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Old 01-20-2005, 07:01 PM   #1
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Question Comparing Debian and Gentoo


I have been a user of Mandrake and Redhat for some years now and I am thinking of changing to another linux distribution. I primarily use it as a server and I am wondering if Debian or Gentoo would be better to go with.

Here are some things I'd like to do with the distribution (they might not be all possible):

- Strong PPOE ADSL support including automatic ADSL reconnection
- Strong firewall with shaping to stop upload saturation of the ADSL line and the firewall should give priority to certain traffic i.e. port 80 traffic, or certain local computers.
- Strong network monitoring tools/intrusion detection etc. I want to know what is going on ! =)
- General network services: internet sharing via NAT, dhcp, dns, sftp, mail, ssh, transparent proxy (squid), samba, apache, spam assassin
- Automatic updating of packages to new versions
- Support for easy compilation of source applications
- A method of automating new routing to the internet via a dial-up modem if ADSL is detected to be down, and then terminated when ADSL is back up.
- Microsoft Exchange Server open-source equivalent
- Asterisk Support (open-source VOIP/PBX software)
- Cross-platform clustering (sharing CPU cycles between computers over the network)
- Daily automated backing up of network computers' documents
- Daily automated scanning network computers hard drives for viruses and spyware
- Some 802.11b/g WiFi support, and be able to incorporate a wireless network potentially as another zone for the firewall
- Support for an encrypted VPN tunnel from Windows machines from the internet, to access local network services like windows networking, ftp servers, game servers etc.
- Some tools to make all of these things not impossible to setup! lol

It's a lot to ask, but I may as write down the perfect scenario. And I know that most of this functionality is delivered by the packages and not the kernel as such, but if I know which distribution is geared more to certain functions than another, it would be good.

The computer the distribution will run on is an AMD Duron 900mhz with 512ram and 120GB hdd attached to a 100mbit ethernet and an ethernet ADSL modem connected to a 1500/256 ADSL line. It will be serving 5 PCs in the local network.

I know the basic differences between the distributions - like Gentoo can be built entirely from source or binaries whereas Debian has to be built from binaries. And Gentoo uses Portage which is a powerful package system but Debian has more packages with its arp-get but that's about it.

Please make some recommendations as to the distribution that would be best for the wishlist above. Even if it's not Debian or Gentoo but you think it's more suitable please recommend it.

Thanks =)
Old 01-24-2005, 02:46 PM   #2
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With due respect, the issue here is what the "admin-to-be" is capable of, not what the distro is capable of. Both are excellent, and are routinely used for far, far more than that which you have requested above.

The best thing you can do now is to procure and install a copy of both, and then spend enough time to truly become familiar with them.

Old 01-24-2005, 03:18 PM   #3
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Well here's my experiences gwizz.

When I first tried "proper" debian, I couldn't get the bugger installed and running for the life of me (I didin't really know enough).

One of the blokes from my LUG is on the debian developers list and he identified the snag as being that my graphics card not being supported and he helped me get things sorted.

Things still weren't how I wanted, coming from a nice easy mandrake background. I'd read about how knoppix works, and it recognised all my hardware so I just said "what the hell" and installed it to hard drive (while keeping mandrake on a seperate partition). I soon learned that I'd still have to change the apt-sources to get everything I wanted.

So, for a while I went back to just mandrake.

Then after looking into gentoo and asking around a bit, decided to try it. I'd established that as I'm not very knowledgable and rather impatient I'd be best placed doing a "stage 3 + GRP" install. I just couldn't be bothered with learning all the extra stuff I'd need to do a stage 1 or 2 (plus it'd take far too long for my liking).

I only use gentoo now, and after a few screw up's, I'm pretty happy with it. The documentation is better than most, straight forward enough so that even a nugget like me can manage it.

The available e-builds (packages) are usually very up to date (much much more so than debian IMO). The only downside is that when you install/update/upgrade, it may seem the same as debian inasfaras you just do "emerge whatever" (like "apt-get install whatever"), but you're getting source, not pre-compiled binaries. It has to compile for your system. Which is IMO a good thing.

I've had minimal problems with it and the gentoo forums are stuffed full of help and assistance.

I prefer gentoo to debian, but that's just personal choice.



p.s. The +GRP (gentoo reference platform) bit of a stage 3 + GRP is precompiled binaries, it just gets you up and running a lot quicker - for info, I once made the mistake of just doing "emerge kde", which is about 175 megs, but took a mega 15 hours to compile. Hence the benefit of GRP stuff.


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