Like many of the other varieties of Linux, Debian gives the end user a number of different installation choices. In addition to the choice of installer that Tyler B has already mentioned, the Debian community maintains three different distributions, which means that even though I’ve picked a distribution, I still haven’t picked a distribution! In the case of Debian, these distributions are as follows:
- Stable: Last updated on July 27th, 2009, this was the last major Debian release, codenamed “Lenny.” This is the currently supported version of Debian, and receives security patches from the community as they are developed, but no new features. The upside of this feature freeze is that the code is stable and almost bug free, with the downside that the software it contains is somewhat dated.
- Testing: Codenamed “Squeeze,” this distribution contains code that is destined for the next major release of Debian. Code is kept in the Testing distribution as long as it doesn’t contain any major bugs that might prevent a proper release (This system is explained here). The upside of running this distribution is that your system always has all of the newest (and mostly) bug free code available to users. The downside is that if a major bug is found, the fix for that bug may be obliged to spend a good deal of time in the Unstable distribution before it is considered stable enough to move over to Testing. As a result, your computer could be left with broken code for weeks on end. Further, this distribution doesn’t get security patches as fast as Stable, which poses a potential danger to the inexperienced user.
- Unstable: Nicknamed Sid after the psychotic next door neighbour in Toy Story who destroys toys as a hobby, this is where all of Debian’s newest and potentially buggy code lives. According to what I’ve read, Sid is like a developer’s build – new users who don’t know their way around the system don’t generally use this distribution because the build could break at any time, and there is absolutely no security support.
I’m currently leaning towards running the Testing distribution, mostly because I like new shiny toys, and (I think) want the challenge of becoming a part of the Debian community. Since we’ve been getting a lot of support from the various development communities lately, perhaps some of our readers could set me straight on any information that I might have missed, and perhaps set me straight on which distribution I should run.
If you have been following my posts on here you’ll know that the hardware I am running this experiment on is relatively new. In fact it’s so new it hasn’t even been shipped to me yet!
Here’s the problem: the large company that I ordered my laptop from seems to be having difficulties getting my order right. Three, count them, 1, 2 and 3, restarts later I finally have an order in production that looks like it might actually be correct. The only problem now is that its new expected delivery date is September 3rd. If it comes down to that and I do miss the start of the experiment does anyone have any suggestions about what I could do for those first couple of days? Let’s hear ’em!
Just a quickie tonight folks. For those who want to check the compatibility of their hardware with the Linux kernel, check out this page. It’s by no means a full guide (if you have strange hardware, it might not be covered), is aimed primarily at laptops, and doesn’t guarantee distribution compatibility, but if Linux supports the hardware, your distro should too.
Two posts in one day!
I am learning quite a bit in my continued research of which Linux distro will be right for me. So far I think I have knocked out a lot of the more… exotic Linux distros and have come up with a bit of a short list with a few pros and cons to go along with them.
The Short List
- Pros: Very stable, lots of support, lost of software, one of the oldest distros.
- Cons: The distro prioritizes stability over new technology which sometimes seems kind of dull, only F/OSS software.
- Why I am considering it: This distribution has widespread use and serves as sort of a gold standard and I know using this would be a very practical choice.
- Pros: Stable, very secure, a lot of support, constantly adding brand new technology.
- Cons: Using bleeding edge technology can sometimes be a bad thing (I hear KDE 4.0 didn’t go over so well for example), I don’t know a lot about it, not sure what the software situation is like for example.
- Why I am considering it: To be honest it intrigues me. It seems like a distro that can have a lot of customization done to it and it has a focus on security which I’m a bit of a nut about.
- Linux Mint
- Pros: Ubuntu as a starting point, tried to make the best desktop experience possible, simplified a lot of the UI and made great improvements in the usability.
- Cons: It’s a relatively new distro and doesn’t quite have the community behind it yet. I’m worried that updates for Mint specific problems might not come frequently enough.
- Why I am considering it: I am familiar with Ubuntu and this seems like an improved version of that.
- Pros: Mandriva One sounds like it includes everything I could possibly ask for.
- Cons: It seems to try and push a full computing experience on the user, which for most would be great but for this experiment maybe not so much.
- Why I am considering it: It seems like an easy out.
Hopefully I can make my decision shortly and read up some more about it before the start of the experiment!
Hi, sports fans! (That’s right, I’ve decided to start addressing you all with stupid and arbitrary tag lines… please deal with it.) Since Jon has put Tyler and I (and ESPECIALLY) Jake completely to shame with his constant blog posts, I’ve decided to keep up my end of this and, after some research, made a decision…
*drum roll please*
My distribution of choice is, and really always has been (mostly) my main idea – Fedora 11. Why? I’m glad you asked. As a relative Linux noobie, Fedora 11 jumped out at me for these reasons:
- As Jon pointed out in an earlier blog post, Fedora is the choice of Linux grandfather Linus Torvalds. This guy obviously knows his stuff. While Linus primarily supports KDE, the supposed ‘lack of maturity’ of the KDE 4.0 user interface caused him to switch to Gnome.
- Gnome, the same default interface as Ubuntu, is an interface I’m used to. At this point, I’m not looking to dive in completely to unknown waters; God only knows I’d just drown.
- NASA also uses it. NASA is badass (not for using Fedora… for that other stuff they do).
- It has proven stability. Red Hat Enterprise Linux is a derived distribution, and that’s a rock solid environment.
While I envy Jon’s trumpeting of KDE 4.3 for now (yes, it looks gorgeous) it’s not something I immediately want to play with. Perhaps down the road, and believe you me – it’ll get documented here if I do.
Now, I just have to cross fingers that all of my devices work with this, the latest release of Fedora. I have pretty high hopes for the laptop, but some of my peripherals – like my HTC Dream phone – might run into issues. I’ll re-list my entire system profile here. If you have any input (and I’m very interested in Fedora 11’s improved open driver support for nvidia graphics cards), I’d be happy to hear from you.
- Motherboard: LG P300-U.APB3A9 with Intel GM965 Mobile Chipset
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 @ 2.10 GHz, 800 MHz FSB, 3 MB L2 cache
- RAM: 4096 MB
- Video: nVidia GeForce 8600 M GS (256 MB)
- Audio: Realtek ALC88x series HD audio codec
- Hard drive: 320 GB Seagate 5400 RPM
- Optical drive: LG USB 2.0 slim external DVD+/- RW
- Networking: Intel 4965 A/G/N wireless networking card (I don’t use wired on this)
Looking forward to the adventure ahead, that’s for sure. Also, my apologies in advance for intermittent blog posts; I just started a new job this week and the training is a good time.
After a little bit of research, I’ve chosen to use Debian as my distribution for the duration of the experiment. While the decision was more or less arbitrary, it was based on a few core ideals:
- The Social Contract: These guys believe in free software to such an extent that they wrote up a social contract that governs the user experience with Debian, ensuring that the system and it’s derivatives will forever remain free for use, distribution, and modification. As a part of the contract, they define their use of the term free software to ensure that nobody can question their motives. Although I run a lot of free software on a daily basis, I’ve always been locked into proprietary software and formats in one way or another. It will be interesting to try and figure out how to emulate my current workflow in its entirety with free and open-source software.
- A Solid System: Debian is known to be such a solid distribution that Ubuntu (currently the most popular Linux distribution around) uses it as a basis for each of their own releases, and then backports any fixes that they make into the Debian stream. Further, Debian is available as one of three code forks (unstable, testing, and stable), allowing the user to choose from a rock solid stable experience, a less stable one that supports the latest packages, or a potentially buggy one that runs along the bleeding edge of new development.
- 100% Community Driven: Unlike other distributions, Debian development is not backed or sponsored by a corporate entity of any kind – it is simply an organization of (almost 1200) like-minded people working towards a common goal through the power of the internet. You really can’t get a better taste for the ideals of open-source software in any other distribution.
- Huge User Community: Check out this massive list of people and organizations that currently use Debian as their distribution of choice.
- Lots O’ Warez: The stable distribution of Debian contains thousands upon thousands available packages. With access to all of this software, replacing my current setup should be fairly easy (although it might require a bunch of research).
With the release of KDE 4.3 today, I’ve also decided to try using it as my display manager (mostly because it looks really pretty, and I like pretty things). Now I can only hope that Debian has the drivers for my laptop:
- Motherboard: IBM ThinkPad R52 (Product#: 1859B7U) with Mobile Intel Alviso-G i915GM Chipset
- Processor: Mobile Intel Pentium M 740, 1733 MHz (13 x 133)
- RAM: 758 MB (DDR2 SDRAM)
- Video: Mobile Intel(R) 915GM/GMS,910GML Express Chipset Family (128 MB), Intel GMA 900
- Audio: Analog Devices AD1981B(L) @ Intel 82801FBM ICH6-M – AC’97 Audio Controller [B-1]
- Storage Controller: Intel(R) 82801FBM Ultra ATA Storage Controllers – 2653 with AE9GMGLK IDE Controller
- Disk Drive: FUJITSU MHV2040AH (40 GB, 5400 RPM, Ultra-ATA/100)
- Optical Drive: MATSHITA DVD/CDRW UJDA770 (DVD:8x, CD:24x/24x/24x DVD-ROM/CD-RW)
- Ethernet: Broadcom NetXtreme Gigabit Ethernet
- Wireless: Intel(R) PRO/Wireless 2200BG Network Connection (192.168.1.173)
- USB Controller: Intel 82801FBM ICH6-M – USB Universal Host Controller [B-1]
- BIOS: IBM 70ET69WW (1.29 )
- Battery: Sony IBM-92P1089
From one Linux newbie to another, read up on the basic file system organization of a Linux machine here. It’s a very basic overview of where the system puts certain types of files, but is a good starting point for anybody who (like me) is trying to wrap their windows-centric head around a new operating system.
I think that I’m the only member of the group with absolutely zero experience with Linux. Sure, I’ve used TightVNC to check the status of a Ubuntu-based file server, and I may even have dropped a live CD into my machine once or twice before in vain attempts to save my files from a bricked Windows install, but I have roughly zero actual experience with any of the distributions. Due to my lack of knowledge and the antique laptop that I’ll likely be using during the experiment, I’ve decided to stick to one of the more popular distributions to ensure ease of use and a wide base of drivers to draw from. So far, the Top Ten Distributions page over at DistroWatch has been very helpful, and I’ve managed to narrow my choice down to just a few of the hundreds of available flavours of Linux (ordered by my current preference):
- Debian: Over 1000 developers, 20 000 packages, and no corporate backing – the definition of open source community development
- Fedora: Strictly adheres to the free software philosophy; used by Linus Torvalds himself (If that ain’t street cred…)
- openSUSE: A pretty looking desktop, with corporate backing from Novell.
While doing my research, I have purposely avoided Ubuntu Linux and it’s variants, as they seem to be “the” distribution of choice these days. To really get a taste of what it’s like to make the switch from Windows with zero previous experience, I’ve decided to stay away from Ubuntu. It’s just too common, and I’m non-conformist as can be.
100% fat free
Picking a flavour of Linux is like picking what you want to eat for dinner; sure some items may taste better than others but in the end you’re still full. At least I hope, the satisfied part still remains to be seen.
Where to begin?
A quick search of Wikipedia reveals that the sheer number of Linux distributions, and thus choices, can be very overwhelming. Thankfully because of my past experience with Ubuntu I can at least remove it and it’s immediate variants, Kubuntu and Xubuntu, from this list of potential candidates. That should only leave me with… well that hardly narrowed it down at all!
Learning from others’ experience
My next thought was to use the Internet for what it was designed to do: letting other people do your work for you! To start Wikipedia has a list of popular distributions. I figured if these distributions have somehow managed to make a name for themselves, among all of the possibilities, there must be a reason for that. Removing the direct Ubuntu variants, the site lists these as Arch Linux, CentOS, Debian, Fedora, Gentoo, gOS, Knoppix, Linux Mint, Mandriva, MontaVista Linux, OpenGEU, openSUSE, Oracle Enterprise Linux, Pardus, PCLinuxOS, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Sabayon Linux, Slackware and, finally, Slax.
Doing a both a Google and a Bing search for “linux distributions” I found a number of additional websites that seem as though they might prove to be very useful. All of these websites aim to provide information about the various distributions or help point you in the direction of the one that’s right for you.
- Linux Online
- The Linux Documentation Project
- Linux HQ
Only the start
Things are just getting started. There is plenty more research to do as I compare and narrow down the distributions until I finally arrive at the one that I will install come September 1st. Hopefully I can wrap my head around things by then.
Howdy, everyone! Dana here with what looks like the very first blog post on all of The Linux Experiment. Let me take the time to welcome you here; we have high hopes for the site, and hope you enjoy the process every bit as much as we’re hoping to.
As you know (or may not know!), Linux comes in a wide variety of “flavours”, also known as distributions. Each distribution has its own little personality; some are built for users with no Linux experience and are very user-friendly out of the box, while others require you to compile the kernel itself before you can do anything useful with it. Sounds fun, right?
Part of the challenge we face before the September 1st deadline is picking a distribution to install as our operating system of choice for the four months to follow. As documented in the Rules section of this site, we’re not allowed to install any distribution we’ve touched before – which knocks out a few for me, even though I have limited overall Linux experience.
A few that I’ve been considering so far:
Fedora 11 – this is far and away my front-runner. Reading up, I’m intrigued by its improved open-source driver support, and I’ve heard wonderful things about the new version just released in June.
Slackware – my grandfather’s distribution of choice. Never toyed with it, but he seems amused enough.
Knoppix – I’ve used Debian, but not this one.
I pose the question to you, the reader – what would you have me do? Do you have any input on any of these, or maybe some that I didn’t list? Let me know!