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Monday, July 7, 2008

Four favorite distros

It is difficult for me to say that these are my four favorite distributions, period, without any qualifications. On the Ubuntu project alone, I am always torn between the XFCE based Xubuntu derivative and the KDE based Kubuntu derivative, and the 8.04 release is no exception. I like the boot screen and the default wallpaper on XFCE better, but those are only window dressings, so they do not form the full basis of any evaluation of mine - I often change them anyway with pictures of my children in scenic backgrounds, such as a view of New Hampshire's White Mountains, a pose at a rock, or an appearance at some event they are in. XFCE is a light desktop, so Xubuntu is always a consideration on any of my machines. But since I have XFCE anyway in sidux (always add it to sidux) I can afford to test elsewhere. Therefore, here are my current favorites with that caveat:

1) What else could it possibly be? sidux has impressed me more than any other system that I have used in three or four years. Only the old Libranet was even close. Given that sidux has newer technology, sidux wins. Why? First, it has a very fast kernel and always detects the hardware I use in my four systems, two desktops and two laptops. These systems span seven or eight years in time, so I believe sidux will do well on most systems, but a sample size of four, of course, is inconclusive evidence. sidux installs very quickly. It is very similar to the speed in which the original Lindows.com would install - you'd throw it on your system, and ten minutes later it was there. The difference is, with sidux, you have a working system. sidux has very good network setup procedures. You can change from a wired Ethernet setup to a wireless setup or you can roam from place to place very easily. Some would argue that there are easier setups on other systems and I would grant them that. The thing is, the sidux setup works and works well. Updating software with sidux is a breeze, especially if you include the community written (by h2) well known (at least in sidux circles) smxi script. With it you can update kernels, packages, or the complete system, and it does a great job of insulating you from instabilities in the Debian Sid packages. Finally, to keep this reasonable in size, sidux has cutting edge software that actually works.

2) Ever since I found MEPIS in May 2003, I have like the MEPIS systems. I really liked the first Live CDs that I ran across. They were my favorite Live CDs. Unfortunately, when MEPIS went for the "Simple" in SimplyMEPIS (my favorite stable distribution), they also significantly upped the size of the CDs by moving from a lightweight window manager to a full featured desktop system. So when anticapitalista began to interact with Warren Woodford about creating a moderate sized Live CD based on SimplyMEPIS, but replacing the desktop, going from KDE to a choice of the default Fluxbox or IceWM as an alternative, I was real interested.

At first, I thought that antiX was giving up a bit by making that change, but the more and more I use antiX, the less and less I feel that way. antiX boots even faster than sidux, has the potential to have much of the same software that sidux uses (at your option). It already uses ceni, the network setup program used by MEPIS, but it also includes, at least for now, two other network setup programs, the mnetworks program included in SimplyMEPIS, and the wicd network program and daemon requested by many of anti's forum members. The new upcoming version of antiX includes the smxi script that sidux fans rave about.

3. Given that I have been so complementary about it in my previous blog posting and I have found it to be so much improved over the past two years, I have elevated Mandriva back to the spot I once had it in the Mandrake 8.0 timeframe as one of four regular partitions I include on my best system - which right now is my Lenovo laptop. Mandriva has among the best hardware detection in the business, urpmi packaging program that almost rivals the Debian packaging systems (except that the RPM packages STILL seem a bit slower to unpack than Debian .DEB packages). Mandriva, like Debian, has a number of repositories. You can get free, non-free, backports, testing, and Cooker repositories with Mandriva, so you can go moderately conservative to cutting edge, depending on your mood and your ability to manage risk. For me, since this is but one of many systems, I choose to go cutting edge, since I have stable systems to back me up, should any issues arise. I have not run into major issues with the Cooker in the past, so I am looking forward to using it more once again.

4. I am giving this spot to Kubuntu, since I have a nice steady Xubuntu on at least one, but probably both, of my desktop systems. I am also giving a spot to the KDE 4 remix, in spite of frequent complaints about it on the 'net. Kubuntu has actually worked for me, even with KDE 4. So like Mandriva, I want to give it more air time. Like Mandriva, it has earned the time and deserves it. Kubuntu is extremely easy to install, manage, update, and use. Should I actually run into a serious issue, it would take about fifteen minutes to set up another instance of it, completely reinstalling over what is there now, so that is a risk I am happy to take. It seems to be a reasonable risk, too, because I have had better results with the KDE 4 remix than a lot of the negative critics. Positives: installs, configures, and runs quickly and easily. Package manager is capable of running with very little interaction, but you can also update using manual conventional ways, such as apt-get or aptitude commands. Negatives, (or to me, risks): KDE 4 technology that is not 100% ready in all cases; little feedback during installation or upgrade if you use the "easy" tools (but as I said, you have a choice there, so not really much of an issue.

All of these systems have upgrade mechanisms of some sort. I like the sidux one best of all, but the others are quite close in functions and capabilities. I would not hesitate to use or recommend any of these systems, and indeed, all four are now the "keepers" on my Lenovo laptop.

By the way, on my Dell Latitude laptop, only sidux gets permanent status. Other distros get, at most, Virtualbox access there. In practice, I have not been doing Virtualbox there, but I do plan to do some Virtualbox test instances on the Lenovo in the future.

4 comments:

Saist said...

Unfortunately, when MEPIS went for the "Simple" in SimplyMEPIS (my favorite stable distribution), they also significantly upped the size of the CDs by moving from a lightweight window manager to a full featured desktop system




Um... what exactly are you talking about? Mepis has been using KDE 3.x as the default Desktop Environment since the first public releases of Mepis in 2003.

Gurubie said...

Kubuntu works best for me. I'm tired of working with old systems that have less than about 192MB RAM. Said another way, I like the KDE the best. Yet, I have noticed, if you have a limited RAM system, one can custom install icewm over a base ubuntu (any *buntu CD) install. You'll want to try to find some pre-tweaked, setup, text files (for icewm) plus install and use the SilverXP icewm theme. It's FAST! But, you have to build it.

Anyway, Sidux impresses me too. I can't help but wonder about how often is breaks though. So far, it has not. If you want to "dist-upgrade" (or managed upgrade) releases, then it beats Kubuntu there. IMHO, Kubuntu new releases are best clean installed. I can not recomend the "upgrade-manger". One can not "manage" a RELEASE upgrade that is still (every 6 months) stabilizing. Yet, clean installing is only about 20 minutes, plus retweak.

I still can't ever see why I would subject myself to Mandrivias RPM's.

XFCE is not that light. I'd just as soon use KDE (lite) or down to Icewm, or tweaked open box/LXDE or something. Just get over 192MB RAM and use KDE IMHO.

MEPIS has had it's day and AntiX is a quick way for limited RAM systems. Yet, why not run Sidux and a light (w/d) manager? I suppose if you are a newbie AND have limited RAM then AntiX is a great start. Yet, it will not hold the open software tourch like KDE. Limited RAM just does not promote open software well. With dual booting and all, there no reason not to use open software; on your best box.

1. Kubuntu
2. Sidux

192mb OR LESS:

1. Puppy live CD (128MB can load all in RAM) update CD now and then.
2. AntiX for HD install.
3. *buntu base plus icewm build up. (not for newbies) gives best upgrades.

Gurubie said...

Kubuntu works best for me. I'm tired of working with old systems that have less than about 192MB RAM. Said another way, I like the KDE the best. Yet, I have noticed, if you have a limited RAM system, one can custom install icewm over a base ubuntu (any *buntu CD) install. You'll want to try to find some pre-tweaked, setup, text files (for icewm) plus install and use the SilverXP icewm theme. It's FAST! But, you have to build it.

Anyway, Sidux impresses me too. I can't help but wonder about how often is breaks though. So far, it has not. If you want to "dist-upgrade" (or managed upgrade) releases, then it beats Kubuntu there. IMHO, Kubuntu new releases are best clean installed. I can not recomend the "upgrade-manger". One can not "manage" a RELEASE upgrade that is still (every 6 months) stabilizing. Yet, clean installing is only about 20 minutes, plus retweak.

I still can't ever see why I would subject myself to Mandrivias RPM's.

XFCE is not that light. I'd just as soon use KDE (lite) or down to Icewm, or tweaked open box/LXDE or something. Just get over 192MB RAM and use KDE IMHO.

MEPIS has had it's day and AntiX is a quick way for limited RAM systems. Yet, why not run Sidux and a light (w/d) manager? I suppose if you are a newbie AND have limited RAM then AntiX is a great start. Yet, it will not hold the open software tourch like KDE. Limited RAM just does not promote open software well. With dual booting and all, there no reason not to use open software; on your best box.

1. Kubuntu
2. Sidux

192mb OR LESS:

1. Puppy live CD (128MB can load all in RAM) update CD now and then.
2. AntiX for HD install.
3. *buntu base plus icewm build up. (not for newbies) gives best upgrades.

Brian Masinick said...

Since I write the original blog entry, I would change my list. The top choice remains the top choice: sidux. After that, it is a toss up between SimplyMEPIS 8.0 RC 3 and antiX M8.0 Test (updated to the latest). If I feel like speed, I go with antiX as the second choice. If I feel like stability and simple click desktop, I go with SimplyMEPIS as my second choice. They are in a virtual tie; both do their jobs well.

I'm tempted to bump Fedora 11 Alpha over Kubuntu 9.04 Alpha 4; it seems to be doing a better job of putting the KDE 4.2 pieces in place. The Mandriva 2009 Cooker (moving toward 2009.1 Spring) also seems to be doing a better job than Kubuntu in sorting out and improving KDE 4. The Xubuntu project seems more stable than Kubuntu right now.

As far as SimplyMEPIS goes, the project did move to KDE some time between 2003 and 2004, but I do have multiple builds from 2003 that use a lightweight window manager instead of a full desktop environment. I believe that Warren was using mostly IceWM before he switched gears and focused on using KDE. I have often added IceWM and XFCE to MEPIS installations to have them around. IceWM, in particular, is handy when you are not planning to do a lot of desktop activities, mostly browsing and Email, which is often what I end up doing, so I like bringing in IceWM to many of my distro setups.