which linux? (not flame bait, thank you)

Scott W wegster at mindcore.net
Wed Nov 5 20:27:11 PST 2003

DavidB wrote:

> First I would like to say that FreeBSD rocks, and have been using it 
> for  more than a few years.  I like the ports system, I like compiling 
> from source so I can get the compile time features I want.  
> Portupgrade really helps with maintaining ports.
> My question is this, I would like to have a little exposure to linux 
> and am wondering which distro to run, I used redhat back at the same 
> time I started with FreeBSD3~ , not sure if I should check them out.
> I had in my list of potentials, slackware, debian, and I was wondering 
> what was thought of gentoo(I read that this was started by a former? 
> freebsd developer)[I hope there is no bad blood there].
> I didn't want to go thru a list, installing and playing with several 
> different ones, don't have time for that, I still have to upgrade the 
> webserver/mailserver/database box and the desktop box to 4.9 [not much 
> to that] or wondering if I should just jump into RELENG_5_1 (I like to 
> keep my server and desktop running with the same versions, so I can 
> swap the desktop in place of the server should the server box fail, 
> call it cheap insurance).
> So is there any particular distro that stands out to freebsd types, so 
> I can check one out, so in a pinch, if I need to setup a linux box for 
> some strange reason I could do so.
> Not here to start a religious war, I hope people have calmed down on 
> that, but just one simple, perhaps, stupid question.
> Thanks,
> Dave
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I know this is a bit late responding, considering the number of 
responses already, but to add my .02c:

1.  It really depends on your purpose for using Linux.  I'm a long time 
Solaris and then Linux user from pre-1.0 kernels, and 'new' to FreeBSD 
myself, but have seen most flavors of Linux or run them at one time or 
another.  If you're doing this for professional reasons (as in company 
is going to start to migrate prpducts, services, etc), then you've only 
really got two choices that make sense:
a.  RedHat.  No, I'm not overly fond of RH any more myself, but it's 
been doing downhill for anyone other than corporations for years now.  
They _are_ however, extremely dominant in the US in corporate 
environments, and will continue to be so for some time, even if they're 
shooting themselves in the foot IMHO for 'dropping' their 'personal' 
version of Linux.  Remember, RH Advanced Server 2.1 is really RH7.3 at 
the core, aside from a custom kernel and some 'commercial' add-ons from 
RH.  Likewise, RHEL/RHAS/RHWS 3 are I believe based on the core of 
RH9...if you don't have access to the ENterprise versions, use their 

b.  SuSE- Again, I'm not crazy about, but SLES (SuSE Linux Enterprise 
Server) is gaining ground, and more companies are doing ports or 
development with RH applications simultaneously. 

c.  Anything else as a 'learning experience'- Linux From Scratch is 
pretty ambitious, and you WILL learn more about dependencies than you 
can bat an eye at ;-) 

If you're doing it for personal, or for 'possible future use of 
knowledge,' GenToo or LFS are both really good, but higher learning 
curves than either RH or SuSE/SLES, the latter two IMHO both trying to 
'fit the kitchen sink' and throw mediocre GUIs on top of simple commands 
(sorry, I REALLY dislike YaST), along with them pushing GNOME and KDE 

Correspondingly, if you're doing it for personal USE, rather than 
learning, development, admin, etc...RH or SuSE aren't bad for 'install 
and forget about' type of installs, and KDE and GNOME are more 
'Windows-like' with every release.

For a server...I've been disappointed with RH (personal releases) in the 
past, which is why my RH server is still 7.3 based.  Their first few 
releases of a major version (which ended at the 8->9 jump), eg 7.0, 7.1 
are usually not the most stable platforms for production use.  SuSE is 
pretty similar but seems to have a slightly better rep in that respect.  
Another issue in using either as a production system is due to the 
'kitchen sink'- with the sheer number of packages they cram onto CDs, 
you would have todo a LOT of trimming to ensure nothing extraneous was 
installed on a system.  RHAS(now RHEL) and SLES are better with respect 
to numbers of extraneous packages and focusing more on essential apps.

GenToo's Portage system is definitely similar to *BSD Ports, and 
possibly one step further, differentiating between 'system' (world on 
BSD) and 'world' (all installed apps), but it WILL take time to get 
installed the first time through...and their 'stable' labels could use a 
bit of work with respect to a 24x7x365 system.  I do run a GenToo system 
as well, and haven't hit any _major_ gotchas, but the potential is there 
(similar to building CURRENT on freeBSD).

Last ones- Debian and Slackware.  Ran Slackware for several years before 
finally 'giving in' to RH, then followed it on a 'secondary system' for 
a bit longer.  Definitely tends to be more stable and minimal than a 
'full' RH or SuSE install, but slightly behind the times, as is Debian, 
which is NOT a bad thing for a production server.  Think 4.8-STABLE 
versus 5.1-CURRENT here..as far as the 'technology gap' you may tend to 
see.  Haven't spent much time with Debian, but enough people's opinions 
I DO respect has made me thought of it several times.

Ok, rambling off- hope that's helped somewhat.  It does also matter in 
some respects what hardware you'll be running on- RH and SuSE manage to 
get hardware support ironed out before any other distros, mainly because 
of their commercial 'success' and focus by many companies.


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