The Best Linux Distribution of them all

发布于 2012/03/09 16:06
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A few weeks back, my friend Tom asked me a question regarding Linux - that is - Which is the best Linux distribution of them all. And following is the lively conversation we had about this topic which I am sharing with you.

Tom: Ravi, There is a lot of talk going on about Linux which I have read in websites, newspapers and articles in magazines. I am aware of quite a few names floating around like debian, ubuntu, fedora and so on. Which Linux distribution according to you would be the best one around ?

Me: Tom, you have asked a really simple question which has no single/simple answer. But I will try and explain it as best as I can. You should know that Linux is just a kernel. When all the necessary tools like the word processors, image editors, compilers and likes are added so that they seamlessly work on top of the Linux kernel, it becomes a distribution. I need not tell you that different people have different likes and dislikes. With respect to computers and OSes too this holds true. The versatility of Linux is that there is a Linux distribution which commits to cater to individual likes.

Tom: I didn't get you. Could you explain it a little bit more clearly ?

Me: Sure. You see, people can be categorised according to their tastes in computing. For example, one person may be newbie who is just getting introduced to computers who expects some hand holding. Another may be a Linux Guru who likes to do all his work using command line utilities. The beauty of Linux (or should I say the GNU movement) is that there is a distribution tailor made for each of these people.

Tom: So you are saying that the correct answer to my question is that it depends on the individual. Right?

Me: You are bang on target when you say that. :)

Lets look at a few scenarios. Suppose you are a student of computer science. Your main motive in installing Linux on your machine would be to study the inner working of the OS. About what happens under the hood of the OS so to speak. A person with such an inclination will find it ideal to build your own Linux distribution compiling from source. In fact, there is a project called Linux From Scratch which precisely lets one build a Linux distribution grounds up. Another distribution which caters to this segment of people could be Gentoo.

Tom: Well not all people are computer science students. How about a newbie like me ?

Me: For new users like you (and there are quite a lot of them too), there are Linux distributions which come bundled with nice GUI front-ends which makes your Linux experience really enjoyable.
But before we go into it, I would like to say something. Linux distributions can be broadly classified according to the package management they support. Package manager is a program similar to a setup installer in windows. There are two main players in this arena. One is deb package, the other being rpm (short for Redhat Package Manager).
Most Linux distributions follow one or the other of the above said package format to install applications. For example, Linux distributions like Debian and Ubuntu follow the 'deb' package format where as Redhat, Mandriva, SuSe and the likes follow the 'rpm' format.
Coming back to your question, a newbie will feel right at home in installing and using any of the distributions like Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian and so on. But there is an important factor. Because of licensing restrictions, these distributions exclude support for popular file formats like Mp3, Quicktime, wmv (windows media player), viewing encrypted DVDs and so on.

Tom: What? You mean, I would not be able to play my favourite mp3 music on these distributions ?

Me: Not at all. All I implied was that you have to download the codecs and install it by yourselves if you want the support for these file formats. For example, I use a versatile media player called mplayer to view all my mp3 audio and video. And it works flawlessly.

Tom: Is there a distribution that has these codecs installed by default ?

Me: Of course there are. For example, distributions like Linspire and Xandros comes with support for these formats. But you will have to shell out some money and buy first in order to use them.

Tom: What if I wanted to use Linux as a server ?

Me: If you are exclusively using Linux on the server side, then the GUI will lose its significance. You will be better off trying Debian. This Linux distribution gives stress on security and is considered to enjoy a large share of the Linux server market. Of course, you can also try RedHat or SuSe for the same. But the situation at your work place also play an important role in selecting a distribution for the server.
Did you know, Debian is the only Linux distribution that supports architectures other than x86/IA32, Intel 64 bit, AMD 64 bit and PowerPC ? More over, Debian is not controlled by any corporation or single entity and it is maintained exclusively through donations and volunteer support.

Tom: Ravi, you know Manish, my friend from school days ? He tried installing SuSe on a Pentium II machine with 32 MB RAM. And he said that he ran into problems in running GUI applications.

Me: That is because he doesn't have enough memory to run GUI applications. Anyway, SuSe is targeted at more recent machines having at least 128 MB RAM. But tell him he need not despair. There are Linux distributions which cater to this segment too. Like you have the Damn Small Linux which runs easily even on machines with just 32 MB memory. Did you know that Damn small Linux takes up only 50 MB space on your harddisk in its uncompressed state? Another linux distribution in this category is Puppy Linux.

Tom: Really? I wonder how they accomplish this extraordinary feat.

Me: If you are impressed by that, then there are Linux distributions that fit inside a floppy.

Tom: No Kidding ?

Me: Seriously Tom. I am not pulling your leg. Tombsrtbt is a Linux distribution that fits inside a single floppy. It can be used for troubleshooting purposes.

Tom: And it has my name too ;) . But seriously how is all this possible ? It is a bit overwhelming to have this discussion itself.

Me: All these forks are possible because of the GNU movement. If Linux was released as a closed source project, these forks would not have seen the light of day.

Tom: I am just curious. Which distribution will a geek favour ?

Me: Heh heh, So you are aspiring to be a geek is it ? I have heard that Slackware and Gentoo are favoured by geeks. Slackware needs some mention here. It is one of the oldest distribution around. Earlier I talked about Deb and RPM formats. But Slackware uses an entirely different format called TGZ - which is gzipped tape archive, to install applications. There are many die hard slackware users who swear by this distribution for its ease of configuration and use. But it is not suitable for new users because most of the configuration is done by editing text files.

Tom: But I always hear of Fedora, Ubuntu and the likes but seldom do I hear about Slackware, Xandros, CentOs or any others. Why is that ?

Me: Tom, you have to understand that somebody who makes the loudest noise need not always be right. Firms like RedHat and Novell (SuSe) are multinational corporations which have millions of $ at their disposal. They gain all the publicity by running advertisements, conducting certifications and so on. Then there are some distributions like Debian and Ubuntu which grab the public's fancy because of their social ideals and commitment towards GNU movement and essentially because they are free as in freedom as well as beer. That doesn't mean they are the only good distributions around. Ultimately the choice filters down to the ideals, tastes and necessities of the user.

Tom: Going by our discussion, I have arrived at the conclusion that I want a Linux distribution which is easy to install, easy for newbies and support all proprietary file formats out of the box (I definitely want to hear mp3 music). It has to have good customer support. And I am willing to pay money for it (though within limits). I guess I will go for Xandros, Mepis or Linspire. What do you think ?

Me: Go for it Tom. I have always known that you have a penchant for spreading your money around ;) . But on a serious note, I think you have taken a good decision because when you pay money for the distribution, they include addons like support for propritery file formats and the user is saved from the job of installing them himself. Some of these distributions like Linspire also ship with non-free softwares like Win4Lin which helps you to run popular windows programs like photoshop and games like Age of Empire. So it is money well spent. It may be worthwhile if you visit Distrowatch.com and read some reviews about what people have to say regarding a particular distribution before you make the choice.

Tom: Ravi, thanks for clearing my doubts regarding the Linux distributions. This discussion has helped me a lot. I do not know what I would have done without friends like you.

Me: No problem Tom. And God speed ahead.

A note to Readers
Tom and Manish are fictitious characters and this whole train of thought took place inside my mind. I hope this conversation has helped clear the air about which Linux distribution is ideal for you.


原文链接: http://blog.csdn.net/t0nsha/article/details/2338918


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