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Beginner's Guide to Linux Distros

Zonk posted more than 9 years ago | from the pick-your-poison dept.

Linux 409

Martin writes "TipMonkies has a nice overview of various Linux distros for those of you with little time to research each distro yourself. The article also discusses some of the advantages/disadvantages of each distro." From the article: "SUSE- The 'U' is hard and the 'E' is soft. Almost like the word sue with an S on the end. SUSE is the other big commercial distro. It was when it was still it's own company in Germany, and now even bigger since being purchased by Novell."

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finally... (0, Redundant)

reiggin (646111) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854168)

great breakdown and very informative... much needed for newbs.

Re:finally... (5, Insightful)

rmm4pi8 (680224) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854305)

Do "newbs" know what HAL or curses are or even necessarily the differences between KDE and GNOME? His use of terminology would be baffling if I didn't know a fair amount about Linux.

Re:finally... (4, Insightful)

The Snowman (116231) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854478)

Do "newbs" know what HAL or curses are or even necessarily the differences between KDE and GNOME? His use of terminology would be baffling if I didn't know a fair amount about Linux.

I agree. At the very least, he could have provided links to pages describing what these terms mean, or even a short blurb at the beginning of the article. There is much more to Linux than the distro, even for people that do not stray from the confines of the installation CDs. For example, I use Mandriva 2005. Just off the CDs, I have a choice between 8 or 9 desktops, at least 4 email clients, several web browsers, and of course the choice to run in X or the CLI where ncurses becomes an important term to know.

However, I still think this article does a good job. It talks in more abstract terms that do not overwhelm the new Linux user, while providing enough guidance that the user can narrow his search to two or three distributions. This is essential given that too many choices can overwhelm users, and most new users are used to having only one or two choices (e.g. Windows or MacOS).

This just in.. (1)

Fecal Troll Matter (445929) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854479)


more on this as it develops...

Problems regarding accounts or comment posting should be sent to CowboyNeal.Problems regarding accounts or comment posting should be sent to CowboyNeal.Problems regarding accounts or comment posting should be sent to CowboyNeal.

SUSE (0, Flamebait)

XanC (644172) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854172)

What a dumb name. Even worse than "Debian." At least that one's pronounceable.

Re:SUSE (3, Insightful)

mvdw (613057) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854180)

Pronounceable... interesting concept that. One would think that if pronounceability was a major concern then one would choose a slashdot ident with that property...

Re:SUSE (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854192)

I'm not marketing my Slashdot name to PHBs. Although I wonder if that's been tried...

Re:SUSE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12854190)

Doesn't sound like two girls having sex either.

Slackware (2, Insightful)

big_groo (237634) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854174)

Learn to do things without pretty GUIs. That's the best way to learn. Learn how your system works. LFS is good, but overkill, IMHO.

Re:Slackware (5, Insightful)

Pros_n_Cons (535669) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854223)

Learn to do things without pretty GUIs . That's the best way to learn

I'm still learning when using a GUI, I'm just learning how to do a task without reading a manpage.

Re:Slackware (4, Informative)

JabberWokky (19442) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854277)

In Konqueror, you can use man:ls style URLs. Or simply a url of the form '#command'. For KDE commands, you can also open a tutorial by using a URL like help:knotes. Like all KDE extended URLs, they can be used virtually everywhere in KDE - try hitting alt-F2, and then type "man:ls". No need to ever use the mouse.


But people don't want to learn. (4, Insightful)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854264)

Most people aren't interested in learning how to not use a GUI. They want to check their email. They want to browse the web. They want to pay their bills online. They want to track their spreadsheet. But most of all, they want to do such things easily and efficiently. That's why GUI-based systems like Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows are so popular.

Re:Slackware (1)

Pros_n_Cons (535669) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854283)

Fedora is a "GUI distro" why do people think if there is a GUI scripting or CLI commands are not allowed? For every system-config* tool Fedora has there is an ncurses app, or file you can edit with VI that is compatible.
When someone says CLI is more powerfull what they are really saying is, my favorite distro doesn't have a GUI for everything yet. Look guys, we all use the same apps, just some of us have the _OPTION_ of using a GUI to configure it. It doesn't make us less intelligent than you.

Re:Slackware (0)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854440)

For all intents and purposes, an ncurses interface is a GUI, it's just not as pretty as you might want. A true command line interface doesn't have buttons or checkboxes or lists. The CLI promotes learning because you must read the manpage, you must learn *what* is going on.

I'm an old fart, so remember a world most of you can never imagine. But there used to be a time when it was routine for an automobile owner to change his own oil, turn his own engine, and replace his own belts. Really, it's true, look it up in your history books. People who owned timing lights weren't considered geeks. There's weren't hordes of Microsoft and Apple users ridiculing those who knew how to fix their own cars.

But today with computers some of you act as if everlasting world peace would immediately ensue if we could only banish the command line or weld the car's hood shut. Not every user needs to learn the command line, but neither should it be forbidden knowledge.

Re:Slackware (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12854284)

"Learn to do things without pretty GUIs."

In Linux using pretty GUIs isn't just a bad idea, it's impossible.

Re:Slackware (4, Insightful)

rampant mac (561036) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854315)

"Learn to do things without pretty GUIs. That's the best way to learn."


I can't wait for your reply...

Re:Slackware (2, Insightful)

big_groo (237634) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854368)

"Learn to do things without pretty GUIs. That's the best way to learn."
I can't wait for your reply...

What if there is no GUI? Not all servers have a 'Start' button...

Re:Slackware (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12854378)

This guide is for beginners. How many beginners do you know that are going to be setting up servers?

Re:Slackware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12854381)

what if you don't plan on running a server? i've used linux for about 4 years now, and only once or twice have i had to resort to the command line to fix a problem with no GUI. and that was when i used gentoo and fucked things up myself.

Re:Slackware (5, Insightful)

barc0001 (173002) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854420)

Not all people need servers either...

If you RTFM, it sounds like this is more geared towards people using it on a desktop.

And it's that kind of zealotry that puts people off trying linux. You may be thinking you're helping, but what the average non-tech geek hears from a statement is this:

"Learn to do it without a GUI. Only stupid people need GUIs"

Now, like I say, that's not what you mean to say, but that's how "Learn to do things without pretty GUIs. That's the best way to learn." will be interpreted by a fair percentage of non tech people.

Re:Slackware (0)

poopie (35416) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854399)

Learning to do things without pretty GUIs means that you have skills that are much in demand and you can get a job. That's why.

Re:Slackware (2, Informative)

kbranch (762946) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854406)

Because sometimes it's just the best way to do something. I always keep at least one terminal window open, so if I want to find a file I just switch to it and type 'locate file'. In Windows, you'd have to click Start->Find->Files, then beat the clippy equivalent into submission, and then type in your search term.

The same is true of most Start Button based things. If I want to install a new program, I just type 'emerge package'. Want to start an app? Just type the name. Check for wireless? 'iwlist scanning'. Obviously you have to have gotten used to the CLI and memorized the commands, but it's much easier for many things once you do.

There are some things that a GUI is better suited for (browsing, word processing, etc), but the CLI is just the easiest way to do a huge number of things.

Re:Slackware (2, Interesting)

norminator (784674) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854470)

In Windows, you'd have to click Start->Find->Files, then beat the clippy equivalent into submission, and then type in your search term.

How about "WindowsKey + F"? The first time in, turn off the stupid puppy, and set up the options the correct way, then a search is always just a WindowsKey+F away. No, I don't think the Windows search is all that great, but it's not that complicated or difficult to get to, either. You don't even have to switch to a terminal window. It's easier for people to learn a few keyboard shortcuts than to learn to understand a CLI. I'm not saying the GUI is better, but it's simpler for most people out there. For power users, there's CLI.

Re:Slackware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12854408)

Ummmm... because it's fun. Isn't that why we all started using linux in the first place.

Re:Slackware (2, Insightful)

mattdm (1931) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854410)

"Learn to do things without pretty GUIs. That's the best way to learn."

I can't wait for your reply...

Because a GUI only allows you to do tasks which the GUI designer thought to create a button for. The *nix command-line interface, with its "everything is a file" plus "tools do one small thing and do it well" design priciples, provides a rich environment where you can do almost anything you can imagine -- including shooting yourself in both feet. But *that's* very educational, and since it's only a metaphor, not really so bad.

Re:Slackware (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12854476)

"Because a GUI only allows you to do tasks which the GUI designer thought to create a button for."

Because with a command line you can execute commands that the designer didn't think of creating a command for?

You can create inadequate command line tools just like inadequate GUI tools. The interface used doesn't dictate the coverage.

Re:Slackware (2, Insightful)

Speare (84249) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854412)

If you learn how to do something at the command-line level, you also learn how to automate doing things at the command-line level. A simple program is just a list of commands to be performed. Few things that are GUI-driven support any notion of automation. You become a slave to the mouse wasting time shoving around widgets, instead of the computer being a slave to perform your bidding.

Re:Slackware (1)

aussersterne (212916) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854416)

Becuase users are already familiar with pretty GUIs, and the things that they always need help with are outside of pretty GUIs.

Therefore, when they just use the pretty GUI, they don't actually learn anything, whereas when they struggle to use the command line and eventually master it, they have learned something.


Re:Slackware (3, Insightful)

poofyhairguy82 (635386) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854426)


I'll tell you why I like the commandline: I can copy lines of commands that I don't understand off webpages and fix problems in Linux without having to read a bunch of GUIs.

I yeah....I guess I don't learn anything. You're right!

Re:Slackware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12854395)

If that's your webpage, I do happen to see a Mac on that desktop.. :-)

Re:Slackware (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12854398)

Learn to do things without pretty keyboards and monitors: use punch cards. That's the best way to learn. Learn how your system works. LFS is good, but overkill, IMNSHO.

Re:Slackware (1)

Tanmi-Daiow (802793) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854434)

I agree totally. I took this approach when learning linux. I started on fedora, but didnt like it. Then i switched over to Slack 10.1 and i love it. It has taught me so much about linux. My friend got Suse and alls he knows is what the GUI does. When i talk about compiling stuff, he always ask how because he has become so spoiled with the YaST.

Re:Slackware (1)

brentl (808343) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854443)

I used to use Slackware, and I learnt a lot about how a Linux system works. But I've moved to Kubuntu now. I don't regret the time I spent using Slack, but the fact is these days I just don't want to look through man pages and web sites to find out how to configure my system. I'm still using Linux, I still want some control over my system and I'm still willing to spend a bit of time to do it. But there's a certain point where it's just too much effort for the result.

Now if you want to spend time learning how the system works and configuring it to your exact tastes, that's fine. But I think you need accept that most other people don't. Some people have less time spare, some people just don't understand computers as quickly. You need to understand that people are different, not worse, just different.

Technology should supplement your life, it should make your life easier. People shouldn't have to understand how the system works just to browse the net or play games. Don't think your better just because you choose to. Yes it's important to learn new things but there's a lot more to the world than Linux.

Note: This rant isn't directed at you personally, it's aimed at all the pretentious geeks across the internet. Actually, not just geeks, everyone. It's OK to have extensive knowledge on a subject, but don't look down on people that are different to you.

Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12854177)

Well, finally someone explained which one is for you. I guess jwz had big problem with that in all his Linux exploits

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12854322)

jwz has trouble with EVERYTHING. He can't take a shit in the morning without complaining about some aspect of the experience. World's youngest curmudgeon.

a good resource (1)

udderly (890305) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854184)

I use Linux and there's some fairly major distros that I don't know that much about. The article seems fairly free from hype and bias. That's the kind of thing I really appreciate.

Re:a good resource (1)

rmm4pi8 (680224) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854329)

But it doesn't say hardly anything meaningful about the various distros. Let me pick on his treatment of Mandriva, just because it's the one I know the most about, but the rest struck me as equally shallow.

1) In what way are Mandrake's /etc files less hackable than Fedora's? Or is this just a bland assertion made because the GUI tools are available? Unlike YAST, the drak tools don't get confused if you hand edit files, which I do all the time.

2) Why does he mention yum and apt-get, but not urpmi which is Mandriva's equivalent. And are there really more apps in Fedora's package trees than Mandrake's?

I think you'd be much better served by distrowatch.

Re:a good resource (2, Insightful)

TheGuruMan (69477) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854403)

Problem is, distrowatch doesn't do what this guy's trying to do, which is to produce a brief, easy to read, and easy to understand summary of the biggest distros.

Unfortunately, his attempt at doing so isn't that great, for the reasons you mentioned. It glosses over lots of useful information while getting stuck in details that beginners probably don't care about anyway. And he succumbs to acronym soup (HAL, KDE, GNU, CLI) without explaining any of them.

SuSE Pronunciation (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12854189)

I always thought that SuSE was pronunced "zu-zah". This is the way it has always been pronounced by most German-speking SuSE experts I know.

Re:SuSE Pronunciation (1)

Nifrith (860526) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854247)

I would have thought the German pronounciation is "zu-zah" because 's' is pronouced like a 'z' in German. That would make English-speakers pronounce it "su-sah." Although, myself, pronounce it 'Suzy'. Heh.

Re:SuSE Pronunciation (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12854269)

And how can vowels be "hard" or "soft" anyway? Consonants are hard or soft. Vowels are short or long, or, as what I think they meant incorrectly in the case of SuSE, silent.

Re:SuSE Pronunciation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12854348)

Yeah, it makes no sense. The whole "hard" vs. "soft" thing is pretty nebulous in the first place. I'm a linguistics major and half the time I still don't know what people mean when they say "hard t" or "soft whatever". That's because it's different for each letter and depending on who you ask. Is it too much for people to use more concrete terms like "aspirated" or "tense"? Or maybe instead of saying "soft c", say something like "c pronounced like an 's'". Then everyone knows what you are talking about.

Re:SuSE Pronunciation (2, Interesting)

KillerDeathRobot (818062) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854484)

I was a linguistics major for a while, but I think the problem with expecting people to use terms like aspirated or tense is that most people don't know what those terms mean (really, they're linguistic jargon). Thus even if the speaker learned, the hearers wouldn't understand.

What you're wishing for is for everyone to become more educated, and while it's certainly a noble wish, it's also not entirely realistic.

Also, I've never heard anyone saying a soft c to mean anything other than a c that sounds like an s, so I don't see what benefit there'd be to saying the latter. (I'm not sure what a soft t would be in contrast to a hard t, perhaps a th sound?)

Re:SuSE Pronunciation (1)

StressGuy (472374) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854272)

With the small second letter, I always thought it was an acronym so I always referred to it as
"S-U-S-E". No one ever corrected me.

Oh well....

Re:SuSE Pronunciation (2, Informative)

big tex (15917) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854357)

I'd always heard that it was an acronym, and wikipedia seems to agree.

Apparently, SUSE = "Software- und System-Entwicklung" ("Software and system development").

Apparently, it was originally based off of Slack, not Red Hat, so that's nested errors [] .

Re:SuSE Pronunciation (1)

debilo (612116) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854334)

I believe SuSE stands for Software- und Systementwicklung (software and system development), so the correct pronunciation would be "su-zeh".

Re:SuSE Pronunciation (1)

jspoon (585173) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854397)

Software- und Systementwicklung

Are you sure that's not Software- und Systementwicklung? It makes a lot more sense to take the word that's being compounded rather than a random letter from a word you've already sampled. Crazy Germans.

Re:SuSE Pronunciation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12854374)

mod parent up - SUSE- The 'U' is hard and the 'E' is soft. Almost like the word sue with an S on the end from the original submission is wrong...

soo-suh in the US, zoo-suh in DE

Re:SuSE Pronunciation (1)

steelframe (590694) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854432)

OK, so I'll stop saying "Suzy", but what about Debbie-Ann?

Summary (2, Informative)

823723423 (826403) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854198)

Currently, the biggest distros not derived from RedHat or Debian are Slackware and Gentoo which also have their own package management systems with various advantages/disadvantages
Now with Lycoris (just purchased by Mandriva), Xandros, Linspire, and a number of others, Mandriva no longer is known as the most dumbed down distro, but still is very good for people new to GNU/Linux
There are plenty of ground up distros, but most are derived either from RedHat using RPMs (RPM stands for RedHat Package Manager) or Debian using dpkg files

Re:Summary (1)

oncebitten (893231) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854291)

Actually, according to [] RPM stands for RPM Package Manager (sort of like GNU stands for GNU's Not Unix).

Progressing (3, Interesting)

Eternauta3k (680157) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854199)

The user will change distros as he adquires skill... just start with an easy one.

SuSE != 'sue with an S on the end' (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12854211)

SuSE is phonetically pronounced soo-suh.

Re:SuSE != 'sue with an S on the end' (1)

TykeClone (668449) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854268)

SuSE is phonetically pronounced soo-suh. Cue the John Phillip SuSE sountrack here...

Re:SuSE != 'sue with an S on the end' (1)

WilliamSChips (793741) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854273)

No, zoo-zuh. Prevocalic S makes the /z/ sound in German.

Re:SuSE != 'sue with an S on the end' (2, Funny)

AFairlyNormalPerson (721898) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854414)

SuSE is phonetically pronounced soo-suh.

No, zoo-zuh. Prevocalic S makes the /z/ sound in German.

Yes. I agree, but you both miss the finer point of the german language: you must yell it... loudly.

suprising... (1)

KingPunk (800195) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854212)

well, you'd think with enough homebrew linux distros out there,
that there would be enough distros for every niche.
everything from the pain-in-the-arse gentoo text based-install, to the super-easy x11-point-n-click based-install for Fedora..
how hard can it be to possibly use linux in first hand? like c'mon.. i was 14 when i first started, and im not the brightest lightbulb in the house.. that be foe' sho!


Re:suprising... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12854232)

Actually starting young helps alot. Try getting a guy who has worked on windows for 25 years to learn any unix based OS. Hell I still don't use Linux. I use BSD. Not cause I don't like Linux but I just don't have the time or energy to learn some of the stuff. OF course I've been using BSD since I was about 14 which madde it easy to learn.

Re:suprising... (1)

Eternauta3k (680157) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854235)

i was 14 when i first started, and im not the brightest lightbulb in the house.. that be foe' sho!

12, beat you to it :D
I started with mandrake though (couldn't manage to get conectiva working). Right now I'm in a dark linux period: Fedora keeps showing the nvidia logo without logging in, and I'm too lazy to solve it (even though it's been answered in So I've been using windows since.

Hmm (-1, Flamebait)

Kagura (843695) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854215)

Yeah, thanks... I like my Windows XP just fine, thanks. :)

Re:Hmm (1)

KingPunk (800195) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854234)

Please allow me to explain your situation in detai, (sorry for the inconvience by the way):

Ignorance \Ig"no*rance\, n. [F., fr. L. ignorantia.]
1. The condition of being ignorant; the lack of knowledge in
general, or in relation to a particular subject; the state
of being uneducated or uninformed.
[1913 Webster]

2. (Theol.) A willful neglect or refusal to acquire knowledge
[1913 Webster]

Distrowatch (5, Informative)

vasqzr (619165) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854220)

For a less biased review site, check out Distrowatch [] . They also link to independent reviews.

eh... (5, Interesting)

ltwally (313043) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854222)

"...The beauty of Slack is in its simplicity. The core of the OS is based off of BSD, whereas Debian and RedHat are based off of AT&T UNIX..."
eh... Is this guy smoking crack or something? I've played with Slack, and have multiple FreeBSD boxes. While Slackware might be the least graphical (and thus, more arcane -- like the BSD's) linux distro out there, it is not based off any BSD that I've ever seen. The kernel is linux, the userland utilities are all GNU, and the location and configuration of all the system files is definitely not BSD related.

I dunno... while much of this dude's article seemed accurate, after reading the above, I've come to the conclusion that even after all his years of experience, he's still a newb... or he's just plain smoking crack.

Re:eh... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12854231)

He means that Slack's "culture" (file structure, interface, init script style, etc.) is in the spirit of BSD, not that it's code is BSD based...

Re:eh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12854279)

ITS code. Not "IT IS" code.

More like anonymous moron...

Re:eh... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12854295)

He is probably talking about the structure of everything, most notably the init scripts. Slackware uses BSD style init scripts, while the others he mentioned use System V style init scripts.

It was poor wording, but what he said makes sense if you think of it that way.

Re:eh... (1)

datadriven (699893) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854312)

I've tried every major distro available. One of the main reasons I settled on Slack was because of the init system. The beauty of the init is that it is NOT system v init, there's no tangled mess of symlinks in Slack. Just a few WELL COMMENTED init scripts.

Re:eh... (1)

ari_j (90255) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854400)

And he claims that "sue with an S on the end" is a long U and short E in SUSE. Last time I checked, "silent" and "short" are not the same. Newb, on crack, or whatever else - he's an idiot.

Re:eh... (1)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854449)

Slackware is not based on any BSD. But it's init system is unique among distros in that it copied the older style BSD init system.

Hard U? Soft E? (1)

R.Mo_Robert (737913) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854227)

I don't claim to be a linguist, but WTF is a "hard U" or "soft E"? I'm familar with "long" and "short" (and their accepted definitions in modern English) ... but hard and soft vowels?!

Were they confusing this terminology with that used for consonants, such as "hard g" or "soft g"?

Re:Hard U? Soft E? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12854262)

Hard means you pronounce it, soft means you don't. Sorta. They're trying to convey it's one syllable (suse) and not two (su-se).

Anyway, it'd sound like Seuss as most people pronounce Dr. Seuss, except his name is really rhymes with "Joyce."

I will not read it like a moose.
I will not read it free and loose.
I will pronounce it and rejoice,
That the good doctor's name is Seuss!

Re:Hard U? Soft E? (3, Informative)

mattdm (1931) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854431)

Hard means you pronounce it, soft means you don't. Sorta. They're trying to convey it's one syllable (suse) and not two (su-se).

Which is interesting, given that the SuSE FAQ [] says otherwise:

SuSE, pronounced soo'-suh, comes from the German acronym, "Software und Systementwicklung (Software and System Development).

Which makes more sense to me given my (limited) knowledge of how to pronounce German words....

How about... (-1, Flamebait)

rasafras (637995) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854233)

Sorry, but this guy could use a beginner's guide to its and it's. Though I'm sure what he says is insightful, it makes it that much harder to respect.

my linux experience... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12854243)

I've been raised on Windows, but tried distros off-and-on for the past 5 or so years starting in college. I never really got comfortable enough with it to leave it on my system for very long doing anything important, but recently I made an effort to find an easy distro to build a Samba server.

Went through Debian, Mandriva, Suse, but settled when I got to Fedora. Of them all, it was an easy install and surprisingly easy to configure the Samba server. I'm CLI-defficient, so its GUI tools to configure/manage were what I couldn't find in any of those other distros (or if they are there then they're too hard to find!)

I definitely agree that most savvy Windows users will find Fedora's setup more intuitive than the other distros!

Awesome! (1)

Blaaguuu (886777) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854265)

I will definately read through this when I have a little time to spare. I've been wanting to set up a dual boot with a linux distro and Windows XP, to see if I could realistically make the switch to Linux in the near future... a friend of mine suggested SuSe to me, and I have the ISO burned on a disc and ready to go when I format my old HDD which is currently not being used. But I'll def read through this to see if there is another distro that apeals more to me.

Got the debian releases wrong (5, Informative)

mattbadass (165861) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854267)

I think he got the order of his debian trees wrong. He had it at stable>>unstable>>testing. It's stable [] >> testing [] >> unstable [] . Testing is to test it before it becomes stable. Unstable is, of course, unstable. Just in case anyone reads this and uses the info. And yes, i'm being pedantic :)

Slack-current (4, Informative)

KillerBob (217953) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854309)

The guy's information is a little out of date.... For one, while it isn't a GUI-driven installation, Slack's install *is* menu-driven. If you read what you're presented with when you boot off the install CD, it's pretty obvious, too. It says very clearly, partition the disk, then type "setup". It even suggests using cfdisk to partition the disk if you want a "gui". I'd hardly call it arcane, since the information is given to you without your needing to hunt for it.

There's some assumption that you know what you're doing, and Slack doesn't set X as the default runlevel, but there's also a really helpful book available for free at Slack's website. About the only thing you really need to know is that RL4 is X, not RL5. That, and that it uses BSD init placement (/etc/rc.d/) instead of SysV (/etc/rc.d/rc.X/). Other than that, it's Linux. What works for one distro will work for Slack. Only there's probably already a package so you don't have to compile from source, just check first.

Also, Gnome has been moved to /pasture. It's not in -current.

Re:Slack-current (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12854367)

I'd hardly call it arcane...

Yes, but normal humans would.

Livening the discussion... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12854319)

I can't deal with all of these comments on pronunciation. They're hurting my eyes.

Time to get back on topic, then:

My Intro to Linux Distros:

1) Fedora Core 4: Distro that just recently relegated XEmacs to an "Extras" repository. (Thank god, too, since it's a piece of crap compared to standard Emacs.)

2) SUSE: Novell Linux Desktop's redheaded stepchild.

3) *BSDs: Distros too cheap to spring for a GPLed kernel.

4) Gentoo: Linux with a side of rice.

5) Debian: The One True GNU/Linux.

That should put an end to put an end to pronuciation posts! (Where did I put my beer and the marshmallows?)

My pronunciation of SUSE is my password (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854323)

Does it require voice authentication with the proper pronunciation of "SUSE" or something? Reminds me of the whole section on Bjarne Stroustrup's home page on how to pronounce his name.

umm... (1)

Just-some-person (878949) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854327)

"or those of you with little time to research each distro yourself."

If you don't have time to try distros then you don't have time to learn GNU/Linux at all.

Maybe it's me (1)

serutan (259622) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854360)

I've tried installing Mandrake 8, 9 and 10, SUSE and Debian on my old P350, and the only install that didn't croak was Mandrake 8, and with that one I never could get the sound to work. I assume it's my hardware, but then of course that box ran Win98 just fine. I would like to learn Linux and get away from MS, and I have this nice old machine to play on. I keep hearing how easy it is, so wtf?

Re:Maybe it's me (1)

HermanAB (661181) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854439)

Well, it is always hard to get things to work on either a really old, or a really new machine. However, I suggest that you install Mandriva 10.2LE and install all the window managers and run KDE when you want fancy screens and IceWM when you want to get things done more quickly.

Re:Maybe it's me (1)

xsspd2004 (801486) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854456)

My "Web TV" machine is a 333 Gateway with Ubuntu and scrounged up 256mb, 2 3.2gb HDs and Nvidia GF 256mb card with TV out. (Yes the NV card is worth more than the computer, but it was given to me.)

He got the order wrong (2, Informative)

strikethree (811449) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854375)

It should be:
Mand rake

Slackware is the oldest existing distro. It is also my second favorite. :)

Debian is... Debian is just incredible. It should be covered early on because it defines a linux based distro for anyone who has been around for a while. I do not particularly care for debian though.

Gentoo needs to be covered early because it can give you the most features with the least amount of hassle. Personally, this is my favorite distro.

Redhat, and therefore Fedora, should be covered... if only because they got their act together after 7 years of improper security practices and poorly thought out packaging. I really do not like this distro, but I suppose I should thank them for pushing me to slackware pre 3.2. :)

Suse and Mandrake have enough history to be considered important. I have no personal opinions on either one though.


Linux From Scratch (1)

HishamMuhammad (553916) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854377)

I'll join my voice to the ones praising Linux From Scratch [] . It's an amazing resource for learning how a Linux system is built.

We used it as a reference when we built the first full version of GoboLinux [] -- essentially following the steps of the book and adding our modifications (configure and makefile flags) to build the new directory structure, to make our "/usr"-less distro. :)

To this day, I refer to their build instructions every now and then. They also contain a good collection of security patches, so if you're into compiling your packages by hand, drop by at their site and see if they suggest any additional patches. LFS covers the basic system and Beyond LFS [] covers the additional stuff (KDE, GNOME, etc.).

Laptops... (4, Interesting)

skiflyer (716312) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854379)

I still just want a distro that works great with my Thinkpad laptop.

I've been through Debian installs so many times, and I get so close, but there's always one thing or another I can't quite get (used to be sound, now I got that working but the darn thing won't sleep anymore)... I tried Kanotix, again the sleeping issue... downloading Ubuntu now. (Yes, in case you can't tell by the list I'm a big Debian fan... but Fedora is next on the torrent list, lousy 2.7GB download though)

Is there a reason laptops are so tricky for linux, and yes I know all about and the other websites which cater, but still, the installs are frustrating, the wireless has finally gotten to a point where it's ok, but still not great (enabling wep and connecting to a varity of networks etc)...

Does a "for laptops" distro exist?, I'd love it, hell I'd help with it if my skills could be used.

Sidenote: The old debian installer had much better support for laptops than the new one!

Re:Laptops... (2, Informative)

xsspd2004 (801486) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854430)

I've had really good luck with PCLinuxOS www.pclinuxonline/pclos on ThinkPads. It's a good system overall and has Thinkpad utilties installed by default. I haven't tried PR9 but 8 and 81a worked well. I wouldn't try KDE of you have less than 256mb though.

YMMV I mostly use Ubuntu now and just keep PCLOS around for a rescue CD.

Great. However... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12854389)

It's not the choice of distributions that causes me the greatest apprehension about moving toward Linux.

After I've decided on a distribution, I still need to choose a shell, an editor, and learn how to install software. That's not all bad, but where's the dummy book for that?

And don't even get me started on how frustrating it is to go to help sites and read posts from linux users who've found religion in their version/method/language/solution...

Maybe I'm just getting old.

Nice (1)

Transcendent (204992) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854391)

I've been an avid BSD and Solaris user for the past 5 years, but never set foot in Linux-world (theme park anyone?) because frankly... I didn't know where to start.

This article gave me a good ground to work off of as far as what I should be looking at to start with. I wanted something that would give me configuration flexibility and a good set of packages, but I really didn't care much for graphical configurations (99.9% of my unix work is on the command prompt anyway, and I actually like the OpenBSD installer). Having it there would be nice, but I can certianly live without it. My current guess... Debian. Any other suggestions?

What I must point out is that the writer used "free-as-in-beer" as least 4 times... but I guess he's free to do that.

Another distro guide (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12854411)

Well, I just found another overview of several Linux distros [] that may add some information to TFA.

Suse Manuals (4, Informative)

miyako (632510) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854428)

Although the article mentioned YaST and the overall refinement of Suse, it failed to mention what I think is perhaps the biggest incentive to buying suse for someone new to Linux. The Documentation.
The Manuals that come with Suse are some of the best I've ever seen. Granted by the time I switched to Suse I'd been using Linux for several years and didn't find the user manual all that useful, but the administration manual is still a great reference. In fact I probably refer to it more than my Linux: Complete Reference book.
The author makes quite a point of mentioning that Suse Professional runs about $100, but fails to mention the quality of the manuals you get with it, or that you can buy an "upgrade" version, which is the full version without the printed manuals, for around $40 from Suse's website.

It's good... (0, Redundant)

ianmac7 (892972) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854454)

.. to have another source of information about a great OS. [] is great too.

Fedora core kernel upgrade how to? (1)

Travoltus (110240) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854463)

I love Fedora 3 because of the way it sees my hardware perfectly, but I've wrecked my system once trying to compile and install a new kernel.

Is there a howto for this?

I sure do miss the nuts and bolts style of slackware, but the instant hardware recognition makes up for a lot of it. Also, RedHat FC3 is a snap to configure my LAN. I could never figure out the arcane commands needed to set up a LAN/internet connection over cable modem/router in Slackware (although hooking a single machine to DSL was insanely easy).

If I could overcome the instant hardware recognition barrier and figure out the pea soup of setting up a router/lan thing in Slackware, I'd go back to Slackware 10... Slack 9 did work fine when I upgraded the kernel...

First experience with Unbuntu. (1)

British (51765) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854464)

I went through the install menus, fiddled with the partitions, and after a bunch of text screens later, it was alive.

Then I easily got samba installed & running with the package manager. Yay. This failed previously when it was a debian box(none of the d/l sites worked).

Much to my amazement, sound worked! I copied a mp3 file off a windows share(that was effortless) and boom, it was playnig in xmms.

Then I tried to edit the samba config file, but it needed me to be root. Okay, let's just put in the root password I thought i put in(it did ask me for one, right? I guses not), nada. Darn.

Just looking at google's results, looks like I can sudo in, er, or something. Or if someone replies here. I was so used to using root when I was using fedora & debian.

Me likey unbuntu. No bullshit to get things going, and more importantly, first time I ever got sound working in Linux, and I didn't have to do jack.

Mind you, 99% of this server will just end up benig used for samba, but that's good enough for me. I would like to get it to broadcast to a shoutcast DNAS server, but couldn't find any plug-in to do it.

Ubuntu (1)

rinkjustice (24156) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854466)

I've tried most of the major distros in the last 6 or so years: redhat/fedora, debian (I haven't tried Debian Sarge yet)/storm/ubuntu, slackware, mandrake, caldera, gentoo/etc and even a few floppy distros. The one I like best is Ubuntu. It's not a very pretty install (I was a little alarmed at the lack of input I had during the installation process), but it's polished, nimble and alot of the useless crufty apps is happily absent. A firewall is also amiss (not a good thing and the only beef I've got with Ubuntu), but you can easily remedy the situation with:
apt-get install firestarter

If you're a regular /. reader, you've likely already heard the buzz on this newer distro, but for those newcomers wondering which linux to try, I heartily recommed Ubuntu.

Allowable post types: (2, Funny)

stevobi (600234) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854471)

1) Downside X of my distro is actually an advantage, but only if you a) are hardcore, b) need optimization.

2) Downside X of my distro isn't a problem, you just...

3) You left out that my distro does...

4) My distro has apt/emerge, therefore...

and the only reasonable response...

5) Good. We need a simple guide to the pros/cons of the various distributions and of their intended userbase.

He should, however, add that Ubuntu gives a linux user the best of both worlds - ease of use and power. My distro is the best.

too many distros (2, Insightful)

Loconut1389 (455297) | more than 9 years ago | (#12854490)

IMHO, we shouldn't need a guide to the different distributions. Ideally a couple basic types that could be extensible into what people need- for one simple reason: cooperation. Why have all these different people fixing security and other problems in all these different distributions when we could take all those same people and put those eyes towards a much lower number of lines of code. IMHO, there's more in namesake adoration in the different distributions than there are actual differences in functionality provided. All these distributions with all their different package formats makes it that much harded for the open source developers to release source. Why should every end user have to compile from source when a package could be available, or why should every developer have to make packages for the umpteen different distributions? There isn't even a common source package format that would let you quickly build the appropriate package for your distribution. It's quite a pain at times to find some of the less common packages even for a 'major' distribution like RedHat enterprise linux or fedora core. IMHO, we need to ditch some of these and work towards a couple of perhaps more flexibly administered distributions.
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