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The Merc248

Tons of stuff here about absolutely nothing. Read on for more information.

Linux Hopping

So, I've been hopping between quite a few distributions over this past week. I had Ubuntu 5.04 Hoary Hedgehog for a couple of months on one of my other hard drives, which was a pretty solid distribution. I'd recommend that for an average home user over Fedora Core any day (which most people bill as one of the more user friendly distributions.) I've also tried out various different Linux distros over the years, starting with Red Hat 7.3. The list isn't limited to: SuSE, Red Hat, Fedora Core, Mandriva/Mandrake, Gentoo, Debian, and Ubuntu. However, just out of curiosity, I decided to download a few more distributions and explore a bit more.

First, I tried out Slackware 10.1, which I actually had laying around for two weeks prior to my recent Linux distro hopping. I noticed that the installation routine was a lot more involved compared to a lot of the other distros I've tried; instead of being guided with a text based installation GUI or even a graphical Anaconda installer, I was thrown right into a command prompt in order to manually partition a disk with either fdisk or cfdisk, and then went along with the installation by executing a command on the CD. I decided to install the entire 3 GB worth of data from the two disc set.

After the installation was done, I rebooted and was then again thrown into a command prompt versus the already semi-configured X server. All I needed to do was configure /etc/inittab and bam, a GUI pops up automatically after each reboot. Oh yeah, I also ended up installing Dropline GNOME; it provides an updated X.org server plus GNOME 2.10 for Slackware, which is a very nice desktop environment for *nix based operating systems.

Everything was very speedy; it felt like an optimized Gentoo computer, without the hassle of compiling so much stuff for a week before being able to do anything on the computer. However, here comes the real hassle: there is no real package management built into Slackware by default. There IS installpkg, but it does not handle dependencies by any means. A user will have to rely on third party programs such as swaret and slapt-get in order to get such functionality, but really, the default configuration takes away a lot of the nice package management features that are in other distributions such as Debian or Gentoo.

Frustrated with this prospect, I ended up trying Vector Linux 5, which is another distribution based on Slackware. It was a bit better getting everything setup, and as far as I know, it didn't have the same sort of unfriendly installation routine as Slackware. It was a bit nicer, although it still had the same tedious stuff as in Slackware; package management sucked (although they DID include slapt-get by default,) and there were a few quirks that made me switch yet again. I still have this distro on my laptop however, and it seems to work great with Dropline GNOME.

I ended up switching to Arch Linux 0.7. I DID download Foresight Linux 0.8.1, but I found out that the package manager is SLOW (although supposedly a very good concept), booting up from cold boot is slow, etc. Arch Linux still has the same sort of unfriendly installation routine common in Slackware, plus the post-installation setup is unfriendly to most users as well; however, the package manager I'd say trumps Debian's APT package management system, plus the overall speed of the system is faster than Slackware. Reason why it's faster is mostly due to the minimalistic approach to the distribution; enable only what is needed by the user, have everything else disabled by default. Everything is left on their pure default settings as well; no special patches, no special menu images, etc. This leaves a lot to desire on the default desktop, but it's great building up such a desktop from scratch. Everything is optimized for i686 processors as well; this makes everything extremely speedy, as mentioned before.

I think I'm going to stick with Arch Linux for a while... probably until Ubuntu 5.10 Breezy Badger comes out, but even then, I really like the speed on this distro without all the headaches of Gentoo and with all of the speed enhancements of Slackware.

However, for someone who hasn't had their cherry popped by the awesomeness that is Linux (no, I'm not going to say Linux > Micro$oft because it's cool to have a dollar and a greater than sign,) you should probably check out Ubuntu. Very easy to maintain, even easier to install programs. The desktop environment is probably more intuitive than Windows, too.
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