Posts Tagged ‘openSUSE’

Article 1: Choosing A Linux Distro

May 10, 2009

What is Linux?

Linux is an operating system, a base upon which programs can run on top of. Other popular operating systems include Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Mac OS X, FreeBSD, and Solaris. However, there is a big difference between the Windows and Mac operating systems and Linux. Windows and Mac operating systems are commercial software. This means you have to pay for the software to be able to use it legally. They are also closed source. The source code, or the original programming is not available to the general public, even to those who purchased the software. However, Linux, is free, and on top of that, open source, licensed under GNU GPL. This is the key to the flexibility and stability of Linux: An enormous community even consisting of several companies work on Linux to make it safer, faster, and more powerful.

What is a “Distro”?

Linux comes in many “distros”, short for distributions. Although they are commonly described as different “versions” of Linux, this is incorrect. Across distributions, the core, or the kernel remains the same. Distributions are different “flavors” of Linux. Jellybeans have different flavors, and even different colors. However, at the heart, they are all just jellybeans, mainly consisting of sugar, and each containing a slight modification from the original recipe.

Choosing a Distro

With thousands of distributions, it can be overwhelming for new and experienced users alike to decide what to use. Being a Linux user myself, I find this can be both the biggest drawback and benefit of using Linux. Here I will describe three Linux distributions that I consider as the three main “categories” of Linux distros, all good for different users.

Ubuntu 9.04

Ubuntu

Ubuntu is easily the most popular distro available, and is commonly referred to as “Linux for Humans” because of its ease of use. Its robust feature set includes the flexible Synaptic Package manager, and a watered down package manager called “Add/Remove Applications” for less experienced users. As Ubuntu is based off of Debian, Ubuntu also uses Debian’s package format with the extension .deb. In order to provide a more secure system, Ubuntu also has a few powerful defenses built into the system by default. This includes the unusual step of removing the root account. In other words, in order to provide a more secure system, Ubuntu does not have root, and in order to have access to root commands, the user must enter the “sudo” command followed by a password. This protection barrier is effective against Linux hackers, as most hackers first try to get into the root account. If there is no root, there is no way of getting into it. On top of being a shield against hackers, this feature serves as a warning in case the user is modifying files that can potentially destroy the system. Under root, the user literally has no limits to what they can do, but when being forced to use “sudo” commands, the user is notified that whatever they are doing involves some sort of risk. Ubuntu is known to have one of the best support for driver recognition. The default version of Ubuntu comes with the Gnome desktop environment, however, other environments can easily be installed through Synaptic, and other versions of Ubuntu such as Kubuntu and Xubuntu come with different desktop environments from default. A new version of Ubuntu comes out every 6 months. Varieties provided by Canonical, the company that maintains Ubuntu, include Ubuntu, Xubuntu, Kubuntu, Edubuntu, Gobuntu, and Ubuntu Studio. Popular derivatives include Linux Mint, and gOS.

openSUSE 11.1

openSUSE

A much older distribution, started in 1994, openSUSE has a name for being one of the most mature Linux distributions available. One of the key features available is the security software, called AppArmor. Most Linux distributions do not come with security software of any sort, however Ubuntu has recently adopted the same application. Also, configuration can be done within a simple graphical interface called YaST2. This includes package management, partition management, security settings, and system configuration. Unlike Ubuntu, which uses multiple different applications for configuration, openSUSE features a vast amount of customization within this one well-rounded package. Although openSUSE is traditionally considered to be a “step-up” in terms of usability and is usually only recommended for experienced users, openSUSE is in fact very straight forward and simple partially due to the huge amount of effort put into YaST2. Even Grub, the boot loader available under Linux, can be configured using YaST2. openSUSE is also known to be very good about recognizing hardware and automatically installing the correct hardware drivers. openSUSE has adopted the RPM package, and software is also installed through YaST2. Novell, the company which supports openSUSE, has also made major contributions to the KDE desktop environment project, and openSUSE is considered to be well rounded when used with KDE. However, the user is given the option of installing Gnome and KDE, and openSUSE is well supported under both environments. Newer versions do not come out in a set routine the way Ubuntu does, however it does have approximately 6 months between each release. Only a very small number of derived distributions exist, and one of them, SUSE Linux Enterprise, is Novell’s own commercial product.

Fedora 10

Fedora

Being a testing distribution for Red Hat’s Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Fedora is one of the most innovative distributions. Its feature base includes one of the most robust security systems available under Linux, and features SELinux, standing for Security-Enhanced Linux. This includes a major security update in the Linux kernel itself, originally introduced in Fedora Core 2. Because development is focused around new features, the ease-of-use factor in Fedora is considered to be very low. Therefore, it is only recommended for the advanced user. However, when configured correctly, Fedora has a reputation of being one of the most powerful Linux distributions. Starting with version 10, Fedora has support for the ext4 filesystem, which can use volumes of up to 1 exabyte, and file sizes of up to 16 terabytes. This is one of the biggest examples of Fedora’s fast moves, as Fedora 10 came out 1 month after ext4 was considered stable. Ubuntu 9.04, which came out 6 months after ext4, was the first Ubuntu distribution to include support for ext4, however it still installs ext3 by default. Fedora was also one of the first distributions to include OpenOffice.org 3.0, rather than the older 2.4 release. Fedora 9 also included Firefox 3.0 beta 5 rather than the stable but older Firefox 2.0. Fedora is a radical pioneer for the Linux community to enjoy. Fedora has a standard 6 month release cycle. Popular Fedora-based distributions include Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Linux XP, and Yellow Dog Linux. Red Hat supports Gnome and KDE versions of Fedora.

Notable Distributions

64 Studio
Arch Linux
CentOS
Damn Small Linux
Debian
Edubuntu
Fedora
Gentoo Linux
Gobuntu
gOS
Kubuntu
Linux Mint
Linux XP
Mandriva Linux
openSUSE
PCLinuxOS
Puppy Linux
Red Hat Enterprise Linux
Slackware Linux
SUSE Linux Enterprise
Ubuntu
Ubuntu Studio
Xubuntu
Yellow Dog Linux

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