Selecting a Linux Distribution
Any current Linux distribution most likely contains the software needed to do your job, including kernel and drivers, libraries, utilities and applications programs. Still, one of the most common questions I hear is “which distribution should I get?” This question is answered by an assortment of people, each proclaiming their favorite distribution is better than all the rest.
My new theory is that most people favor the first distribution they successfully installed. Or, if they had problems with the first, they favor the next distribution they install which addresses the problems of the first.
Let's use me as an example. SLS was my first Linux installation. Unfortunately, SLS had a few bugs—in both the installation and the running system. This, of course, isn't a surprise since this installation took place five years ago.
Now, about this time, Patrick Volkerding came along and created Slackware. Pat took the SLS distribution and fixed some problems. The result looked the same as SLS and worked the same, but without bugs. To this day, I find Slackware the easiest distribution to install.
I have, however, progressed beyond installation problems and found some serious shortcomings in Slackware which have been addressed by other distributions. Before I get into specifics, here is a rough estimate of the number of times I have installed various distributions, in order of first installation. I give you this information to help you understand the basis of my opinions.
5 MCC (a small distribution done for university students)
20 Red Hat
That said, here is my blow-by-blow analysis of what is right and wrong with each distribution. Note that this is my personal opinion—your mileage will vary.
All these distributions are easy to install and understand. They were all designed to install from floppy disk, and packages were in floppy-sized chunks. At one time, I could successfully install Slackware without even having a monitor on the computer.
There are, however, costs associated with this simplicity. Software is saved in compressed tar files. There is no information within the distribution that shows how files interrelate, no dependencies and no good path for upgrades. Not a problem if you just want to try something, but for a multi-computer shop with long-term plans, this initial simplicity can have unforeseen costs in the long run.
Yggdrasil offered the most promise with a GUI-based configuration. Unfortunately, development stopped (or at least vanished from the public eye), and it no longer offers anything vaguely current.
When I first looked at Marc Ewing's creation, I was impressed. It had some GUI-based configuration tools and showed a lot of promise. Over the years, Red Hat has continued to evolve and is easy to install and configure. Red Hat introduced the RPM packaging system that offers dependencies to help ensure loaded applications work with each other and updating is easy. RPMs also offer pre- and post-install and remove scripts which appear to be underutilized.
Version 4.2 has proven to be quite stable. The current release is 5.0, and a 5.1 release with bug fixes is expected to again produce a stable product.
The install sequence is streamlined to make it easy to do a standard install. I see two things missing that, while making the install appear easier, detract from what is actually needed:
The ability to save the desired configuration to floppy disk during the installation process (something that both Caldera and S.u.S.E. offer) would simplify subsequent installations on the same or other machines.
The ability to create a boot floppy disk during installation.
Red Hat has evolved into the most “retailed” distribution. First it was in books by O'Reilly, then MacMillan and now IDG Books Worldwide. It also appears to have a large retail shrink-wrap distribution in the U.S.
Versions of Red Hat are available for Digital Alpha and SunSPARC, as well as Intel.
The Caldera distribution was assembled by the Linux Support Team (LST) in Germany—now a part of Caldera. Caldera, like Red Hat, uses the RPM package format. Installation is similar to Red Hat with the addition of the configuration save/restore option.
Caldera is different from other distributions at this time in that it offers a series of systems including various commercial packages such as a secure web server and an office suite. Caldera is also the most “commercial feeling” as far as packaging and presentation.
One complaint I received from a reviewer of my original version of this article is that you cannot perform an upgrade. That is, you must save your configuration files and then re-install.
Practical Task Scheduling Deployment
July 20, 2016 12:00 pm CDT
One of the best things about the UNIX environment (aside from being stable and efficient) is the vast array of software tools available to help you do your job. Traditionally, a UNIX tool does only one thing, but does that one thing very well. For example, grep is very easy to use and can search vast amounts of data quickly. The find tool can find a particular file or files based on all kinds of criteria. It's pretty easy to string these tools together to build even more powerful tools, such as a tool that finds all of the .log files in the /home directory and searches each one for a particular entry. This erector-set mentality allows UNIX system administrators to seem to always have the right tool for the job.
Cron traditionally has been considered another such a tool for job scheduling, but is it enough? This webinar considers that very question. The first part builds on a previous Geek Guide, Beyond Cron, and briefly describes how to know when it might be time to consider upgrading your job scheduling infrastructure. The second part presents an actual planning and implementation framework.
Join Linux Journal's Mike Diehl and Pat Cameron of Help Systems.
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With all the industry talk about the benefits of Linux on Power and all the performance advantages offered by its open architecture, you may be considering a move in that direction. If you are thinking about analytics, big data and cloud computing, you would be right to evaluate Power. The idea of using commodity x86 hardware and replacing it every three years is an outdated cost model. It doesn’t consider the total cost of ownership, and it doesn’t consider the advantage of real processing power, high-availability and multithreading like a demon.
This ebook takes a look at some of the practical applications of the Linux on Power platform and ways you might bring all the performance power of this open architecture to bear for your organization. There are no smoke and mirrors here—just hard, cold, empirical evidence provided by independent sources. I also consider some innovative ways Linux on Power will be used in the future.Get the Guide