Quite frankly, I got fed up with my Windows XP. Everything was wrong with it – security, stability, and price. So, I took a new step in my computer experience and tried going Linux. My only previous experience having been using and FTP Wizard to upload files to a web host, I could definitely be put into the “newbie” category.
I compared three so called “distros” of Linux (Suse 9.1 Pro, Fedora Core 2, and Mandrake 10). Mandrake didn’t appeal to me (though I’m sure its a fine OS) so I started off with Suse. After having fun with that I erased that part of my hard drive and reinstalled over it with Fedora. Here is my comparison:
The first thing that should be considered is also the first thing to happen, installation. I didn’t have the patience or interest in paying for cd’s so I chose the ftp install (Suse) and the download install (Fedora). The actual download part took place at different times so basically I will put the timing issue this way: Suse asks you which packages to download and ended up taking 2 hours on my DSL line. Fedora has you download all four cd’s (I only ended up needing three). I used torrent to get these files and it took me six hours to download all 2.7 gigs.
Once the installation got going, both were easy and I could sit back and relax (except for changing cd’s on Fedora). I’d say the actual install part took less than 45 minutes on my Athlon 1.6 gig. processor. All in all, I was pleasantly surprised to find both were easier and quicker to install than Windows (and didn’t require near the number of reboots).
Then I just had to restart. Both versions had the same, simple, boot manager which was very straightforward. A simple login and I was having my first experience with Linux!
Although they are each capable of using both KDE and Gnome desktops, each showed a preference based on the distro. Suse is clearly a KDE designed version (it took me an hour to figure out how to get to Gnome). Unfortunately, it has neglected Gnome a little and so KDE is much more stable. Likewise, Fedora came default with Gnome (like Suse you had to choose to install the other). Even though I chose to install KDE on Fedora, I’m so pleased with Gnome I haven’t experimented with it yet.
KDE was a little intimidating when it first loaded in Suse. Highly polished and colorful, it was clearly an experience for my eyes. Soon enough, I managed to get used to it. Gnome on Fedora came out less polished and colorful, but certainly looked more clean and organized.
The main panel at the bottom in KDE vaguely reminded me of Mac OS X. Gnome’s panel was easier to work with, though it lacked one feature I had come to like in Suse’s KDE – a recently launched applications section.
Software and Configuration
Basically, I had the same programs installed on Suse and Fedora, so the variety wasn’t all that different. The main difference was the control panel.
Honestly, Suse’s control panel, YaST, was a pleasure to work with. Everything was in one location, and was at max two clicks away from wherever you were. Fedora’s was disappointing. Options and modules all one click away in YaST were a confusing menu’s exploration to find in Fedora.
The package (program) management and update utilities were even more disappointing in Fedora. Whereas Suse could easily update or install a package, Fedora took forever and sometimes stopped working. Fedora’s up2date started out good; it had a little panel display showing you needed an update. Soon it became a disaster. It became buggy and stopped working. In the time it took to figure out Fedora’s working YUM (an update manager based on command lines), Suse could have installed and updated everything and anything.
Overall Use and Applications
Suse was a breeze to learn and Fedora was about the same. Clear navigation on menus in both was refreshing. The only main problem was in file management.
Suse was a mess. I couldn’t find half the files I needed most of the time. When I would install a package I couldn’t figure out it’s location. Worst of all, the way Apache was installed (files all over), required me to remove it and install it from scratch. While Fedora was also more confusing than Windows, it was certainly easier than Suse.
The only complaint with Linux was hardware compatibility. I went through two LAN cards to get it recognized. Worse, none of the 3 Canon Printers nor the Samsung Laser was supported by either distribution. Another down point is its lack of ample audio/video support and tools
I imagine all of this will be improved soon with all the recent investments in Linux.
If you are sick of Windows, either of these make a great choice as a second OS. Don’t completely get rid of XP quite yet, give Linux some more time to perfect. Personally, I’m sticking to Fedora, but when Suse 9.2 (or whatever comes next) and Fedora Core 3 arrive, you can bet I will be trying both.
Meanwhile, Suse 9.1 and Fedora Core 2 are good options. If you want something polished and centralized go for Suse. On the other hand, if a little exploring and learning is in your mind worth gaining more stability go for Fedora Core 2.
To sum up, I have found operating systems offer a good analogy to cars. You can go with your shiny, sleek sportscar (in this case Suse), but that doesn’t mean its easy to drive. Or, you can opt for a more simple and sensible midsize (Fedora) that easy to operate but doesn’t have the flashiest looks or features. Of course, it all beats a classified-ad used car (Windows) which makes you pray every mile that it won’t completely break down.
About the Author:
Zach Levin is a fed-up-with-Windows high school student in California. A web designer and computer enthusiast, he spends alot of time on the computer. Currently he is working on a new open source web script (an invoice manager).
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