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.
Tothat 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,
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
- Mandrake users are suave and
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.