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Old 10-06-2012, 11:24 AM   #1
GypsyDan
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Question Why So Many Linux Distro's


I am new to the Linux platform, trying to choose which dist to set up. As you can imagine, with so many different distro's having been developed, I'm not the only one in the position of trying to decide which to choose, and I'm sure this question is discussed many places, which I'm not able to locate.

Some questions:

1) Where can I go to get answers to these questions?

2) Why have there been so many different flavors created

3) It does not seem productive to just pick one and see how it works, then try another, and another, and . . . ?

4) Why gnome over KDE, etc?

5) One month I read Ubuntu is the best, so I download it. Then I hear MINT is the best, and now this week I'm reading about Mageia.

Any comments?
Thanks
 
Old 10-06-2012, 11:44 AM   #2
camorri
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Quote:
1) Where can I go to get answers to these questions?
This is one of the best places to get information on linux. Also see this link -->http://distrowatch.com/ for reviews on most distros.

Quote:
2) Why have there been so many different flavors created
Linux is the kernel, not the entire distro. That said it is also free, and open source, free on the sense of you can get it and do what ever you want with it, as long as you make your changes available to the community. Each distro was started with a particular way the distributor wanted it to be. Many people, many different opinions on the 'best way'.

Quote:
3) It does not seem productive to just pick one and see how it works, then try another, and another, and . . . ?
Agreed. Look at distro watch, read the forum and pick what you think is going to suit you best.

Quote:
4) Why gnome over KDE, etc?
or xfce or a long list of others. Simply said, linux gives you choice, its up to you to try them out, and use the one that works for you the best. There is no correct answer here.

Quote:
5) One month I read Ubuntu is the best, so I download it. Then I hear MINT is the best, and now this week I'm reading about Mageia.
Yes, all different opinions. As stated above, you will over time form your own opinions.

For me, stability is number one. Then package management is next. Available packages is last on my list, probably because most distros have a lot of packages to choose from. You will have to form your own opinions, what is right for you, many not be right for me, or someone else.
 
Old 10-06-2012, 12:38 PM   #3
DavidMcCann
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For what it's worth (and naturally I think a lot!) here's my take:

Best distros for a beginner who has a laptop (they include encryption as an option at installation): Mint, OpenSUSE, PCLinuxOS
Other good ones for a desktop (without easy encryption): Mepis, SalineOS

Best GUIs
KDE: lots of eye-candy, best with modern computer and 2GB. Default for Mepis, OpenSUSE, PCLinuxOS
Xfce: plain and functional. Default for SalineOS
Mate: similar to Xfce. Default for Mint.

Distrowatch has links to on-line reviewers, and there are reviews on this site.

Golden rule: read the distro's installation instructions on their web site before starting!

Last edited by DavidMcCann; 10-06-2012 at 12:39 PM.
 
Old 10-06-2012, 06:50 PM   #4
jefro
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From a hobby standpoint, it does make sense to try them out. Almost all of the top 30 or so at distro offer a live cd/dvd so they are easy to test. One might use a virtual machine also for quick choices. Many free, pre-made distros are easily downloaded.

For a professional there are many issues to consider. For maybe the top choices one considers the business plan, the expected applications and the hardware it will run on.
 
Old 10-06-2012, 07:03 PM   #5
speck
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Quote:
1) Where can I go to get answers to these questions?
Nowhere.

Quote:
2) Why have there been so many different flavors created
Why are there so many different types of transportation? Would a Honda Civic fit every possible situation that anyone could encounter when behind the wheel (they're probably not the best at towing a large boat or carrying 30 passengers).

Quote:
3) It does not seem productive to just pick one and see how it works, then try another, and another, and . . . ?
In your lifetime have you just eaten at one restaurant, bought one type of cereal, watched one specific television show, eaten one type of dessert, etc? Why does variety exist?

Quote:
4) Why gnome over KDE, etc?
A highly subjective question, the answer depends on your wants and needs.

Quote:
5) One month I read Ubuntu is the best, so I download it. Then I hear MINT is the best, and now this week I'm reading about Mageia.
There is no "best". What's best for me (Slackware with i3) may be nearly unusable for you. Again, this is a subjective question with no right answer.
 
Old 10-06-2012, 08:04 PM   #6
Dman58
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Because people love to make choices & be unique, it gives us a sense of independence.
 
Old 10-06-2012, 10:15 PM   #7
frankbell
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The short answer to "Why so many distros?" is "Because we can." Persons create distros to fill needs as they perceive them.

I would suggest burning some Live CDs (they allow you to boot directly to the CD/DVD without touching the hard drive), booting to them, and playing around. That allows you to sample the distros and pick one to start with. Most, but not all, distros offer a Live CD option.

Once you install one, stick with it long enough to get your feet wet before you consider trying another one.

You might also check out the Going Linux podcast. The early episodes are very much Ubuntu-oriented, but it's a good intro to using Linux.

Last edited by frankbell; 10-06-2012 at 10:17 PM.
 
Old 10-07-2012, 03:49 AM   #8
kooru
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Because Linux is freedom.
Freedom is being able to choose.
 
Old 10-07-2012, 07:32 AM   #9
zxzxy1988
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Quote:
1) Where can I go to get answers to these questions?
Try to go to different forums, and I think this forum is a good one to search. Also, you can Google it, for example, for your question 5, this is a webpage to answer this question:
https://www.linux.com/learn/docs/ldp...utions-for-you
Quote:
2) Why have there been so many different flavors created
Generally speaking, because it is open source. If you want, you can just have your own unique distributions. Years ago, Linus just did not want to use minix and came Linux
Quote:
3) It does not seem productive to just pick one and see how it works, then try another, and another, and . . . ?
In my opinion, I just want to use Linux to work and develop certain software, so as camorri said, stability is No.1. You can choose any one of the distributions, then join a the corresponding forum and learn more about the certain distribution. When you use it for more than half a year and it does not match your requirement, then you can try another distribution.
Quote:
4) Why gnome over KDE, etc?
Different people may have different opinions, so this question is really hard to answer.
Quote:
5) One month I read Ubuntu is the best, so I download it. Then I hear MINT is the best, and now this week I'm reading about Mageia.
You can refer to the previous website to decide which one to choose
 
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Old 10-07-2012, 09:13 AM   #10
Soderlund
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djones334 View Post
3) It does not seem productive to just pick one and see how it works, then try another, and another, and . . . ?

5) One month I read Ubuntu is the best, so I download it. Then I hear MINT is the best, and now this week I'm reading about Mageia.
Most distributions are based on:
  • Debian
  • Slackware
  • RHEL

(But also on Gentoo and Arch.)

This summary on Wikipedia gives you an idea:
http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?...ldt.svg&page=1

For example, Ubuntu is based on Debian unstable. Mint, in turn, is based on Ubuntu (the LMDE version is based on Debian testing).

Tracking Mageia's history, it ultimately goes back to Red Hat Linux, which RHEL also evolved from. But in the end, those three distributions are the major ones.

RHEL is for businesses -- the mortals use CentOS, which is a gratis rebuild of it. I've never tried either of them, but by reputation they are very good.

Regarding OpenSUSE and Fedora (which you also hear a lot about), they are the testing distributions of Red Hat and SUSE, respectively. OpenSUSE is used for SLED/SLES, and Fedora is used for RHEL. They are (by hearsay -- again, I haven't used them) less stable than distributions like Debian, Slackware and CentOS. SUSE, by the way, is originally descendant from SLS/Slackware. Knowing that I would be an unpaid beta-tester for a for-profit corporation, I would never use OpenSUSE or Fedora.

"Best", according to me, is determined almost entirely by stability. I do a lot of programming, and I don't want to lose months of code because the system spontaneously decides to self-destruct like Nostromo in Alien. Therefore, the distributions like OpenSUSE, Fedora (testing distributions) and Ubuntu (based on Debian's testing branch) are out of the question for me.

Ubuntu is a particularly funny case, being based Debian's developmental version. Ubuntu is about as stable as Debian Sid (or even less), but it's not tested for any purpuse. If I'd use a developmental distribution, it would be Debian Sid to contribute to the Debian project.

One thing that will never change is that they will always be testing distributions. Stability will never be a priority for them. This distinguishes them from the high-quality distributions like Debian/Slackware/RHEL/CentOS, who will always focus on reliability. Therefore, you can actually say that no matter how many versions are released of Fedora, RHEL/CentOS will always be better, and no matter how many versions are released of Ubuntu, Debian will always be superior. They have completely different goals.

I don't know enough about Mageia, Gentoo or Arch to say anything about them. Apparently Gentoo has some sort of relation to FreeBSD, which makes me think: "Why not just use FreeBSD, then?" But maybe Gentoo is entirely different.

Mageia, at least, isn't used as a testing ground for developing another distribution. Maybe it's great.

Debian, Slackware and RHEL/CentOS are often referred to as "server distributions", presumably because they are among the most stable. I don't know about CentOS, but Debian and Slackware are great for desktop use too. I wouldn't ever consider using any other distribution (and because of Red Hat's disgusting business practices -- such as obfuscating kernel source code -- I wouldn't use RHEL/CentOS either; Red Hat is like the Microsoft of the Linux world).

Looking back at when I was completely new to Linux -- searching around the internet trying to figure out what to choose -- I would've wanted someone to tell me: "Ignore everything else, go straight to Debian or Slackware."

But then again, I'm very biased.
 
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Old 10-07-2012, 10:00 AM   #11
johnsfine
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djones334 View Post
2) Why have there been so many different flavors created
Because anyone who wants to can create one.

Quote:
3) It does not seem productive to just pick one and see how it works, then try another, and another, and . . . ?
I agree. I'm constantly amazed that so many people here think distro hopping is a good idea.

Quote:
4) Why gnome over KDE, etc?
Desktop choice may be even more important than distribution choice in determining whether you end up being happy with Linux. But I'm sorry to say there is no better direction there than in distributions. There is no basic direction to the differences. Just whatever the developers of each desktop thought would be fun to develop.

In my personal opinion, they all focus too little on user efficiency in favor of either "eye candy" or "light weight". I don't want eye candy and I don't care about light weight. So I never "upgraded" from KDE 3.5 (after 3.5 KDE went off in a strange direction I really don't like).

Quote:
5) One month I read Ubuntu is the best, so I download it.
Did you just download it, or did you really try it? If you really tried it, you shouldn't need to still be asking these questions.

Quote:
Then I hear MINT is the best, and now this week I'm reading about Mageia.
Every distribution has someone who thinks that distribution is best.

The differences between almost any of them are small compared to the difference between using one vs. letting the confusion keep you stalled.

A beginner is not going to do a lot better than Ubuntu. It might or might not be the best choice for you, but it is a good enough choice that it is better than getting stuck on the choice. Popularity is its own advantage. Whatever confuses you about Ubuntu, some other beginner has already been confused by; has already asked the question here; and has already gotten a good answer. So you can just search LQ for anything that confuses you and the answer is already posted. If you pick a less popular distribution the answers may be a little harder to find.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Soderlund View Post
RHEL is for businesses -- the mortals use CentOS, which is a gratis rebuild of it. I've never tried either of them, but by reputation they are very good.
In my opinion, Centos is the single best choice for an unattended full-time server machine. I'm glad someone pays RHEL licenses, because otherwise Centos wouldn't exist. But the inconvenience (in configuration, and install and upgrade and experiments with spare machines before such changes, etc.) of having a license is bigger than the actual cost of the license. Competent IT professionals have no use for RHEL paid support. They have no need to ask questions simple enough for support to answer, and the harder questions are more likely to get answered for free at LQ than via paid support.

But whether you are talking about Centos or RHEL, you still should be talking about an unattended full-time server. If you want Centos in a dual boot or desktop machine, that should just be for the purpose of studying for a Linux IT job. RHEL/Centos are as bad a choice for ordinary desktop or ordinary Linux beginner use as they are good choices for unattended server.

Quote:
Knowing that I would be an unpaid beta-tester for a for-profit corporation, I would never use OpenSUSE or Fedora.
If no one was making a profit, none of this stuff would exist. I don't understand your hatred of for-profit corporations, especially to the point of reflex refusing what they give away for free. I think it is justified to take an extra moment thinking about what amount of control you are relinquishing when you accept a free product from Microsoft or Google, etc. But I think Fedora is quite far from justifying such worries. For any of those free products, just worry about whether it fits your own needs in a way that won't bite you later.

Quote:
"Best", according to me, is determined almost entirely by stability
I strongly disagree. Most of us aren't setting up transaction processing systems. On my desk at work, I have a Windows 7 system and a Windows XP system. Each of those crash far more often than any Linux system I have ever used. But I get real work done on those systems. No work that I have put a lot of time into is ever stored on just one machine. There are copies elsewhere on the company WAN. Having copies of the important stuff elsewhere is much more effective than trying to use the most stable possible OS.

At home, and for hobby programming, I use Linux. So I already have something more stable than Windows 7 to use in the environment where I don't actually even need as much stability. Why would I then use small differences in stability between Linux distributions as a serious consideration compared to ease of use?

Windows is not stable enough for the unattended systems at work. That is why we use Linux. Centos is more stable than Ubuntu, but that is just a happy accident relative to our choice to use Centos instead of Ubuntu. Ubuntu is stable enough for our unattended servers (they still aren't financial transaction processing systems where stability counts over everything). Centos is better than Ubuntu for unattended servers for a range of reasons more important than stability.

Quote:
no matter how many versions are released of Ubuntu, Debian will always be superior. They have completely different goals.
I agree about different goals and totally disagree about which is "superior". For the ordinary home user Debian's goals are strange and never currently relevant (extreme focus on the purity of the freedom of free software). Like RHEL, Debian is a distribution that we are very lucky to have exist and to have someone support (with voluntary contributions). But that doesn't translate into being a good choice for a beginner learning Linux.

Quote:
Debian, Slackware and RHEL/CentOS are often referred to as "server distributions", presumably because they are among the most stable.
I'm sure someone thinks Slackware is a good server distribution, but "often" seems implausible for that opinion. Debian is more able than any other binary distribution to be configured (by a Linux expert) as anything you want (with open source, starting from source code always gives you more flexibility than using Debian, but not enough more to be worth the extra work). So certainly, Debian can be a good server distribution. But treating it as such is going against common practice (for a big organization leading to staffing and support issues and even push back from auditors). Suse is more popular as a server than I think it should be. But overall, I still think Centos is a solid best choice for server, to an extent I would never say some specific distribution is best for desktop or beginner.

Quote:
Looking back at when I was completely new to Linux -- searching around the internet trying to figure out what to choose -- I would've wanted someone to tell me: "Ignore everything else, go straight to Debian or Slackware."
When I was completely new to Linux (and Debian was quite new as well) someone did tell me "go straight to Debian" and it was probably the right choice. But I still ended up using Linux for less than a year before abandoning it.

When I came back to Linux much later, I would've wanted someone to tell me to go straight to Mepis. I wasted a lot of time with Debian, Mint, Ubuntu and others before trying Mepis, which at that moment was a solidly better beginner distribution than any other. Mepis is no longer the outstandingly better beginner distribution that it was then. If there is an outstanding beginner distribution today, that fact is lost in all the noise and all the loud biased opinions.

From the beginning of my second try at Linux, I did have Debian running on another machine the whole time I was trying other distributions. I was gradually learning Debian as well. When I tried Mepis, I suddenly understood so many things I had been struggling to figure out in Debian. So at that point, I could have been quite competent with Debian if I hadn't dropped it in favor of Mepis (So much that I didn't understand in Debian works exactly the same in Mepis and Debian, but was easy to learn in Mepis). But even if I never tripped over Mepis, I would have become Linux competent using Debian. Debian was not the best beginner choice, but by the second time I tried Debian, it was a far better beginner choice than not trying Linux at all.

Last edited by johnsfine; 10-07-2012 at 11:13 AM.
 
Old 10-07-2012, 11:36 AM   #12
GypsyDan
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Original Poster
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I want to thank each of you who responded with a reply.
Your reply's show me how valuable and helpful this community is.
Thanks for.
 
Old 10-07-2012, 12:02 PM   #13
Soderlund
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Quote:
If no one was making a profit, none of this stuff would exist. I don't understand your hatred of for-profit corporations, especially to the point of reflex refusing what they give away for free. I think it is justified to take an extra moment thinking about what amount of control you are relinquishing when you accept a free product from Microsoft or Google, etc. But I think Fedora is quite far from justifying such worries. For any of those free products, just worry about whether it fits your own needs in a way that won't bite you later.
Debian doesn't make any profit, but I wouldn't mind if they did, as long as it's ethical.

I don't think of Fedora as a product, but rather a beta release, similar to Debian Sid in relation to Squeeze. The actual products are Squeeze and RHEL. Fedora is used to create RHEL in much the same way, except RHEL does (for example) not share the changes they make to the kernel by obfuscating them. That makes Red Hat's behavior toward the Linux community parasitical rather than symbiotic. Why help them beta test that product?

Quote:
I agree about different goals and totally disagree about which is "superior". For the ordinary home user Debian's goals are strange and never currently relevant (extreme focus on the purity of the freedom of free software). Like RHEL, Debian is a distribution that we are very lucky to have exist and to have someone support (with voluntary contributions). But that doesn't translate into being a good choice for a beginner learning Linux.
Ubuntu and Debian are so similar that it hardly makes a difference. Without the focus on free software (from Debian, the FSF and others) we wouldn't have Linux at all.

I totally agree with you that Debian/Slackware should not be branded as server distributions, but I hear it very often. They can be used as precisely anything -- just look at the amount of distributions derived from them, Debian in particular.

Quote:
If there is an outstanding beginner distribution today, that fact is lost in all the noise and all the loud biased opinions.
Point taken. I just don't think Fedora, Ubuntu and such are good for beginners. As a beginner, I would definitely want maximum stability, because when the system breaks down, a beginner will have no idea what to do. I remember the blue screens from Windows and thought I would never see them again when I tried Ubuntu as my first distribution (that is, after all, a major argument for Linux adoption) -- I was disappointed.

I'm sorry that I didn't respond to all your arguments, but I don't want to drift too far off-topic. Maybe it is better for beginners to have a distribution where YouTube et c. work out of the box.

At least this answers question #2 (why there are so many flavors): because people like me and johnsfine can never agree on anything.
 
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Old 10-07-2012, 11:49 PM   #14
zxzxy1988
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Soderlund View Post
I totally agree with you that Debian/Slackware should not be branded as server distributions, but I hear it very often. They can be used as precisely anything -- just look at the amount of distributions derived from them, Debian in particular.


Point taken. I just don't think Fedora, Ubuntu and such are good for beginners. As a beginner, I would definitely want maximum stability, because when the system breaks down, a beginner will have no idea what to do. I remember the blue screens from Windows and thought I would never see them again when I tried Ubuntu as my first distribution (that is, after all, a major argument for Linux adoption) -- I was disappointed.
It makes me think when I was 10 years old and uses Windows 98. It goes to blue screens for several times, and I just do not know why and how to fix it. At that time, I even did not know where to search the related information, so I just ask one of my older brothers, who seems to be a "computer genius" to me at that time.

But currently with Google, I think if you run into several problems, just Google the problem, and for beginners(above 20 years old, maybe), 80% will be solved easily and one can learn more about the OS(no matter Linux or Win). My mentor once told me that, if you never run into questions, you would learn nothing

But to be honest, stability is really an important issue, but for me, Ubuntu/Fedora is enough
 
  


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