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(?) Distros

From Gerald Saunders

Answered By Don Marti, Mike Orr, Heather Stern

How about an (objective) artical on the relative diferences between the different GNU/LINUX distributions. Newbies have to rely on the "propaganda" generated by those distributions in order to make decisions as to which distribution serves their needs best. A realy informed guide is what is needed. I, for example, think that Mandrake is best for newbies and Debian is a more stable platform (and more philosophically correct!). Am I right though?

(!) [Don] No, you're utterly wrong! Fool! Infidel! Liar! Your mother runs OS/2! (That's pretty mild for a response to a distribution comparison actually.)
How to pick the best Linux distribution to run:
If you would be most likely to ask on a mailing list for Linux help, read the list for a while and see what the most helpful posters run.
Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.
(!) [Mike] Most people would say this, although the stability of Debian is in the eye of the beholder. As far as an "objective" comparision of distributions, there are already many out there.
(!) [Heather] Debian's "potato" aka "stable" is actually quite good for stability... but I've seen some exciting side effects in "woody" aka "testing", and "unstable" just plain lives up to its moniker.
(!) [Mike] Oops, I didn't mean to put Mandrake so far ahead of most of the other distros. Many people find Mandrake easier to install than most distributions. However, it's far from being "the only distribution that matters", although Mandrake marketing would like to think so.
Different users have different expectations and requirements, so finding one distribution that's the "best" is as futile as the emacs/vi wars.
(!) [Mike]
(!) [Heather] Recently in The Answer Gang (TAG, we're it :) ... issue 60) someone asked us what was the best distribution for newbies, and we answered in a great deal of detail about some of the relative strengths and weaknesses, plus points to consider like scoring the installer and features you need in that, seperately from behaviors during use of the system, and even whether what you want to do is put your Linux setup together from loose parts.
It might be worthwhile to come up with some major criteria, and then attempt to map distributions against those criteria, so that people get a lot more useful data than "4 penguins, looks great to me."
You're right about propaganda, but, a "really informed guide" is going to be written by ... who? Surely not a newbie. Can a newbie really trust someone wiser enough than them to write a book, to have any idea what sort of things are easy or difficult for a newbie anymore?

(?) Hi Heather!

Yeah I suppose you are right on that. If some one is advanced enough to know heaps about Linux then they probably wouldn't relate well to an abject newbie! I just thought it was a good Idea as when I was trying to find info on the different Linux distros I ended up guessing. There was not much out there to let me make an informed decision. I ended up trying Debian, which was a steep learning curve. I would probably tried Mandrake or Redhat if I had known how steep. I now use Mandrake because of Hpt366 (ata66) support, Reiser FS, Cups printing right out of the box. But my heart is still with Debian!

Cheers, Gerald.

(!) [Heather] Well, then, keep an eye on the Progeny project - Ian Murdoch himself and a handful of trusted friends, are working on putting together a new debian based distro which is really aimed at desktop users more than the server and hardcore-linuxer crowd, yet is aware of the "standard" debian project enough to allow a smooth transition.

Progeny is presently at Beta Two, with downloadable cdrom images available. See http://www.progenylinux.com/news/beta2release.html for the PR, release notes, and a list of discs.

You might also try Storm Linux, LibraNet, or CorelLinux; all are debian based commercial distros, so at least, their installer is a bit smoother. GUI installers drive me crazy, so of the three, I prefer LibraNet.

(?) Thanks Heather!

I will check those out!

Thanks again, Gerald.

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Published in issue 63 of Linux Gazette February Extra 2001
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