Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Best Community Linux

I came across an article by Steven J. Vaughan-Nicholas about the Best Community Linux.
I must say, he makes his point clear and highlights the good points of each.
For instance Fedora is the only distribution to have the "Cutting edge" Pulse Audio sound Daemon, which has the ability to set the volume for individual applications and send direct audio streams across the network to other PCs and audio devices. At the same time Fedora is so "Bleeding edge" that users can cut themselves and bleed.

I never liked Fedora's package management, though. For me the choice is only between Ubuntu and OpenSUSE 10.3.
Lets bring in one more community distribution which is gaining user recognition very rapidly -- PCLinuxOS.

Steven mentions that Ubuntu is a good solid distribution, which makes installing codecs and propriety software easy. This is absolutely true about Ubuntu. Its really great for the beginners who need hand holding in setting up their system. The best part about Ubuntu is that it is offered pre installed on Dell systems.

OpenSUSE is a experimental branch of the enterprise grade SLED. OpenSUSE developers tinker with some cutting edge software, but amazingly they somehow keep the distribution very stable.
Ubuntu on the other hand is the final offering by Canonical, there is no separate "Enterprise" version of Ubuntu. Hence Ubuntu developers do not experiment too much. Hence, it tends to be stable.
Same holds true for PCLinuxOS, which I found to be the most stable distribution of the three.

Just comparing the user friendliness of the three

  1. Live CD. Most hardware is correctly auto configured by all the three.
    1. PClinuxOS. Its Dated. I do not understand the usefulness of making user click mouse just to configure network, when this can be auto configured. Also what is the point in making a user enter as either Root or normal user. Comeon this is a LiveCD. If you want to enforce Root protection then you can give a warning on invoking any System level software, such as install to disk. At the same time this is the only LiveCD having non-OSS software and browser plugins. This translates to the ability to play mp3 and watch youtube videos in a Live CD.
    2. Ubuntu. Simplicity is the key word. No user configuration, no entering username and password.... just a good looking LiveCD. However, no non-OSS software or browser plugins. This means that we have reduced functionality than PCLinuxOS.
    3. OpenSUSE. Elegant! This is the word that comes to my mind when I first saw OpenSUSE KDE Live CD. Functionality wise its identical to Ubuntu with no non-OSS software.
  2. Installation.
    1. PCLinuxOS. A very easy install which takes hardly 15 minutes.
    2. Ubuntu. Exact similar to PCLinuxOS
    3. OpenSUSE. Now this is the one which provides too much options. If we choose the default ones, it is like PCLinuxOS/Ubuntu; but user have the option to choose even expert mode which gives a lot of flexibility. Also if we have a single user then the installer auto configures that user to auto login. This is great for a home computer with a single user, eliminating the unnecessary hassle to entering the password each time. Not sure what happens if we add two or more users.
  3. Installed Software.
    1. PCLinuxOS. Almost everything a normal user might need, including the eye candy in for of Compiz. Though i had to install drivers for my Nvidia card separately.
    2. Ubuntu. Again almost everything except for the very essential non-OSS software like Java, media codecs and browser plugins. All this has to be installed manually. Thankfully Ubuntu has a meta package by the name "Ubuntu Restricted Extras". This does the job of installing almost every essential non-OSS software. The restricted driver manager makes installing Nvidia driver very easy, interesting thing is that it requires a reboot; its annoying as no other distribution has asked me to reboot after installing Nvidia drivers. Ubuntu has Compiz pre-installed but does not have Compiz configuration manager or Emerald manager installed. Ubuntu does not installs a dedicated CD/DVD burner, though Nautilus can perform the function with reduced functionality. Its KDE cousin Kubuntu has almost the same software as PCLinuxOS, sans the non-OSS ones.
    3. OpenSUSE. Similar Software to Kubuntu. Installing non-OSS ( ), Nvidia ( ) and Compiz Fusion ( ) is just a matter of clicks. OpenSUSE configures the required repositories and installs the packages.
  4. Package Management. All three have a huge list of software in their repos, sufficient for any normal user. Of these PCLinuxOS has perhaps the most updated packages, OpenSUSE is trying to catch up with its wonderful 1-Click install. Ubuntu by far has the least updated software packages.
    1. PCLinuxOS & Ubuntu. They use Synaptic which is a proven tool to install software.
    2. OpenSUSE. It uses YAST, which is good but a slower tool.
  5. System Configuration.
    1. PCLinuxOS. It uses a customized version of Mandriva Control Center and provides easy configuration to almost all aspects.
    2. Ubuntu. There is no centralized tool, however, various tools makes configuration easy.
    3. OpenSUSE. it uses YAST which is by far the best tool for configurations.
  6. Community Support.
    1. PCLinuxOS. It has possibly the smallest, but a very helpful community.
    2. Ubuntu. The mecca of user Community. The best possible with a huge HowTos.
    3. OpenSUSE. Decent community, but scattered across different forums.
Any of the three easily qualifies as a very good desktop replacement for Windows. Finally the one to use depends upon personal preferences. I like KDE so Ubuntu in its native form is a big NO NO for me. Also its KDE cousin, Kubuntu, lacks the finesse of Ubuntu and is not at all comparable to either PCLinuxOS or OpenSUSE. I have having trouble deciding between OpenSUSE and PCLinusOS as they are both equally good, so I have PCLinuxOS on my Laptop and OpenSUSE on Desktop.

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