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Old 05-09-2011, 04:17 PM   #1
theif519
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How does one Distro differ from another?


I'm not saying all distros are the same, I mean that majority of them are very similar. For instance, Kubuntu and Linux Mint 10 KDE's GUI are almost the same, use the same package manager, but their GRUB2 Bootloader's background is different *In which case I prefer Linux Mint's*, but then again Mint is based off of Ubuntu. What I mean is, what is the difference from one Distro running GNOME3, or KDE 4.6 from another running the same exact Desktop Environment? I know the package manager might be different, and a few changes in the GUI to make it differ. I'm not too used to the Command Line, but I am still learning, but from what I used in Linux Mint and Ubuntu, they're the same. They all *Or most* use BASH, right? Can someone tell me the differences in the distros?

Bonus Question: Which Distro do you like the most, why and why not? Favorite Desktop Environment? Why and why not?
 
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Old 05-09-2011, 04:29 PM   #2
MBybee
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Behind the Desktop Environment they vary quite a lot. The two major camps are the slackware/redhat based distros (like Fedora, SuSE) and the debian based distros (all the Ubuntu variants, for example).

The LFS and source based ones will vary even more.

These variations will be in everything from which config files are used to the location of them. The graphical window manager can vary quite a lot even between versions, plus the apps and packages bundled for daily use will change.

My favorite distro is OpenBSD (which is nothing like Ubuntu, really), and my favorite Desktop Environment is Gnome 2 or XFCE (depending on the day ).
Why? Well, I'm one of those very security conscious people Torvalds likes to malign - but largely it's because OpenBSD boots faster on my machines than anything else. Probably 6-10 seconds, vs over 60 for Ubuntu. I've used a BSD variant since the very early 90s, so I'm most at home on them, and I find it easier to turn stuff on instead of turn it off.

Why Gnome2 and XFCE? Well, speed and simplicity. I love the way XFCE approaches things (like using a generic launcher icon that's set via defaults), and I like the speed. I also really like the way Gnome 2 is laid out.

I support RHEL and BSDs professionally and like them, but the Fedora desktop just doesn't work for me. It's too much effort to get the basics working on my hardware.

Last edited by MBybee; 05-09-2011 at 04:30 PM. Reason: typo
 
Old 05-09-2011, 08:24 PM   #3
frankbell
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MyByBee, did you mean "Red Hat/Fedora," because Slackware is a whole nother beast entirely.

To the OP--distributions may look alike because the major desktops are Gnome and KDE, with XFCE coming up in the clubhouse turn. It's the desktop environments that look alike. As MyByBee pointed out, the underlying architecture can be quite different, as can the default software load.

There are three general categories: Distributions based on Red Hat, those based on Debian, and those based on Slackware. (There are also some distros that do their own thing and cannot be traced directly to one of the big three.) They tend to have different underlying architectures, particularly as regards the configuration files in /etc, and different ways of handling package installation and removal.

Debian distros use aptitude, apt-get (GUI frontend Synaptic) as a package manager. Debian packages are named *.deb.

Red Hat based distributions tend to use rpm and yum and their GUI frontends, though there is a version of apt for handling *.rpm packages. Red Hat packages are named *.rpm.

Slackware uses *.tgz files, but has no official repositories. (Slackers joke that the default format is actually *.tar.gz plus a compiler.) There are several unofficial repositories maintained by volunteers, of which Slackbuilds is most active, largest, and most current. Some of the Slackware-based distributions to maintain their own repos.

Debian and Red Hat distributions tend to use System V configuration methods; Slackware uses BSD style scripts.

Here's a diagram that shows the relationships among the major distros; you may have to zoom in on it to read it clearly.

http://futurist.se/gldt/wp-content/u...6.08/ldt68.png

Last edited by frankbell; 05-09-2011 at 08:26 PM.
 
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Old 05-10-2011, 11:48 AM   #4
salasi
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theif519 View Post
I'm not saying all distros are the same, I mean that majority of them are very similar. For instance, Kubuntu and Linux Mint 10 KDE's GUI are almost the same, use the same package manager, but their GRUB2 Bootloader's background is different *In which case I prefer Linux Mint's*, but then again Mint is based off of Ubuntu. What I mean is, what is the difference from one Distro running GNOME3, or KDE 4.6 from another running the same exact Desktop Environment? I know the package manager might be different, and a few changes in the GUI to make it differ. I'm not too used to the Command Line, but I am still learning, but from what I used in Linux Mint and Ubuntu, they're the same. They all *Or most* use BASH, right? Can someone tell me the differences in the distros?
Just to try to disentangle bits of this question
  • In day-to-day use, and with the same GUI, there are very strong similarities between distros
  • Sometimes the same GUI (nominally) isn't quite the same on different distros; historically SUSE has done a better job on KDE than some of the others, both better integration with their own tools and slightly better attention to detail. Of course, if you don't use that particular GUI, then that does nothing for you, and anyway it is usually details rather than really big stuff
  • In system admin, rather than day-to-day use, there are often significant differences in locations of files, and things like networking utilities; no great differences in principle, but you wouldn't want to do a practical exam on Red Hat networking if your only experience was on Debian (/Ubuntu/Mint/...)
  • Package management is different; (who cares about actual package manager formats?) there are different utilities for different distros, but essentially when you know your way around the distro that you have in front of you, you do essentially the same tricks with a different collection of command line switches, or with a different set of selections in the GUI app. Mostly.
  • In some corner cases, there are things that are easy to do with one set of package management tools that are slightly painful with others, but that is really corner cases rather than day-to-day use. But some people will want even the corner cases to be well dealt with.
  • Availability of packages varies; some distros have more apps available in pre-packaged form than others
  • Availability of packages varies; some distros are better at keeping apps up to date than others
  • Availability of packages varies; some distros are better at supporting older releases with updated packages than others. In general the enterprise/server distros do extended support arrangements better and desktop distros do leading edge better.
  • Availability of things like codecs is often a bit odd and needs a bit of expertise. You learn this for the distro in front of you and then its done. There are reasons for this, and some distros are prepared to sail a bit closer to the wind than others, but its almost always easy to fix.
  • Some distros specialise in one GUI and others give you a range of options (although, if you try hard enough, you can usually work your way around this)
  • Security is important; some distros are better at getting security updates out in a consistent and timely manner than others
  • The distros that concentrate on having a small memory footprint, have a small memory footprint. Usually, this is achieved by defaulting to small apps and maybe even not making 'bloated' apps available at all. But the result is that they are smalller, which can be important for some.

Quote:
...their GRUB2 Bootloader's background is different...
If this was it, you'd have to say 'big deal'...And, I'd say the same thing about default desktop wallpaper, because it is something I'd usually change, as a matter of course.

Quote:
Favorite Desktop Environment? Why and why not?
For me, KDE. Gnome would have been easier recently, but I can never stand it for a long period. I mean its OK, but after a month I always think 'Why is it making things difficult for me...this is unnecessary'. Second choice: Enlightenment.

So, I want a distro that does a good job with KDE, and that seems harder than a distro that does a good job with Gnome. But that's what I want on the desktop. For a server, you'd want long term stability and not six monthly updates, that you might want for a desktop system.
 
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Old 05-10-2011, 12:08 PM   #5
DavidMcCann
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Salasi just about sums it up, although one might add the balance between currency and stability: highly stable distros like Debian Stable, Slackware, and CentOS versus "bleeding-edge" ones like Arch, Fedora, and Ubuntu.

My choices?
1. I like a simple interface, but the window managers don't give adequate control of multiple keyboard drivers, so I have to get a desktop. KDE is a complicated mess, LXDE is unfinished business, Gnome used to be OK but has succumbed to Mac-envy, so that leaves Xfce. Experience shows that distros tend to be best with their default GUI; more user feedback.
2. I like a reliable repository (don't we all) with accurate dependency resolution. OpenSuse expects me to get media codes from a third party site that thinks I need unrar to play videos.
3. I don't want constant change. Yes I know I'm using Fedora, but that's because we've been together since FC1 and I'm a creature of habit.
Result: I'm switching to Salix.
 
Old 05-10-2011, 03:07 PM   #6
Mr. Bill
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidMcCann View Post
KDE is a complicated mess, LXDE is unfinished business, Gnome used to be OK but has succumbed to Mac-envy, so that leaves Xfce.
You're absolutely correct about KDE and Gnome. However, to me anyway, XFCE is like a downgraded version of Gnome... same basic design but without all the features. When is the last time you tried LXDE? Looks quite complete to me. Best of all, it doesn't try to emulate Mac or Windows, or include distracting, resource-wasting "eye candy". It also doesn't hide controls in obscure menus. It just tries to be fully functional, and that's exactly what I've been looking for in a Linux desktop manager.

Just my humble opinion.
 
Old 05-12-2011, 03:30 PM   #7
MBybee
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Bill View Post
You're absolutely correct about KDE and Gnome. However, to me anyway, XFCE is like a downgraded version of Gnome... same basic design but without all the features. When is the last time you tried LXDE? Looks quite complete to me. Best of all, it doesn't try to emulate Mac or Windows, or include distracting, resource-wasting "eye candy". It also doesn't hide controls in obscure menus. It just tries to be fully functional, and that's exactly what I've been looking for in a Linux desktop manager.

Just my humble opinion.
Ironically, the new Xubuntu theme for XFCE is the most Mac-like theme I've ever seen shipped in a major distro. Not sure why they did that.
 
  


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