Favourite Distro!

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Favourite Distro!

Postby ggsinclair » Sun Sep 11, 2005 9:26 pm


I would like to know what your favourite distro is. I know I am going to get many answers here, but I would also like to know why you have chosen your particular distro.

I like SuSe - always have. It has a very user friendly and attractive front end. I have used many distros in the past and have spent a lot of time with Mandriva, but finds it lacks a little je ne sais quoi!

My least liked at the mo is Debian - principally because I have not worked out how to install it yet! I find the - What id your graphic card number particularly awkward!!


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RE: Favourite Distro!

Postby nordle » Sun Sep 11, 2005 9:49 pm

A little while ago, the lugradio team ran a section called "distro wars", and it containted comparisons between certain distros and they rated them each week on a different aspect.
One particular week the subject was "evilness" ie how evil is a particular distro in that how much does it (or not) give back to the community.
Slackware was not part of the review, but someone posted on the lugradio forums that Slackware was the most evil distro. Now I could not believe that twoddle, and had to respond with some good old fashioned Linux distro zealotry. ;)

I got slightly carrried away at the time, some of it is a little dated (about 6 months), so forgive the huge ramble.


Mr Burger said "Slackware is the oldest surviving distro, nuff said", but apparently that was not enough, so here are some points which may have not been considered important by yourselves, or even known about.

Slackware started in 1993 with kernel 0.99, the idea of a distribution and how it might work was started as Pat took SLS (Soft Landing Systems) and tried to make an easier installation method, only to be told by Peter MacDonald (from SLS) that he would have to re-write ALL the scripts otherwise Peter would claim distribution rights as it was derived works, so Pat did so and put the results out freely for people to use.
And as such has contributed greatly to how the community exists today and continues to do so with the testing of mostly un-patched software in the Slackware-Current branch, an evil distribution this is not Mr Deans.

Slackware's goals are ease of use, stability and simplicity, these themes thread through most of its structure.

Slackware's installation is a simple process taking a few minutes to complete the choices, with questions such as the usual keyboard mapping, installation targets, package choice etc.

Slackware is fully compliant with the Linux File System Standard.

Slackware uses a BSD-style initialization system, which is simpler than System V inits.

Slackware uses a single install package for an application, in reality this cuts down on the missing dependency issue of most RPM based distros, as if a package is installed, then its normally all installed. eg QT is one package, where as some RPM distributions have split it into 6+ packages.

Slackware binaries, including the kernel, are mostly created from un-patched sources, this has several advantages such as:
~ If you need extra support for some unique piece of kit, you can easily patch your own kernel or software without as much fear of breaking any other part of the system. If a new kernel is released with great improvements you'd like to use, then simply drop it in.

~ You can upgrade packages yourself if needed and still maintain binary compatability with other applications installed by using pkgtool, you are not tied into waiting for releases from the distribution vendor.

~ When you learn how to use an application, thats how the application works, not the way a distribution has made the application work. Even within linux and OSS there exists the possibility of vendor lockin, although to a far lesser extent than the proprietary alternatives.

~ Speed of packages release, as no patches have to be made to fit a new package release, also meaning any bugs can be reported upstream to application maintainer as well as distribution maintainer, as an issue will be with the standard code and not something that was done to it. This helps to make any bugs easier to track down and fix. This also contributes back to the community in the form of Slackware-Current, where users are effectively testing in most cases very new software which hasn't been altered, so it does help to become a large bug tracking/squashing exercise for the individual applications that are used.

Problems and suggestions can be emailed direct to the creator and maintainer, Patrick Volkerding, who somehow usually manages to respond quickly and in detail, which considering his workload, volume of other communications and current health problems is very impressive, again, evil, Slackware is not.

Slackware's package management system uses standard compressed tar archives, making it extremely simple to create your own packages, view the contents of a package, or edit an already created package. With these and package sets, you can create custom installation solutions depending on the situation/requirement.

The package repository is mirrored on 40+ Countries FTP/HTTP sites, as well as the available torrents. These include the release ISO's, the packages, the security patches and the source's which include the build scripts detailing exactly how the package is created, again useful if you need to tweak the settings for a particular package, or use a particular fork instead of the standard one provided.

Slackware runs a Release and Current version at any one time, so you can keep with the stable, or run with the latest, which nearly always has the latest releases far quicker than other distributions. My main desktop has always been in sync with current over the last few years.
Because Slackware is controlled by one person, decisions can be made more quickly, like the decision to change from xfree86 to xorg when it did, and more recently to drop Gnome (which by the way, because of Slackware's popularity there were already seperate Gnome maintainers for a while, such as dropline and my preferred option, GSB (currently based on 2.10)). With these decisions there is mostly some casual input from the community directly, like when Pat was thinking of migrating from xfree to xorg, he just posted to newsnet "guys Im thinking of changing over to xorg, what are your feelings on this?" Two week's later and it was done.

Commercial support is available from 10 different companies if needed, but security updates and bug fix's are available from Slackware for more versions than a lot of other distributors.
eg. There are security fix's in Slackware 8.1 from May 2005, and 8.1 was released in 2002/06 (4 versions ago).

I started using Linux in 2000, in the shape of Suse 7.0, and while I liked it in some respects, I quickly became very frustrated after being promised that "Linux is different to MS, you can change it, install what you want, configure it your way" etc, and finding that it was very difficult to actually do that. Dependency hell, sooo many packages, why can't I install the latest kernel without breaking loads of stuff, why can't I install this application XYZ, it keeps failing to install because of other libs being specifically changed on Suse, so you have to wait for the project to release an RPM that they've hacked, or for the distributor to release one. Something isn't working, yet the system management tools hide the configurations, so it was trickier to trace a problem, it took longer to track down issues and fix them, because of the more complex layout, because of the non-standard software installation.
Slackware on the other hand encouraged me to do what I wanted, was easy to setup, felt more transparent in operation, far easier to add extra software, easy to maintain not having to keep track of 000's of small packages, just simpler.
People always say, "I dont want to tinker and mess around, I actually want to get on with doing real stuff", again that's why I've stuck with Slack. The system install takes 30mins, and 6 hours later I've got it doing exactly what I want, thats it, those 6-7 hours and it'll run perfectly for a 18 months. Time to upgrade to a new release, no problem, the notes are clear and its quick, and unlike upgrades on some other distro's (we've all probably experienced the grief involved), things will actually work afterwards. Or if preferred, use Current and keep it up to date more regularly.

When using Slackware, you quickly realise that installing a kernel is actually very simple, installing new software from source and editing .conf files again is, on the most part, REALLY easy, the myths of linux are pretty quickly erased. What I ended up with is a smaller footprint, with MY best of breed packages, with the ability to fix most problems very quickly. Be able to install and try new software very easily and quickly, search for types of application, read the online docs, compile, install, setup and run, just a few minutes in most cases.
Installed hundreds of packages, found what I like and made a custom Slackware install CD with slackware packges and other latest source archives with build scripts to rapidly deploy what I want. Technically this is not true Slackware distribution, but Slackware enables you to easily do this if required, and trust me, for me to be able to do it it must be easy. And it doesn't take long, really, it is simple to do.

I often try the new distro's when they come out, as its not good to blindly subscribe to one view all the time. In the last few months I've tried Gentoo 2004.3, Suse 9.2, Ubuntu 5.04, Linspire 5.0, PcLinuxOS p81a, Fedora Core 3, Mandrake 10.1, but keep going back to Slack.

Of course, all the reasons I've mentioned for using Slackware are the exact reasons that others would choose to use something else. But thats the point, it's just another great choice, which I think fill's a gap in distro wars and am surprised to have not seen it there.

Perhaps it could have been:
Gentoo, Slackware, Debian, Ubuntu, Suse, Mandrake/driva, Fedora, RHL, CentOS, SLE, PcLinuxOS, Linspire, Xandros, NLD

But then again, that would have turned lugradio into distroradio :)
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RE: Favourite Distro!

Postby Gordon » Sun Sep 11, 2005 10:06 pm

My home built Linux From Scratch system at the moment. SUSE 9.3 as a fallback (security blanket :-) )
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RE: Favourite Distro!

Postby davecs » Sun Sep 11, 2005 11:31 pm

As you can see from my Signature, my favourite is PCLinuxOS. The reason is that it is easy to install from a LiveCD, and it just seems to work. I installed some stuff from its unstable branch the other day, and b0rked the printing system. I got out my live CD, and had it reinstalled in under 20 minutes, then I updated everything from the repos and loaded up other software from the repos, and in a short time had everything back how it was. It really was easy.

I also like it because the Multimedia stuff works so well. Firefox has Real Player built in out of the box, important if you like listening/watching clips on the BBC site, and is one upgrade (installing libdvdcss from the repos) away from playing DVDs.

Software in the repos tends to be cutting-edge but still works reliably. This is in no small part due to Texstar, who packages the stuff for PCLOS, along with a small group of testers.

Finally I like it because the potentially-lary KDE desktop has been tamed by some very sweet graphics from Jose Rangels.

What don't I like? I found Fedora and Debian from the recent disks disappointing. Fedora was a breeze to install, but hard to do much with afterwards. Debian was far harder to install than it needed to be, and if I wanted to install Debian, I would do it the easy way by installing Mepis. In fact I have. It would be good if it was up-to-date.

Trouble is, if you don't have KDE3.4.2, then HAL, DBUS and UDEV are not integrated through the User Interface. In English, that means that all your plug-in storage devices, plus your CDs/DVDs are dead simple to use.

I like PCLOS because I could give a disk to a complete beginner who had a bit of computer sense, and I would not have to spend the next 2 weeks on the phone to them sorting everything out.
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Postby pau1ie » Sun Sep 11, 2005 11:45 pm

Actually I like Debian because of the way it values freedom and the huge number of packages that are available. I switched to Ubuntu (Using apt to up and downgrade packages, which is not supported and probably a bit silly) out of sheer frustration that I could not get my modem to work. Ignoring the mode, I did not get all my hardware working at the same time, I would fix one thing and an upgrade would break something else.

Ubuntu just works, which gives much more time for writing peoples websites and playing Darwinia.
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RE: Ubuntu

Postby post2geek » Mon Sep 12, 2005 1:43 am

My main PC is currently running Unbuntu. I also have Suse 9.3 on a dual boot machine with winxp.
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RE: Ubuntu

Postby linuxgirlie » Mon Sep 12, 2005 8:15 am

My favourite is Mandriva have used others but have always gone back, the 2006 beta is looking beautiful and I cant wait till!!

Least favourite is Debian and Ubuntu/Kubuntu because we have just spent a whole week getting it work with Karoshi and the installation screens remind me of smoothwall!

Most exciting distro of choice though has to go to LFS though it did take me a long time(and I didnt keep it), I am proud I did it in the end :D
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RE: Ubuntu

Postby RDP » Mon Sep 12, 2005 3:46 pm

Debian Sid, because it works better for me than any other distro, and is easy to administer. Also the huge database of packages means no more compiling, as everything I need is there. I also like the up-to-date packages in Sid and the Debian ethos and it's unrestrictive nature. I also hate the fact many other distros install software I don't need, and like to install a system as I want it, not as a distro maintainer does.

I also like the fact it can be installed and configured in such a short amount of time (about 1 hour last time I re-installed (about a year ago), and everything was set up as I like).
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Postby overflow » Tue Sep 13, 2005 9:26 am

I've tried a few distros now but I am by no means an experienced user. The first was SuSE back in 6.something days and I keep coming back to it. 9.3 suits me almost perfectly. It is very easy to install, probably the easiest to maintain and the default set-up of most things seems right for me (with some annoying exceptions, like Vim). The few things I don't like are easy to fix.

I gave up with Debian because I couldn't get my hardware configured. YaST makes that so easy on SuSE.

I've just been playing with Ubuntu (well, Kubuntu) and find it somewhat lacking. There is NO sysadmin help for the less experienced user and I couldn't get my network card working - having installed the OS with the cable removed. In the end, I reinstalled with the cable in and then it was fine. Such problems simply don't exist with SuSE.

The BIG problem with SuSE, however, is that lack of incremental updates. You get security fixes delivered and installed nicely with YaST but if you want to upgrade any componenet for a new release, you're on your own. If you upgrade a component, such as KDE, by hand, you'll stop getting security updates. For an inexperienced user this is a bit daunting.

This is the only reason why I will eventually leave SuSE. Once I find a distro I can fully administer (either by plugging the holes in my knowledge or by them supplying some nice admin tools) and update a component at a time , I'll settle on that.
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Postby M0PHP » Tue Sep 13, 2005 9:49 am

overflow wrote:I couldn't get my network card working - having installed the OS with the cable removed.

Reminds me of trying to promote a Win2000 server to a Domain Controller - it just won't do it without an active network connection (although the error message dosn't tell you..) :roll:

As for linuxes, I've become a follower of Redhat/Fedora since I started in 1998 with Mandrake (before it got worse over the recent years). I'm also dipping my toes into the Ubuntu/Debian waters but I don't like what I feel.. I just can't get used to them really.
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Postby hyweljones » Tue Sep 13, 2005 12:00 pm

I've tried fedora core 2, 3 & 4, Debian 3.1, and Suse. My first distro was Mandrake 9.2 and I currently use Mandriva LE 2005 which is my favourite.

Something about your first love being your last love springs to mind here....
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Postby Nigel » Tue Sep 13, 2005 12:01 pm

I've tried a few distros over the years (Slackware, RedHat, Fedora etc) but keep coming back to SuSE... currently running 9.2 on three different machines and 8.2 on the fileserver at work.
I have found that the ".2" versions of SuSE tend to be the most reliable ;)
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Postby gch15 » Tue Sep 13, 2005 1:27 pm

My production OS since the last 6 months or so is Gentoo and I like it very much so it is going to be there for some time to come. Before Gentoo it used to be FC (2 and 3) for about 2 years and before that Mandrake.

At the moment, I also have FC4 and Ubuntu on my hard disk and boot into them sometimes to play around. I has also installed Debian (Sarge) on a second hard disk but had to get rid of it because I needed the space for some data. I do intend to install it again though to have a better look.

If one can survive the installation process, Gentoo is really nice. I quite like editing configuration files by hand but for someone not wanting to do so Gentoo is unsuitable.

And yes, Gentoo is noticeably faster than any other distro on the same machine. Not that it matters.
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Postby davecs » Tue Sep 13, 2005 8:55 pm

Something I forgot to mention earlier...

For the benefit of Overflow, PCLinuxOS does do incremental upgrades. You have to watch out for kernel upgrades which have to be installed via synaptic by selection, and there are people with really early versions who have maintained their kernels and regularly done system upgrades via the net, and their system is identical to those who installed the latest disk and started from there. There are no separate repositories for p7, p8, p81, p9, p91 etc, all rpms rely on you keeping your kernel up to date. This is quite simple via synaptic.

Once "dkms" is fully tested and incorporated, even awkward things for the kernel upgrader, like nvidia drivers and the like, will just be a matter of installing through synaptic.
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Postby nelz » Tue Sep 13, 2005 9:19 pm

Are you working full time on PCLinuxOS PR now? :D
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