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One of the most common objections to desktop Linux is fragmentation. With so many distributions, which one do you choose for serious deployment in a business environment? Given the amount of work involved in any desktop OS switch in terms requirements analysis, application selection, compatibility testing, integration with …

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Desktop Linux?

Is this the real april fools?

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My view

I use Debian for servers and Ubuntu for desktops. The core is the same, they both use the (excellent) debian apt packaging system, so it's not too confusing to mix.

Tried RedHat and many other grizzly varieties, but decided the Debian branch is the one for me.

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I have been

Running mandrake then mandriva Linux exclusively as my desktop OS for around 5-6 years

Not really had any problems at all, couple of driver issues, and sound can cause problems occasionally if the application is badly written.

I now run my own business doing web site design and development and still find all the tools I need to do my work are available. I only resort to wine for running the marvelous ies4linux so I can do those IE specific tweaks and check them.

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Anonymous Coward

Desktop linux commercially ....

... will never replace windows in my lifetime.

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Anonymous Coward

you know, that one with the pretty colours

i think it's called "Windows"

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Boffin

Ah... Ubuntu

I tried it for a while, and 8.04 is in my experience a nice piece of software. If all you want to do is surf the net and email, maybe with a little word processing. But all the programs I am familiar with are in Windows and Wine just isn't stable enough to handle Photoshop, WoW, or a host of other Windows-only programs that I use. Which is a crying shame. If Wine were more stable, I'd consider making the jump permanently but at the moment it just isn't viable.

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opensuse

is the way forward

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Coat

Which distro ...

Ahh, let the flames begin.

As for me, Gentoo for servers, Fedora for development/personal machines.

I also use OSX and OpenSolaris.

Desktop Linux? Meh ... mind you, it says something that one of our consultants had Ubuntu installed on her laptop by her son and it took her a while to realise that she wasn't running Windows. Sadly, the changeover was not permanent as a piece of software she uses wasn't able to run under WINE. So it goes.

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Linux

Ubuntu

...on 3 of my 4 machines

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Linux

It works for me

I use Ubuntu 8.10 and 8.04 at home, and OpenSuSE 10.3 and 11.1 at work.

As far as I can tell, there's not much to choose between the leading distros once you have your apps in place, at least on the desktop. OpenSuSE don't give you video codecs and some proprietary things without a fight, but for a work desktop that's usually fine.

Most of the servers at work are running OpenSuSE 10.3 too, although there is a Gentoo, a couple of old Redhats, a Slackware and something else I experimented with (but I can't recall what) lurking in the racks too.

An awful lot of modern hardware works perfectly out of the box at least with Ubuntu and OpenSuSE, and the more enlightened printer etc. makers produce Linux drivers where necessary.

The only software I've paid for in the last twelve months is World of Goo (on Linux), and the only downtime on any of the linux machines has been due to hard-disk failures.

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Who is the fool

You will be a fool if you don't take this seriously. Linux as a desktop will grow slowly, starting in specialised environments.

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Paris Hilton

Doh!

It's meant to be a 'Fools', not a '(F)Lame War'.

Or have I just fallen into the trap...

Paris, on the desktop...

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Desktop Linux ? - no Desktop Unix

I have used Solaris as a desktop o/s long before Linux became popular.

( and MacOS and OS/2 / eCS )

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Happy

RE: Desktop Linux?

Lol, you owe me a coffee and a screen-cleaner!

RedHat/Fedora (if you have a well-trained admin team that can cut your own build, train your users and support 95% of issues without going back to the vendor), but that's mainly down to familiarity. Novell SLED a close second.

Probably DarkStar Linux for dyed-in-the-wool Windoze home users.

Where's Jake on this?

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Linux

Mandriva FTW

I started on mandriva 8.1 in 2001/2002 time and then moved around like some sort of distro slut.

i tried fedora, ubuntu, opensuse, dsl, puppy and gentoo (not necessarily in that order) currently i'm using mandriva 2009 and it's the best distro yet

no issues at all.

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why is anyone making an issue about the number of linux distros...

.... when windows comes in just as many flavours?

and to Jaowon, your right it probably wont, because the majority of the planet (and by extension windows users) are ignorant of its existence. 10/10 for spelling, minus several million for relevance. and one other thing.... windows sucks.

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Stop

We must use Windows for most satisfaction

"Given the amount of work involved in any desktop OS switch in terms requirements analysis, application selection, compatibility testing, integration with systems management processes, etc., you want to make sure that the horse you back represents a safe long-term bet."

Please to simply install Windows then no analysis or testing needed and we can all be sure to have backed the winning post horse.

Why to make work for himself with the Linux where my software will fail me?

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Opensuse

OpenSuse at home and until I recently changed jobs to an unenlightened company at work as well.

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Linux

(X)ubuntu

I use Xubuntu but that is more for historical reasons than any abiding love of XFCE. Any flavour of ubuntu seems good for many applications. Gaming perhaps not but for office use gaming probably isn't high on the agenda. I have a Win XP VM for those irritating apps that require me to use windows but I've managed to avoid firing it up for a couple of weeks now ...

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Linux

Ubuntu

For most people Ubuntu does the job admirably. I've not had any hardware issues on anything I've installed it on recently. Well, apart from when I couldn't get wireless working on one ancient laptop -- but then Windows wouldn't even install and it turned out the main reason wireless wasn't working was because there wasn't any wireless hardware in the beast.

Red Hat Enterprise is OK, but it has issues with working on newer hardware. Fedora is fine for the likes of me (happiest when fixing problems).

For everyone else, though, definitely Ubuntu on the desktop. It just works. It's a shame that there are _still_ windows-only apps that people depend upon that stop them moving.

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Joke

Linux for old machines

I have an ooooolllldddd pc in my attic - I think it is branded Vax?? - will Linux run on that??

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Fragmentation is only an issue in Microsoft FUD

Quick answer for newbies: use the same distribution as a friend who offers to help you get started.

Long answer for people prepared to take time to solve problems themselves: http://www.linuxlinks.com/article/20070528093134661/Linux_Distribution_Guide.html (That will give you a small list of testing the water choices, and a wider selection of links that are useful when you decide to wade in a bit deeper).

Microsoft have half a dozen different operating systems, and the current ones are sold in half a dozen different versions. As I have not used Microsoft software this millennium, I cannot comment on how much of an issue fragmentation is to a Microsoft user. From a distance I gather that some commercial software companies make a greater effort to deal with OS fragmentation than others, but almost all of them are poor at supporting multiple architectures (even x86/AMD64).

Things are very different in the free/open source world. Almost everything is available pre-compiled for almost all distributions. You can expect excellent support for x86 and AMD64, good support for ARM and MIPS, and some support for rarer architectures (ie if you want more than a basic system, you will have to compile some software and occasionally fix it yourself).

If you are planning to use commercial software on Linux, that will limit your choice of distribution - unless you are big enough to get a company to support what you choose.

If you make the effort, any distribution can be configured to do what you want. If you pick one of the larger distributions, the chances are that someone has already done so, and put up web web page telling you how they did it. If you pick one of the commercial distro's, you can hire someone to hold your hand as they talk you through the steps.

The distro's mostly use the same software. The differences normally relate to how you install software and configure the machine to do exactly what you want. Experience in one distro will be of some help with any, and lots of help with a related distro.

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Tripleboot

My home desktop triple boots Solaris/DebianEtch/XP, probable use of each in percent would be 50/35/15 % of the time. Office box is Solaris only. Laptop is XP. Home servers are SlugOS 4 (and Ultrix, if a PDP-11 counts :) )

Horses for courses, they all have their good, their bad, and their fscking annoying points.

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Happy

@AC - Not yet, but they're working on it

"I have an ooooolllldddd pc in my attic - I think it is branded Vax?? - will Linux run on that??"

http://linux-vax.sourceforge.net/

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Happy

Archlinux

for anyone interested in learning about linux and optimising their PC.

Ubuntu for everyone else.

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Linux on old Vaxen

A quick web search says near enough: http://lwn.net/2001/0621/a/linux-vax.php3

From the boot log I can tell you that a modern cheap laptop in low power mode is about 1000x faster than the one reported here. Also, Mr Airlie compiled his own mini-distribution using cut down versions of software intended to run on embedded systems. A large amount of effort to achieve what most people would consider a pitiful return, but if you really love your Vax then go for it.

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Linux

I'm certainly interested...

...to hear some balanced critiques on the matter of enterprise suitability within differing Linux distros.

Unfortunately I suspect this will be prime grade A troll fodder for the fanbois (most of which have never run an enterprise level network) to come crawling out from under their collective Hive Mind(tm) rocks.

One of the biggest issues of course is user familiarity. Those veteran admins out there all know that re-training is actually the least viable solution when things start to get scaled up and often simply impossible when things become international.

Since 99% of users are familiar with windows...

Lets imagine (just drawing from my own experiences) you have a very IT illiterate accountant in Sweden only a year or so away from retirement, who becomes almost incapable of using his system if the start menu is changed from classic view to XP, let alone if the entire desktop is changed, along with all his office apps. It's made very clear to you re-training is not an option, and you are under severe pressure from his MD that his workflow can NOT be interrupted.

Any intelligent comments/experiences?

The other side I'd be very interested to hear about is what the centralised management and deployment facilities are like in comparison to MS post 2003.

Active Directory is an incredibly powerful and flexible implementation of LDAP, and from what I’ve read, has in recent years become significantly more advanced than its’ Linux alternatives.

Before I get shouted out, let me explain. Security groups within Active Directory aren’t just limited to the file system. They play an integral role throughout. My reason for suspecting the advantage is in the MS court is down to their implementation of Kerberos.

Kerberos is an extensible protocol, yet only MS have extended the tickets to include security group information. This allows security groups to define permissions universally throughout all the server/client features. I’m not going to go into further details just yet, as I’d like to hear about the Linux equivalents first before drawing comparisons.

Finally, compatibility.

I’m sure we’ve all issues with this within our infrastructures, but I can’t help come to the conclusion that these issues are greatly amplified on non-windows environments.

Again, no flames please. As admins we know that we don’t always get a choice in the software that gets used on the client desktops, and the larger the infrastructure, the less likely our choice will count.

An example would be the massive success of the .net development environment. This caused a massive problem for an admin colleague of mine running a schools system. He’d actually implemented a successful network consisting entirely of Macs. Right up until the dictum on high came that he had to install the Student Information Management System (written primarily in .net). At the time, it was incompatible with the Mac OS, and so a massively expensive replacement operation had to be implemented.

Any success/horror stories?

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Happy

Slax

I have Gentoo, Ubuntu 8.10, and Vector on various boxes, but slax is the lightest, quickest disrto I've found. Wireless is a bit of a pain but not insurmountable, installing to hard drive likewise.

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Anonymous Coward

Fedora Fedora Fedora!

It has loads of lovely stuffs.

Debian for servers though.

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@alan

windows might suck but you are clearly wrong and you know it.

I don't see this many version of windows: http://www.livecdlist.com/

Maybe it's just me but everytime I use a GUI based linux there are always some glaringly stupid bugs or completely unreliable functions. Granted it is usually the GUI, but it is still annoying enough to stop me wanting to use it for a desktop.

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Happy

Best. April. Fools. Ever.

Best. April. Fools. Ever.

(Of course, the real answer is Ubuntu. Everyone knows that my Commodore 64 is better than your ZX Spec... er... I mean, my Ubuntu is better than your Red Hat)

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Linux for years

I moved my desktop system to Ubuntu (Dapper/6.06) almost 3 years ago as a response to the frustration of trying to run a windows desktop when developing code for linux servers. It has been a delight to work with an OS that doesn't fight you when you want to do something. The bonus is that none of the corporate snoopware and asset control stuff run on it either!

At home I still have windows mainly for games. Most everything else I do from a linux VM (to avoid dual-booting). It is amusing that the linux software runs as well within the VM as the windows equivalent do natively under windows, which says something about the overhead windows applies to the system.

If the latest efforts to get DX10 running under Wine mature I'll be able to dump windows forever.

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Go

@AC with Vax

Why would you run Linux on a Vax, when you can run a far better OS - openVMS :-)

(Also you can run SysV Unix on Vax hardware - and its freeware).

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Ubuntu, fedora, centos

Ubuntu on the laptops

I've got Fedoro on the desktop Linux box and one server (over 3 years uptime and counting)

CentOS on the other servers.

PS. I'm sure someone must have Linux running on a VAX, but Ken Olsen wasn't keen on the idea of "Personal Computers"

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Linux

widely used in academia

many university departments run linux on the desktop almost exclusively.

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Debian

Just (coincidentally) installed Debian 5.0.0 Lenny (really only because there was that Reg article about it recently and it stuck in my mind) on an old-ish (P4) laptop - never used Linux before (a bit of Unix way-back), so i thought i'd give it a try.

and bugger me sideways if it wasn't disgustingly easy. On top of that it managed to install a dual-boot (using GRUB - iircc) with windows XP (that was already installed) and it all seems to work fine with minimal effort (OK I skim read the install manual one lunchtime) Not really had much of a play yet, but am quite impressed so far...

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Happy

Vax running Linux

"I have an ooooolllldddd pc in my attic - I think it is branded Vax?? - will Linux run on that??"

"http://linux-vax.sourceforge.net/"

I have a Vax in the attic as well. Mine is bright orange, has the number 6131 on the side and comes with multiple carpet cleaning attachments. I didn't know you could run Linux on it as well.... What a star buy!

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Another Windows version due

What I've glimpsed running at our local hospital often looks to be using DOS-style box-drawing methods. Well, that doesn't mean the software depends on MS-DOS. The default Xandros on the Eee includes a copy of Midnight Commander. which has that look.

I hope my health doesn't depend on Microsoft continuing to support really old software.

I'm having good reports of what Linux/WINE can do with the Windows software I run. If it wasn't for the security issues, and eventual end of support, I'd be happy to use XP for a long time. As it is, Linux/Wine could be a viable upgrade. Better than the apparent current upgrade path for XP.

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So many comments to comment on.

OK, I may sound a little patronising here -- but what the heck?

RE: "X/Y/Z is the best distro because I installed it and everything works"

While that may make it the best to install -- it doesn't necessarily make it he best to use day to day. I currently use Ubuntu, but I am aware that were I to use Gentoo, for example, I'd probably find my machine booted quicker -- but is just so happens I'm too lazy to play with it at the moment.

RE: Just use Windows.

You're either trolls or you haven't spoken to a CIO recently. I think most IT departments will be looking at Linux -- if only as a long term "plan B".

RE: People suggesting Ubuntu, Mandriva...

Yes, for home use they're great -- but have you tried to deploy them in an enterprise?

Do the network bootp installs work?

Do they include any proprietary software that may be introduced by mistake, or any potentially illegal software such as PGP in CIS or the UAE, or libdvdcss in much of the "civilised world"?

Do they integrate well with Active Directory, Exchange, IIS, etc.?

...

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Linux

Ubuntu and Debian

Ubuntu for desktops and Debian for servers. I used an RPM based distro for a while (Mandriva) which was good but not as manageable/upgradeable as APT based systems for me.

As to when Windows will be usable on the desktop for computing education It would be easier to teach car mechanics how to do their job on cars with welded down bonnets.

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Flame

@Psymon

I can give you some food for fight. Clearly, you know how big company/org network works, so we can cut the crap.

1. As you pointed out, when majority of our lusers don't know what is "task bar" or have great difficulty to do a "right click", there is little or dare I say no difference if their so call workstation PC runs something other than windows. As you also know that most of their software environment would be tightly controlled anyway (eg. restricted access to local hard drive/ cannot change most settings, not even screen saver). Therefore, if there is no windows only software required, at least there is a limited degree that we can safely replace many windows PC to something better (be it Linux, OSX or else).

2. For so called business critical core software, user friendly is never an issue in the real world. You know it, they must learn how to use it, no matter how stupid the software might be. Operating system does not matter, all OS does is to support business software, nothing more. A primary example is bank, many banks use OS/2 for their desktop PC, no windows what so ever. It is not a problem if those PCs cannot play games or look pr0n on the internet. Only badly managed network allow their lusers to use work PC as a home PC.

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Ubuntu

Ubuntu offers a pretty painless introduction to Linux to see if it's something you want to 'get into'. You can run it as a Live CD (if you've got enough RAM) and it'll show you if it'll support your hardware out-of-the-box. If not, expect some finite amount of pain before it'll do what you want.

I believe Mint Linux is a better bet if you expect multimedia stuff (MP3's, DVD's) to play straight away. Having said that, Synaptic is a joy to use for pulling in extra apps/drivers which don't come as standard.

Puppy Linux is stunningly fast, even on low-spec machines. It actively encourages use as a Live CD and you can load a boot file directly onto a Windows partition without messing around with new filesystems / repartitioning or whatever.

However, if Windows does what you want you've got to ask yourself some pretty deep and searching questions about whether it's worth making the jump to Linux-only or a dual-OS setup. What do you want to achieve that you can't with Windows ? If you just want a free-as-in-beer OS, you've got to ask yourself if the learning curve truly 'costs' less than the MS Tax.

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Linux

Whatever

@Jaowon: Linux is not a religion, there is no need to convert the whole world. Horses for courses etc. That's not to say it's not worth telling people if you feel you've found something worth trying. I'm just fucking happy to have an OS like Linux. If it didn't exist I'd surely be using a BSD.

- RHEL on my work desktop

- Ubuntu/EasyPeasy on my EeePC

- Xubuntu on my son's PC

- CentOS on my home file server

- Ubuntu on my home mail / web server (will revert to Debian soonish since it has native linux-vserver support)

- XP on my gaming PC

Before hobbyists comment on it, I use RHEL/CentOS for various reasons. It does everything I need (media playback is not among those) and it's extremely stable with excellent SELinux support.

There are probably plenty of enterprise users like myself gagging to answer the questionnaire but cannot. The Register should just look at their web server logs and draw their own conclusions.

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SME

I'd recommend SME Server as a file server / internet gateway for small business environments. It's very stable, Centos based (therefore RHEL based) and it's viable for people with minimal Linux experience to administer it.

On my laptop, i've been using Fedora since it was Red Hat, but i've just switched to Ubunut 9.04 beta to give that a try.

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Anonymous Coward

@Psymon

> Lets imagine (just drawing from my own experiences) you have a very IT illiterate accountant

> in Sweden only a year or so away from retirement, who becomes almost incapable of using his

> system if the start menu is changed from classic view to XP, let alone if the entire desktop is

> changed, along with all his office apps. It's made very clear to you re-training is not an option,

> and you are under severe pressure from his MD that his workflow can NOT be interrupted.

You can theme any desktop to look just like what he's used to.

You probably won't find that work already completed, because most users don't want it. But it's possible - and you are given all the tools and rights to do it if you think it's worht the effort.

> Active Directory is an incredibly powerful and flexible implementation of LDAP, and from what

> I’ve read, has in recent years become significantly more advanced than its’ Linux alternatives.

No, I wouldn't agree with that. What AD does best is to lock out competitors; from a directory perspective, there are several equally good alternatives.

> Before I get shouted out, let me explain. Security groups within Active Directory aren’t just

> limited to the file system. They play an integral role throughout. My reason for suspecting the

> advantage is in the MS court is down to their implementation of Kerberos.

Kerberos exists in many situations - MS didn't invent it. Their implementation is somewhat difficult to use outside Windows because of their PAC getup - but Samba now uses that happily.

What you don't really get yet is the ability to use Linux as an AD controller - that requires Samba 4, which is only in technology preview so far. But it's looking stable, and it's very nearly feature-complete (actually, it's some weeks since I last downloaded it; I'll have to see what's been added lately).

> Kerberos is an extensible protocol, yet only MS have extended the tickets to include security

> group information.

If you can do it in Windows, you can do it in Linux - with the temporary exception of being the DC I mentioned above.

> This allows security groups to define permissions universally throughout all the server/client

> features.

Yes. Linux has been doing that for years.

> I’m not going to go into further details just yet, as I’d like to hear about the Linux equivalents

> first before drawing comparisons.

If you're doing a greenfield rollout, you've got choices like RHDS. If you're already in an AD environment, you'll probably want AD.

> I’m sure we’ve all issues with this within our infrastructures, but I can’t help come to the

> conclusion that these issues are greatly amplified on non-windows environments.

I rarely see real problems with that - I see people who *demand* Outlook, and insist on doing the "I told you nothing else would do" thing when they finally get it (after I've given them Evolution)/ I see people who *demand* Photoshop, as nothing else will do - until they see the bill, and then realise that Gimp does actually do everything they need and more.

I hear *thousands* of stories about how Linux doesn't have sufficient driver support, yet Windows "just works" - this from people who need their Windows boxes sorting out because it doesn't "just work" unless you get a professional to hide all the work first. And hardware support - I've had better support on Linux than on Windows for quite some time now.

> As admins we know that we don’t always get a choice in the software that gets used on the

> client desktops, and the larger the infrastructure, the less likely our choice will count.

If you really are forced to use a particular piece of software, and that piece of software really does force a particular platform, then the choice is moot. But in practice, I find people ask for the software they've been conditioned to ask for - not the one they need.

> Any success/horror stories?

Plenty of success stories. The only real problem I had was with a Freecom USB DVB-T stick, where they changed the chipset without changing the part number. One quick email to the chipset manufacturer, and I had a GPLed driver sent to me.

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Anonymous Coward

@Jaowon

I'd like to think that long before the end of your lifetime the Windows v Linux desktop OS debate will be about as relevant as VHS v Betamax.

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Unhappy

Another Ubuntu

In my case 64bit Ubuntu 8.04LTS - tried 8.10 on another box and it was just way too flaky for me - saying that I've had problems with lockups every 7-8 weeks on the 8.04 box too - never lost any data as a result, and I'm thinking this is a graphics related-issue, (because you can login and close down the box remotely in most cases).

Systems used for general office type things, web stuff and development, along with hosting a good few VMware Server instances running Centos, Solaris, Windows, etc.

It's on a Dell D620 and it just 'does the job' day in day out with minimal fuss.

That said, if Centos was better at supporting the laptop then I'd probably move to it. Ubuntu forums are pretty good though as support.

Interestingly enough - my kids also use Linux - the older ones dual booting Ubuntu8.10 and WindowsXP, and the younger uses Suse 11.1 on a laptop. Both seem pretty happy to use the systems - which kinds of sets the lie to the oft-quoted opinion that 'Linux on the desktop is too difficult to use' in my mind at least.

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Tom
Silver badge

Just one icon

I dont want desktop anything. Just give me a browser and the tools on it to do anything from anywhere.

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Unhappy

Users are the problem not the OS

At home I use Debian on my servers and Ubuntu/Leopard on my clients. At work I have two machines, one runs our corporate XP build the other runs Ubuntu.

Ubuntu is great and it does do almost all of what almost everyone needs but, the problem is the users. Users vary from annoyingly knowledgeable to annoyingly stupid but most of them would need a fair bit of training to cope adequately with Ubuntu.

I am sorry to say that the enormous installed base of idiots means we shall be stuck sullying ourselves with Windows for the foreseeable future. The only likely alternative to Windows is Mac OS X, which I have seen more and more among senior staff at my clients. Ubuntu (and indeed all the many - too many - versions of Linux) are not on the cards for a loooooooong time.

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@AC: Hardware Support

"And hardware support - I've had better support on Linux than on Windows for quite some time now."

I can't ever take this claim seriously. Yes, Linux supports more straight out the box but Windows will always support more hardware overall, due to the widespread availability of drivers, either bundled on a disk or downloaded from the manufacturer's website.

In my experience, if something doesn't work right away with Linux, you're pretty much guaranteed 'an interesting time' trying to get it talking, with no guarantee that you'll ever get there.

Musical hardware ? Forget it from the word go - just bite the bullet and stick with Windows or OSX.

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