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I've been a linux user for the past two and a half years, and all that time I've used only one distribution: gentoo. I love gentoo, I really do. I originally chose it based on the strength of the community, the simplicity of the package management system portage, and the challenge of using a distro that didn't always "just work". However I'm now at a point where I'm really starting to do some seriously game development, and I need a system where I can focus more on the code than spending 4 hours seeing how ridiculously fast I can get firefox to startup.
I don't know whether gentoo is too tempting with its cflags and unstable builds, but there's something about it that, for me at least, really sidetracks productivity (and I mean this in the best way possible, like I said I really love gentoo). Anyway lately I've been thinking of the best system to sort of start fresh on. Obviously windows would probably be the best, however I refuse to spend hundreds of dollars on visual studio and, as lame as it sounds, feel guilty about using the bittorrent discount even on a microsoft product. In addition to that after two and a half years of gentoo I'm not about to go back to antivirus and antispyware and software firewall and antimalware and antitrojan and intrusian detector, etc, etc.
Sorry this turned into such a long post. Basically what I'm looking for is YOUR opinion of a good distro for me to choose. I've been seriously considering RHEL 5, yes I know it's $80 but I think it will also provide the stability and comfort I need to devote much more time to development. My only hesitation there is whether or not RHEL is designed for opengl development and how well codeblocks will work on it (I know RH has always been gnome-based so it really shouldn't be a problem, right?) Other than that, I'm very open to suggestions. Thanks a lot, guys. I really appreciate it!
Well, I'm not a programmer, but if you're looking for a distro that will bore you to death (in a good way ), I'd choose Debian. It has probably the largest collection of officially supported software out there. You'll have minimal maintenance and easy package installation.
If you want rock stable, go with the current stable release, Etch. If you want more bleeding edge (though perhaps not as bleeding edge as Fedora or the like), use the unstable branch, Sid. In the middle is testing (Lenny), but it doesn't get security updates.
Thanks for the input guys, I'll definitely look into debian and arch. I'm not positive but I've heard debian can be a little behind the times as far as software updates go. Does anyone know if that would have an impact on game development (opengl, sdl, etc)? Also I would like to hear from someone who has used RHEL or SLED because I think I might prefer an "officially" supported distro. Thanks again for the great info!
Slackware would be an option. Always been rock stable and fast for me. Its as up to date or bleeding edge as you are willing to make it. You are the package manager though although there are a few other package options with 12.0 I haven't yet tried.
Debian's a good choice also, nice package manager, fast enough, stable. If it installed a bit easier on my machine I might be using it except not everything I use is in its repositories, prefer a vanilla kernel for easier custom compiling and it doesn't play nice with the computer I regularly use.
As a developer, I would recommend Fedora, Ubuntu and possibly Mandriva. I simply don't know any other distros that offer the same amount of tools and flexibility (and I have tried at least a dozen). What I like most about Fedora (and to a lesser extent Mandriva) is that the 64 bit edition handles 32 bit libraries as well - which you can unfortunately forget about if you adopt Debian/Ubuntu with their "pure amd64" conception (unless you want to start tinkering with chroots and the like again...). Now I can start a 64 bit project, switch immediately to a different, 32 bit one and go back to 64 bit without any pain or use 64 bit Eclipse and 32 bit Sun Studio all at the same time. Btw, Fedora is largely identical to RedHat and it's free. If you want the "real thing", you'd get Redhat, of course. If you prefer Unix instead, you could use Solaris Express Developer Edition instead. Free as well and support can be purchased separately (but I found it shockingly expensive: something like $900 for a year). Also, UNIX is not Linux and it will take some getting used to, however. FreeBSD is stable and versatile too (quite similar to Gentoo in many ways but it does offer a choice to compile things yourself or use precompiled packages - although some biggies are only available as source code). Oh yeah, and don't forget that ATI videocards generally limit you to Linux.