posted by Marcus Vorwaller on Tue 11th Mar 2003 20:39 UTC
IconThis article is a followup to an article I wrote on 2-20-2003 about my experiences choosing a Linux distribution that would suit my needs and wants. My principal requirements for an OS are that it be powerful and up to date, easy to use and set up--I don't mind using the command line and I don't mind editing a file here and there, but I like doing this type of editing for fun, not because I have to. I also want an OS that is fast and looks nice on my PII 450 with about 350 MB of RAM.

After choosing Red Hat as my favorite OS last time, I received many kind emails referring me to one distro or another. For the most part, I tried (or tried to try) all of them. Here are the results...

Let me first get these out of the way. I'll preclude this by saying I have nothing against these first few distributions, I just couldn't get them to install... that's all.

Vector Linux SoHO. I was unable to install this distro in either of the two versions I tried. It came up with errors about files and directories it could not find on the install CD. I couldn't figure out what it needed and therefore, I never got it installed. I'll probably experiment more with this because I only hear good things about it.

Peanut Linux - I was interested in Peanut because it seemed very small and is touted as being for those new to Linux, which I am. My computer has two hard drives, one with had Windows XP on it (until recently) and the other I was using for my Linux tests. Peanut wouldn't recognize my second hard drive. I have no idea why or how to make it see it, but at the time, I wasn't willing to overwrite my Windows XP drive. I've since done so (more on this later) and I'll probably give it a try again later.

College Linux - I don't know what I could have done to cause this, but while installing packages 8's started scrolling across the screen and never stopped. I don't know what went wrong. Again, I intend to try to install this distro again in the future.

Debian - Debian was hard to get working. I tried to install it a few times, but couldn't get it working. The first netInstall CD for the stable version of Debian had a hard time with my network card, I eventually got it connected and even installed the base system. Apt wouldn't work and I was not able to get further than that. I probably could have if I had spent more time with the manual etc. etc. etc., but I just didn't mess with it too much more. When I tried the testing version of the netInstall CD image, I couldn't get it to find my Internet connection and therefore couldn't install it. You're probably thinking by now that I don't have a talent for installing Linux or I am just not persistent enough with it... maybe you're right.

I'd learned enough in email responses from the last article and from reading debian.org about Debian before my install attempts that I was still very excited to try it. It's method of software installation seems very cool to me. I love trying out the latest and greatest software on Freshmeat or experimenting with web design tools on Linux. If nothing else, I learned using Red Hat and Mandrake that while RPM's can be very cool, they can also be a HUGE pain. Enough people before me have complained about dependencies for me not to have to. Suffice it to say, I've spent more than my share of time on rpmfind.net looking for lib this or "k" that.

This brings me to my next Linux experience... LindowsOS. I thought Lindows was pretty cool and very usable. It was very easy to install and I was thrilled to find out that it is Debian based and as such, retains much of the software installation functionality that Debian offers. Lindows comes pre-configured with popular browser plug ins--something I think every Linux distro should at least give you the option of having during the install.

Their Click-and-Run software warehouse was pretty good. It features a surprisingly large selection of even fairly obscure applications which, despite not always being the most current version, almost always work with literally one click. If you're on an even slightly slow connection, I'd recommend getting the click-and-run CD and burning it, otherwise waiting for the apps to download will be tortureous. I'm on a 68kbs DSL connection and even with that, installing Star Office took a good 20 minutes.

Lindows also comes with Hancom Sheet and a couple other commercial applications. I don't really use spreadsheets that much and the differences between StarOfice and OpenOffice.org are so nominal that I never even notice them, commercial apps were, therefore of little worth to me.

The Lindows GUI is very nice--clean, simple and fluid among the different applications. XMMS has a Lindows skin as does Mozilla, both are very nice. I actually found it (for my purposes) to be a powerful OS. Lindows makes a lot of otherwise not so pretty apps look great just by having such a nice theme. It ran decently fast on my computer (though they recommend at least a 500mhz processor) but it wasn't snappy by any means. Almost all of the software I was looking for was in their Click and Run database. Apt-get could be used to install MOST other applications. Sometimes apt would complain and try to uninstall KDE, but it's still a pretty functional tool. Networking in Lindows was a breeze as were almost all other configuration options.

I really do not have too many complaints about Lindows. I doubt I'd renew the $99 subscription since I don't mind installing software from the command line with apt, but for people who don't want to do that, it might be worth it. I started thinking that once you add up the cost of the os and the money you'll spend with paying the software subscription, you're approaching the cost of Windows very quickly, but really that's not the case. With Lindows (and ANY Linux distro) one thing people all to often fail to mention is that you're not only getting a full OS, you're getting a full OS with 99% of the software you need all for free (or for the price of LindowsOS in this case.) With Windows, that is not the case, the cost of Microsoft Office alone makes up for any subscription fees you pay with Lindows or others like it.

Just to quickly comment on the controversy Lindows generates. I think there's a lot of truth to the statement "there's no such thing as bad publicity." I really don't think that there is much Lindows (or their CEO) could possibly do to tarnish the reputation of the entire Linux community. Anyone who is even half interested in Linux will quickly realize that there are other options and other companies and that LindowsOS does not equal Linux. I think that Lindows will do good for the Linux community in the long run.

Table of contents
  1. "Choosing a Linux Distro II, Page 1"
  2. "Choosing a Linux Distro, Page 2"
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