[nSLUG] Suggestions for Distro

D G Teed donald.teed at gmail.com
Fri May 29 22:59:00 ADT 2009

On Fri, May 29, 2009 at 1:14 PM, derek mahoney <derekmahoe at hotmail.com> wrote:
> 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.

It's funny you ask this today.  I regularly do system administration
on a bunch of Redhat boxes.   I think we have 21 now, not including
the cluster.

Today I had the pleasure of setting up a desktop on a new PC in my
office for myself.  I installed Debian 5 Lenny.

I was expecting some trouble setting up an HP CP2025 printer, which
people had said required a proprietary package from HP with their
hplip.  For curiousity, I tried the printer administration tool within
gnome, which I figured was a front end to cups.  A minute later I was
printing.  Wonderful.  I don't yet understand the value :
hp:/net/HP_Color_LaserJet_CP2025dn?ip=xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx in my
printers.conf, but it works.  No package from HP required.

X11 was configured well enough from the Lenny install, but I wanted a
dual head configuration.  I downloaded nvidia's set up file and ran.
It worked with Debian's kernel source compiled against the config
saved in /boot.  I ran the nvidia setup tool and had twinview enabled
immediately without mucking around in the xorg.conf for the typical 20
minutes to an hour for hardware you've never seen before.

I got through the install and application configuration without any of
the hardships people associate with the more do-it-yourself distros.
The only part I recall configuring from vi was setting up the
iptables-restore in the pre-up part of interfaces file.

Other things I wanted, like apcupsd, denyhosts, dovecot, etc., were
all available as Debian packages I could find by 'aptitude search'.
When I contrast this with my typical Redhat experience, there are many
things I need to download or find from rpmforge, sourceforge, etc.
Redhat doesn't include very simple stuff like denyhosts, quotatool,
ipcalc (the one which is a very handy IP calculator).  It is beautiful
to save so much time and hassle in the application set up phase by
having aptitude and the massive Debian packages available.  On top of
that, aptitude is rock solid compared to yum (which has no error
handling other than python's error handling - it's like writing your
perl code with no error checks and relying on perl to print your

Another significant difference between Redhat and Debian is the
maintenance work.  Debian might need 50 to 80 package updates a year
to keep up to date, while Redhat will cause about 800 package updates
(some more than once) per year.  Redhat's will work flawlessly about
80% of the time,
while Debian is trouble free (maybe 99% flawless?) package updating.

Some people believe Redhat has advanced support and bug fixes.  I
encountered a significant kernel bug related to samba mounts to
Windows 2003 hosts in March 2008.  Only Redhat exhibited the problem,
and use of an unpatched Redhat was free of this bug.  They had
backported kernel code in a way no other distro had, introducing the
bug.  It was reported to them immediately, and a month later a support
ticket was created referencing it.  They took over 4 months to even
look at the bug and ticket.  We got a fix via Redhat 5.3 released in
January 2009.  That was 9 months to release a fix.

I also like KDE over Gnome.  It is very easy to set up.  First,
install kdm and kde packages.  Then select kdm as your manager when it
asks you about this.  On the bottom of the kdm login screen, you can
select the type of window manager you want to run, and select KDE.  I
believe it remembers the last value as the default, so it is now your
default window manager.

I'm very pleased with Debian and the progress of the same.  Even if
you are not sure this is for you, it costs nothing to try it other
than 30 minutes to install for a typical modern machine on high speed
internet.  The Debian net install CDROM is small to download in
contrast to Suse and others.


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