Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Flavor argument

Just for the sake of argument, I'm going to use Linux or the BSD's, which flavor should I use.

Make your best case for your favorite.

I'm leaning towards Linux at the moment, because my needs are minimal in terms of server use, but picking Linuxes is like picking ice cream, you've got a lot of choices.


At 4:05 PM, Anonymous W. said...

I'm a broken record at this point, but the Debian testing release ("Sarge") using the net installer is smoooth (assuming you have a broadband connection to the i'net for the computer you are installing onto). It isn't as current with some of the stuff that's really neat to have, like the x.org X windows server, alas. When Sarge (finally!) becomes the new stable release, many of those programs will begin propogating into Sid (the unstable release), and you can decide if you want to upgrade and use them. It's very straightforward to run "mixed" systems that mainly use packages from, say, testing, but have a few packages installed from unstable. The Debian package manager, apt, will manage everything seamlessly for you.

If you want the package management power of Debian combined with more recent, up-to-date packages, ubuntu might be for you. Honestly, it doesn't sound like you'd need stuff that's more current than what Debian has; you're not connecting exotic devices to your setup, or hell, a monitor. Sadly, in the Linux world, "exotic" means USB. Progress is being made, glacially.

As for why you should use Debian (or debian-flavored ubuntu), their documentation is superb (gaps in ubuntu's resources can be filled in with debian's, much of the time), and the bug-tracking system, and mailing-lists are great resources for troubleshooting, or finding help with something more unique.

At 9:12 PM, Anonymous Power user said...

Fedora Core. Probably the most commonly used linux flavor.

At 9:14 PM, Anonymous passerby said...

What power user said.

At 8:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My choice would be (and was) SuSE Professional 9.3. The installer is solid, stable, professionally done, and makes Mandrake's look like the trash it is. The distro is solid and well put together. A class act.

SuSE also has enough built-in functionality to seriously crowd an 18.2 GB SCSI hard drive if you install nearly everything.

Mandrake is still getting back on it's feet financially, after flirting with the coroner the way they did.

I would stay away from anything RedHat. I've seen that lot throw away far too many good ideas over the years.

I like the thinking behind Ubuntu; the place they're coming from. But SuSE has Novell behind it, and it looks like that outfit is finally getting squared away.

At 4:22 AM, Anonymous David Gould said...

You hear this argument "But SuSE has Novell behind it", or "Windows has Microsoft behind it", and it seems reassuring to have a company behind a program, but this is false reasurrance. In reality it is very cold comfort indeed.

Linux was developed by volunteers who cared about doing what they wanted and sometimes about doing the "right thing". And it has stopped Microsofts expansion into servers cold and marginalized all the comercial unixes too. HP-UX, DEC Unix, AIX, and SCO are all either dead or in maintainance only mode. Solaris is now free. In less than 15 years Linux has gone on from Linus Torvalds after school hobby to dominate the server OS market. I has basicly destroyed all the competitors. And in the case of SCO the company behind it.

Part of Linux's success is precisely because there is NO company behind it. So there is no motivation to hide the bugs, no motivation to be incompatible with a competitor, no motivation to fragment the market, no pressure to release before its ready to make the quarter look good, no chance that corporate marketing will decide to discontinue your product or feature, no chance that Gates will buy them and shut it down or roll it into windows...

SuSE is a good distribution, I used to work for them, they have a lot of good people. But, they ship a new release three times a year to get the sales revenue. They do a good job, but choices are influenced by what will be exciting and generate new box product sales.

Not having a company behind it is also one of the factors that makes Debian better.

I like being able to enter a bug into the official tracking system, and I like getting mail from the package maintainer that a fix is ready, and I like the bug tracker notifying me when the package with the fix for my bug is ready. No company in the world will ever give you this.

I like saying once a week or so

apt-get upgrade

and having my system made painlessly up to date with all the newest goodies. (I run "unstable" which is roughly as solid as any other distribution). This means never again doing a OS version upgrade, I just get the new stuff when it is ready.

I like reading about some cool new program
on a mailing list and discovering that there
is already a Debian package for it and all I
need to do is:

apt-get install cool-new-pkg

And it and every library and tool it depends on will be installed on the spot. And when
I don't like it, I simply "apt-get remove" it and don't worry about anything breaking.

One thing people don't realize is the shear scale of the Debian Project. It is simply bigger than any other distribution. It is all done by volunteers, but they have something like twelve thousand packages, far more than any other distribution. And they release on about a dozen machine architectures, and in something like twenty languages, both several times more than anyone else even attempts. I don't neccessarily need all of this personally, but I am filled with respect for any group that would even choose such an ambitious goal, and awe for anyone who succeeds at it.

At 6:55 AM, Anonymous Al said...

If you are serious about this, it will be a learning experience and you will undoubtedly try several OS distributions before finally settling on something you feel comfortable with. I went through this process in the late nineties. I excluded Microsoft for cost and political reasons. I started with FreeBSD, because it was the most similar to what I used at work. But I decided that the most healthy ecosystem was Linux. So I tried SuSe and Mandrake and didn't much like them, for reasons of personal taste. Then I hit on Slackware and found my comfort zone. I'd argue that it's especially good as a server OS, but it requires that you spend the time to learn what you're doing.

My one recommendation is this. Early on learn about partitioning that big hard drive and booting multiple OSes and OS versions off it (cfdisk and lilo if you're using Linux). And learn the minimal about file systems (ext3 and reiserfs, again if you're using Linux).

At 10:09 AM, Anonymous headxray said...

Why not just get a router instead of messing with a server? I run several machines connected by a router and they share files very smoothly just running Windows XP on each machine.

At 7:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mandrake is sliding down hill.

Debian is allright, but it lacks user friendly tools other than apt-get. plus, it is just plain out of date. even the testing version only uses the 2.6.4 kernal.

Suse has some of the best config tools. Plus, if you buy it, it comes with great users manuals and documentation.

Fedora core has alright tools.

Gentoo is for masocists.

Slackware is for old schoolers with too much time do devote to system maintaince. seriously, who has time to update every program manually.

Ubuntu is on it's way to becoming fedora good.

Mepis is good, but much more desktop focused.

Damn small is a minimalist distro designed to be under 55 megs.

Knoppix is a liveCD. not what you would want as a server.

In short, either Fedora or Suse. Ubuntu as a third choice

At 2:29 AM, Anonymous W. said...

Hmm? I'm running Debian testing and my kernel is version 2.6.8. Honestly, running a bleeding-edge system with the most current versions of everything doesn't seem to be required for the project at hand. Does he really need the latest and greatest device drivers and patches for a file-share box? Really, truly?

I agree with you assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the various distros ("Gentoo is for masochists", damn right). I just wouldn't be so quick to dismiss Debian for being some months behind the curve set by Redhat, Mandrake, Suse. I don't see it being a problem for this project, and Debian's documentation and community support make it ideal if learning about Linux/FOSS is one of the side goals.

At 8:15 PM, Anonymous Power User said...

I would reccomend ubuntu over Debian.

At 9:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Debian Community support? If you mean the mailing lists, those are some of the most unfriendly places in the internet.

At 10:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Debian-based whatever -- I like Libranet. It has a cool community that is not above handholding and it is 100% Debian Plus proprietary goodies to held get things working.

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