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Interim

Linux Distros

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I decided to take a new look at a lot of the mainstream and popular distros the past week, just sort of seeing how things are and keeping myself current with changes. Thought maybe we could generate a non-flame based discussions on opinions of distros. ::::RedHat Severn. I can't tell the difference from RH 9. Minor kernel version update. Most of the RPMS I've messed with from the CDs are smooth, which I don't remember being the case with 7.3. I do have to admit, I think they made a solid move with BlueCurve despite the backlash they got. It's consistent and once you learn their menu layout, does a decent job of administering your UI environment. I did find some bugs here and there with some of the UI config tools, but nothing mind shaking. I still find the script-chains for network configuration annoying (x.script -> y.script -> z.script -> zz.configfile). But once you learn where settings are stored, you can see the logic. I think RHat is on track to cement itself in as the server platform of choice for Enterprise customers. The UI will goes a long way to helping companies create mixed environments without needing a massive team of Unix gurus. (they'll still need a few though *grin*). I think the top distro breaks down by region: USA->RHat, Europe->Suse, Asia->TurboLinux ::::Slackware 9.0 I never tried this, but gave it a shot. I loved the install (still like to run fdisk myself and create my filesystems). The install being simple and typical unix geek appealed to me. I liked the basic system, though I think they're init scripts are way too simple. Still, with some time, I think it would customize nicely for a dilegent admin. I can see why it appeals to the minimalists. Its easy to get swamped under all the software installed on some distros by default. Slack seemed to keep to the core basics. I have to admit though, the thought of tracking dependencies for make; make && make install isn't appealing anymore. I don't mind the occasional custom job and tracking bugs, but I really don't want to go back to doing that daily. OSS is getting too mature for that IMHO. Though the package system was nice, there were not as many pre-built packages compared to RPM, APT, PORTS, or PORTAGE. (I guess Alien would help quite a bit). :::::Debian "sid" Been unlucky with this one the past few times. Had hardware conflicts with the sid images I got and didn't have the personal time to really track them down. I tried sarge, still good old Debian. Have to love apt-get and dpkg. Only thing is having to jump some hoops to get XFree86 4.3.0. I saw the experimental package, but convinced it was still the rock solid Debian I remember and use *grin* I just moved on. :::::FreeBSD 5.1 Well, not Linux, but I like it. Been using this for some low priority production servers without problem. I had some problems with my HP CD Writer and my Firewire DVD RW, looks like a driver bug. Got to love ports and packages on BSD and the common administration tools and config files. Probably need to wait for STABLE to come out in a few months. :::::Gentoo 1.4 The last one on my list. I'm finising the install on this up today. I didn't find it that hard to install, though I was suprised to see they do it all manually. But the LiveCD shell was nicely done. Emerge looks great. I personally don't mind compiling some OSS (almost always port stuff on BSD anyway), but the big boys and girls (XFree, Gnome, KDE, OpenOffice, Mozilla, etc) I just don't want to be bothered with, especially since most are in an event-wait loop most of the time, not much to gain with optimization in most cases (let me know you find this to be wrong from your experiences, please). However, I do like the USE flag option for compiling packages. Makes it easy to rebuild say PHP for Apache with the various options you might require (well, should make it easy, haven't tried it yet). I also like the rc-update and env-update scripts. Convienance is nice. I nearly skipped this, but the positive opinions of people here on the boards as well as some geek feedback on the net kept me looking. Once I found the Stage3 tarballs and the LiveCD for the P4 I gave in. I also found their forums pretty helpful and constructive. You don't find that too often, usually a lot of flaming and attitude. But it looks like they actively run their boards so might be a good reason. Drop your opinions of your distros here, curious what many people are using, why and how they like the experience. Interim. [edited by - Interim on September 3, 2003 1:12:33 PM]

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I''m just going to mention one thing real quick, about Gentoo and optimization. From my experience, and from what I have heard second-hand, the only real optimization performances boosters occur if you have a Pentium 4 system and use the Intel compiler optimized for P4 instead of gcc. However, that said, my computer running on Gentoo did boot up faster than it did running on Slackware, but this is probably mostly due to the fact that I didn''t have as much stuff starting up on the Gentoo system.

The Artist Formerly Known as CmndrM

http://chaos.webhop.org

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Interesting.

I don''t have much experience with Slack. Though I find RHat to be the slowest of them all, especially Severn, for boot up.. You can usually tweak it a bit by cutting some rc5.d scripts you don''t need.

Gentoo I always couldn''t make a full opinion on. I think most of the apps people look for optimizations won''t show much at all, being in event looks. Still, I do like the Portage-Emerge system on Gentoo. I think if you''re going to compile software, its well done. I''d much rather manage /etc/make.conf and USE flags than to edit custom make files or track down a lot of configure switches.

However, I think the the community should invest in putting more pre-compiled binaries out with emerge. But I don''t know if that appeals to the Gentoo user base. Still, I got to admit, I do like what I read on their forums, as well as their BSD style configuration scripts and conf files.

I''ll find out, going to give it a try for a bit. There was no way I was going to wait a few days for X, Gnome and OpenOffice to compile, but with the Stage3 I should be able to cut that down signifigantly. I think once its running I will get a better opinion.

What''s your experience with the ebuilds? Fairly solid, buggy? Minor errors or blanket conflicts? I don''t see too much about bad ebuilds, usually some library conflicts or such that "shouldn''t happen".

Int.

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quote:
From my experience, and from what I have heard second-hand, the only real optimization performances boosters occur if you have a Pentium 4 system and use the Intel compiler optimized for P4 instead of gcc.
There''s a noticable decrease in startup time between Mozilla compiled for i386 or i686 and Mozilla compiled for P4 (with -fpmath=sse2 -msse2 -msse as well), both with gcc. The optimization is secondary (I also use a source-based distribution) to the up-to-date software, flexibility as regards optional dependencies, and getting the packages straight from the developer (so no more slow RPM mirrors).

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Suse is the best if you are interested in high performance computing with Intels tools. They used to support red hat also but RH made their kernels so that vtune doesnt run anymore. Another big problem with RH as the desktop is all those scripts they are starting in the background. Suse does not even care about locate.

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I have to concur about RH. I don''t want to knock them, I think they work they''ve done getting Linux mainstream (along with Suse and TurboLinux) is great. Out of the box, it''s a very solid and comfortable desktop for just about any user IMHO.

However, being mostly an admin and needing to do custom work on my servers a lot, I found RHat''s scripts to get annoying. I think they''re well written and organized, but I can never seem to find exactly what I need to make the custom modification I want. Something else clobbers over my change or the settings are held elsewhere.

I thought one of Mandrake''s claims to fame was compilation under 686 (which I think covers most Pentium-Pro or better and delivers a decent performance boost vs 386 flags)? Suse the same? I tried it a while ago, but it doesn''t come up much amongst our customers or at work outside of some forum support notes from the European techs.

Int.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
RH has a high quality product for servers and they are doing a lot for linux but are they really interested in the desktop?

I dont know if Suse is the answer to everything except how to use the tools from Intel but they have some nice features.
- A config system for X that detects if nvidias drivers is not installed and can configure XF86Config if the nvidia driver is installed
- they are distributing some stuff that the RH users has to download like acroread and java
- the normal install is much smaller than RH. You have to install some more for development but its still small without anything I care about is missing.

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quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
Suse is the best if you are interested in high performance computing with Intels tools. They used to support red hat also but RH made their kernels so that vtune doesnt run anymore. Another big problem with RH as the desktop is all those scripts they are starting in the background. Suse does not even care about locate.


You have to keep in mind though that SuSE is not free software. Or rather not all of it is. Yast for instance is not. As for Red Hat, I have to agree that it has alot of darn problems and alot of background tasks but a simple look through the services file and xinetd file should solve that easily. As for the RH kernel, well, I have to agree, it really sucks big time. I had to install a 2.4.21 kernel to get some of the stuff I needed in the kernel. Argh! But still, for now, they run all of my Linux sever farm. I wish my boss would let me install something else but he doesn't want. SoL would be a pretty good alternative though.

Anyhow, those are my vies and those of most people from most LUGS here in the Montreal region.




[Cyberdrek | the last true sorcerer | Spirit Mage - mutedfaith.com][ Administrator & WebMaster GuLSE]

[edited by - cyberdrek on September 3, 2003 8:39:02 PM]

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quote:
Original post by Cyberdrek
You have to keep in mind though that SuSE is not free software. Or rather not all of it is. Yast for instance is not.


Why? Some people just frankly don''t care. I''m (more or less) one of them. Yes, I like free software, but I don''t make it a requirement. If something works well, it works well, regardless of the licensing.

Of course, you are entitled to your opinion. I have nothing wrong with people who prefer free software ideologically. I just disagree

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Mandrake, for what it is (a friendly, "Windows" oriented distro) is quite nice. It''s just as bloated as RedHat, if not more so, but it makes a lot of things really easy. Just use Mandrake for a while then switch to say Crux or Gentoo and you''ll suddenly realize all the things Mandrake does.

As for Gentoo... to me it doesn''t seem to "fit" anywhere. In many ways it tries to be Linux''s answer to FreeBSD, except it''s not nearly as nice. I''d rather just use FreeBSD. If for nothing else, having both ports and packages under FreeBSD is very nice, compiling absolutely everything gets real old after a while. I never noticed any speed increase with Gentoo compared to other Linux distros.

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quote:
Original post by Interim
However, I think the the community should invest in putting more pre-compiled binaries out with emerge. But I don''t know if that appeals to the Gentoo user base.

I''m using Gentoo. I have no problems with compiling most software packages. I do start to have a problem if it takes longer than 30 minutes to compile. The only reason I don''t have OpenOffice installed is the enormous compilation time. I''m pretty sure Gentoo has binary packages of OpenOffice but I''m too lazy to look it up. IMO there should be a general rule: if a software package takes longer than 30 minutes to compile on an average Gentoo system (according to available statistics) there should be a binary available. Hmm, may be I should bring it up on Gentoo''s forums.
quote:
Original post by Interim
I''ll find out, going to give it a try for a bit. There was no way I was going to wait a few days for X, Gnome and OpenOffice to compile, but with the Stage3 I should be able to cut that down signifigantly.

AFAIK Stage 3 doesn''t include any of the packages you listed.
quote:
Original post by Interim
What''s your experience with the ebuilds? Fairly solid, buggy? Minor errors or blanket conflicts?

Solid 99.9% of the time. I''ve been using Gentoo for a few months and have a lot of packages installed. I have not had one problem yet with portage even though I use ebuilds that aren''t marked as stable.

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Perhaps it wasn''t the stage 3, but the LiveCD 1.4 Disk 2 that had most of them. Just copied them over to /usr/portage/packages/All. However, since I had to emerge sync to fix some other issues, most are already outdated. Still, cut back on XFree and Gnome a bit.

I think the stage 3 had the optimized P4 base system, seemed to untar most of the core bins.

I don''t think Gentoo will stick around on my desktop. Rather invest my time hacking around with various software configs and such than the base system. Still, I think Gentoo will evolve and probably offer a good mix of their current niche as well as being a little more conservative. Cutting edge instead of bleeding edge *grin*.

Still, with their community I think they''re probably one of the more fun distributions lately. Energetic and helpful, sort of refreshing from the Debian and BSD crowds, and lately the RedHat crowd (which has gotten a bit more smug over time).

Int.

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Also keep in mind that the pre-compiled stuff from Gentoo is new to 1.4, and will only improve in time. I think that it is the best distro overall, mainly because of how emerge and the rc-scripts work, it make administration much easier. The optimizations don''t really do too much for my computer, it is more "USE" flags that you add in the make.conf.

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I decided to just return to my FreeBSD. Experience plus ports/packages I know. I liked Gentoo, the community from what I read, and the emerge system, but it needs some time to make some decisions I think. I do admit, had fun with Gentoo until I really needed a running system for some emergency work, then I got tired of waiting. *grin*

I do like how most of the distros are developing. I think Linux is very close to getting a solid desktop for normal users. Just need to start making some solid design work (read, boring). I found several UI shortcuts that were dups of other commands on the same menu on Red Hat for example. Not sexy work, but necessary for a consistent UI experience. But, definitely desktops are fun to tinker with now, less work, more customization and personality IMHO.

Hopefully we''ll keep getting opinions on this thread, good to keep up on opinions and new distro features, but hard to try them all.

Int.

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quote:
Original post by Cyberdrek
You have to keep in mind though that SuSE is not free software. Or rather not all of it is. Yast for instance is not.

Since when? I have SuSE and I got it from their ftp and it certainly comes with YaST (which I still haven''t figured out what it stands for).

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Guest Anonymous Poster
quote:
Original post by clum
quote:
Original post by Cyberdrek
You have to keep in mind though that SuSE is not free software. Or rather not all of it is. Yast for instance is not.

Since when? I have SuSE and I got it from their ftp and it certainly comes with YaST (which I still haven''t figured out what it stands for).



Free software means "free as in free speech", not "free as in free beer". It''s what people sometimes call "open source", though they are in fact different.

IIRC, YaST forbids modifications and/or redistribution. It might be open source, but it''s not free software.

Hope this helps.

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