[lug] Primer on Linux Distros

Bernard Johnston berjoh at attbi.com
Thu Oct 17 23:48:50 MDT 2002

>Message: 4
>Date: Fri, 11 Oct 2002 14:42:16 -0700 (PDT)
>From: bill ehlert <bill_ehlert_lists at yahoo.com>
>Subject: RE: [lug] new distro
>To: lug at lug.boulder.co.us
>Reply-To: lug at lug.boulder.co.us
>  nate wrote:
>    [ babble, babble, babble ]
>  peter wrote:
>    [ babble, babble, babble ]
>**  geez, enuff already!
>    it occurs to me that it would be really
>    nice if a few folks would write a bit
>    about his/her/their favoriate distro,
>    covering:
>    --  what distinguishes it from others
>    --  what it's particularly good for
>    --  what it's not so good for
>    THAT  would be interesting and useful!
Ok, Bill, I'll bite. Here's my exegesis of the distributions as they now 

Lindows--Win 98 Clone. It's a good idea but it hasn't been engineered 
very well. Lots of
people report all sorts of trouble getting it to work with hardware, 
etc. Not ready for prime time
yet but it might eventually turn out well for the mass market. One nice 
feature is that it is Debian-based and so has the wonderful apt-get feature.

Lycoris (alias Redmond)--WinXP Clone. Very nice for basic (i.e., 
Windows) users. This is what
I'm setting my mother up with. It still has an unfinished feel to it, 
but no major problems. I expect it to give XP a serious run for its 
money in a year or so.

Mandrake--My personal favorite. This is Redhat-based with a nice KDE 
(Qt) GUI. That means that binaries are packaged in the rpm format, which 
can lead to "RPM hell" (one package depending on another depending on 
another, etc., so that you can't install anything). That's the downside.
This is mitigated somewhat by Ximian's RedCarpet, which is similar to 
apt-get. Nice look and feel, and some real thought has been given to 
useability, but it still has a solid base for power users. I like the 
Xkill feature and the way they've set up the CDRom and Floppy right on 
the desktop. I use 8.2. 9.0 (just out) is rumored to be quite buggy and 
should be avoided.

RedHat--most common distro, so you get the benefit of the knowledge of 
people around you. Arguably the best server distro. Until their latest 
release they were not very interested in the desktop/workstation but 
that's changing. The newest release (8.0) is quite attractive but rather 
buggy. The general rule on RedHat is wait till the *.2 (stable) release. 
Suffers from RPM hell as above.

SUSE--seems comparable to Redhat but I have little personal knowledge. 
It's more popular in Europe.

Debian--seems to be the top choice of command-line-oriented power 
users/hackers who want to know where every byte goes. Seems to give the 
most control to the user. Replaces the RPM-package system with apt-get 
which takes care of dependencies for you. Has some other nifty 
command-line features.

Gentoo--very interesting distro in which you compile everything from 
scratch. This takes a long time to install (!) but in the end has the 
advantage that you know the software is completely optimized for your 

Anybody else want to throw in their .02?

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