Linux distros compared

A number of linux distributions are released at this time of year.  This, combined with a warranty claim, became a good excuse to have a look at a few different distributions.  I checked out openSuse 10.3, Fedora 7, Mandriva 2008, Sabayon 3.4f and Kubuntu 7.10.  All were good offering slightly different installation experiences and user interfaces but overall running high end hardware well and quickly.

The most relevant experience however is that it was possible to install different operating systems while retaining all the data and settings of previous installations.  This is the most telling illustration of why linux systems are built to perform.  Each distribution is slightly different and therefore difficult to write generic viruses for.  They are all built on similar core software engine, the kernel, which enables integration of different higher level software.

The look of the desktop is dependent on modules loaded, not the distribution (for example you can run either KDE, my preference, or Gnome desktop on any main distro and on top of that all colours and layouts can be adjusted to user preference.

Some of the fun things you can do are create a 3d desktop cube (4 desktops, each one one the face of a virtual cube which spins to the desktop you demand – use one for work, one for home, one for AV, etc. demo video here or a cool video of a comparison with windoze) and put a system widget on the desktop (can show usage of drives and processors, network link activity, time, media player integration etc you choose – SuperKaramba).

One issue you can address is how you like to install.  Kubuntu loads live from the disk, so you have a fully functioning desktop running from teh install disk from which you instruct installation – user friendly.  Sabayon is a pretty automatic install and provides lots of extras to accommodate weird hardware, like the TI or BCM NICs.  Mandriva, Fedora and Suse are more customisable, but Mandriva (its free version) offers fewer install options.  Fedora with be releasing Fedora 8 in early November and that might be top cat for a while.  I installed openSuse in the end, sticking with what I had before.

When installing, especially if on x64 or dual core processors, you might need kernel arguments.  For openSuse 10.3 I needed noapic.  (I’ve found pci=noacpi and noapic to be useful in the past).  You may also want to check that you have the latest BIOS for your machine loaded.

During the R&D I used windows too and I’m soooo glad I made the switch to linux.  The system is fine and looks pretty but the fundamental software architechture is dysfunctional and inflexible – no wonder MS is trying to get in to other businesses, like entertainment, because that software is heading for extinction.

And of course, all the software is free!  You are welcome to donate to any project you think worthy – that’s donationware.


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