Linked by David Adams on Fri 26th Sep 2008 20:22 UTC, submitted by Caffeine Deprived
Linux This article takes a look at five great but not very well-known desktop-focussed Linux distros, including SimplyMEPIS and Mint. It focuses on distros that are easy-to-use.
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Five?
by joeprusa on Fri 26th Sep 2008 20:52 UTC
joeprusa
Member since:
2006-05-25

However I count I always end up with six distros in the article - and that's without Debian Ubuntu and Kubuntu which were mentioned, too. As for the "less known" - out of those six distros I haven't tried just gOS and gNewSense.
But any reader of OSnews is probably not a target audience anyway...

Reply Score: 2

RE: Five?
by Quag7 on Fri 26th Sep 2008 21:28 UTC in reply to "Five?"
Quag7 Member since:
2005-07-28

I'm always curious to learn how many Linux users at any given time are unhappy with their distribution and are looking around for another. I've been on the same Linux distribution for 6 and a half years now, and I've never seriously considered switching, though I run about a half dozen others in emulation just to see what they're up to.

But I know there are others who switch frequently, and I wonder how the percentages break down.

Also, people have been saying that about Debian - that it's for experienced users - basically since I first ever heard of Linux. But I've not found this to be true. Not in 2001 when I first tried it, and not now. What is it about Debian that people think is hard for new users?

Debian practically cooks you a meal and gives you an icy cold Coke while it works. I don't get why it ever had this reputation. Slackware would be an example of a distribution which is maybe not ideal for new users (not a slag on Slackware, it's just that it's very DIY, which most users aren't), but Debian? Why does that persist? I honestly want to know.

If I had to pick one distribution to face space dragons with, it would probably be Debian.

Reply Score: 8

RE[2]: Five?
by leech on Fri 26th Sep 2008 21:43 UTC in reply to "RE: Five?"
leech Member since:
2006-01-10

Debian still has this silly reputation from before Woody when the installer required you to know every bit of hardware you had and still supported Floppy install. I think Etch was the first to not have a Floppy install, but Woody had a semi-decent installer and Sarge had an excellent one (all the earlier Ubuntu releases used the same installer and so do the Alternate and Server releases)

Debian is just as easy, if not easier than Ubuntu to install. In fact I think it's better because it doesn't use different installers depending on what you want to install. You want to install just the server, do it with the tasksel package that is ran during installation. You want a desktop? It's there as well. Web server? Easy. LVM and Raid? It's all there too.

I think Ubuntu is doing a disservice to their users by not using the Debian installer as their desktop installer when you try "Install Ubuntu" from the initial menu, or even maybe integrate it into the LiveCD. Hardy's installer even had a really annoying bug on the timezone selection screen that makes the map almost unusable. On an LTS release? Even the .1 release of it didn't fix the issue. It moves just way too fast.

The only downfall of Debian, which was supposed to be the one thing that Ubuntu was created to fix, was old releases of Gnome. But I do find that a Debian release usually has newer versions of the backend / server side software, but older versions of the Desktop stuff. That's the real reason to use Ubuntu over Debian. It certainly has nothing to do with ease of installation.

With Debian you'll need a single CD to install either x86, x86_64, or PPC. Lenny has a netinst with those architectures. That pretty much covers most computers out there right now.

Plus from what I can tell (couldn't get it working yet myself) Debian Lenny will finally support multi-arch packaging. I don't know if Ubuntu will have that until 9.04.

Anyhow just a rant to back you up on the myth of difficult installations for Debian. An old Myth that is at least older than Woody (released in 2002)

Reply Score: 8

RE[2]: Five?
by AdamW on Fri 26th Sep 2008 23:20 UTC in reply to "RE: Five?"
AdamW Member since:
2005-07-06

Debian's a fine distro, but fighting space dragons? Pick Mandriva, the only distribution with a secret orbital laser!

(sorry, old in-joke. :>)

Reply Score: 6

RE[2]: Five?
by Liquidator on Sat 27th Sep 2008 13:57 UTC in reply to "RE: Five?"
Liquidator Member since:
2007-03-04

What is it about Debian that people think is hard for new users?


<sigh />

The problem is that most power users, who are supposed to have a much higher IQ than the average joe, fail to find an answer to the above question. And this is the reason Linux hasn't grabbed more market share than that. Many people would love to use an alterative to Windows, and moreover, free of charge. But they haven't done the switch...

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: Five?
by sbergman27 on Sat 27th Sep 2008 17:09 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Five?"
sbergman27 Member since:
2005-07-24

The problem is that most power users, who are supposed to have a much higher IQ than the average joe, fail to find an answer to the above question.

Indeed. Sometimes the reality distortion field is so extreme that it threatens to wrap itself into a singularity.

How different these discussions would be if Linux advocates had to intern as support persons for average users.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Five?
by Quag7 on Sat 27th Sep 2008 23:51 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Five?"
Quag7 Member since:
2005-07-28

I was asking the question relative to other Linux distributions. In point of fact I am presently helping get a guy in his 50s *who has never used computers in his life* online. I have worked as a phone tech support agent. I know full well the issues surrounding any OS, and those peculiar to Linux.

My question was about Debian in relation to other distributions.

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Five?
by alcibiades on Sun 28th Sep 2008 06:09 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Five?"
alcibiades Member since:
2005-10-12

I think its a good question. For a long time I hestitated to put in Debian for people. The reason was, compared to Mandriva, with Mandriva I could send them to the 'configure your computer' entry in the menu, and know that everything they wanted to do would be there and findable and usable. Debian, I was not so sure. Add a printer, for instance? Could one really be sure of talking them through it? Then I have to send them to Synaptic, in another part of the menu structure for upgrades. Surely it is true that if they are going to do admin on a distribution, its easier on Mandriva than on Debian?

However, lately I've been putting in Debian, on the grounds that they are never going to have to do any admin on Debian anyway, so who cares if its a bit more difficult? And it turns out to be true. All the calls are about how to do things in Open Office which would be equally problematic in any distro, including XP. Like, has anyone ever been able to do mail merge in anything indluding MS Office without tearing their hair out? Secretaries must have a special part of their brain that they use for that. And of course the bonus on Debian is that you do not have to go over there once a year and do the total system upgrade/reinstall, they can keep it up to date themselves.

So maybe the answer is, Mandriva and derivatives seem a lot easier because of the control centre, but nowadays its something of an illusion, because its used so little post installation. And because the Gnome or KDE control centres are so comprehensive and do so much of what the user needs to do.

In fact, one of the surprises has been how little configuration to taste people want to do. Their basic attitude seems to be, you set it up how you think is best, I get used to it. Not, you show me how to change this to suit what I want. They're either very unenterprising, or commendably tolerant and adaptable, I don't quite know how to characterize it.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Five?
by zombie process on Mon 29th Sep 2008 12:55 UTC in reply to "RE: Five?"
zombie process Member since:
2005-07-08

Tons. Half of the podcasts I used to listen to featured a gushing ceremony for the new flavor of the week, regularly. Back when I had more discretionary time, I enjoyed testing out new distros quite a bit, and found quite a few that were tempting.

That said, I agree with you - while I don't favor debian vanilla for a number of reasons, I do favor Arch Linux and have been rocking the same install for several years. IT has pissed me off a few times, but I've certainly never found anything I like better.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Five?
by leech on Fri 26th Sep 2008 21:48 UTC in reply to "Five?"
leech Member since:
2006-01-10

Odd, counting just the non-major distributions listed, I only counted FOUR.

All of them are based off of Debian (or Ubuntu if you consider it a fork instead of an expansion, as I do) except the last one(s) PCLinuxOS (Mandriva Based) and Mandriva (Mandrake based?)

Mandriva is definitely a major distribution. Even if someone had not heard of Mandriva or Connectiva, they certainly had heard of Mandrake.

So eliminating the mentions of the "popular" distributions, the article only mentions SimplyMEPIS, gOS, gNewSense and PCLinuxOS.

Reply Score: 4

Where's the article?
by ple_mono on Sat 27th Sep 2008 02:02 UTC
ple_mono
Member since:
2005-07-26

90% ads, 10% article. Nice!
And no, i didn't finish it. I had a seizure before i got to page 2.

Reply Score: 4

Mint not very well-known?
by ml2mst on Sat 27th Sep 2008 02:27 UTC
ml2mst
Member since:
2005-08-27

Linux This article takes a look at five great but not very well-known desktop-focussed Linux distros, including SimplyMEPIS and Mint

Erm, the "not very well-known" Linux Mint is currently #3 at Distrowatch for crying out loud :-)

Reply Score: 5

RE: Mint not very well-known?
by B12 Simon on Mon 29th Sep 2008 10:33 UTC in reply to "Mint not very well-known?"
B12 Simon Member since:
2006-11-08

I'd say being #3 on DistroWatch and completely unknown to a PC World audience are compatible :o)

Reply Score: 1

SimplyMepis and PCLinuxOS: No thanks...
by sbergman27 on Sat 27th Sep 2008 02:29 UTC
sbergman27
Member since:
2005-07-24

I lost confidence in SimplyMepis when Woodford decided to base it upon Ubuntu 6.06 LTS... and then later about faced, claiming that LTS did not live up to its promise of being Debian Sid. (Norman, coordinate!) If the architect and sole maintainer can make such an incredibly stupid mistake, its hard to muster a lot of confidence in the distro.

PCLinuxOS wore out its welcome as too many fanboys posted too many PCLinuxOS propaganda spams in too many forums for too long. For a while it was like the halcyon days of Gentoo. ( http://funroll-loops.info/ ) And then there was that mysterious period in which PCLinuxOS, literally over night, rocketed up to #1 on distrowatch, stayed there several months, and then rocketed back down (again literally over night). Ladislav never found any definite signs of improper manipulation, but the whole business was damned peculiar if you ask me.

Reply Score: 3

AdamW Member since:
2005-07-06

"and then rocketed back down (again literally over night)."

That's not true. It started a gradual decline several months back. It certainly didn't "rocket back down" overnight - it's dropped gradually and smoothly over several months from near 3,000 down to its current just over 1,000. It's almost stable now but still dropping quite slowly.

Reply Score: 3

devnet Member since:
2007-01-16

And that extra slow "rocket" back down is because it hasn't released a new version since May of 2007. It's a community made distribution that has a small dev team of 5-10 people who work on it when they're not doing their full time jobs and living life.

You'd do well to show a bit of respect for people who can pull off something like this...gaining over a huge distro like Ubuntu with a dev team of 10. It's a huge accomplishment. They don't care for rankings. They just want to make stuff that works and they do a damn fine job doing it. Get off their back and go trash someone or something that actually deserves trashing...because PCLinuxOS doesn't deserve your ire.

Reply Score: 3

sbergman27 Member since:
2005-07-24

You'd do well to show a bit of respect for people who can pull off something like this...

But I've nothing against the devs. 'Twas the fans and cheerleaders ruined PCLinuxOS.

Reply Score: 2

ruel24 Member since:
2006-03-21

And the Ubuntu boys are just so innocent, aren't they? PCLinuxOS is a wonderful distro, and it's got a good solid following of loyal users. Those users are so loyal, any possible attack against it is met with fury. So what? Tell a Mac users his platform sucks and see how defensive he gets.

Look... Distro bashing is something that's tearing Linux apart at the seams. It seemed like we had this upward movement in the marketplace for a moment, then people started tearing down other distros. Now, Linux hasn't realy made any more inroads on the home desktop, since. It's a shame. Let people use what they want, as long as it works for them. Don't try to crap on their parade. As long as they're using some form of FOSS, let them be happy.

Reply Score: 1

sbergman27 Member since:
2005-07-24

And the Ubuntu boys are just so innocent, aren't they?

Relatively speaking, yes. Forums are actually relatively free of cheerleader-pests right now. Ubuntu occupies the spot (gateway for newbies) that usually ends up generating more than its fair share of pests. But I think that its real and actual popularity creates a certain confidence within Ubuntu users that precludes the need to run around screaming about how wonderful it is. I've been keeping a casual eye on the situation, and most of the "Ubuntu conflict threads" I've noticed on this site have actually been initiated by a few anti-Ubuntuists (who can be just as annoying as distro "fanboys", after all) who seem intent on stirring up a conflict. I used to keep a short list of them, noting how much time elapsed between the posting of an Ubuntu story and their making their first "anti" post under it. But then I got bored with it. Too predictable.

Reply Score: 2

KugelKurt Member since:
2005-07-06

PCLinuxOS is a wonderful distro

You should try Mandriva then. It's exactly the same, just different branding and newer packages.

Reply Score: 2

AdamW Member since:
2005-07-06

devnet: I'm not sure who that was directed at, but I wasn't bashing PCLOS at all. I was trying to refute the initial implication that its ranking was dishonestly achieved (which I've never believed).

Reply Score: 2

da_Chicken Member since:
2006-01-01

I lost confidence in SimplyMepis when Woodford decided to base it upon Ubuntu 6.06 LTS... and then later about faced, claiming that LTS did not live up to its promise of being Debian Sid.


It looks like Woodford was disappointed to find out that Ubuntu's LTS releases don't receive application upgrades, only security updates. His discussions with the Ubuntu people had led him to believe that Ubuntu could offer both the up-to-dateness of Debian Sid and the stability of Debian Stable, but Woodford concluded that neither of these promises were true. As a result, he decided to switch Mepis back from Ubuntu to Debian.

http://www.desktoplinux.com/news/NS6170488551.html

The move from Debian to Ubuntu seems to be one big misunderstanding from Woodford's side, he was simply deceived by Ubuntu's ambiguous marketing and self-promotion. If I had to criticize the shortcomings in Ubuntu's release process, I'd point out the fact that most of Ubuntu's packages are in the officially unsupported "universe" component, which nevertheless is enabled by default. So Ubuntu users don't necessarily understand that they should only use packages from "universe" at their own risk. Because "universe" is not officially supported, those packages don't receive security updates from the Ubuntu security team and, furthermore, release-critical bugs in "universe" are not considered as show-stoppers for the new Ubuntu releases. I think this line of argument would be more valid critique than anything that Woodford has said.

Reply Score: 4

sbergman27 Member since:
2005-07-24

It looks like Woodford was disappointed to find out that Ubuntu's LTS releases don't receive application upgrades, only security updates.

Yes. Just as everyone in the world with the exception of Warren Woodford knew at the time; The Ubuntu devs never claimed otherwise. And it's not like we didn't already have plenty of models demonstrating how long term support distros work: RHEL, SLES, Debian-Stable...

His discussions with the Ubuntu people had led him to believe that Ubuntu could offer both the up-to-dateness of Debian Sid and the stability of Debian Stable,

You're going to have to provide some evidence (beyond Warren's own face-saving statements later on) to support that.

And there is no point in continuing the discussion until you do. Good luck finding supporting evidence in the real world for Warren's fanciful work of fiction. Debian-testing is an excellent "trunk" distro for spin-off distros and Woodford was a fool for derailing his distro as he did.

Edited 2008-09-27 11:47 UTC

Reply Score: 2

Anonymous Penguin Member since:
2005-07-06



It looks like Woodford was disappointed to find out that Ubuntu's LTS releases don't receive application upgrades, only security updates. His discussions with the Ubuntu people had led him to believe that Ubuntu could offer both the up-to-dateness of Debian Sid and the stability of Debian Stable,


Pretty naive of him, if that is the case. Kano or the Sidux team were never caught in such a mistake.

Reply Score: 2

zombie process Member since:
2005-07-08

Huh - I'd chalk the initial response to "finally, something other than a debian polisher to work with!" I tried it, and liked it quite a bit. I wasn't wild about its use of apt-for-rpm, but it had the pieces of Mandrake that I liked so much back in the day, and had enough of its own flavor that it was a breath of fresh air. It also always nice to find a KDE-centric distro these days.

Reply Score: 2

sbergman27 Member since:
2005-07-24

Huh - I'd chalk the initial response to "finally, something other than a debian polisher to work with!"

How times have changed. The Red Hat polishers have left the building.

Reply Score: 2

fsckit Member since:
2006-09-24

Indeed. Now can you kindly ask them to come back. Those of us who prefer non-debian systems sorely miss them.

Reply Score: 2

sbergman27 Member since:
2005-07-24

Those of us who prefer non-debian systems sorely miss them.

Certainly there is a void between fast and loose Fedora and musty old RHEL/CentOS. Don't get me wrong. CentOS may be my favorite distro. But I'd love to have something RedHatesque with a 12 month release cycle, 3-5 years of support, and a sane volume of nightly updates.

One can achieve some of the goals by deploying Fedora n-1 after Fedora n is out. But then there is the nasty forced upgrade every six months, which is arguably worse than just deploying every other Fedora release. And it looks like RedHat is planning on going well beyond a 24 month release cycle for RHEL 6. Likely when F11 comes out, RHEL will still be at the equivalent of Fedora Core 6. Even so, it (and CentOS) seem to me like the best balance available in the RH world at this time.

Edited 2008-09-29 17:40 UTC

Reply Score: 2

A few others...
by obsidian on Sat 27th Sep 2008 02:33 UTC
obsidian
Member since:
2007-05-12

All of the distros mentioned are indeed good (and I'm
using Linux Mint at present).

Another good desktop distro is Slax. Quite small, and
very nicely put together. I've also found Knoppix to be excellent. Although it's often (maybe most commonly) used as a live-CD, it also makes an excellent desktop distro.

Finally, widening the net beyond Linux, I've also found that FreeBSD and OpenBSD make great desktops as well. Only downside is that Flash doesn't yet run on them, but (at least for FreeBSD) there is a Flash player coming in the next few months, I believe.

Reply Score: 2

pleasure or pain
by Bully on Sat 27th Sep 2008 04:44 UTC
Bully
Member since:
2006-04-07

One of the pleasures of Linux is that you can try out different distributions to see which one works best for you.


One men's pleasure is another men's pain.
There are simply to many out there to dig throug (for my taste)

Reply Score: 2

Mint? Really?
by noamsml on Sat 27th Sep 2008 12:52 UTC
noamsml
Member since:
2005-07-09

Linux Mint is positively terrible. It's as if a bunch of Windows modifiers decided to get together and make Linux feel more like Windows by removing all the integration and smoothness.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Mint? Really?
by dagw on Sat 27th Sep 2008 23:29 UTC in reply to "Mint? Really?"
dagw Member since:
2005-07-06

Do you have any specific examples? Mint is currently my favorite desktop distro for a number of reasons, primarily related to how well integrated and smooth it is to use. It comes with excellent defaults, a good theme, easily the best 'start' menu I've seen and is all round a pleasure to use. So far I haven't found any major complaints (or at least no more than in any other distro, or OS), I'm wondering what yours are

Reply Score: 2

Comment by Netfun81
by Netfun81 on Sat 27th Sep 2008 19:17 UTC
Netfun81
Member since:
2008-03-25

Wtf?! these are some of the most popular linux distributions. With a title like that I would expect at least a couple distributions that are not so well known.

Reply Score: 1

Comment by moleskine
by moleskine on Sat 27th Sep 2008 21:32 UTC
moleskine
Member since:
2005-11-05

My problem with distros like those in the article is that whether good or not so good (and some, like PCLinux OS, strike me as excellent), they depend on too few people. Or even one person really in the case of Mepis. If luck, health, life, whatever, take a turn then chances are high your distro will suffer or even go down as happened (sadly) to Libranet.

I prefer the longer term, and for that reason have been with Debian since before Ubuntu came out. In many ways, Debian strikes me as the king of distros. Debian has a very large developer community with high standards, so it just goes on, and can be relied upon to go on, no matter what happens or what other distros throw at it. Seems to me that slowly but surely the "Debian Way" is becoming the way of the majority of desktop users, if you add up all the distros based on Debian as well as Debian pure itself.

I have found that Debian takes a bit of getting to know, but once you do know it there is, as some has pointed out, a wealth of scripts and helper packages that take the pain out of doing an awful lot of things. Add this to the rolling update system, the high standards of packaging and bug correction, and Debian for me has the edge over Ubuntu as well as over the "Rpm Way".

I'm not trying to be divisive. Folks will disagree with this or think another distro is far superior. That's fine. However, I do wonder how long some of the less popular, more bespoke distros will last. They are a demanding labour of love, and over the past eight or ten years, Linux does seem to have started to coalesce round a smaller number of "big distros", at least in terms of the way user numbers pan out. My guess is enjoy these less popular distros while they are there. I suspect not nearly so many will be there in ten years' time.

Reply Score: 4

RE: Comment by moleskine
by alcibiades on Sun 28th Sep 2008 06:14 UTC in reply to "Comment by moleskine"
alcibiades Member since:
2005-10-12

Yes, exactly the reasons I'm now on Debian, and am putting it in for people as a general rule. I did recently put in Mandriva into an office, on the grounds that it came with a proper up to date comprehensive user guide in pdf form. Took it out to a print shop, had a couple copies made. A few months later, they were still lying on the same shelf where they had first been put, gathering dust. Never once looked at. Next time, I thought, why bother, just put in Debian right away.

Reply Score: 2

rcsteiner
Member since:
2005-07-12

One in particular called VestaPup impressed me enough that I'm using it maybe 70% of the time on my formerly Ubuntu-ized box. :-)

http://www.puppylinux.org/downloads/puplets/vestapup

Reply Score: 2