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Viva la difference. Again?

Posted 09-09-2010 at 09:34 AM by rich_c

Following on from a couple of other people’s blog posts debating whether the wide variety of available Linux distros is a good or bad thing, I thought I’d do a quick comparison of three fairly similar distros. There are subtle differences that might suit some users’ needs so that one is, for them, better than the others.

The three I’d like to compare are SimplyMEPIS, PCLinuxOS and Linux Mint (Debian). All three are arguably very similar in that they aim to provide an easy to use system for new/intermediate users. Probably the most notable difference is that the first two are pretty well established and recognised distros whereas the latter is new and fresh… These choices will appeal to people who value either stability and reliability or the latest and greatest. SimplyMEPIS and Linux Mint, being Debian based, will use .deb based package management whereas PCLOS uses .rpm. The availability of certain packages in either format might dictate which distro a user would prefer. There’s also the question of PCLOS and Linux Mint being rolling releases whereas SimplyMEPIS is not. This would provide better control over the versions of software provided with a specific release against the easy availability of the very latest version of apps. Then again, it might be as simple as one of the three choices works better with a certain hardware configuration! There are undeniably cases where some distros have been able to get slightly problematic hardware working out of the box whereas others may have other strengths.

So with a sample of three distros that are probably pretty interchangeable in terms of usability for general desktop use it seems clear that where there are differences, these choices will be useful and desirable under a range of circumstances. Those people who complain that the range of choice is too wide are, to me, plain wrong! One size does not fit all!
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