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.
|Dynamic DNS—an Object Lesson in Problem Solving||May 21, 2013|
|Using Salt Stack and Vagrant for Drupal Development||May 20, 2013|
|Making Linux and Android Get Along (It's Not as Hard as It Sounds)||May 16, 2013|
|Drupal Is a Framework: Why Everyone Needs to Understand This||May 15, 2013|
|Home, My Backup Data Center||May 13, 2013|
|Non-Linux FOSS: Seashore||May 10, 2013|
- RSS Feeds
- Making Linux and Android Get Along (It's Not as Hard as It Sounds)
- Using Salt Stack and Vagrant for Drupal Development
- Dynamic DNS—an Object Lesson in Problem Solving
- New Products
- Validate an E-Mail Address with PHP, the Right Way
- Drupal Is a Framework: Why Everyone Needs to Understand This
- A Topic for Discussion - Open Source Feature-Richness?
- Download the Free Red Hat White Paper "Using an Open Source Framework to Catch the Bad Guy"
- Tech Tip: Really Simple HTTP Server with Python
- Roll your own dynamic dns
3 hours 40 min ago
- Please correct the URL for Salt Stack's web site
6 hours 52 min ago
- Android is Linux -- why no better inter-operation
9 hours 7 min ago
- Connecting Android device to desktop Linux via USB
9 hours 36 min ago
- Find new cell phone and tablet pc
10 hours 34 min ago
12 hours 3 min ago
- Automatically updating Guest Additions
13 hours 11 min ago
- I like your topic on android
13 hours 58 min ago
- This is the easiest tutorial
20 hours 33 min ago
- Ahh, the Koolaid.
1 day 2 hours ago
Enter to Win an Adafruit Pi Cobbler Breakout Kit for Raspberry Pi
It's Raspberry Pi month at Linux Journal. Each week in May, Adafruit will be giving away a Pi-related prize to a lucky, randomly drawn LJ reader. Winners will be announced weekly.
Fill out the fields below to enter to win this week's prize-- a Pi Cobbler Breakout Kit for Raspberry Pi.
Congratulations to our winners so far:
- 5-8-13, Pi Starter Pack: Jack Davis
- 5-15-13, Pi Model B 512MB RAM: Patrick Dunn
- 5-21-13, Prototyping Pi Plate Kit: Philip Kirby
- Next winner announced on 5-27-13!
Free Webinar: Hadoop
How to Build an Optimal Hadoop Cluster to Store and Maintain Unlimited Amounts of Data Using Microservers
Realizing the promise of Apache® Hadoop® requires the effective deployment of compute, memory, storage and networking to achieve optimal results. With its flexibility and multitude of options, it is easy to over or under provision the server infrastructure, resulting in poor performance and high TCO. Join us for an in depth, technical discussion with industry experts from leading Hadoop and server companies who will provide insights into the key considerations for designing and deploying an optimal Hadoop cluster.
Some of key questions to be discussed are:
- What is the “typical” Hadoop cluster and what should be installed on the different machine types?
- Why should you consider the typical workload patterns when making your hardware decisions?
- Are all microservers created equal for Hadoop deployments?
- How do I plan for expansion if I require more compute, memory, storage or networking?