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Distro hopping with dissapointment. Is the perfect distro out there?

Posted 08-06-2008 at 11:44 AM by txos

I have recently been distro hopping to find the perfect balance of Linux for me. The computer that In the past I used a 450 megahertz P3 processor with 512 megs of ram running CentOS 4.5. I ran that for about a year and a half with no complaints. It seemed fast and rock solid. I will admit I set it up as a samba, ssh and web server so I was not asking a lot of it. I have since then aquired a slightly beefier 1 gig Athlon system with more ram. When I first got it I installed CentOS 5.1 on it and it seemed to work great. It wasn't long before I got the distro hopping bug.

I started out with Debian Etch. I had used this on a test PC at work and really liked it. It is fast stable and pretty easy to setup. I used it for a while with the Gnome desktop and the Nvidia driver and it looked great. On both CentOS and Debian I had no problem getting the 1440x900 resolution that my Dell 17" wide screen monitor suggested. I started to try to use this as a desktop and ran into some problems. I tried to install some newer packages that had newer dependencies than what etch had available. I did a little research and found that people suggested not installing newer libraries because it might cause problems with other programs that I had running. Because of this I decided to go out again and try something else.

This time I decided to try something a little more desktop oriented. I settled on Opensuse. This distro seemed to be very polished and attractive. One of the main problems that I had was that even though I got the Nvidia driver installed ok I could not get the 1440x900 resolution working. I also ran into some performance lags but I am not going to hold that against the distro because this is meant to be run on a system with more resources. I then tried Mandriva and ran into similar problems with the driver and performance. It was not unworkable mind you but I had about the same performance out of CentOS running on a 450 megahertz processor. When I ran Debian it was noticeably faster.

Finally I got tired of the problems with customization and slow performance and decided to try Arch Linux. I had heard a lot of good things about Arch and longed for super fast performance. The install was more involved than say CentOS but it was surprisingly not too bad(I even learned a little in the process). I got the Nvidia driver and desktop setup with Xfce4(I specifically chose Xfce for it's lightweight reputation). Now I have everything up and running and it seems to be working fine. I must say I am a bit disappointed. I will admit that I may be doing something wrong but it does not seem to be that much faster than Mandriva or Opensuse. It is certainly not as fast as Debian(running a full Gnome desktop) on the same machine. The only things that I have installed on it are openssh server, Firefox, and Xfce4. While running at init 3 I ran free -m and it said that it was using 560 megs of ram. I then ran the same command on my Ubuntu computer while logged into a full Gnome desktop and it was using less memory. What's up with that? I still have to go thorugh and sort out what services are running on the Arch box but when I run a ps -A on it there is only one page of demons. While if I do the same thing on my Ubuntu box there are about four pages give or take. Something does not seem right here. Is the free command not an accurate way to measure such things? Perhaps I am doing something wrong here but I don't know. I am also still not getting the 1440x900 resolution that I was able to get with Debian and CentOS. I suspect that has to do with the new Nvidia driver since it works better in the more conservative distros. I have not given up on Arch just yet. I am going to play with it a little more but if I cannot figure out a way to improve performence and display I have no real reason to go back to Debian. Perhaps I would try the testing branch to see if the packages are a little less stale.
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