what distro should I install?

Forum: LinuxTotal Replies: 34
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tuxchick

Aug 24, 2012
10:30 PM EST
My Thinkpad had to go home to the mother ship and get a new keyboard. It was a good experience: instant human on the phone, two minutes to a case number, two days for a shipping box to land on my porch, and four days round trip.

Of course they had to re-image Windows 7, probably because Microsoft says so, and wiped out my Linuxes. So what should I put on this nice little laptop for my main Linux? I had Mint and Fedora before, and random ones for testing. I'm thinking Bodhi.
BernardSwiss

Aug 25, 2012
12:02 AM EST
Stock Debian? Maybe with XFCE and KDE as well as Gnome Shell (good excuse for an article/howto, as well).

If you don't like it, you can try the derivatives, and see if they're that much better (another article, even).

Anyways, it's a solid place to start. And you shouldn't have to worry about weird hardware.
caitlyn

Aug 25, 2012
12:06 AM EST
Rosa Linux 2012 Marathon: a new maintenance release came out about a week ago that fixed pretty much everything that was buggy in the original release, plus has all the security patches. The KDE version is their flagship and is a really well done implementation of that DE. They also have LXDE and GNOME 2 versions if you prefer :)

albinard

Aug 25, 2012
10:41 AM EST
FWIW, Xubuntu 12.04 (which now downloads as 12.04.1 so there aren't a lot of updates to add) has so little resemblance to the parent Unity version that it feels more like a truly modern version of 10.04.
Fettoosh

Aug 25, 2012
11:07 AM EST
@TC,

First, I would like you to tell us the joke made you splash coffee all over your keyboard, and 2nd, why are you asking us what to install? It must be a trick question. :-)

tuxchick

Aug 25, 2012
2:18 PM EST
My goodness Fettoosh, if this paranoia persists-- you can join my exclusive It's Not Paranoia If It's True club. It was a warranty repair and a known issue, the mouse buttons quit working. I was pleased with how quickly Lenovo took care of it, and without making it a big fight.

As for which distro-- I'm happy with Xfce 4.10 on Mint 13 right now, and I'll have a writeup about it on Linux.com in a couple of weeks. But I'm curious what people are using, and which of the newer distros are winning fans and pleasing users. I'm going to start with Bodhi since it impressed me the the last time I tried it, and then try some others. I keep hearing about Rosa, and of course Debian is my fave old standby. albinard, Xubuntu is a good idea, I've been shying away from the buntus for some time. buntu overload :)
helios

Aug 25, 2012
2:20 PM EST
Take a look at SolusOS 1.2. I've been running it for about 2 months now and I am impressed. I also installed the vanilla KDE (kde-full) but it takes some tweaking to get right, that being said, SolusOS IS a gnome distro, with SolusOS 2 bringing full Gnome 2 behavior to Gnome 3, with full backwards compatibility to GTK 2. it ought to be about a month away from release with a full upgrade path from the 1x install.
Steven_Rosenber

Aug 25, 2012
2:43 PM EST
I really did like the new Xubuntu (12.04). They did a nice job on the little details here and there. My daughter's aging Thinkpad R32 is running Lubuntu 12.04 right now. That's also a nice distribution; I wanted to maximize the 10-year-old hardware, and I figured LXDE was the way to do that.

I'm still running Debian Wheezy on two other machines -- GNOME 3 Classic (no 3D) on one, GNOME 3 and Xfce 4.8 on the other. Wheezy is looking very good right now.

I also tested Stella -- http://li.nux.ro/stella/ -- a codec-enhanced, desktop-focused spin on CentOS. I also recommend this, especially if you want to stay with GNOME 2 for as long as possible.
caitlyn

Aug 25, 2012
3:03 PM EST
Stella is a good choice in the sense that it takes the biggest enterprise distro and adds desktop apps and codecs with no fuss. All that stuff is available for CentOS, PUIAS Linux and Scientific Linux, but it's scattered across several repos and it certainly requires some doing. Stella simplifies the process nicely.
Steven_Rosenber

Aug 25, 2012
3:20 PM EST
Scientific Linux has EPEL in its list of repositories, and that goes a long way toward getting the stuff you need. But Stella has all the multimedia codecs, and it has extra packages in its own repo that are either broken in EPEL (like gPodder), old in EPEL (Audacity) or not in any CentOS/RHEL/Scientific Linux repo (OpenShot).

I'm not 100 percent sure if CentOS ships with Thunderbird (and not Evolution), but Stella does. That's a plus for me.

Minuses are that you have to install Stella from the live image. While you set your own hostname during the install process, it doesn't stick and you have to do it manually, which is a slight pain in the @#$.

Other than that, Stella was great. It's pretty much CentOS with extra repos, so anything that CentOS pushes, you'll get.

P.S. I LOVE Anaconda -- Via the installer you can get two encrypted partitions with one passphrase and fully encrypted LVM without requiring the whole drive (meaning a fully encrypted LVM can occupy the same drive as a Windows system). These are two things the Debian installer won't do.

P.P.S. My Scientific Linux 6.3 install from the DVD image went very, very well. If you're satisfied with the packages in EPEL, that's a great choice for RHEL-like distro. They do a great job, as does the CentOS team. It's nice to have choice in RHEL derivatives.
slacker_mike

Aug 25, 2012
4:17 PM EST
How about Mageia 2?
tracyanne

Aug 25, 2012
6:20 PM EST
I'm tending to recommend Mageia these days
helios

Aug 25, 2012
6:55 PM EST
Stella link not working as rendered. Had to copy the entire url and paste it to work....
Steven_Rosenber

Aug 25, 2012
7:10 PM EST
Sorry about that. Errant comma removed. Now the link works. This could be a good one for you, Ken, in terms of length of support.
helios

Aug 25, 2012
8:40 PM EST
I'm going to burn it and test drive it here in a bit but we've preferred the Debian based, Apt and Aptitude distros for their simplicity plus Synaptic for package management. Recent "Software Centers" have added a bit of polish to the system but most of them lack the power of Synaptic. I'm having trouble remembering, it might have been Fedora, but our kids had a hard time with the GUI package management system...it confused them more than anything.

Let me take a look at this though and see what we have.
Fettoosh

Aug 26, 2012
12:10 PM EST
Quoting: ... Apt and Aptitude distros for their simplicity plus Synaptic for package management.


That is one reason why I don't favor other good distros like Suse, Fedora, etc... which are non-Apt.

Among the Debian based derivatives, I find Kubuntu to be best overall KDE based distro.

One issue that could make Kubuntu a much better performing OS is to have two separate ISOs. One compilation for the older 386 CPU and another more optimized for the advanced 686 CPU.

cr

Aug 26, 2012
1:09 PM EST
Quoting: One issue that could make Kubuntu a much better performing OS is to have two separate ISOs. One compilation for the older 386 CPU and another more optimized for the advanced 686 CPU.


They'd have to do a fair amount of trimming-down for that. What's the recommended minimum DRAM for current Kubuntu? Remember, to get anything done you're adding the memory cost of apps to that of the DE. Dell XPS-T500's max out at 768M. My HP Pavilion 7900 has a 1GHz Celeron but only takes 512M. My K6-2/400 server will only see 384M. Older hardware isn't just slow, it's limited.

Add frequent swaps to a slow CPU and you've got thrash-city. Unless the box in question has a server mobo with extra slots for SIMMs/DIMMs, the owner of such is better off forgetting about current KDE and installing one of the minimalist distros. DSL (which seems to have picked up some new life) plays nice with Debian repos (my test case: a Pentium233MMX laptop with 64M) and seems to Just Work as long as the hardware matches the extant drivers.
Steven_Rosenber

Aug 26, 2012
2:52 PM EST
Quoting: I'm having trouble remembering, it might have been Fedora, but our kids had a hard time with the GUI package management system...it confused them more than anything.


Package Kit is what ships with Fedora and RHEL. I'm not crazy about it. While I personally prefer Synaptic, I agree that there needs to be something easier and better, e.g. the Sofware Center approach of Ubuntu.
Steven_Rosenber

Aug 26, 2012
2:54 PM EST
Quoting:One issue that could make Kubuntu a much better performing OS is to have two separate ISOs. One compilation for the older 386 CPU and another more optimized for the advanced 686 CPU.


I don't think that KDE is a viable choice for a system so old as not to be i686.
Fettoosh

Aug 26, 2012
3:46 PM EST
Quoting:They'd have to do a fair amount of trimming-down for that.... Older hardware isn't just slow, it's limited.


That is the idea. Newer systems mostly come with 2GB memory if not 4GB.

I have an older machine with Celeron 2.5 GHz processor with 512 MB memory and use it for testing. I run KDE 12.04 KDE 4.9, and it runs decently when running single application. When I run another app, it slows down quite a bit. The problem is loack of memory for KDE and the other is very old (15 years) nVidia card which has no good driver. I could add a better scsi graphics card add more memory, but it is not worth it since I can buy a bran new bare minimum micro form factor Like This and without any MS license tax for around $150 now, which I bought couple few months ago for $130 each. Besides, it is not time for It to belong to a landfill and serves as a good test machine still.

tuxchick

Aug 26, 2012
5:08 PM EST
The best thing any graphical package manager could do to instantly improve usability a million percents is default to not showing libraries.
cr

Aug 26, 2012
5:52 PM EST
@fettoosh: You know, some of these boxes are in good shape other than those limitations. Back in the baby-AT days I got used to upgrading boxes (486 -> K6) by swapping in new mobos; I haven't had the time or funds to explore that with the ATX generations, but that might be a good compromise.

That Foxconn micro looks nice, but:

- it's a closed plastic box, so it's probably as much a hotbox as a laptop

- it's Foxconn, which is on my bad-mobo list, so I'd want to see some thumbs-up reviews over time before trusting my money to it

- like a laptop, it's a limited package, unlike a desktop unit which has an expansion bay

- it doesn't solve the working-hardware into landfills problem.

I'll look with interest at any mobo links you or others post which hint at being able to slip into boxes I've got here. My particular interest is in capable but low-wattage work-horses for workstations, network monitoring and LAN-local servers.
patrokov

Aug 26, 2012
7:12 PM EST
Quoting:The best thing any graphical package manager could do to instantly improve usability a million percents is default to not showing libraries.


+2
Steven_Rosenber

Aug 26, 2012
7:36 PM EST
Quoting:The best thing any graphical package manager could do to instantly improve usability a million percents is default to not showing libraries.


And how!

Why not have it be a checkbox, "show libraries" ... just like showing (or not) hidden files in a file manager. That way everybody's happy.
patrokov

Aug 26, 2012
9:32 PM EST
and maybe I was spoiled by using Slackware first, but if you installed a package you got the whole thing (including headers). In many distros though, the program is split up into a huge number of packages. For example, in my distro, xine has 20 packages not including gxine. How do you know which ones you should be installing? There should be a toggle (show complete programs and "meta packages" only.

Sure you might get some bloat, but for a newb, it's better to have a working program and enjoy Linux than to have a lean system that doesn't do what you want and think Linux is stupid.
BernardSwiss

Aug 26, 2012
9:41 PM EST
Oh wow -- 2 excellent, constructive suggestions in a row, on an internet forum!

Maybe I should have bought that Lotto ticket today, after all.
caitlyn

Aug 27, 2012
8:50 PM EST
Quoting:That is one reason why I don't favor other good distros like Suse, Fedora, etc... which are non-Apt.
Personal preferences are interesting because they are all so different. One of the reasons I don't go back to (K/X)ubuntu or any Debian based distros is because of apt. As someone who always ends up building custom packages I always want either rpm or Slackware packages just because they are much easier to put together. I'd much rather deal with the rpm spec file than the more complex Debian system.

From an end user perspective I find yum and apt to both be excellent, mature, reliable package managers. Since I generally manage my packages from the command line I am less concerned about the GUI.

Quoting:Package Kit is what ships with Fedora and RHEL. I'm not crazy about it.
Me neither. yumex is the better front end for yum and urpmi in Mandriva/Mageia/ROSA is also better. Fuduntu uses yumex, which can work with any rpm/yum based distro.
slacker_mike

Aug 27, 2012
9:47 PM EST
I don't get the fuss over Apt in comparison to Yum or Zypper. I find the syntax of Zypper more intuitive than the other two with Yum a close second.
Jeff91

Aug 28, 2012
4:35 PM EST
It is funny you mention that caitlyn - as someone who packages for Debian stuff I find building RPMs a giant headache.

~Jeff
caitlyn

Aug 29, 2012
1:08 AM EST
I have a customer who had a hardware failure very recently and they ended up on a new server. We did an OS refresh (Centos 5.8 on the old, 6.3 on the new) and ran into one issue. They run Magento with an international checkout module that has a dependency on Zend Optimizer, which in turn needs php 5.2.x, not the current 5.3.x iterations. (Yes, I know Zend Server includes an updated Optimizer+ but they don't have licenses for that. I've recommended they go with the upgrade.)

Anyway, to make a long story short, while php 5.2.17 is packaged for RHEL/CentOS/SL 6.x for cases just like this, Zend Optimizer is not. I took an srpm for CentOS 5.x, ran:

rpmbuild --rebuild <package-name>

and installed the newly built CentOS 6.3 package. Total elapsed time: maybe two minutes. Can I do that with Debian packages? Darned if I know. I also love delta rpms which let me install patches without reinstalling/upgrading the entire package. I haven't seen that functionality for Debian and it can be a huge time saver on large packages.

What I do know that I like about rpm packaging is the spec file. It's one stop shopping, unlike Debian or Slackware packages where I may need multiple files to build a single package. I've done some Debian packaging myself and the system does work well but I can sure do rpms a whole lot faster.

Quoting: In many distros though, the program is split up into a huge number of packages.
Some distros do this to reduce bloat but I agree it's a royal pain in the you-know-what sometimes. I do like splitting development libraries which are not required to run the software out. Nobody should have to install significant amounts of code they will never use, and often that includes devel libraries and build dependencies.

Quoting:Why not have it be a checkbox, "show libraries" ... just like showing (or not) hidden files in a file manager.
I like that idea.
BernardSwiss

Aug 29, 2012
3:00 AM EST
caitlyn

Thanks, that was informative.

Now I'm wondering if Apt/Deb-based package management has a similar option (and I can even think of an item that I might use it for).

dinotrac

Aug 29, 2012
9:23 AM EST
@tc --

Yeah. I do get tired of wading through those.

So long as it's easy to switch the default off, that is. Sometimes you need to find a library, especially the dev version.
CFWhitman

Aug 29, 2012
1:17 PM EST
Wouldn't that be running

debuild -us -uc -b

from within the source directory of the source package you download? Of course you have to make sure you have the dependencies installed and you ought to run debchange to create your own package version name so it doesn't get mixed up with an official package.
caitlyn

Aug 29, 2012
8:44 PM EST
@CFWhitman: That sure sounds like a lot more work to me, which is a good general description of Debian packaging in general. From the end user standpoint it works very well indeed. From the developer standpoint it's always more work.
CFWhitman

Aug 30, 2012
8:28 AM EST
I don't see how it's more work. Of course you have to have the dependencies installed. That's true either way. There is a script to install them automatically in Debian.

sudo apt-get builddep <package-name>

You don't have to change the version of the package; they just advise that you do. That's probably true either way as well. I'm not saying it's not more work; I'm just saying that if it is, I haven't seen how at this point. The process looks similar. Does the rpmbuild command automatically get the dependencies when you run it? If so, then that would be one less step with rpmbuild. That would kind of surprise me going by my past rpm experience, though (but admittedly a long time ago at this point).

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