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Old 12-07-2003, 09:04 PM   #1
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Does the Distribution really matter?

Hi everyone. It seems to me, and I'm very new to linux, that the distribution you use really does not matter. This is because, I think , we can update our kernels and software as we please. So it's really the service/installer/prebuilt environment that makes the difference. For example, I have been trying to install Debian for weeks now, but it's just nuts to get going. So it occured to me that I could just install Mandrake so that it will detect my hardware nice and easy and then I just upgrade my kernel/software as I please. Is this flawed reasoning?

I hope not as I really want a free-stable linux (stable to me is based on the software you run, the kernel, and your security settings) and it's Mandrake/Redhat 9/Fedora for me as anything else is just really to complicated. I would love to run Debian but the initial amout of work to get it going is incredible. You guys think I could run Mandrake 9.2 as a reliable server? Do you think 9.2 is more reliable than Redhat 9 or Fedora core 1?

How easy is it to update to a new kernel in mandrake? I would like to move to the 2.6 kernel as soon as possible, will I have to reinstall my Nvidia video card, because I had to install it separately on 9.2? Thanks so much guys. Lastly, what is the real difference between Mandrake 9.2 and Redhat's distro(s) and Fedora core 1? Any help is extremely appreciated, thank you for your time.

Long live the resistance,
Old 12-07-2003, 10:30 PM   #2
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Sure. We can allways use LFS. What distribution does, is provides a framework for installing system, maintaing it and configuring it.

Without any framework, maintaining linux is comparable to hell of maintaing windows(Max two months untill it is a time to reinstall everything).

What comes to software, it is allways possible to compile from source and install by hand, thus having debian-packages is much nicer because you can also get rid of the software you install and you don't have to track all the depencies (And there are a lot more of them if you are building from source) when tools like apt does this for you.
Old 12-08-2003, 01:17 AM   #3
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The difference between Mandrake and RH/Fedora is that Mandrake's not utterly evil.

No, I don't know - I've never touched an RH product and only had Mandrake on for a day or two.

You hit some of the main differences and I might add one or two. Distro installer, default (or easily chosen) apps, method of package installation, package maintenance, administration tools, startup scripts, directory structure and file placment, default permissions and security measures, ethical and economic ties and stances, overall 'feel', service. More.

True, every distro can be bent into every other distro, but the question is either 'which do I have to bend the least to get it how I want it?' or 'which is the one I can bend the most because that's what I want to do?'. Most people try to find what suits them best to begin with.

You are right - Debian's install is appalling, though they're working on improving it - and their software is radically out of date and takes an extra effort to bump it up. If you want a stable, relatively easy to maintain distro for a server but (AFAIK) without much in the way of support, then Debian would be good. I'm really not sure how Mandrake does as a server but if you want an easy install, Mandrake's a good pick and, as I understand it, urpmi (or whatever) is no slouch at package maintenance. If you're not a megacorp (and maybe even then) I'd stay well away from RH/Fedora and, as I understand it, Fedora *really* shouldn't be run as a server. It's the thing for the Linux community to crash and burn so RH can sell something stable to corps after the fires are out.

Anyway - at rock bottom, no it doesn't make much difference but, in practice, many distros are quite different from each other and it does make a difference.

obSlackware plug: Despite it's rep, Slack's install is not bad, and it makes a good server, as I understand it. With the new swaret craze, it's even supposed to be easy to maintain. But it does require a more hands-on approach.
Old 12-08-2003, 03:18 AM   #4
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Ironically, for a server, I tend to agree that the distro doesn't matter much, since a high degree of technical expertise is required regardless. One might even consider using BSD (which has a non-linux kernel). It's for desktops and workstations where customizations matter most IMHO. In that regard, I believe Mandrake is several years ahead of their competition. The initial experience an end-user has leaves a lasting impression, and with Mandrake's superb installer and GUI tools very little (if any) after-sale support is need. Their new discovery edition, which has potentially dangerous server components removed, even makes installing workstations in a corporate environment relatively safe. No need to have RedHat's consultants to do everything for you. Even if you do need help, Mandrake encourages distro independent certification via LPI, whereas RedHat insists everything be done their way, much like the imperialists at M$ we're all trying to get away from. To those who say "Linux isn't ready for the home", I say "you've been using the wrong distro."

My only complaint, and one others have echoed, is that Mandarke tends to be a little more "bleeding edge" than other distros. Their accelerated release cycle occasionally results in versions that are a little less "stable" than companies who spend extra time on testing. Then again, you do get the most current versions of included software. Guess it depends which matters the most to you. Being on a slow dialup connection, downloading apps like OpenOffice 1.1 wasn't an option for me. Just glad I don't own an LG CD-ROM.

Last edited by Crito; 12-08-2003 at 03:21 AM.
Old 12-14-2003, 04:15 PM   #5
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Another opinion

I think distros do matter. I used Red Hat for several months, and had SUSE 8.1 for a month or two. I'm on Slackware now, and I must say, you can see a speed difference, among other things. This was true when I was using my old 900 Mhz Athlon machine, and I thought the speed difference would disappear when I built my new 2800 Athlon box with a Gig of fast RAM and a better video card. But it didn't. Slackware is snappier -- and I'm talking perceived speed, as I ran no benchmarks.

Also, there's the layout. SUSE confused me. Red Hat was better, but it had more of that Windows/Mac feel of having things where they want them, not where you want them. Slackware seems eminently more logical and simple. Things are where you think they ought to go (I realize that would be different for different people). It's also more stable on both my boxes than Mandrake was (I had no luck with Mandrake, getting freezes on both boxes). It's like anything else: the more you tweak (as Red Hat, et al, do), the more complication you introduce into the system, and the more complication, the more problems.

Can't go without a pitch: give Slack a try. See if it isn't nicer. The install amounts to partitioning your drive and hitting the return key a lot. Maintenance is a breeze with Swaret. Also, give Dropline Gnome a shot. It's the nicest desktop in Linux IMHO.

Have fun,

joe f.
Old 12-15-2003, 08:49 PM   #6
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If you've never had exposure to Linux before... go with Mandrake... it'll sugar-coat you with GUIs for most of the administrative commands.

After a while, you can move on to Debian or Slackware, which are more hands on if you prefer to do so... not that there's anything wrong with Mandrake.

But to me, it hides to many things behind GUIs, and if your X11 has problems starting up (or you're on production servers which usually will not have GUIs), you might be screwed if you don't know how to troubleshoot things from the command line.
Old 12-15-2003, 10:18 PM   #7
Registered: Aug 2003
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Distribution: Mandrake 2006
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I also believe distros matter. I would quantify that by saying, "Distro's matter in the micro sense whereas the concept of "Linux" itself takes care of the macro side."

Personally I prefer Mandrake although I've tried dozens of Linux distros over the last 10 years. I would also be the first to admit this may be coincidence since I've been lucky enough that it has had no problems with my choice of hardware. Unlike most, I'm pretty picky when it comes to the devices I buy and Linux compatibility/support are VERY important to me.

I would also suggest it may have something to do with attitude. I'm not a Microsoft hater nor I'm I a Linux evangelist. I believe in using the best platform for the task at hand and I have had a big mix of OSs in my house. I've had FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Linux (I started with Slack), SunOS, Solaris, OS/2 2.x, OS/2 Warp, Windows 3.0, 3.1, WfW 3.11, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000 and Windows XP. I've also had 386, 486, Pentium, Pentium II, Pentium III, Pentium 4, AMD, SPARC, Alpha and MIPS. I wouldn't trade any of those boxes and I've loved every minute of it.

However, as I get older my tolerance for "tinkering" becomes small as I make the transition from "too much time, not enough money" to "more than enough money, not enough time."

As always, YMMV!



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