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A lot of people have different and personal opinions about the differences in the linux operating systems.
To judge which will be best for you, it is helpful to know what the box will be used for. ie: web server, network server, file-server, worstation etc etc.
After knowing that, you can make your decision, and then making it "the best" means it has to be well configured.
Let us know what your box will be used for.
FreeBSD or Redhat Linux, What is the difference? [webmasterworld.com] - Fantastic post by stlouislouis in this one.
Is FreeBSD anything like Linux? [webmasterworld.com]
RedHat vs Debian [webmasterworld.com]
Top 10 list of Linux distributions [distrowatch.com] - Worth a read as it gives a detailed explanation of each distribution.
Hope all this helps.
However, RedHat is planning on moving away from supporting the 'normal' (and free) versions such as 7.3, 8.0, 9.0 and solely focusing on it's Enterprise level products
I've been pondering the move too something else too in light of the announcement. I'm currently on 7.2 and using it for my home mail/web/file server. Anyone have experience with Fedora?
If you are new to Linux there is Knoppix, it boots from CD and rocks!
I tried it for the first time last week. Burned a Knoppix 3.3 CD and....
Ran it on a Celeron 500 w/128 megs of ram. Pretty decent performance, couldn't be used as a daily machine (but I guess that's not really the point. Soudblaster card was recognized and what really impressed me was that the WinTV card worked with no problems. I just had to switch the TV program's default mode from PAL to NTSC and to US-Cable.
Tested on an older IBM T21 Laptop with a "mobile" P300. Not enough ram and it had to create a swap file BUT it prompted me if I'd like to create one. No problem and the machine ran alright but KDE was very slow. Switched to icewm (nice that there are like a half dozen window managers included) and it seemed to run more smoothly. CD-Rom access was crazy, probably because this T21 was quite old and had little ram. Ran "knoppix tohd=/dev/hda1" to copy the CD-image to HD. From there and it performed much better. Only hitch was that it didn't recognize the sound card.
And finally ran it on a Dell Optiplex GX260 (brand new) and it ran wonderfully, not to mention super fast. Everything appeared to be recognized.
I'm impressed... entire linux distro on a 700 meg CD. Recognizes most hardware on boot. Listening to the CD-Rom constantly whirr is annoying. BUT... I'm definately keeping a copy of this in my "toolkit". Seems like a great recovery tool & Demo program.
As a matter of fact I was about to install RH 9.0 on a new server until the above info came to my attention and I started thinking about Slackware Linux instead.
That being said it might be worth installing Slackware on a test box and seeing how it goes... One thing I didn't like about Slackware was having to make like 6 floppies in addition to the CD to install it. It was like, man, if installation is this much of a pain what is running the server going to be like.
Distros I tried:
1. Redhat, mentioned above. (Also, yes the xconfigurator was weird stuff)
2. mandrake, RH with different xwindow.
3. Suse, had to much green color for me and the howto's were hard to read & different language back then.
4. Debian, I was to stupid to install the software.
5. Caldera, the ms wheel mouse worked out of the box but the video cameout grainy.
6. Tiny linux, good for computers without cdroms.
I personally like slackware, I use 7.1 on one of my workstations behind a 486 LRP box at home. Slackware uses tgz files and they are easier to install.
I guess it's a personal choice and one that will be figured out by just trying them all.
Just make sure you have a program called "Midnight Commander" installed. If I only knew of this program back then. =;)
You can download it free, but it is 3 full CD sized ISO's so you might want a broadband connection if your gonna grab it. You can also pay them and get it on CD's.
Went to Suse.com's site and downloaded the boot.iso, burned a boot CD. No problems there. Ran the boot CD and started the install but my network card was not automatically detected. I ended up having to pull my card out, wrote down the model and then tried to manually pick the card... except the SMC model I had was not available. Tried all the SMC's and none worked. After some googling I found out I could use a different driver... that ended up working and I started my FTP install.
Picking the packages & configuration was very simple. The installer has a clean interface that was fairly easy to understand. Partitioning seemed odd, because it seems to default to just /boot, swap, and a root. (no separate partitions for say /var and /home). I just went with the standard partitioning scheme.
The FTP install went fine except one of the OpenOffice packages did not install. I skipped it and continued.
Got right into KDE after a reboot. Things seemed pretty slick but I noticed several issues:
- My WinTV card had no sound. Reconfigured it about a dozen times, still no sound. Booted using knoppix & windows and sound worked fine. Three days later, sound magically started working.
- USB Microsoft wheel mouse doesn't work (just the wheel). It's configured correctly (at least it appears to be) but it doesn't function.
- When adding additionals packages in yast it defaults to CD 1. Errors, then I can choose an FTP site to get the packages from. I'd like to default to something OTHER than CD 1 or prompt me for an alternate location.
- While Kaffiene is a decent movie player I can't seem to get all the windows codecs working in it (yes, I did install them in the win32 directory). I tried installing Mplayer, but that seems to be having issues displaying movies on my display. I suppose this really isn't an SuSE issue... but it's damn annoying.
What I like:
+ The automatic update appears to work fine. Opened it up and it updated two installed package. Seems to make for easy system maintenance.
+ yast & Control center are very refined. I was able to get in there and easily customize my setup, adjust my display, desktop settings, check hardware.
+ All general use applications were included (Office suite, gimp for graphics, browser, chat, etc). Although I really expect this for most linux distro's I use.
I've only been using it for a week and I'm not sure if I'll stick with it. I haven't found 9.0 packages for Evolution yet which is something I'd really like to have. I would assume that since Novell has aquired both Ximian & SuSE there will be some tight XD2 & Evolution integration in future releases. I'd like to use that if/when it comes out.
No matter which distro you try, I recommend buying a copy off of Ebay. It's much easier than trying to download the iso images off of the web.
My latest copy of Suse cost me $9.