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Picking a Distribution

The big question is which one. Deciding wasn't easy, and there are hundreds of versions, several of which I've used in various environments, some designed for power uers with minimal installations, and others for newbies. My thoughts on how to choose one:

  • Is it server oriented or desktop oriented? What is your need?
  • How large is the community of users?
  • How large is the community of developers (this can be both bad and good, depending upon how they deal with the integration and regression testing)?
  • How often are updates released?
  • How fast are security updates released? How well tested are they?
  • Is the distribution corporately sponsored or community sponsored?
  • Does it have what you need?

Here are a few popular distributions, but you may want to check the resources section below for others.

  • Ubuntu - based on Debian, corporately sponsored regular distribution using Gnome with several related versions including a lightweight version, educational version, KDE-version, and a version with corporate support. This has become my favorite to use because of the community and the ease of managing applications.
  • Mandriva (merged in mid-2006 from Mandrake and Conectiva) - Oriented towards newbies for the desktop. Easy to install and many applications included.
  • CentOS - Community-driven enterprise-level linux distro based on Redhat (what I used to use). It's what I use on my servers for my web & e-mail ISP, running cPanel on top of that for administration and such, and I never really have to worry about the servers. cPanel isn't cheap, but it works and does it quite well. [Suggestion to use Yum.]
  • Trinity OS - Secure Linux (by author of SANS securing linux)
  • Suse (with YaST - can be used to setup Samba)
  • Debian -
  • Fedora - Redhat-based and sponsored
  • Updating Tools - Apt, Yum, Smart, up2date, Red Carpet
  •  

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