The Linux Blog


What Linux Distribution Fits Your Lifestyle?

Filed under: — Clete R. Blackwell 2 @ 1:31 am

Since you are reading this, I assume you know what Linux is in a general scope. Maybe you are looking for an alternative to Windows, maybe you already use Linux and would like to change distributions after becoming more knowlegable in the subject and figuring out that you want something new or you made a bad beginning choice, or maybe you would just like to learn more about the options that there are avaliable. So, here is a short guide to distributions.

First, we need to figure out what kind of user you are. Are you one that loves to toy with bleeding-edge programs with the latest and greatest features even with their bugs? Maybe you are an office user who just would like everything to stick together and work. Maybe a combination of the two. Are you a gamer? We have things for that, too. Are you a tweaker? Same thing. Maybe you’re just bored, have no idea what you are doing, and would like to learn something.

As for the gamer, tweaker, bleeding edge person, and the guy who knows a fair amount about computers, I recommend Gentoo. Gentoo is a little different from Linux From Scratch (LFS) in that there is software avaliable to make your job a bit easier.

With Linux From Scratch, you must build everything yourself. No help at all. I haven’t tried it personally and don’t plan to unless I become bored. You even have to “./configure", “make", and “make install” all by yourself. Of course, they provide a rather hefty manual to help you along. It’s the ultimate way to gain speed on your system – if you know what you’re doing.

On with Gentoo, you have a very nice application called Portage. Portage assists you in installing packages. While it’s very customizable and you get pretty much the same results as a LFS install would give you, you do not gain the same amount of knowlege as fast as you would installing an LFS system. As previously mentioned, Portage helps by cutting out the need to command every last thing yourself. It uses ebuilds, which are not incrediably complex to make yourself. You simply type “emerge x” and it will emerge “x” (x being a variable). Still, you can set your CFLAGS, which help a great deal in optimization and set it apart from distributions like Fedora and SuSE. Did I mention that Portage doesn’t have many binary packages in the system? Yep. Also to note is you begin your Gentoo system off of a terminal livecd and with a manual to guide you along.

Luckily, for those who don’t have time to compile every single package or those with incrediably slow computers, there is Debian. Personally, I haven’t tried it, as my CDs were corrupt and I didn’t feel like downloading again. I have, however, run it on my GameCube enough to get a good opinion of it.

The installer is a bit more advanced and harder to use than most (compared to Gentoo, which doesn’t have an installer at all), especially compared to Mandrake and Fedora. It also has quite a few more CDs to download than normal distributions. If I remember correctly, the number neared 7 or 8. Debian has a nice system called Apt (apt-get), similar to Gentoo’s Portage, but it has more binary packages, while still keeping a vast selection of source packages. That said, I am not sure about the more advanced features, how well it works, and how often new packages are added (Gentoo is quite fast in the area). Again, from what I can tell, the system runs nicely and is compatiable with many architectures.

Mandrake, Fedora, and SuSE are almost identical in that they are user friendly, have good control panels, and are easy to setup. Fedora has a beautiful interface and boot screen. On the more useful side, I hear that Fedora has the easiest and most pain-free wireless detection of the three, with Mandrake coming in second, and SuSE in last. These three distributions are geared up for the most pleasent and easiest experience for the end-user. Personally, I use either Fedora or Mandrake. If I remember correctly, Mandrake handles gaming better, while Fedora looks better by default.

In the end, the choice is up to you. That’s just what Linux is all about. For the ones who have too much time on their hands, Linux From Scratch suits well. As for those who have some time on their hands, but not way too much, either Gentoo or Debian, depending on whether or not you want binary packages and an installer. For the end-user or person who has almost no time, just wants things to work (perfect for a work enviorment), I recommend Fedora. As previously mentioned, Fedora, Mandrake, and SuSE are almost identical. For the gamer with no time (how does that happen? I realize there are few games for Linux, as well), I recommend Mandrake. If you want to try an alternative workstation or gaming system with ease, use SuSE.

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