[nSLUG] Suggestions for Distro

William Lachance wrlach at gmail.com
Fri May 29 15:07:09 ADT 2009

2009/5/29 derek mahoney <derekmahoe at hotmail.com>:
> Hello Again All.
> I know asking this question is like asking which religion is better or do
> you if you believe in god, but I was just looking for feedback on Linux
> Distro's. I have been using Kubuntu for quite some time and have always
> updated when the new one was released. However, upon doing so when kubuntu
> 9.04 was released I have run in to some problems with basic functionality. I
> am also using KDE4 which I know has it's share of problems but I like KDE
> and what it offers. I made the switch to kde4 shortly after it was released
> and upon monitoring the progress I like the improvements made thus far.
> Anyway, like i said I am thinking about installing another distro and
> because the choice can be overwhelming I figure I would get some suggestions
> first. I am thinking about SUSE 11 because I hear good things.
> What I am looking for in a distro is nothing too complicated. I would lIke
> to use KDE desktop. I know this can be installed after the fact but would
> pefer to have it run natively. I would Like a good selection of tools and a
> nice out of the box functionality and usability.
> What are some suggestions for Distro and maybe some user experiences? What
> is it that you really like about your distro of choice.

I've used each of Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, and OpenSUSE at various
points. The day-to-day user experience is largely the same between all
of them. Debian is slightly less polished and streamlined. The main
difference between distributions lie in their strategy for handling
software that's outside of the main desktop and core UNIX environment.

It's here that the huge, *trustworthy* software library created by the
Debian developers is a gigantic advantage, unequaled by any other
distribution that I've tried. Most software packages are just an
"apt-get install <foo>" away. Since Ubuntu is derived from Debian, it
inherit these benefits.

Last Christmas, I decided to switch over to OpenSUSE after hearing
good things about their build service and package management suite
(the Zypper installer and PackageKit GUI). Big mistake. The various
software repositories that make up the build service are not checked
for consistency, workingness, or trustworthiness.


1. I needed to install some opensource geometry tools and libraries
(gdal). Under Debian/Ubuntu, this would have been a simple matter of
doing "apt-cache search gdal". SUSE? I spent half an hour trying to
track down the same tools using their awful web UI.
2. To add insult to injury, this repository of opensource geometry
tools stopped providing a proper certificate several months later,
leaving this charming message on my desktop: http://twitpic.com/1znar.
The resolution to this issue? Remove the repository of course! (and
lose access to updates)
3. I wanted to upgrade Banshee to version 1.4.3 from 1.4, so I
downloaded the latest version of that package using SuSE's famous "one
click installer". After clicking through a bunch of scary screens
saying that these packages couldn't be authenticated, it finally let
me install them. A few days later, these packages appeared in the
master OpenSUSE repository. PackageKit completely choked on this,
refusing to do anything until I removed Banshee from my system
entirely and reinstalled.

I'm also disturbed by the lack of accountability in the SUSE build
service. Every Debian package has trusted maintainers associated with
it. In order to become a Debian developer, one has to go through a
rigorous process of proving one's identity and credentials . SUSE?
Outside of the core distribution, nothing. It basically comes down to
whether you trust the random people who (for some strange reason) are
motivated to package up and distribute their software on the build
service. While I'm sure most of these people are trustworthy, how can
I really be sure? It reminds me of the Windows world. where every time
you install a piece of software, you pray that you aren't getting a
bunch of viruses and spyware in the bargain.

I'd be interested if this was also the case for Fedora. I've heard
that they've been trying to create a proper process for bringing in
trusted 3rd party developers to help build the distribution, but don't
really know if that's been effective or not.
William Lachance
wrlach at gmail.com

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