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Ask Slashdot: What Is the Best Distro For Linux Lessons?

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the throw-them-into-the-deep-end dept.

Linux 319

MBtronics writes "I work at an embedded hardware/software company and we are currently moving all our products for Windows CE to Linux. Our core development team already uses their favorite distro for development, but the rest of the developers are still working on Windows. We are going to give a series of Linux lessons (from 'what is Linux' to installing, using and developing) for everybody in the company who is interested (including non-developers). They will be allowed to choose their own distro, but we will certainly get requests for recommendations. My question to the Slashdot crowd: what distro (and window manager) do you think is the best to teach Linux to the generic public? We are currently thinking of Ubuntu, Fedora or Mint."

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Ubuntu (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39225935)

Ubuntu is the most common, with the most online forums and such... I would recommend that one.

Re:Ubuntu (3, Insightful)

dak664 (1992350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226045)

True if most people will accept the default installation, else the forums will not as much. I think acceptance of the default is more likely in mint at the moment.

Re:Ubuntu (1)

ljgshkg (1223086) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226237)

If you give them a simple guildline of what they can choose from and a walkthrough though, I don't think the forum is of much needed unless there is hardware problem. In which case, they should just contact tech support...

Re:Ubuntu (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226219)

Uh... Mint I think you'll find:

http://distrowatch.com/

Re:Ubuntu (3, Insightful)

aztracker1 (702135) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226805)

I would suggest Mint as well.. if you go for the Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE), after install, and you have gotten your feet wet, it's easy enough to roll over onto the official repositories, or even onto Debian SID, if so desired... beware the change to Debian's Gnome 3 setup though (ugh).

Debian Base (2)

clarkn0va (807617) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226377)

I prefer Ubuntu, but cut my teeth on Debian. You can't beat Debian's package manager, which continues to be used by Ubuntu and other distros in some form or another.

Re:Debian Base (2)

philip.paradis (2580427) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226651)

After a few too many issues with Ubuntu on sizable server deployments, I ran back to Debian.

Re:Debian Base (1)

mikael (484) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226773)

I was a Fedora fan for some time, but the conflict with Nouveau and Nvidia drivers forced me to switch over to Ubuntu permanently.

Re:Ubuntu (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226617)

I would have agreed a couple of years ago, but they've made the same mistake most distros eventually make. They've traded ease of use for appearing "innovative and new" The last time I installed it I spent a few minutes trying to find out how to launch the terminal window, realized that I'd eventually find it but if it was that hard, I just wasn't interested any longer, and switch to a different distro.

I think... (2)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39225947)

I think it would be openSUSE... #germanophilia

Re:I think... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226433)

...Just to piss Linus off, because that's fun to make him rage tweet

(openSUSE 12.1 on my lappy at home)

mac (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39225955)

OS X!

Re:mac (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226249)

an os for cultish, gimp wristed girly boys..

Re:mac (1)

hendrikboom (1001110) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226345)

Nope. It's a Unix, but not a Linux, which the OP requested.

What do you run internally? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39225963)

Why would you teach a different distro than the one you currently run internally?

Re:What do you run internally? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226197)

it sounds like there isn't *only* one that is in use internally ("development team already uses their favorite distro"), which i think is a mistake. they should settle on one, whether it be ubuntu, debian, suse, rhel, or whatever.

for 'general' lessons to other employees that just want to learn linux.. choosing from a list of 2-3 free distros that the teachers are qualified or experienced enough in to teach is fine.

for the general public (which is what the question is for)... stick with ubuntu or maybe suse... free distros with a history of just working right 'out of the box' even if it 'works right' in the 'wrong' way (e.g. gnome 3 or unity) for many people

for education purposes (i.e. in a school.. whether it be grade school, high school, college, or tech school), rhel (or centos on a tight budget) is the way to go. it's the gold standard for enterprise linux, and knowing that will boost a resume for linux-related or linux-using jobs more than something like mint.

Re:What do you run internally? (0, Redundant)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226469)

One of the reasons Windows is popular in companies is that people have it at home and are used to it.

So here's an idea: Use a distribution that you can recommend your people to also use at home.

Your choices are fine, why not lend people 3 DVDs and let them try out -- if they have trouble with the first, they can switch without hassle. No need to nail it down to one.

Re:What do you run internally? (0)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226585)

One of the reason Windows is popular in companies is because they have really bloody good development tools, as well as drag-and-drop widgets/libraries to interface with their "platforms"

This may seem shallow.. (2)

wbr1 (2538558) | more than 2 years ago | (#39225971)

...but why ask a question you already know the answer to? Those are the three I would have picked, and likely for the same reasons. Further, if you are doing lessons, then make sure it is distros you are familiar with enough to help and not fumble around.

Re:This may seem shallow.. (1)

polebridge (517983) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226865)

>why ask a question you already know the answer to
Now we can't tell him to go do his own research and RTFM

Slack! (4, Informative)

Sooner Boomer (96864) | more than 2 years ago | (#39225975)

Slackware for the win!

Re:Slack! (4, Informative)

dakohli (1442929) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226207)

Yes.

I cut my teeth on Slackware 3.5

Back then of course the two most common were Redhat and Slackware.

They used to say "If you run Redhat, you know Redhat. If you run Slackware, you know Linux"

There are no shortcuts with Slackware. The students can learn how and why. Then, once they get the base knowledge, they can move on to easier distros. I don't bother with endless tinkering anymore, I just don't have the time. But the knowledge I picked up when I had to still serves me well.

Re:Slack! (2)

Shifty0x88 (1732980) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226449)

At least the last time I picked up Slackware it was definitely not for beginners...

We are going to give a series of Linux lessons (from 'what is Linux' to installing, using and developing) for everybody in the company who is interested (including non-developers).

If they have non-developers joining in I would say something like Debian, Ubuntu, RHEL, SUSE, something easy, that also looks familiar

If it turns out no non-developers join, then sure Slackware, but most people don't need to know that much just to get Linux to run, heck I doubt very few non-developers could even do a Windows 7 Install which is point-and-click.

I am also going with those distros because it gets you/and the company up and running quickly rather then still figuring out gparted or something.

Re:Slack! (3, Informative)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226749)

I found Gentoo instructive for similar reasons. Painful, but instructive.

Re:Slack! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226871)

Even better - Elks [sourceforge.net]
It's had recent development activity.

640k should be enough for anybody.

MINIX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39225981)

MINIX is the way to go. Microkernels ftw

FreeBSD... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39225991)

nuff said!

Slackware (4, Insightful)

AntEater (16627) | more than 2 years ago | (#39225993)

Slackware is great if you want to learn how Linux works - not how one specific distribution does things for you.

What Is the Best Distro For Linux Lessons? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39225997)

Fedora or Ubuntu!

KDE (4, Interesting)

TheNinjaroach (878876) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226003)

If you're bringing people over from the Windows world, please encourage KDE. It's a pretty good take on the "taskbar w/ a start button" GUI-style and will be immediately familiar to most folks. One word of advice: "Classic Menu Style" for the launcher will help keep things much more traditional.

Re:KDE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226021)

A good KDE distro: openSUSE

Re:KDE (1, Funny)

Higgins_Boson (2569429) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226701)

OpenSUSE has really become a terrible, bloated thing since they decided to go with The Colonel [bit.ly] instead of a Linux Kernel.

Re:KDE (4, Insightful)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226519)

Definitely a good idea to
- first make Windows look like Linux (using Open Source software like Libre/Open Office, etc.)
- then make Linux look like Windows (similar layout/style on the screen, programs available where they were, etc.)
- then later introduce people to the new possibilities. We should learn from the massive Linux transitions e.g. in governments -- some have success/failure stories, and some give "lessons learned" summaries.

Re:KDE (1)

Higgins_Boson (2569429) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226679)

If you're bringing people over from the Windows world, please encourage KDE. It's a pretty good take on the "taskbar w/ a start button" GUI-style and will be immediately familiar to most folks. One word of advice: "Classic Menu Style" for the launcher will help keep things much more traditional.

Why so much hate for the terminal? It's easy to use, hard to look at and drives you insane. All of the things you NEED to be a good developer.

Re:KDE (1)

pinkeen (1804300) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226711)

One word of advice: "Classic Menu Style" for the launcher will help keep things much more traditional.

Yes, because default Windows launcher still looks the same... *sigh*

Even Microsoft finally embraced the idea that the "Classic" launcher is not the most productive design.

Depends what you're trying to teach (5, Interesting)

compro01 (777531) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226009)

If you're trying to teach them to use Linux for general purposes, I'd go with Mint. It passes the Aunt Tilly test with flying colors in my experience.

If you're trying to teach them about Linux and how stuff works, Slackware or Arch would be the choice.

Re:Depends what you're trying to teach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226359)

If you're trying to teach them about Linux and how stuff works, Slackware or Arch would be the choice.

if the how and why is the question to answer there is nothing that can beat linuxfromscratch. the distro is designed to teach about linux and provides an solid base for future knowledge to build upon. learning where to click is often not something that needs to be taught... besides.. interfaces change anyways.

Cheers,
Guido

Re:Depends what you're trying to teach (1)

daihuws (2511154) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226895)

I was going to say Arch on the basis that the ArchWiki is a brilliant resource for learning the ropes of Linux - but it's probably not what you want in an enterprise setting: I wouldn't bet my life & work on a system upgrade not breaking something. On balance, I'd say Debian: not the sexiest distro, but you get to use Gnome 2, each release is supported for a relatively long time, stable & dependable.

CentOS/Fedora (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226015)

In college, the Linux course offered allowed students to use any distro, but the course was taught towards CentOS (because of its stability), but if students will be using laptops, Fedora might be a better choice.

My favorite Window Manager is fluxbox, but I don't think many students would like that, especially coming from Windows. I remember people liking Gnome when making the conversion back then, but that was on Gnome2 (I haven't actually used Gnome3 much at all, so I can't really comment on it).

NetBSD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226025)

I learned the basics of unix on a old latitude laptop that I installed NetBSD onto and then had a friend teach me how to use it. Mostly it was a figure it out sort of thing. The best part of that is you first experience command line and learn to use it and then compile and setup your first GUI and so on and so forth. It was incredibly simple and basic and everything more complex I had to implement myself which is what teaches you everything. Those basic principles are what is important and the comfort with command line is often the first big hurdle to alot of people have with linux. So I would recommend go as simple as possible with a distro that has a super basic install and lots of documentation for you to figure out how to do things with it.

Start with the command line (1)

jiteo (964572) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226029)

Unless you want to teach GNOME, or KDE, or Unity, or Cinnamon, start them off with a command line-only Linux install. At that level, all distros are essentially identical except for package management. And even there, the two big ones, apt and rpm, are different only in their syntax.

Re:Start with the command line (1)

Wolfrider (856) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226705)

--How about Knoppix ? Live-cd, you get the best of both worlds and can access command-line only stuff.

For whom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226033)

Are the lessons for the general public? Or for the developers?

If it is for the general public, stick with an user friendly distribution...Mint, Ubuntu, Mageia.
If it is for your your internal developers, Slackware or Arch. They will pick it up faster than the general public and they should probably learn the intricacies of Linux, which the user friendly distributions shield from you.

Debian (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226037)

Debian ?
very stable, easy to use, alot of support available and available for almost every platform.

Dont kick a sleeping dog. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226041)

I like Puppy Linux. Its easy to install or save and run from a CD. Its very light weight too.

Solve problems once, or over and over? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226063)

If you are paying for their time, a question I would ask is do you want to solve problems once, or over and over with all the permutations of each of your distros and versions?

I would recommend against Fedora unless you want to do fresh installs at least once a year (twice a year to follow each release). I would recommend CentOS (7-10 year install length).

Whichever you go with, I would standardize on a single distro. Then when you run into an issue you solve it once, and not corner cases that each distro have.

It really is like learning/deploying/testing 3-4 flavors of Windows all at once (Win2000, WinXP, Vista, Win7) and that's not even introducing 32bit vs. 64bit issues, and actual distro version differences (EL5.x vs. 6.x, etc.).

Let people dink and learn the Linux distro of their own choice on their own time. Just my two cents.

Re:Solve problems once, or over and over? (1)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226125)

That.

If you're looking for developer distros, pick one that has the developer tools; I'd go with Debian just because it's stable as a rock and about as exciting.

If you're going with end-user eye candy, I'd go with Ubuntu. That way you still have the underlying Debian base with a lot of windows-like fluff.

Slackware (1)

Mr. Lwanga (872401) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226071)

Learn Redhat, know Redhat. Learn Slackware, know Linux.

Slackware indeed (0)

Arker (91948) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226127)

Don't cripple these poor folks by teaching them some deviant flavour that does everything differently. Give them real linux - slackware linux - so they can learn linux - not your pet distro - please.

Re:Slackware indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226243)

What's the difference between Slackware and Linux From Scratch?

Re:Slackware indeed (1)

Arker (91948) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226279)

What's the difference between Slackware and Linux From Scratch?

LFS is more work and easy to screw up.

Re:Slackware indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226577)

Wow. Apparently even lepers have their lepers.

Re:Slackware (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226483)

That assertion is a complete myth promulgated by Slackware users. There's no problem with liking or preferring Slackware, but I learned on Red Hat and can move between Linux distros with ease and do so frequently. Furthermore, you're goal should NOT be to learn Linux, it should be to learn UNIX-like and POSIX.

If... (5, Funny)

AresTheImpaler (570208) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226075)

If you get paid by the hour, then Gentoo is the way to go. Pro-tip: use the slowest machine.

Re:If... (1)

kthreadd (1558445) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226179)

In that case I would go with Linux From Scratch. They should learn from the ground up!

Re:If... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226245)

In order to start from the ground up, they will first need to create the universe.

With apologies to Carl Sagan.

Re:If... (2)

simonbp (412489) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226263)

If you are teaching sysadmins, then yes Gentoo is the way to go. It teaches you very precisely what exactly you need and exactly what you don't. And, it keeps you getting reliant on a particular vendor's special config tools. If you can get and keep a Gentoo system running, you are genuinely distro-agnostic.

Re:If... (2)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226823)

I used to use Gentoo, mostly because it was the only distribution which had a bleeding-edge kernel new enough to handle my TV capture hardware. Happily, the MythTV variant of Ubuntu now does just fine...

Gentoo is good for learning the underlying system though ; the installation manual alone makes you learn a lot.

It depends... (5, Insightful)

ThinkDifferently (853608) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226079)

It really depends on what you're teaching. If you want to teach them an enterprise product, then RHEL/CentOS/Fedora. If you want to teach them a desktop product, then Ubuntu. I know this probably wouldn't be for the poster, but for others who felt comfortable with Windows and would just want to learn basic Linux commands, dare I commit heresy here, might I suggest Cygwin?

Re:It depends... (1)

Digicrat (973598) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226437)

+1

If you just want to teach new developers command-line Unix tools, Cygwin is definitely the way to go. If you just want to give them a taste of Linux, distribute some VMs with a distro of choice on it. I've always preferred Ubuntu as the newbie distro of choice, but I haven't really taken a good look at the current state of distros from that perspective in a while.

Realistically for the average user, once you install the OS for them and choose a desktop environment, the choice of distribution is almost irrelevant. More importantly however, if you suspect you can turn a fair number of users in your company to Linux (and your company is large enough), get a site license for an enterprise-grade version to simplify support and management -- you know 'average' users will be asking questions, so better to standardize where possible.

.... what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226085)

You're migrating to a Linux - teach from that Linux. Or if you have to teach from another, ask what you're teaching. If it's all command-line work it doesn't matter in the slightest. If it's GUI work, then don't waste time with default Ubuntu (Unity will throw people off if they're coming from a Windows paradigm) and don't waste time with GNOME Fedora (GNOME 3 will also throw people off if they're coming from a Windows paradigm). Either use Kubuntu (don't, it's a rubbish KDE distro), put KDE onto Fedora, or go for openSUSE instead which does a nice KDE and is pretty straightforward for Windows users to pick up fast. That way you don't have to teach some esoteric display manager while you're also teaching them about how the OS is different to Windows.

If you have to use one of Ubuntu, Fedora or Mint then I'd recommend Mint; they try a bit harder to make everything a soft landing and give you the option of an interface that isn't shit. Fedora is defiantly bleeding-edge (and GNOME 3 default), and Ubuntu has basically zero advantages over Mint and the disadvantage of Unity.

Re:.... what? (1)

Teun (17872) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226407)

I really wonder why you think Kubuntu is a rubbish KDE distro, I have heard this sentiment before but there's never substantiation.

I've been trying out various KDE distro's myself and the biggest differences have mainly to do with the apt vs. rpm repositories whereby apt is superior.
Additionally the Kubuntuforum.org site combined with the Kubuntu sections of Ubuntuforums.org are among the most helpful places you can find.
KDE is at the moment the most complete/ feature rich/ editable desktop and well integrated desktop around yet light enough for all machines of the last 4-5 years.

When you like your distro pre-cooked yet stable you might want to have a look at Sabayon, the biggest issue I found with it is the compared to (K)Ubuntu limited repositories.

Linux from Scratch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226103)

http://www.linuxfromscratch.org/

That'll learn em.

The absolute best for learning is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226107)

http://www.linuxfromscratch.org/

This is the best for learning. BUT, im not sure this is best for the general population. As a IT person, slackware is responsible for me learning quite a bit. For help with learning from others, the ubuntu commuinity is right up there.

Package managers. Desktop interface. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226111)

Dselect in debian was the most confusing package manager I've ever seen. Still to this date, my friend and I joke about Dselect. I think you should use Debian, and teach them how to use Dselect, I'd join that class...

Seriously though, Fedora is good. I liked it better than Ubuntu. I'd go with SuSE, that is some hardcore shovelware.

Needs assessment? (2)

chaosmind (31621) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226131)

How much time do you have to invest in this project, and how deep does their knowledge need to be?

I learned more from doing a slackware install (back in about '98 or so) then from all my experience with other Linux installs. I've heard people say similar things about Gentoo/Portage, so YMMV, but a distro that more or less forces people to do things by hand will both teach them, and teach them respect for, the system. You mention two systems that use apt, and one that uses rpm... Pick one architecture, your IT staff will thank you later.

You may simply want to give them an up-to-date Ubuntu (or Mint) that has several window manager/desktop environments installed, and let them experience the different UI flavors available... assuming that your company hasn't made the decision already. As someone else not-so-shallowly pointed out, you should have made a decision already, so train them on the distro your core dev team is using! Seriously, there are major support implications of allowing joe user to run off the flavor-of-the-month they just downloaded on a whim from distrowatch...

Re:Needs assessment? (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226795)

That depends how much learning you want to do. I'm a hardcore Gentoo fan, not because the source is more easily accessible, but because its package manager makes sense to me, as a developer.
- It asks me when it's about to do something important, like updating config files or replacing core system tools.
- It lets me choose which features to build into each package, rather than shoving a preconfigured binary down my throat.
- It offers timely updates if I want to install them.
- It shows which patches are applied, and often adds Gentoo-specific functionality or comforts that aren't in the upstream package for whatever reason.

Even though Gentoo is entirely built from source, I hardly ever need to actually touch the source. Less so than with a binary distro like RHEL/CentOS or Ubuntu, where if I'm not happy with the prebuilt package or want to apply a custom patch, I have to jump through hoops to get their tweaked sources, edit them directly and then rebuild in a way that appeases the package manager.

Portage is not without its flaws, sometimes it can break your system, or confuse you with circular conflicts, but once you understand how to address these simple problems it is a godsend. I run Gentoo on my production servers, because it lets me install whatever the hell I want.

You might get really busy... (1)

erat123 (1114479) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226139)

If you let each person decide which distro they want, that could get ugly from a sys admin standpoint. But it really depends on the size of your company. If it were me in your shoes, I would lean towards stability. I would probably go with CentOS. I prefer KDE myself, but back when I made the jump from Windows to Linux, I started with Gnome because I thought it was cleaner and better organized. If they want a little more polish, I would consider Mint.

Fletch LIVES! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226145)

Molesting a dead horse Linux, version 1.0

CentOS (2)

firefrei (2569069) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226149)

I'd go with CentOS.

It's not primarily a mainstream desktop Linux distro but you're in a work environment dealing with a embedded Windows -> Linux transition, so it doesn't matter. For this reason you don't have to deal with the bullshit UI fucking around that seems to be going on in the Linux ecosystem right now, plus it's a very stable and clean distro given its relationship with RHEL. It's our distro of choice for our VME single-board computers.

I despise Linux on the desktop at home but at work, for our embedded work, I haven't found anything that works better or more reliably (and still remains free).

Mint 11 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226153)

Mint 11. Nothing newer.

There are a lot of answers.. (2)

erktrek (473476) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226173)

I think it depends on exactly what you want to teach your general public. If you want to go down and dirty with installation & good documentation then maybe something like "gentoo" (or it's derivatives).

Otherwise if you just want to familiarize them with a basic gui interface similar to what they're used to and also simple maybe try something like Lubuntu or Xubuntu? Ubuntu's Unity may be too radical a departure for this (yet).

Mint is cool but stability might be a concern depending on the flavor especially if you want the old-school gnome paradigm.

Just my 2 cents..

Debian. And KDE. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226209)

I use Ubuntu and TinyCore at work, and Debian with KDE at home.

I think the real issue is not the distro, so much, as desktop environment. Gnome is for people who really aren't too familiar with Linux, IMO. It hides much of the complexity/functionality to provide a simplified interface. KDE provides a lot more control, at the expense of simplicity. There's others, like Unity (which I despise). I'm not conversant with most of them, so, unlike many of my brethren here, I'll refrain from commenting on them.

Of the two, I prefer KDE. I can set a system up the way I want it to work easily enough. At work we use Ubuntu/Gnome. I do not like it at all - clumsy in the way it handles multiple desktops, for one thing.

That said, if you do want to go KDE, Ubuntu seems to be moving away from KDE, so you may not want to go Ubuntu.

Now, as to distro, Debian has a reputation for being stodgy, and never releasing anything in a timely manner. OTOH, their stable releases are rock solid. IIRC, Ubuntu has a direct relationship with Debian's unstable version.

Finally, I prefer Debian's attitude towards separating free as-in-beer software from free-as-in-speech software. It matters to me, it may not matter to you.

FreeBSD (3, Interesting)

Barefoot Monkey (1657313) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226211)

Maybe it's not the kind of answer you were expecting, but FreeBSD is great example for teaching how operating systems work. It's not very different from Linux but is very simple and clean despite doing little to hide its inner workings.

umm (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226233)

"They will be allowed to choose their own distro,"
don't do that, it's going to be a nightmare.

What do you want to teach (1)

Intropy (2009018) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226235)

Your audience is programmers, so highly technical is not an issue. So what do intend to teach? How does Linux work, how is it organized, what is its structure? Gentoo stage 0. How do I use the new system you're making me use? Whatever all of your tools best supports, or if that's not a concern just go with the popular Ubuntu.

only one correct answer (2)

maestroX (1061960) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226255)

None.
You don't administer the machines as everyone uses their favorite distro, it is not your responsibility.
If you give developers a choice for platform, anything will do as long as they accomplish what they are hired for. Linux distros are a matter of taste, each with benefits and downsides. Choosing is part of the experience.

Slackware. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226259)

I had to teach a short intro to Linux course in college while I was a student, as the CIS instructors had NO Linux experience whatsoever, and they wanted to expand their knowledge as well as the students (strange enough, I was the only student who had Linux experience - I had been using it since Junior High). I used both Slackware and Redhat at the time, but this was about 7 or 8 years ago. My primary recommendation would be Slackware for core fundamentals; have everybody go through a Slackware install, setting up X, and installing a number of apps and getting used to working with Linux in general. Then, let them research the distributions and have them pick one, doing a little hands-on help where needed, assuming the staff isn't too large.

As far as WMs go, KDE or Gnome are common enough to work. Make sure, if you're using Slackware, that they are manually building it, as that's something they'll need to know. You could also go with some slimmer stuff, but using something more "full featured" will give them a much better idea of the intricacies of utilizing and configuring software (not to mention deps, deps, deps!)

Which one do you use to deliver product? (1)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226261)

It sounds like you may be using an embedded Linux for your products.

If so, you should be using the distribution that most closely resembles your delivery systems, rather than letting users pick whatever they want.

In fact, I can't imagine ever allowing users and developers in any department I'd be managing to choose whatever distribution or operating system they want. Corporate standards are there so that maintenance and integration are manageable issues, and the differences between some distributions are just far too great. Unless there is a documented and known reason for diverging from the norm, it's just far too expensive to expect the support department and team to learn about everyone's favourite platform or distro.

The "right to choose" stops at the point where it becomes an expense to maintain and support.

I'd give serious consideration to a corporate standard desktop for similar reasons, though I realize that may well be as futile as trying to pick a text editor. (vi! emacs! eclipse! And much snarling and gnashing of teeth for years on end if anyone loses the battle.)

Debian+openbox+thunar (1)

resignator (670173) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226277)

You simply cannot go wrong with Debian, openbox WM, and a lightweight file manager like thunar. Fast, easy to use, access to the entire Debian repository for software, and great user support.

I also highly recommend Crunchbang (a lightweight Debian based distro). No need to even install Crunchbang to learn the OS...just boot off the live CD and tinker away.

Wide range presented (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226293)

The three mentioned in the original post are quite popular, but they have wildly different interfaces. Fedora comes with GNOME Shell, Mint with their classic-style GNOME and Ubuntu has Unity. Those interfaces are so radically different from each other I have to wonder what the poster is trying to accomplish. Assuming they just want to introduce Linux to the non-techies at the company and have them make a smooth transition from another operating system I'd say Mint is the obvious choice of the three. It has a nice, classic look which should be passingly familiar to people coming from Windows and OS X backgrounds. Fedora and Ubuntu both feature desktop environments not found elsewhere (or in very few distros) so they make poor demo distributions.

Debian, maybe Centos 6 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226299)

I recently asked myself the same question. Setting a very small lab for new computer users, using some version of Linux. Everyone just assumed I would use Ubuntu, but I've tried a couple of times to use Unity and that is definately not working for me. Not ready to teach people using the Unity or Gnome 3 desktops yet. Although if forced to would clearly take Gnome 3, which is fine even if it does need a bit more work.

  Due to one piece of software that was packaged up nicely on Debian, (openshot video editor) that we are going to use, Debian was the clear solution in our case. Of course yours is different. I would have preferred to use Centos 6, which has a longer and more predicatable life span but getting that program running lead me to dependency hell.

The stable Gnome 2 desktop on Squeeze was the main factor, and knowing I won't have to face a major upgrade for at least two years.

Xubuntu or Lubuntu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226333)

They're pretty lightweight and reliable versions of Ubuntu without the annoyance of Unity or poor display support.

And a book (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226339)

Essential System Administration from O' Reilly.

Decide on a single distro before you begin (2)

Marrow (195242) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226351)

A mis-mash of various distros inhouse will make backups and other admin tasks more complicated. Choose a distro+version and then mandate its use throughout the company. Backups, package management, user management are all different between distos.
If you are putting your products on a specific type of linux (embedded), then use a close relative of it.
I do not recommend Ubuntu variants for learning. Fedora would be better. Dont forget to learn about GPL if you are embedding!

Debian (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226361)

Debian, it's the predominate base distro from which other distros are derived. RH or CentOS if you are in an environment which you have to support that closed confining distribution family.

Speaking as a teacher (2)

midtowng (2541986) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226399)

I use Edubuntu. Of course I realize that I'm talking about a classroom with kids, and that probably isn't your situation. But the amount of learning utilities and games with Edubuntu can't be beat anywhere else that I've found.

Obvious... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226401)

Troll question is obvious.

Slackware! (2)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226439)

if you learn to use Debian you learn Debian, if you learn to use Fedora you learn Fedora, but if you learn to use Slackware you learn Linux

CentOS or *BSD (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226445)

Forget about Ubuntu. It may be big, energetic and popular, but one thing it is not is "industry standards" focused.

CentOS (or RHEL) is based largely on the same old notions and ideas that the earliest Unixes have been based on forever.

If you want to teach *NIX, then start with where it is most "normalized" and perhaps later show where it varies and deviates. Don't start with a unique, deviated and/or customized Linux like Ubuntu or even anything Debian based. It's just too different.

smart move (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226451)

Smart move - moving to Linux.

PCLinuxOS Mini (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39226459)

I highly recommend PCLinuxOS Mini as the base system and then add the necessary development tools afterwards. This way the developers have a KDE desktop for mundane office productivity tasks without a significant footprint on the computer. The command-line is easily accessible via Konsole and the development toolchain either accessible via command-line or within an IDE on the desktop.

as many as is possible (2)

burne (686114) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226547)

based on my current experience:

at least three linux flavours, at least two BSD flavours, and add in an additional 'classic' UNIX, like Solaris, IRIX, AIX, True64 or HP/UX, and don't forget OS-X.

focus on the differences, not on the similarities. Genetic differentiation is what counts, not the similarities.

'Distro-agnosicm' is what counts.

XUBUNTU (2)

scottbomb (1290580) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226659)

Notice the "X" in front. Not Ubuntu - but Xubuntu. The US resembles Windows more than any other. It's highly customizable too, and you don't need to do a bunch of command line hacks to make it happen.

Re:XUBUNTU (1)

koan (80826) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226709)

Yeah sure keep reminding them about Windows, the standard Ubuntu is fine and very easy to use.

Ubuntu (1)

koan (80826) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226693)

Ubuntu

For teaching debian packaging -- debian unstable. (1)

anwyn (266338) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226755)

If you want to get or learn how to get you package into ubuntu, the best way is to get it into debian and let it percholate in. To get your package into debian, you must first get your package into debian unstable. This requires a debian unstable environment. You can virtualize your way in if you want to.

Debian unstable is not that unstable, most of it works most of the time. It is the source of ubuntu.

There are some people that run debian unstable as their primary environment.

Any distro will do. (1)

winspear (2504164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226777)

To teach Linux lessons, all you need is the terminal which is available in all distros. I am not sure why all this fuss about distros.

Wrong Question. It should be "how many to show?" (1)

recrudescence (1383489) | more than 2 years ago | (#39226843)

One of the main reasons friends of mine are reserved about trying linux in the first place, is because they don't understand exactly WHY there are so many different distributions out there. I'd start by answering why that is:

- Show them one or two distributions that are noob friendly enough but do things differently, such as fedora vs ubuntu vs mint, to show what the differences between distributions might be (and more importantly, what the similarities are).

- Then show them that whichever system you end up with, the UI is a component, and not integral to the system. Run mint with KDE / Gnome / XFCE to show this

- Then show them the terminal. Show them there is nothing mysterious about terminal code, this is how all programs are run, at least in the background, and how it can actually save you time. Show them how easy it is to write a simple script.

- Show them that in principle you could be using the terminal all the time in windows in the exact way outlined above, so this isn't some sort of dark linux way of doing things. Except that the default terminal in Windows is shit.

- Now show the more advanced stuff, just as a reference. Give a tour of a source-based system, like Gentoo. Give a tour of a "pure-linux" system like Slackware. Explain why some might prefer it. Show them how they might go about running a non-distro-specific tar.gz binary. Show them how a program might be compiled (i.e. what everybody thinks they'll be doing when they hear the word linux), and that while this used to be the default way of install stuff on linux 10-20 years ago, package management has now solved this problem, and installing things on linux is now a lot easier than any other OS. Explain why going for a more automated system is better for your newbies at this stage, but in the end it's all the same.

- As a point of pride, show them that linux is cutting edge stuff, and how some of the things that are now commonplace in linux have only made their way into mainstream systems relatively recently. Show them synaptic, and how it predated app-stores. Show them multiple desktops and how they predated iPhone/Android sliding desktops. Show them 3D cube / compiz effects, and how it beats all other supposedly flashy systems out there, if that's what you'd want (yet linux users will still opt for the console once getting used to it, because it is that. much. better.)

- Also as a point of pride, show them how open-source can be "as good as, if not better", in general, beyond the 'operating system' side of things. Show them things they may already have come across, such as Firefox, OpenOffice, VLC (make a point of vlc playing an obscure file they'd need to pay codecs for on their precious mac / windows media players - I'd recommend downloading a .webm youtube clip for this), etc. Make the case for Linux as open-source.

- Then explain which distro the company is imposing company-wide and why.

The above could be an introductory session / tour, and in principle shouldn't take more than a couple of hours. Then follow this session up with showing them specifically how stuff gets done in the distro your company has selected for whatever reason.

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