install to HD/flash drive)

However, I've never really found myself using more than a few packages in either one. If I boot a Live CD, I either want standard stuff (browser, media player, image/text editor, compiler), or recovery tools. I suppose they'd be good for showing someone new to Linux the available packages, but for me, it's too much.

3/5

[size=medium]Helix[/size]

Helix is another Live CD based on Knoppix. Helix, however, is security-minded. Network mapping, forensics, password retrieval - you name it, it's got it. It comes from some sort of professional security group, actually, and is put out for free.

It uses Fluxbox, and only Fluxbox. This isn't necessarily a bad thing - it has so many tools, they wanted to save space. Helix is also unique in that it can be run while in Windows, and do things like a bit-for-bit dump of the RAM, hard drive, capture network traffic, and the like. Good for law enforcement, I suppose, to prove the Evil Cracker [TM] was, um, cracking. Or something. Anyway, highly recommended.

5/5

[size=medium]Knoppix[/size]

Knoppix was the original Live CD. Or at least the first to make it big. It's held it's status as number one, as well. Works like a charm on any system, old or new. It offers KDE as it's main DE, with Fluxbox and a few others (XFCE and IceWM if my memory serves me) as options. Has a standard loadout of applications; basically, anything a casual user would need. Only real difference between this and Gnoppix is Gnome/KDE, so if you prefer one of those, choose accordingly.

3/5

[size=medium]Knoppix-STD[/size]

Another offshoot of Knoppix; this is another security tools distro. STD, in fact, stands for Security Tools Distribution. Like Helix, STD gives you Fluxbox for a WM, choosing instead to pack it full of tools. STD probably has more tools than any other security Live CD I've tried. It's a bit ugly, and rough around the edges, but then, it's also only a v. 0.1. It's a great distro, though, and you can do pretty much anything with it. Also featured in The Broken, if you care.

4/5

[size=medium]Mandrake[/size]

I suppose it's not really fair to judge Mandrake along with the others, as the only version I ever used was 6.5. My first distro. I remember it well. Sucked majorly. It installed fine, and ran, but that was about it. Updating or installing new packages was a chore. From what I've heard from Mandrake fans, it got much better around version 8. I haven't really looked into it, but I know several people who swear by it. Has become the de facto SOHO distro due to it's ease of use.

2/5


[size=medium]PHLAK[/size]

A relative newcomer to the security Live CD set (about as old as Helix), PHLAK (Professional Hackers Linux Assault Kit) claims to be everything Knoppix-STD is, and more. I'm a believer, anyway. Rather than be based on Knoppix, they chose Morphix as their base, which... OK, it's another bloody rip of Knoppix. Except modular. But I digress.

PHLAK seems to have met the general and security style distros in the middle, having a decent number of both security and general purpose programs. This is not really an issue, however. While STD and Helix pack a ton of programs in, most people might use 25% of them at the most. The PHLAK developers realized this and only put in what they themselves used on a regular basis, and deemed worthy. For WM, it has XFCE or Fluxbox. (and, of course, Sneaky...) This is my personal favorite security distro. It has what I need, and no more. Plus, Tux with a Nuke is just bitchin' cool...

5/5

[size=medium]Redhat[/size]

It is worth noting that Red Hat is now the Enterprise Edition, and the Home Edition has become Fedora Core. That being said, on with the show. I've used Red Hat 9 (right before it split into Fedora), and I'm currently using Enterprise 3 (which, yes, is the latest version, despite the odd numbering system) for a Linux class.

I can't really say anything bad about it, but it's just boring. Yeargh. There's absolutely nothing to set it apart from the others. It's rock stable, has a pretty good package system (not RPM... that sucks. Synaptic Package Manger isn't bad, though), a decent amount of default packages, and installs fairly quickly. But for home use, I'd look elsewhere.

3/5

[size=medium]SLAX[/size]

SLAX is another Live CD, except unique among the usual offerings in that it fits on a mini-CD (8cm, 185MB). While this may seem like it'd severely restrict it's usefulness, the exact opposite is true. With such a small space restraint, the author was forced to examine exactly what was needed, and what was not. Suprisingly, KDE is present. How he fit it and still put as many packages as he did is beyond me, but it's there, with Fluxbox as an option. Also of interest, it's based on Slackware (current) rather than Yet Another Knoppix Rip. Finally, it's modular, which means if you don't like something included, or think it needs something else (for instance, want to replace Konqueror with Firefox), you can do so, and then burn it - Custom SLAX!

SLAX has a fairly standard loadout; word processing (KOffice), media (MPLayer), CD burning (K3B), IM (Kopete), and internet (Konqueror). It's small size also means you can have it dumped entirely into RAM on boot, which makes it lightning quick. You need at least 256MB of RAM, of course, and preferably more. If you've never experienced this joy, you owe it to yourself. Seeing KDE come up by the time you've moved the mouse away is enough to bring tears.

The only bad thing about Slax is that it's still 2.4 based, due to a conflict with a package it uses. The author is working on an alternative method, and claims to have a beta using 2.6. Still, whenever I want a Live CD just to goof around with, I alawys find myself reaching for SLAX. There's just something about it that's catchy.

5/5

[size=medium]SUSE[/size]

So, Novell bought 'em out. From what I can tell, the only thing they've done (and 'tis a bad thing, IMO) is to change the name from 'SuSE' to 'SUSE'. Other than that, they're kind of staying silent, just continuing what was already being done, and that is to create the most full-featured and package-stuffed distro of them all. With most distros, if you want some obscure library to compile a program, you'll most likely end up Googling. Not so with SUSE. They have everything, and I mean everything, on CD. 5 of 'em, or 1 DVD. For those of you doing the math, that's almost 4GB of data, and that's compressed!

SUSE also boasts an extremely attractive GUI, with any of it's available DE/WM. It also has one of the few graphical package managers I actually like and prefer to a command line one - YAST2. The only piece of propietary code in the distro, and for good reason. It blows everything else out of the water. Still, overall, it usually ends up being too much bloat I don't need. A great, solid distro, however, and one particularly suited to gamers and the like.

4/5

[size=medium]Ubuntu[/size]

OK, I have to admit, I think the name sounds gay. 'Ubuntu'? 'I am what I am because of who we all are.'? This is an operating system, volks, not a trippy feel-good. Past that, it's a decent distro. One of the better SOHO ones out there, actually. Fits on one CD, and has all the packages the average user needs, and no more. If you want to add them, it uses apt-get, as it's based on Debian. However, it fails (IMO) in quite a few places, among them, the fact that it has no root acccount by default. Instead, you use sudo, and your own user password to gain super user. The point of having a root account is that even if your own account is hacked, root, with it's (in theory) stronger password, will remain safe.

On a positive note, it does have a decent user community, and also, uniqe among the distros, will send you out a pressed (non-burned) CD with Ubuntu on it, completely free - even shipping. Quite something for a free product.

3/5

[size=medium]VectorLinux[/size]


I didn't use Vector, excuse me, VectorLinux, all that much; maybe a couple weeks or so. It's a decent SOHO distro; actually quite a bit like Mandrake, except shrunk, and more options. Think a Debian/Mandrake cross, and you've got it. The power to customize, or you can just leave it be, and it'll run fine. Nice selection of default apps, with pretty much everything you need to do basic daily tasks. Still, Debian is superior for my purposes.

3/5
 
Jan 27, 2005 at 11:01 AM Post #3 of 78

Stephonovich

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Imyourzero
SLAX = Slackware? Or a different distro?
confused.gif
(sorry, Linux n00b here)



Based on Slackware. SLAX is a Live CD, Slackware is meant to be installed on a hard drive. SLAX is extremely userfriendly, Slackware is known to go out of the way to be difficult.
 
Jan 27, 2005 at 11:07 AM Post #4 of 78

plainsong

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Yeah, I didn't like FC3 much either, and other than the install weirdnesses, I can't put my finger on why. Debian just feels more linuxy.

But I'm still having problems with ice1724 and alsa for sound. Why or why can't I get sound? Alsa says it's configured.. so why don't I hear anything??
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Same problem in Debian Sarge as in FC3.
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... except that I still prefer debian.
 
Jan 27, 2005 at 11:24 AM Post #5 of 78

Stephonovich

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I've gotten the ice1724 module to work with ALSA before; but not in Debian. I'll try tomorrow. I just verified that emu10k1 is indeed working, albeit with OSS. Quite frankly, I never saw much of a difference between ALSA and OSS. ALSA has more options and is harder to set up, but other than that...

Debian is more 'linuxy'? I love it
biggrin.gif


Oh, by the by, for some reason, captive-ntfs kills nautilus when you try mounting a disk. No idea why. Going to look into it tomorrow.
 
Jan 27, 2005 at 11:46 AM Post #6 of 78

plainsong

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It's so frustrating because it "sorta" works. I ran alsa because that's the only thing I know about. Basically I read a lot of people asking the same questions, and no one actually answers in those Linux forums.

Apt-got lots of alsa packages and then ran alsaconf. It saw my card and proclaimed it to be setup. I try to play a cd with no success (it's playing but there's no sound). I try to play a wav file with no success. I should mention that yes the sound server is enabled and that the test tone used in the Gnome control center works. I'm also added to the audio group. I also get sound in Gaim, but in no other program.

How can it halfway work like that? Is there a kernel compile in my future? Does Debian just not work with sound? My husband had it working before, but that was an sblive card. I should also add that the alsamixergui also sees the card. And that the card appears to load at startup.
 
Jan 27, 2005 at 6:32 PM Post #7 of 78

k.ODOMA

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Count me as a Ubuntu convert. Now I LOVE Debian, but I found myself spending too much time just messing with things. I tried Ubuntu after hearing so many people gush over it and it comes closer than any other distro I've tried to "just working". In fact, the only thing I can think of right now that doesn't work on my laptop to my satisfaction is hard shutdown, but that's a problem with ACPI. If I was to build a server Debian would be my choice but Ubuntu is perfect (for me) for desktop use.

And you can always create a root account if you want. Personally, I prefer using sudo. I mean, if I need a root account, that's what I have Knoppix for.
 
Jan 27, 2005 at 6:46 PM Post #8 of 78

rsaavedra

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Dang! You guys have tried quite a family of Linuxes. As a dual boot next to WinXPPro+SP2, I have Fedora Core 3 in my laptop, like it a lot, but only starting to use it, still a newbie. Also have a CD with Knoppix, that thing boots in 2 minutes 15 seconds!!! From a CD! This is quite surprisingly fast to me, amazing little version of such a powerful OS. Speaking of Knoppix, the book "Knoppix Hacks" seems to be a bestseller in Amazon, it's ranked at about 1000th in their best sellers list. If you monitor Amazon's rankings frequently you could tell that's quite a high rank for a computer related book. For now I only got the books "Linux for non-geeks" and "How linux works", will read them cover to cover to get my baby steps and hands dirty with linux. Maybe I'll also get the Knoppix Hacks one eventually.
 
Jan 27, 2005 at 7:22 PM Post #9 of 78

ADS

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Stephonovich
Based on Slackware. SLAX is a Live CD, Slackware is meant to be installed on a hard drive. SLAX is extremely userfriendly, Slackware is known to go out of the way to be difficult.


As a Slackware user, I have to disagree that it goes out of it's way to be difficult. It's one of the best organized, easiest distros to use. There's not much handholding, and it's the most "Unix like" of the Linux distributions, but that doesn't mean it's difficult.
 
Jan 27, 2005 at 9:21 PM Post #10 of 78

Stephonovich

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plainsong; I found this on a Linux enthusiast site. Supposedly it's superior to 'normal' OSS and ALSA. Used to be commercial, but they released it for open source. I downloaded it, and will try it later. Might be worth a try, anyway.

Quote:

Originally Posted by k.ODOMA
Count me as a Ubuntu convert. Now I LOVE Debian, but I found myself spending too much time just messing with things.


I suppose it depends on what you like. I, for one, love messing with my OS. Once it's up just the way I want it, it should stay rock-stable. Ubuntu just didn't give me the control I want.

Quote:

Originally Posted by ADS
As a Slackware user, I have to disagree that it goes out of it's way to be difficult. It's one of the best organized, easiest distros to use. There's not much handholding, and it's the most "Unix like" of the Linux distributions, but that doesn't mean it's difficult.


I see the Slack zealots have come out in droves
biggrin.gif
A friend of mine claims it's also not difficult. I dunno. It's definitely the most Unix-like, and will teach you more about the workings of your OS than any other, but it just seems to not be very userfriendly. You just have to know how to do things. Package Management, for one. Pretty much every other distro has some method of dealing with it. Slackware's method is of the 'tar -zvxf, ./configure, make && make install'. Not difficult, but do you really need to spend all that time when there's apt-get, emerge, or so many other methods available?
 
Jan 27, 2005 at 9:35 PM Post #11 of 78

Tim D

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I tried Debian but went to Ubuntu because it more easily slapped on the whole Xwindows Gnome interface on my old Dell laptop, touchpad and stick, sound and all without *any* fiddling. With Debian I couldn't even get my mouse to work and had to put in more specs with the monitor and video card. Simply put Debian is stable as a rock but moves slow so doesn't include the latest greatest by default. I also was able to swap and upgrade kernels easily with Ubuntu. When trying to configure the laptop mouse it actually hung (or I'm just impatient).

The only lacking features of Ubuntu is that it doesn't throw on questionably legal multimedia codecs so it won't play a majority of common PC media off the bat. However again you can just grab extra's quite easily to remedy this. Also the route they are taking by using gstreamer by default is something I think will pay off in the long run as it matures (the ball is just rolling on that one).

Finally the whole idea of having no root account by default is arguably a security feature, but annoying to get used to.

Fiddling is good as long as you aren't spending time fiddling to re-invent the wheel. For example I spent a little time downloading and installing nethack with X11 tiles, when I realized I could have done the same with the latest nethack release with a single apt command line or using the Synaptics package installer (front-end for Apt). Actually the packaged version came with an even better GUI as well. So someone took the time to already get the things I want done right, so why fiddle to reinvent the wheel? The fact that it did my old laptop's screen, touchpad and stick, sound, and *can* do my wireless card (if it wasn't hardware problem), and has such an easy install/uninstall of a plethora of software at your fingertips and coming on just one CD is golden.

BTW anyone know how to deal with the removable CD-rom or hard-drive for the laptop (i.e. swapping out the cd-rom for the hard drive)?
 
Jan 27, 2005 at 9:44 PM Post #12 of 78

viator122

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*TIME OUT*

What exactly is a Live CD? Does this mean you can run the OS directly off a CD? If so, can you, for example, throw the disc into a Windows PC when you want to use linux and take it out when you want your fill of XP?

*PLAY BALL*
 
Jan 27, 2005 at 10:30 PM Post #13 of 78

MartinJ

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Quote:

Originally Posted by viator122
*TIME OUT*

What exactly is a Live CD? Does this mean you can run the OS directly off a CD? If so, can you, for example, throw the disc into a Windows PC when you want to use linux and take it out when you want your fill of XP?

*PLAY BALL*



Yes, put cd in the tray and reboot the PC and it will run the OS off the CD. And when you want to go back to your XP, take out the CD and reboot.
 
Jan 27, 2005 at 11:03 PM Post #14 of 78

Snake

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I'm trying to get back into Linux - last time I used it was RH 5.2 upgraded to 6.2. If I ever get the (huge amount) of spare time I'll tweak it all out and get back into the swing of things...but that's a big "if". These things are time sinks and that's something I no longer have the luxury of.

Which makes me bring up the comment of "boring" in your reviews. A "boring" OS??
confused.gif
A OS is for working, not for "excitement". Which distros did you like for actually getting work done, not for it's ability to tweak?
 
Jan 27, 2005 at 11:12 PM Post #15 of 78

ADS

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Stephonovich
I see the Slack zealots have come out in droves
biggrin.gif
A friend of mine claims it's also not difficult. I dunno. It's definitely the most Unix-like, and will teach you more about the workings of your OS than any other, but it just seems to not be very userfriendly. You just have to know how to do things. Package Management, for one. Pretty much every other distro has some method of dealing with it. Slackware's method is of the 'tar -zvxf, ./configure, make && make install'. Not difficult, but do you really need to spend all that time when there's apt-get, emerge, or so many other methods available?



To install packages on a slackware system, you use installpkg. If you want to build it yourself, you can of course, but that's not how Slackware handles packages. To upgrade all the packages on my system, all I have to do is run 'swaret --upgrade'. The only package I've installed manually has been driverloader.
 

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