A new guide on choosing Linux v2009.05.10

Popular desktop distributions

0. Ubuntu

1. openSUSE

2. Mint

3. Fedora

4. Debian

5. Mandriva

6. PCLinuxOS

Popular server distributions

0. Debian

1. CentOS


3. Ubuntu

4. Fedora

Popular live CD distributions


1. Damn Small Linux

2. Ubuntu

3. Fedora

Brief description - desktop distributions

0. Ubuntu is a user friendly distribution which releases new versions every 6 months. It is based on Debian, uses apt-get for package management and has thousands of software packages.

1. openSUSE is Novell's version of Linux. It is uses RPMs. Users can choose KDE, GNOME or XFCE.

2. Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, has a simplified interface and comes with support for proprietary media codecs, wireless drivers and flash.

3. Fedora is is Redhat's community distribution it uses RPMs, yum for package management and releases new versions every 6 months. Fedora is updated very frequently and usually supports the latest and greatest hardware. Proprietary drivers and media codecs are available from rpm-fusion.

4. Debian is a well respected distribution, uses apt-get for package management and has thousands of software packages. Many other distributions are based on Debian, which could be seen as a vote of confidence. Debian is a very good distribution although it may be a little hard for the uninitiated.

5. Mandriva is a popular distribution, particularly in Europe. It uses RPMs and the urpmi package manager. Users can choose KDE, GNOME, XFCE or TWM.

6. PCLinuxOS is an easy to use distribution using apt and the synaptic package manager. It is primarily designed for desktop use.

Brief description - server distributions

0. Debian is considered a hardcore server distribution. It is pretty lean and mean. Probably not recommended for inexperienced users.

1. CentOS is a free version of the flagship server distribution from a major North American Linux vendor built from source. It uses RPMs and the yum package manager. It is quite stable and has long term support. It uses older versions of most packages. It can be used with a GUI although it does not offer the latest and greatest GUI software and features.

2. RHEL a major non-free server distribution primarily intended for business use. It has long term support and uses older versions of most software packages. While it has a GUI it is primarily a server and workstation distribution which is not cutting edge.

3. Ubuntu-server is the server version of the Ubuntu desktop distribution. It releases new versions every 6 months and is more user friendly than Debian but still not for the uninitiated. It has a text-mode install and no GUI by default, although one can be installed later. It uses apt-get.

4. Fedora is an all around general purpose distribution, it works quite well as a desktop, server, workstation or software development platform. It releases new versions every 6 months, is very cutting edge and usually supports new hardware quite well. It has a GUI but the GUI is not necessary when used as a server.

Brief description - live CD distributions

0. KNOPPIX is arguably one of the best live CD distributions, it uses KDE and works quite well. It makes a great rescue environment if you have a broken PC. It includes a lot of useful packages on a single CD. A Live DVD version is also available with even more goodies.

1. Damn Small Linux is a very small Live CD distribution. It is 50MB and will fit on a business card size CD. It is a minimal distribution which makes it particularly useful as a rescue disk.

2. Ubuntu-desktop packs Live CD functionality and the installer on a single disk and can be used for rescue purposes as well as for installing on a new system.

3. Fedora Live is the Live CD version of Fedora works well for rescuing broken systems, trying out Linux before installing on a hard drive and impressing your friends. The Live CD does not pack as much data as the 4GB installable DVD. Fedora also offers various customized spins for other purposes.


If you're a desktop user I recommend Fedora and Ubuntu. It's possible to dual boot Fedora and Ubuntu on the same computer. You can also run one or more distributions under a Virtual Machine such as VirtualBox, Xen, KVM, VMWare, QEMU, etc.

Ubuntu and Fedora usually support newer hardware and are ideal for desktop use, audio, video and some games. Both can use WINE to run some windows apps. It is also possible to run windows under Fedora or Ubuntu inside a Virtual Machine, although that kind of setup requires high end hardware and in most cases offers degraded performance and very poor virtual 3D hardware not suitable for games or 3D apps.

I plan to expand on WINE and Virtualization in a future post, this is meant to be a fairly brief intro, the forums are not very well suited to a giant post.

Comments, suggestions and corrections are always welcome.

This was written at 2am so please be kind :)
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More about guide choosing linux v2009
  1. Great suggestions geeky :)

    Windows users should dual boot initially and keep an open mind.

    The other important distinction is the use of package managers for software installation. To install software from your distribution all you have to do is run the software package manager either using various GUIs or a CLI interface and you essentially tell the package manager to go fetch whatever it is you want to install.

    The package manager then goes out finds a software mirror, downloads the software, verifies the download and then installs the software for you.



    apt-get install openarena

    yum install glest

    yum install warzone2100

    yum remove warzone2100

    apt-get is used mostly on Debian based distributions.

    yum is used on redhat based distributions.

    On a yum based distro yum update will update all software on your system to the latest available version, there is no need to download 200 patches from microsoft and you don't have to reboot 20 times in the process either :D

    On most Linux distributions, except Ubuntu, you can install, uninstall, re-install and update the software packages from your distribution's software repositories without having to reboot a single time, with the exception of kernel upgrades.
  2. For me, on advice from a friend, I tried Kubuntu. I actually hated the KDE environment but liked the install process and the general help available in the ubuntu forums, so I gave Ubuntu (GNome) a try and have been hooked ever since. I want experience with other distros but I haven't gotten around to messing with any yet.
  3. Bump!
  4. Recommendations for the most commercially used?? I've had a break from Linux and whilst buntu appeals I'd like to sink my teeth into something with commercial (work related) possibilities. Fedora? It seems to be edging ahead and as I understood was a good way to gain exposure to what Red Hat will be running in the medium term.
  5. Yea I have Fedora 11 and I'm interested to give it a run when I get a chance. It was odd being asked for a root password upon installation since *buntu derivatives don't and that's what I'm used to. Can't remember about Mandriva, but I've got the DVD for that as well.
  6. IIRC RedHat has done that for 15 years ( root password ). As of Fedora 11 I think they force you to create a user account during the first boot, in previous versions it was recommended but optional.
  7. This topic has been sticky in top of the forum by Randomizer
  8. If you do decide to add a virtualization section, I'd be happy to contribute.

    I have Macintosh and Windows computers. (Don't condemn me, I'm a gamer that likes Pages)

    Anything to help Linux users.
  9. Quote:
    IIRC RedHat has done that for 15 years ( root password ). As of Fedora 11 I think they force you to create a user account during the first boot, in previous versions it was recommended but optional.

    So this is one of the features that I really liked about Fedora. When I started out, it lets you configure quite a bit up front including root user, regular users, which packages to install, etc. etc. The first time I used ubuntu, it seemed very limited by comparison as there is very little choice in what is installed. Then again, the ubuntu disk is also merely one CD whereas Fedora is typically a DVD that has everything you could possibly want.

    Don't get me wrong, Ubuntu is a great distribution, and it worked fine for the year that I used it, but I am very glad that Fedora was my first distro. It gave me enough choice to become more familiar with the system without being overwhelming.

    Audiovoodoo mentioned something about commercially deployed Linux distros, to which I would respond that Fedora would be similar to any Red Hat offerings seeing as how they are the distro sponsored by Red Hat. Something much more in line with RedHat would be CentOS, and then finally, if I remember correctly, I believe Oracle may have its own RedHat derived Linux, so those could all be worth taking a peek at.

    Question: Should I even bother mentioning Arch and Gentoo here? Or is it just going to be assumed that if somebody is advanced enough to use them, they probably don't need this guide?
  10. Most companies that sell servers offer Debian, CentOS, RHEL, Ubuntu, Fedora and some SuSE.

    Anyone that knows Arch or Gentoo is more qualified to write a guide like this than I am ;) :lol:

  11. Hah! You give your self WAY too little credit! I think there are very few around here who don't know who the REAL forum guru is around here, and for those who don't know, his name starts with an "L" and ends with a "0"...

    Besides, that was a trick statement you made seeing as how you told me you've used Gentoo in the past ;)

  12. My god! A Gentoo user that's not trying to convince me it's so easy to install my granny could do it... :p

    Honestly, iv'e tried a few times and never got much further than the chroot of a stage 1 install... :(
  13. Stage 1! Wow! Stage 1 is really only recommended for Gentoo developers, or the incredibly hard core. When I did my installation, it was a Stage 3 install starting from their LiveCD. Honestly, it wasn't so incredibly difficult like I thought it would be, but then again I'd already had 2 years of Linux training under my belt by then. It was easier than I thought it would be, but installing Fedora or Ubuntu or OpenSUSE was several orders of magnitude easier/faster. In Gentoo's defence, I will say that when I messed things up, it was not a catastrophe. In fact, one of the features I really like is how easy it is to fix things (as well as how helpful the documentation is and the kind people over at #gentoo on FreeNode).

    Anyways, sorry to hijack the thread. My recommendation for newbies who want to learn Linux and aren't afraid of a little configuration (but don't want to dive into the deep end immediately) is to use Fedora Linux!

  14. Stage1? :-| I tried a Stage 0 install once, it didn't go well.

    Just kidding ;)

    I second Zorak's suggestion Fedora is sweet :) Great distro to get started with.

    I still recommend both Fedora and Ubuntu, if one annoys you, you can just reboot :)
  15. Fedora is next on my list of distros to try. I've tried many distros but all are *buntu derivatives. I have both Mandriva and Fedora next up.
  16. any one here try linux from scratch
  17. I believe Zorak is running Gentoo. I don't remember anyone here using LFS.

  18. well, i'll tell you that it wasn't too fun for me, the arch install that i used to create it was easy though
  19. mindless728 said:
    any one here try linux from scratch
    Yep. It's educational but, to be honest, it's too much like hard work for your main install. Gentoo is your thing if you want full control but with a tested distro. But if you really want to learn a lot about Linux have a go at LFS on the side.

    (BTW, with reference to an earlier post, I'm no-one's Grannie, but I am a Grandpa!)
  20. oh, i learned a lot from LFS, but it wasn't exactly fun
  21. Education is a tough process.
  22. Linux and *BSD are great learning tools.

    The man and info pages alone contain a wealth of information.
  23. yup, i usually just run ubuntu now though since i don't feel like building it from the ground up anymore though
    sometimes i will do an arch install
  24. I used this link for choosing my distro, Ubuntu was a complete no no from the get go for me

    Finally settled with Fedora 11 KDE :)
  25. Good site! For me it chose Slackware (no thanks, but it was the first distro that I installed, years ago, from a pile of floppy disks) and Gentoo (good choice!).
  26. For me it always gives me a huge list of all the major distros. Not much more help than going to distrowatch and randomly picking one.
  27. Same here... only that it recommended against my favourite distro, fedora.
  28. Not enough experience?
  29. Hehe, apparently.
  30. I would say that OpenSUSE has my vote as the most desirable distro for both newbies and advanced users.

    It was my first distro i used and by far my favourite: SaX2 is one heck of a powerful tool to force out a GUI when xorg refuses to play nice with certain graphics hardware. And on the whole, i tend to find openSUSE more feature-complete than any other distribution like the *buntus, Fedora or Mandriva.

    The zypper package manager is also a good piece of software. i mean, there must be a very good reason why ArchLinux is adopting zypper as its package manager.

    And personally, i think Novell's little agreement with Microsoft can only mean good thing for the end user. Somehow, I tend to get lesser driver issues in OpenSUSE as opposed to other distros.

    But that does not stop me from tri-booting OpenSUSE 11.1, Fedora 10 and Mandriva 2009.0 ;)
  31. I took that distro choosing test just to see what would pop up for me, and I got Gentoo and Slackware. I suppose knowing what I do, it isn't quite fair because I had an idea more or less what answers would result in what distribution recommendations. Then again, I wasn't really trying to pick a distro, so I suppose it doesn't really matter. In any case, it seemed like a pretty useful tool, so thanks for sharing it!

    In terms of Linux From Scratch, I think I am going to skip that step in my computer knowledge quest and move to something even more ambitious. When I started my engineering co-op job, I decided that over the next few years, as a side project I would create an entirely custom computing platform. I am doing this with the idea that if I can design an entire personal computing system from scratch, that I'd be able to really say that I understand what is going on inside a computer.

    To that end, I will be creating my own custom ISA and implementing the processor on an FPGA using either verilog or VHDL. I'll have to make my own memory interface, keyboard controller, and VGA controller. The intent is to have a system that is 100% my own and that you can actually boot up and interact with using a keyboard and monitor. On the software side, I'll get to write my own operating system and my own C compiler. I could port GCC, but I think that would take some of the fun out of it!

    Anyways, I figure this would be a good way to put my Computer Engineering knowledge into practice and would be pretty fun, to boot. I could even document the whole experience and perhaps help anyone who wants to understand at a fundamental level what is going on inside a computer. This system won't be super fancy (command-line only), but if anyone here will still be interested in a few years, I'd be willing to provide all the source.

    I am aware this is a huge undertaking for just one guy, but I figure that if I do it for fun, it won't be too bad, and by the time I am done I will really be able to say that I know my stuff. Besides, I think it can be a pretty powerful feeling knowing that something is 100% your own.

  32. Now that's what I call ambitious! I've tried writing my own OS, and that's hard enough.

    But, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Without people crazy enough to attempt this sort of thing where would we be? The very best of luck with your project.
  33. Think what it will look like on your resume!
  34. That's an awesome idea! Documentation would be wonderful :) I know I'd read all of it!
  35. Wow.. now that's a project. What sort of thing are you thinking of implementing? I know that has much of the SparcT1 available but there are no end of RISC options out there that can be built on FPGA. Whilst not wishing to scale down your ambitions perhaps interfacing an FPGA to an existing SoC solution might be a way to get things moving.

    If you want a bit of inspiration then take a look at this:

    Homebrewed CPU Is a Beautiful Mess of Wires -

    Steve Chamberlin
  36. :D Thanks for the positive feedback guys! I think I am going to make a 16-bit ISA as that is small enough to be manageable, yet big enough to support its own OS. I know this is possible because I wrote an RTOS for the Freescale MC9S12 processor last semester, so that will give me a good reference point. Also, one of the projects in my VHDL class this semester is implementing a processor on an FPGA, so I can take the experience I gain there and extend it. Additionally, I already have all the verilog source that I made for a kogge-stone high speed adder (that just so happens to be 16 bits wide) for a VLSI class that I took, so that is another thing in favor of a 16-bit architecture.

    I suppose at some point I will want to look at the verilog code sun has posted online to see what a real processor looks like at the verilog level. In any case, it is going to be a while before I have anything to show for my work, but when its done, it is going to be exciting!

  37. Can't wait to see this :D
  38. Kewl! Keep it up!
  39. i cant believe that so many ppl are keen of fedora, i thought the public's choice was ubuntu, on the other hand most users here have good experience that makes them go fedora.

    for me ive tried slackware 11 as my first linux/OS after that fedora was cake. after that i just had to try OPENsuse and ubuntu finally (cos of all the hype).
    finally i set my mind to a dedicated fedora user, i would consider going back to opensuse but from what i remember YAST was too buggy (then i heard of YAST 2)

    anyway, in my honest opinion ubuntu has been slowly and steadily transforming into an OS X-esque type of system that im not comfortable with, even though i know that its just GUI updates and user-friendly add-ons.
  40. Too many people think Linux = Ubuntu, which is bad and an idea that needs to be changed. You see in article comments and forums "Linux sucks, nothing works on it. I had Ubunu installed..." and that's when I know that this person has been confused into thinking that Ubuntu = Linux.
  41. I just use Ubuntu for simplicity. There's drivers, lots of updates, and it's an easy transition from Windows. I am willing to try new Distros, this just seemed like a good place to start (have tried Fedora and OpenSUSE as well).
  42. Well, it is an enthusiast Linux forum.
  43. slackware 64 gets my vote =)
    [yes, I know this was written before slack64 was released... but I just saying]
  44. Linux Mint is my current favorite Distro. I still get to geek out, but my wife can use it too without going crazy. Best of both worlds if you ask me!
  45. Fedora 11 is what I use (64bit, who is still using 32 bit??? Please stop)
  46. Depends on what you're doing, I have Backtrack 4 running, but I'm also doing CEH & CHFI. my first linux distro was Red Hat 4 and Mandrake, I wanted to try both KDE & GNOME, but it's been so long since I've used any linux platform I am a noob again, so Im going to start back with Ubuntu 9 and work my way to Debian....although I recommend OpenSUSE and it's preety graphical and fairly simple to use...
  47. Most Linux distros are very good, Fedora and Ubuntu and their derivatives are arguably the most user friendly.

    The other major distros are not far behind.

    Semper Fi
  48. I am using Ubuntu 9.10 and I want to find good linux alternatives to windows so I don't have to dual boot, or at least not spend so much time on XP
  49. linux_0 said:

    The man and info pages alone contain a wealth of information.

    Well said. I've spent many plane trips just reading through man pages. Writing your own man page is also quite fun :)

    My vote is Fedora. It has come a long way, and I wouldn't trust anything other than it for controlling all 3 TB of my family's data on the raid 5.
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