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Every year, I give a few popular (and not-so-popular) distributions a try.
Here are my (brief) results:
The first on the list was LFS (Linux from Scratch). Not because I wanted a stable production system, but I wanted to build my own distro from scratch and customize it to suit my needs. Installation/compiling was not complicated, thanks to the excellent documentation, but tedious (untar, configure, make, make install - a hundred times over). It's not really a distribution (was never expected), but it helped me more understand and learn about Linux.
Sabayon seems to have sky-rocketed on DistroWatch in the past few months, so why not give it a try? I have used Gentoo before and like the idea to build my "own" OS from scratch, but ultimately it just wasn't for me (for a production system). The Sabayon Live-DVD surprised me: Compiz worked - even on my laptop with an ATI 200m. I haven't even successfully managed to get Compiz working on Ubuntu. Wireless worked - actually everything worked out of the box. Installation is a snap. As a bleeding-edge distro, Sabayon worked surprisingly well. Aside from the hassle to "emerge" and compile your own packages, it will remain on my HDD as an evaluation distro and even if it to just follow the very latest developments. Support on the website, including the Wiki, is spotty, but the great community made up for it.
Well, I have used Ubuntu for months at home and at work and never ran into any problems. Rock-solid. Their support is great, wiki is great, initial documentation is great. Installation is a breeze. I feel like I am using the OS, not the other way around. Still, you can customize and tweak your install to suit your needs. Building packages from source is not easy, but usually not required, because the software repository is so extensive that you probably never need to compile your own sources anyway.
Arch has intrigued me for a while and I used it briefly last year, so I gave it another try. Arch is a great, light-weight distro that doesn't force you to do anything. Install you very basic system and then either use pacman to update/upgrade your system or use ABS to compile your own sources. The combination of both is very powerful and perfectly suited for me. Support and the Wiki is great. Arch will stick around on my HDD and fits in perfectly between Ubuntu and Sabayon.
Easy-to-use, but a little bit too buggy for my taste, but you cannot complain, because Fedora is RedHat's beta distribution. Yes, it's polished and fairly complete, but the lack for prioprietary drivers ticked me off. It is more than a hassle to configure your system to watch DVDs, no mention in the Wiki other than "not supported".
Pretty much the same as SuSE. Great distro for beginners, but I don't like the idea of having YasT taking over my system. To me, it feels like Windows all over all by taking away my freedom to set up my system to suit my needs. To many background tasks where you simply don't know what's going on. Isn't the reason why Linux has become to popular because of its transparency?
Call it an easier-to-use LFS clone, but it's nice, if you choose to run your own RL-based distro. Ultimately not for me.
OK, thanks. Might be a bit confrontational. Nothing personal, I assure you.
I have used Ubuntu for months at home and at work and never ran into any problems. Rock-solid.
You favour a distro you can mold to your wishes. You rate .*buntu "rock-solid" yet you couldn't get Compiz to work. Does this mean you gave in and let the distro dictate or isn't it as successful as you market it to be?
(Not that I have anything against .*buntu, I remain as much distro-agnostic as possible).
the lack for prioprietary drivers ticked me off.
Please try to appreciate what a distribution has to do to stay away from licensing troubles?
It is more than a hassle to configure your system to watch DVDs
I have been playing MP3's and watching DVD's from FC1 onwards. I'd say the userbase has grown large enough over the years to cough up any instructions for any application anywhere from support sites to mailing lists to blogs to Wiki's to LQ. Does this point to the distribution or does this point to you lacking configure or reading skills or search-fu?
I don't like the idea of having YasT taking over my system. To me, it feels like Windows all over all by taking away my freedom to set up my system to suit my needs.
No distribution "takes away your freedom" and you know that. I mean it's not like you're running MacOS9! "Feels like" is not factual. If you can't work it out using a GUI you can most likely work it out using the CLI, right? (And if I may say so I find no comparison with or hinting at Windows-like "features" or behaviour ever justified when talking merits of anything GNU/Linux. It only brings bad associations, distracts unnecessarily and besides that it was *never* the point of GNU/Linux as far as I know, wasn't it?)
BTW, what where you developing or maintaining for Debian (just being curious)?
Thanks for you response. I appreciate it (really).
I know some of my conclusions might be flawed, but nowadays it is so hard to find a "really" good distribution. Tastes are thankfully different. It's wonderful that Linux has to offer something for anyone, but it is also very tedious to find out what is suited best. Everyone nowadays can roll their own distro and I think that most are just wasting time, because grander things could happen when working together. I considered starting my own distro as well, but it just doesn't seem productive, because everything is already out there. It just sometimes need a push (like Debian/Ubuntu). I hate the idea of release cycles and rather have a rolling binary/source distro. Arch comes pretty close to it.
The point was not to experience everything out of the box.
Ubuntu in that respect has one CLI in their official documentation to explain how to install proprietary codecs. I cannot find anything in SuSe, Debian or Fedora until digging a LOT deeper. By that time, normal user will already have uninstalled the distro.
I used to be a package maintainer for several Debian packages and translated several man pages into German. That was during my student years in Germany (born and raised there). After the study, I moved to the US and focused on a career and due to the well-known time constraints for taking care of life and making money, I couldn't juggle both. Now, at 38, I am settled in my career and have plenty of cycles to resume some dev work.
Sounds like a clip, copy 'n paste from some existing, old reviews and ads from the distro sites to me. Probably (hopefully) it is written completely by you, if you claim so, but still..a little more own perspective would have been nice. The last sentence from LFS, for example, reads in every single "review" about LFS systems, and a thousand other places - if not exactly in that form, then very close to that.
I'll accept they're your own thoughts and how you liked them. But I wouldn't call them a "review" by any means..a review asks for more, it's more general consideration than just your own personal likings.