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Open Source Distro Choice

Samuel Bird
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 19, 2013
Posts: 96

Hello, I have been interested in Linux for the past couple of years and have finally decided to build a Linux based system. It will hopefully be used mostly for programming and small scale server running but I was wondering which distro you would recommend. I originally was going to choose OpenSuse but have read that it is not as, whats the word(?), open source-y as some others which is one of the reasons i want to run linux so i can take part in OS projects that are linux based. Another thought I had was Ubuntu or maybe debian but i really cant make my mind up so I would appreciate advice as to which one you would use and why. Thank you, Sam.
K. Tsang

Joined: Sep 13, 2007
Posts: 3132

Generally there are 3 major distros: Debian (includes Ubuntu), Red Hat (Fedora, CentOS), and SUSE.

I personally have used Red Hat CentOS and SUSE and Ubuntu before. I didn't like Ubuntu that much, maybe it's the UI or doc. I found CentOS and SUSE equally user-friendly (UI and command prompt). The common software packages are readily available for both distros.

Your choice really depends on the following but not limited to:
- software you need or plan to use
- documentation of installation/configuration of those app servers and databases
- pure server or both client/server hybrid

Hope this helps.

K. Tsang JavaRanch SCJP5 SCJD OCPJP7 OCPWCD5 OCPBCD5 OCPWSD5 OCMJEA5 part 1 part 2/3
Samuel Bird
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 19, 2013
Posts: 96

Thanks, it does. I know what you mean about Ubuntu, since they put in the new tile style GUI thing. I reckon I might run two with SUSE being a backup maybe and then having another as my main. I have not read about CentOS before but I definitely will now. I appreciate the enlightenment.
chris webster

Joined: Mar 01, 2009
Posts: 2293

I've been using Linux Mint for about a year now, and it's great for my purposes. I used to use Ubuntu, but I really didn't like the recent versions of the desktop, so I starting looking at alternatives. Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, so all the Ubuntu/Debian package stuff works fine, which gives you access to a huge range of software that can be installed easily, but the Mint desktop is much cleaner and less resource-hungry. Mint itself is very easy to install, and includes lots of good stuff out of the box e.g. codecs for video support, media players, LibreOffice, Firefox, Thunderbird etc etc. I've got mine set up for software development, with databases, Java/web servers and of course tools like Eclipse etc, but this is easy enough to do with any Linux really. One caveat: Ubuntu has an upgrade mechanism so you can (in theory) migrate from one version to the next, although people argue over how well this works in practice. Mint doesn't have this, so once you've installed e.g. Mint v.15, you'd need to do a full re-install to move to v.16. But I find Mint is so much better than Ubuntu for my purposes that I'm happy with this minor compromise.

Before you pick a distro, you might want to pick up a copy of a Linux magazine (e.g. "Linux Format" is a great option in the UK) as the cover DVDs often have several Linux distros you can boot as "live" distros from your DVD drive without actually installing them on your PC, so you can see which one works best with your hardware and feels suitable for your needs. You can also install Linux dual-boot alongside Windows (although there are some wrinkles with Windows 8 and the new UEFI boot security mechanism which you'll need to investigate), which allows you to try out Linux without losing access to your Windows software completely.

You also need to make sure your peripherals, hardware and especially printers can be set up to work via Linux. These days many Linux distros come with drivers for most modern hardware, but older wireless cards are not well supported, and printers can be a real PITA to set up. I just migrated my old Samsung netbook from Windows XP to Linux Mint, so next weekend I'll be spending a day or so hacking about to get it to talk to my Canon wireless printer. But once that's done, everything else works fine for me on Linux, and these days I only use Windows when I'm forced to e.g. because I have to use Windows software for work or exchange Microsoft format files with people who are still stuck in Windows.

Anyway, there's lots of ways to try Linux out before committing to it 100%, so give it a go - good luck!

No more Blub for me, thank you, Vicar.
Samuel Bird
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 19, 2013
Posts: 96

Wow, thanks for all of that advice. I will now ensure that the OS has the drivers for any peripherals. I'm pretty sure they will as I have a zowie keyboard but ill check anyway. I have read into mint before but you have really convinced me to give it a shot. What harm can it do?

I will also pick up a linux format. It sounds very interesting and I'm sure ill enjoy reading it even if I gain little from it.

Thank you for all responses, Sam.
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