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rblampain 12-06-2005 05:59 AM

distros usability
I switched from Fedora core 2 to Debian Sarge, I bought a book for Fedora core 2 and found this book gave roughly the answer to a question about 50% of the time. A lot of material was rather superficial. I haven't bought a book for Debian yet.

I've found trying to solve problems in Debian is harder, what I am trying to do is find a distro that I can use for a couple of servers and as a desktop on another machine with a fair chance to be able to trace and solve problems quickly. I don't mind if I have to buy books, as long as they are good.

Debian have a few online resources that are in the making and consequently of no use to a beginner like myself.

I'd like to have the views of the experts, what would you suggest if I want a stable OS and available technical support online or printed but I am not prepared to google all day to solve a problem.

Thank you for your help.

ethics 12-06-2005 06:09 AM - Good for trouble shooting Debian.
This forum has given me far more help and support than online literature though.

The problem i find with books is like you say ,they're usually written for specific distros and quickly go out of date (although Debian publications not so much as Fedora core due to longer release cycle). You could always go for Unix (system V?) admin books etc. they will contain most if not all of the CLI areas. I bought Linux Pocket guidefrom amazon, a great quick reference, but not terribly indepth.

Generally i feel that since Linux has grown so closely around the internet (much to it's credit) online resources are the way to go, they are current (mostly) and can be easily updated, not to mention it saves shelf space.

I think debian is a great OS for a server, rock solid once it's setup, and security fixes when needed, i use it as a server and it performs fine. As for a desktop i have been using fedora core for a while, after i tried mandrake ( i didnt like that much) and Slackware 10.1 (loved that but a bit tough starting out). I would suggest making a list of qhat you require then researching which distros achieve this best.

bigjohn 12-06-2005 06:46 AM


Originally Posted by rblampain
I'd like to have the views of the experts, what would you suggest if I want a stable OS and available technical support online or printed but I am not prepared to google all day to solve a problem.

Unfortunately, thats about the best way to go. Sure I've had mountains of help, from here and other forums. Most distros are "stable" though you can often choose different versions of them for development/testing/etc etc.

For online docs, the best I've come across thus far, has been gentoo - their online resources are extensive. Though if/when you experience problems, then it still equates to one hell of a lot of reading.

So it either means something like gentoo (which can be a bugger to install, even to those with experience, but which is generally pretty easy to manage) or something like mandriva, which installs pretty easily due to it's excellent installer and GUI facilities and is also reasonably easy to manage - but also has an immense amount of support due to it's popularity i.e. theres plenty of assistance here at LQ, theres also the mandrivausers forums which are distro specific or theres also the official site and the "club".

Personally, unless you're getting really adventurous and want to go piling in and do loads of "high level" type stuff straight away, then I'd suggest that you set your system up so that for the linux install, you have /boot, /swap, / and /home partitions. Then install mandriva - sure you should make sure that you tell the installer that you have the 4 partitions, but when you want to try something different, you just install it to the / and /boot partition (making sure that the /swap and /home have entries in the /etc/fstab). Then anything that you want to keep, you would have put into the /home partition and the system should reboot and not have touched the /home stuff at all. Provided you have the same apps/packages installed any icons/shortcuts etc in /home just work and you haven't lost any data/files/addressbooks/etc - any customisations ? well the bits that support backgrounds/buttons/iconsets etc live in the / anyway, so initially you would just have the new distro default set/background - but changing that is a basic thing to do.

Spending half your time in google it part of the learning curve - and you'll still find that lots of the online resources is very poorly written (worse for me, I don't have the technical mindset either).

Hence, in the short term, I'd suggest Mandriva, SuSE, Fedora - hell, if you think that debian is the way to go, then get a kanotix disc and install that to your hard drive (it's based on knoppix, but uses debian mirrors/repositories and is apparently a little more "polished" than knoppix).

trickykid 12-06-2005 08:26 AM

Essentially after you break down a Linux distribution, they're pretty much all the same. The only differences would be:

1. What package manager is it using to install and manage packages?
2. Where and how does the default configuration files differ from distro X to distro Z?
3. What packages and versions come with this distribution?

Pick one, learn it and then everything else will follow. Once you learn one distro, it's pretty standard you can operate almost any of them. Debian itself is more of an advanced distro, picking it or something like Slackware will probably do you good as they both make you get down and dirty in configuring them manually, etc.

rblampain 12-08-2005 11:52 PM

Thank you all for your valuable advice and sorry for the delay, I had to make a few adjustment for the new LQ site.

My situation may be a bit unusual in that what I am doing is done as a volunteer for a Not-For-Profit organization and I don't really want to learn but I'd like to leave something basically sound for when this NFP can afford to pay the pros.

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