Saturday October 30, 2004 (02:00 PM GMT)
By: Joe Barr
Many Linux newbies -- or wanna-be newbies -- get hung up over the choice of their initial distribution. We here at NewsForge have put a lot of thought into this, and have decided to share our best thinking on the subject in order to help ease you newbies out of the monopoly spread into the Linux world. The most important thing for newbies to consider is this: what does your choice of distributions say about you? Updated to include Slackware.
To that end, we have created this brief list of observations of the users of specific distributions, highlighting their most notable traits, in order that you can weigh this important aspect of distribution selection in your final, initial decision.
This distribution is popular with those who always count in binary, and are politically correct in a free software kind of way. Many are suspected of having been nursed on a TTY. Debian users take pride in the fact that their distribution is always several releases behind the latest version of the kernel, but makes up for that by being more difficult to install and use.
- If John Wayne had been a Linux user, he would have used Gentoo. Gentoo users are pioneers, people who like to live close to the metal, and don't mind hurting themselves on sharp objects. Some feel that Gentoo users are simply lazy louts who always want to have a ready excuse for why they are not doing constructive things with their computer, other than compiling or recompiling the latest kernel, app, or hapless passerby. The official Gentoo motto is, "If it moves, compile it."
Knoppix users are pushy and aggressive. It's not at all unusual for them to hand you a CD and tell you to boot from it. Mainly, they like to stare at the console during the boot process while its sniffers check out the current hardware and network configuration. While this is a flashy and very useful distribution, it never seems to stick around on the systems it is used on as long as the other distributions. Don't trust Knoppix users in matters of the heart.
This distribution is popular with the timid and the meek. Often this includes those straying away from Windows for the very first time. With a womb-to-grave GUI interface, which can download and install software packages with a single click, Linspire provides its users more ease of use than they deserve. When you think of Linspire users, think of a princess whose culinary repertoire is limited to making reservations.
- Mandrake users are suave and sophisticated. They prefer to focus on a polished desktop environment rather than just serving others. It's also said that they enjoy sipping -- but only late in the year -- the new crop of Beaujolais each year. Red Hat users say that Mandrake users don't love freedom. Mandrakians insist it is only freedom fries they hold in disdain.
- This newbie distribution attracts people who can't decide whether they'd rather have Knoppix-like LiveCD ability or Linspire's easy install and GUI-all-the-way interface: It has both. MEPIS is also totally the distro of choice for people who like to hum John Denver's song, "Country Roads," under their breath, because it's the only one headquartered in West Virginia. Go Mountaineers!
Red Hat is not synonymous with Linux, but many of its users believe that it is. Long the king of the Linux street, Red Hat is most popular with middle-of-the-road types who always end up following along with the crowd, even when everyone in the crowd is wearing a silly hat. Red Hat is very strict about the licensing of the apps it includes with the distribution, but doesn't seem to mind abandoning customers who are not large corporations.
Updated: Thanks to Joshua H. for this lightly edited synopsis
of Slackware and Slackware users.
- This distribution is for those that don't care for the overhead of configuration interfaces, and have a great appetite for raw text files. No need for dependency checks, since they always know what they are doing. Especially important to Slackware users are the bragging rights of using the oldest distribution still in development. Plus the fact that it has been supported by the same diety all that time, Patrick J. Volkerding. Newbies should be cautious around Slackware users, because they will cut you none.
- If you like beer, horns, or green eggs, you'll like SUSE. The recent acquisition of SUSE by Novell is similar to Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers adopting the West Coast offense. SUSE users like a clean, well-lighted desktop, and are far less concerned about where things are kept in the filesystem than they ought to be.