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I installed SUSE Linux 10 a few days ago and I must say that I was quite impressed with this distro on the whole. It is one polished, professional Linux distribution with a smooth, painless installation procedure that is very beginner-friendly while at the same time being easily accessible to the expert user who wants to customize the whole process. I for example, needed to customize the partitions manually and also choose not to install a boot loader and it was quite easy to achieve this with the ďexpertĒ mode tools during the setup. At the same time, somebody who has a basic system can easily breeze through the installation with the default partitioning scheme. It all depends on the level of expertise and how much control you want over the process. For instance, if you have another Linux installed on your system, I suggest a custom partitioning scheme.
The installation of SUSE is basically a two-step process. First it installs the base system using only the first CD and then you reboot. Once you do and continue the installation by booting into the newly installed system, you get to configure your hardware, locale and system parameters and settings. Once this is done, you get a fully working Linux system. On my system at least, hardware detection was fully automated and I didnít get a single prompt for any settings. Of course, experts can choose to configure their hardware manually as well. Itís painless, fast and easy. The downside of SUSE installation is that you need all 5 CDs even for a basic installation because the packages are spread across the CDs and you never know which essential package is on which CD unless you really dig deep to investigate individual package files. This was a definite downside because I was forced to download all 5 CDs before I could install SUSE. Of course, if you choose to buy a boxed set from Novell, you could avoid this hassle.
YaST is the real strength of SUSE, though. Itís a fully integrated system configuration tool that does pretty much everything you might need from hardware, software, network configuration, server setup and other system administration. However though itís GUI, you will need to learn it and due to the sheer number of modules, you will need some time to really learn how to use it. On the other hand, a basic desktop user wonít really need to do much system administration except software management.
While on the subject of package management, I want to talk a little more on this from the perspective of a Debian user. SUSE uses the RPM system and has a wide variety of packages available, but not surprisingly it comes nowhere close to matching the size of the Debian software repository, which has more than 15,000 official packages. Though this is understandable, I did find it irksome to note that there are no SUSE packages for gFTP and audacity, for instance. As a Debian user who is spoilt on the huge official software repository (not to mention those found on apt-get.org), I found this limitation to be a turn off. On the other hand, the default SUSE package repository is large enough for typical users who may not need all the stuff that I generally use. By the way, there might be SUSE repositories online which have unofficial SUSE packages of software not found in the CDs, but I must admit that I havenít really investigated this aspect yet.
One other minor issue is that the default desktop fonts are a bit odd but that can be easily corrected by installing the Microsoft core TrueType fonts as a patch in the YaST online update module and customizing your fonts.
My impressions? SUSE is very much a desktop oriented distro, but not necessarily limited to the desktop user. Itís polished and professional and looks like a complete product. While YaST is excellent overall, the software management part of it is not nearly as convenient or polished as apt-get on Debian. The best part of SUSE 10 is probably that itís hardware detection is great, itís installation is smooth and painless and requires minimum manual intervention by default. That might really encourage users new to Linux to try it out. But if you are an experienced Linux user, particularly with distros like Debian or Slackware and you are used to being in control of your whole system, you might find the limitations of SUSE irksome.
Debian Debian Debian! When I got the Sarge DVD with my tech magazine I could hardly wait to try it out that I completely removed Fedora Core 1 from my system and installed this.
I have never regretted this decision to switch.
Installation is not that difficult as it is made out to be. In fact, the Sarge installer is one of the easier installations that Linux affords you. Sure, the hand-holding of Fedora is not there in Debian, but for a fairly confident user, this distribution is excellent and easy to install.
This is actually one of the best binary-based distributions of Linux around for several reasons and I will outline them one by one.
An excellent package management system. Enough has been said about this, so I will restrict myself to saying that so far I have never had a failed installation or a dependency issue. Debian is rock solid.
Easy to keep up-to-date. With the Debian testing branch (as opposed to stable) you can have the a fairly up-to-date (but not the bleeding edge) system with very few hassles. Updating the system is very easy.
HUGE repository of ready to install packages on the web. This is one of the best reasons for anybody to use Debian. If you want a piece of software installed on Linux, chances are that Debian already has them on their web repositories. Constantly maintained, the Debian repository maintainers follow very strict standards of which software is good and which is not so you will have very few worries of installing a suspect software on your system.
On the other hand, Debian does not hold your hand. Graphical tools are conspicuous by their absence for various system settings, but this can be easily rectified by installing Webmin which allows you to administer your system through a web interface without having to go through the hassle of editing config files. This is actually the best part about Debian: if you want a tool to install on your system, just search using apt-get or Synaptic.
Would I recommend Debian for any newcomer to Linux? Yes. Purely because once up and running, you are free of headaches and broken dependencies that distros like Fedora gives you. Forever.
Gentoo is one of those distributions that I have always had in mind when I wanted to try a new challenge in Linux after having used Debian for a fairly long period and being confident with it.
I will now review different aspects of this "meta-distribution" and explain some aspects of Gentoo that may confound a newbie.
Now admittedly this is the hardest part about Gentoo and is enough to scare away most newbies from trying this fantasic distro. Actually it requires quite a bit of preparation and basically understand the reasons for performing all those steps outlined in the handbook. I spent three days in reading and re-reading this excellent document before beginning my journey, so it is no wonder that the installation went totally smooth for me. I downloaded a stage 3 tarball (for athlon-xp architecture) and installed my system from there from within Debian.
It is definitely much easier to do the install from a GUI environment so that you can have a browser window open and read the handbook while performing the steps. I recommend using an existing distro (if you have one) or using a LiveCD like Knoppix to do the Gentoo installation rather than rely on pure command line mode of the Gentoo LiveCD.
The kernel configuration is the only tricky part and even this can be done automatically using a tool called "genkernel" if you are not inclined to configure it yourself. However, kernel compilation is very easy and I recommend that the more experienced people do the configuring and compiling on their own rather than rely on "genkernel". For newbies, using "genkernel" is better.
Software package management
After all that hard work of installing Gentoo, all you get is a basic command-line Linux with a few tools installed. Now most desktop users like me will want a GUI environment like KDE or Gnome and this is very easy to obtain as well.
Actually this is the best part of Gentoo. Dependencies are handled automatically by "portage" system and it really works. If you don't have access to binary packages, be prepared to allow your system to download and compile the sources through the night while you're asleep. KDE will especially take a *long* time to compile so patience is a key here. On the other hand, you have the option of installing pre-compiled binaries and there is documentation for this in the official Gentoo website.
Configuring hardware and devices
Actually this is an excellent thing about compiling your own kernel. While other distros come with pre-compiled kernels which may or may not have the modules to support your hardware, with Gentoo you can easily configure a kernel to compile support for your hardware right at the beginning.
I also recommend installing "coldplug" which detects hardware at bootup and loads the necessary modules during startup, although the more experienced users might want to do this manually and thus save some booting time.
Gentoo is a meta-distribution, meaning that you choose what you want to install on your system and also make a system that is tailored to your needs.
The documentation is excellent and covers almost every aspect of use (from desktop use, configuring 3d acceleration, installing ALSA and MIDI support). With Gentoo, you can anything from a full-fledged single user desktop system to a server system that runs light on the command line without too many frills. It also allows you to get what *you* want rather than dumping a whole lot of binaries on your system.
Mind you. Be warned that installing packages from source is a very lengthy process and each time you wish to install a big program, it will take hours to compile.
The key then, is to plan and build a system. You choose, you build and you watch your plain-vanilla Linux system grow into a full fledged power desktop or a fast, no-frills server system.
Gentoo is all about choices and power.
Well after my bad experiences with Red Hat Linux 6 and 7, I had not used Linux in quite a while.
However, when I got my hands on Fedora core1, I could hardly wait to try it out.
In the first place, I noticed a lot of changes in Fedora as compared to earlier versions of Red Hat.
In the first place, the hardware detection was smooth and quite good. Though the graphical installation didn't work the first time, I could get it to work without the framebuffer mode (using the 'nofb' option).
The installation took about 45 minutes with lots of packages loaded on. The system installed the 'grub' boot loader and I could configure grub even within the installation this time.
Once inside, Fedora is quite a good distro to work with. With KDE 3.2, the GUI has definitely improved a lot and there are a lot more applications now in KDE. The best part was that my CD-Writer got automatically configured to work with Linux: something that didn't happen with earlier distros. My sound card (on-board on my A7N8X-E mobo) also got recognised without any hassles. I can now both play music and record audio from my Line-in jack. The OSS drivers got configured automatically. Even my USB Digital Camera (Canon Powershot S50) works with the digikam application!! Wow!
On the whole, this version rocks! I would recommend this distro even to newbies because of all the simplifications in GUI and also the excellent hardware detection during the installation. Go for it!