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View Full Version : What distro "just works" the best, from an administration point of view.



c@ssie
October 18th, 2010, 04:34 AM
I'm really new to linux, having only used macs until a few weeks ago. But it did take me long to figure out for myself arrange my dekskop to my liking and install the applications I like. So when I say just works, I don't mean what is set up to be the most like (mac, windows, etc). I mean what is going to require the least troubleshooting and the least "expert knowledge".

To me "just works mean"s, no broken dependencies, no software that crashes frequently, not having to add untrusted sources to get the latest versions of software, being able to find all of the applications I'm looking for in the repositories. Easy to understand GUI tools for configuring services.

Please tell me what you think, and why you think it. Just saying the name of the distro isn't very helpful, but explaining the pros and cons is.

Thanks.

CharlesA
October 18th, 2010, 04:45 AM
None of them.

They all have their quirks.

I've had success with Ubuntu and CentOS.

inobe
October 18th, 2010, 04:58 AM
folks here are going to tell us what worked for them, in the end you will need to try each of them anyway to see what works for you.

basically you can start now and save some time.

just stay away from opensuse and fedora, look for the buntu's and derivatives, few to choose from http://www.ubuntu.com/project/derivatives

you also have those forked versions like linux mint "many say" they are perfect for new users.

kaldor
October 18th, 2010, 04:59 AM
None of them.

They all have their quirks.

I've had success with Ubuntu and CentOS.

This.

Ubuntu:

- Easy to set up, easy to use, large amount of software and great hardware compatibility.

- Can be unstable and frustrating to configure in some cases.


CentOS:

- A standard distribution for the server. Based on RHEL and 100% compatible. I'd take this route if you need a server.

- Outdated; less hardware support, older software. This does, however, mean it's stable.

Edit:


just stay away from opensuse and fedora, look for the buntu's and derivatives

Why? openSuSE is wonderful.

MisterGaribaldi
October 18th, 2010, 05:11 AM
Oh, boy. Well, c@ssie, this really depends on a number of personal factors. How much previous experience and exposure to Linux do you have? (From *how* you've asked what you've asked, clearly you have *some* kind of exposure.) What is your level of technological savvy? How caught up are you in the never-ending fad of having the latest versions of "everything"?

Distributions in general will "freeze" what software is made available to a certain range of updates (say, Firefox 3.6 will be limited to 3.6.0, 3.6.1, 3.6.2, etc.) to help control stability, compatibility, and interoperability issues. That means when some successor version becomes the current version (using Firefox again, when 4.0 comes out) you will not be able to install it without resorting to other means, such as other repositories beyond those made available to support your present installed version of Ubuntu.

However, Canonical is really good about sticking to a 6 month release cycle for Ubuntu. What they will do is to attempt to account for newer successor versions of software coming out and, where possible, plan to include them in the next release. So, for instance, 10.04 and 10.10 will only have Firefox 3.6.x available to them, but if Mozilla is good about getting Firefox 4 released soon, it may will be included in Ubuntu 11.04.

And contrary to popular belief, often it is of value to wait on getting a newer version of a program. 4-6 months (which is probably the more typical "delay" period on these sorts of things) is actually not anything to complain about, since many bugs and other strangeness is often fixed by then.

If you're trying to make managing a computer easy, then I'd think you'd actually want to go with Canonical's Ubuntu roadmap (https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Releases). It's fairly conservative for an aggressive 6 month release schedule, and I would think will make your life easier.

In the end, however, it's really up to you.

Khakilang
October 18th, 2010, 05:19 AM
Well I find Ubuntu easy to setup and use. Everything works on my computer. The user interface layout is simple. I am a also newbie and find myself moving away from Window painlessly. I have tested other Distro and I find Ubuntu is the easiest for me. Unless you have something else in mind.

cariboo907
October 18th, 2010, 05:37 AM
If you have supported hardware, it shouldn't make any difference what distro you use. I have Ubuntu Desktop & Server, Debian, Fedora, openSUSE and PClinuxOS running on various systems. They are all pretty much the same, the same commands work on all of them. The only real difference is package management. Fedora, openSUSE and PCLinuxOS use rpm package management while Ubuntu and Debian use dpkg.

inobe
October 18th, 2010, 05:49 AM
Why? openSuSE is wonderful.

:P

i will say i'm pretty dam good with opensuse and i think my novice days were over shortly before 9.2, to be honest some tasks are daunting.

just being honest, you should too admit that fact that there are going to be intimidating tasks for new users.

refer to post #1

Yarui
October 18th, 2010, 06:07 AM
I agree with cariboo on the point that it doesn't really matter what distro you use. As a few others have already said, when you ask this question all you really get is the reasons why a specific distro is right for another person. Distros are often referred to as "flavors" of linux for a good reason, it's really all about your personal taste. They are largely the same, but you will eventually find that you enjoy some more than others.

It was barely more than a year ago that I was really confused about how to choose what distro to stick with. I had only tried a couple distros at that time and wasn't really sure whether or not there was something out there that suited me better, and so after reading about a lot of different distros and trying to understand them better, I decided to just take the plunge and try a lot of them out. After trying out 5-10 different distros I started to realize I was just doing the same things over and over again. There were differences here and there, but it was mostly the same. I finally decided to come back to Ubuntu, because in a lot of ways it feels like less effort to me, although there have been many cases where things have taken me much more effort in Ubuntu than they did in some other distros. I am also currently using Arch, because although it has a slightly more involved installation process than some other distros, I enjoy using it.

This may not be terribly helpful in guiding you to a specific distro, but I hope it helps you to feel a little more confident in your choice of a distro. No matter which distro you choose, it's still linux, and the worst that could happen is that you would decide you want to try out another distro and see if it suits you better.

oregonbob
October 18th, 2010, 06:14 AM
Ubuntu, running Gnome, 10.04 LTS

nlsthzn
October 18th, 2010, 06:28 AM
To get most things that work "out of the box" Ubuntu is great... to get even MORE that just works check out Linux Mint (http://www.linuxmint.com/) (I however prefer Ubuntu)...

Yarui
October 18th, 2010, 06:30 AM
Ubuntu, running Gnome, 10.04 LTS
Keep in mind that the OP asked for more detail than just the name of a distro. It would probably be more helpful if you would list your reasons for why you think that is the best choice.

I'm sure the reason he is suggesting 10.04 LTS is because the LTS part stands for "long term support", meaning that it will be supported by canonical for three years on desktop and five years for the server edition, rather than the 18 months that other Ubuntu versions are supported. This is good for anyone who doesn't want to install the new versions that come out every 6 months.

As far as running Gnome goes, though, that is really up to personal taste. Some people like Gnome, but others like other desktop environments. Gnome is what I prefer as well. I didn't like KDE last time I tried it out, but I can't really give any solid reasons for that. The default settings seemed a little sluggish on it, but I have heard claims that it isn't difficult to fix that problem. I didn't enjoy it, though, so I didn't give it any more thought than that.

matsuzine
October 18th, 2010, 06:52 AM
ubuntu is about as easy as it gets and finding support is easy since it's so widely used. I would add a mention for linux mint -- based on ubuntu, but if anything more polished. But ultimately, look at what you really need. For me, I need a desktop environment that's pretty stable but keeps up to date with the latest development tools. That's why I stick to ubuntu.

blueturtl
October 18th, 2010, 07:15 AM
I'm really new to linux, having only used macs until a few weeks ago. But it did take me long to figure out for myself arrange my dekskop to my liking and install the applications I like. So when I say just works, I don't mean what is set up to be the most like (mac, windows, etc). I mean what is going to require the least troubleshooting and the least "expert knowledge".

To me "just works mean"s, no broken dependencies, no software that crashes frequently, not having to add untrusted sources to get the latest versions of software, being able to find all of the applications I'm looking for in the repositories. Easy to understand GUI tools for configuring services.

Please tell me what you think, and why you think it. Just saying the name of the distro isn't very helpful, but explaining the pros and cons is.

Thanks.

The old saying goes "Debian: difficult to set up, but a pleasure to maintain".

I have to agree. It might take a few more steps to get up than Ubuntu, but it also doesn't break quite as easily. At least not if you go with the stable release. If administrator == maintenance guy, then Debian is your choice.

aysiu
October 18th, 2010, 07:36 AM
To me "just works mean"s, no broken dependencies, no software that crashes frequently, not having to add untrusted sources to get the latest versions of software, being able to find all of the applications I'm looking for in the repositories. Easy to understand GUI tools for configuring services. I don't think you'll find everything you're looking for in one distro unless you trust most PPAs (and, to be honest, almost all of them are trustworthy even though they don't have to be).

Most distros will either be stable or have the latest versions of software, not both.

So you can get something like Debian, which is stable, no broken dependencies, no software frequent crashes, and has just about all Linux software in its repositories...

or

... you can get something like PCLinuxOS, which is a rolling-release distro and will always have the latest versions of software but may give you some broken dependencies and crashes.

Ubuntu is kind of a middle ground here. It isn't rock solid stable, but it's generally stable. And it doesn't have the absolutely latest software readily available (at least not without PPAs), but it does update every six months.

Any existing easy-to-understand GUI tools for configuring services will be available on all major distros, so that's a non-issue.

del_diablo
October 18th, 2010, 08:23 AM
I would claim it is Debian Testing or Debian Testing.
Due the working repos, it got less quirks on a long time scale.

c@ssie
October 18th, 2010, 08:38 AM
Oh, boy. Well, c@ssie, this really depends on a number of personal factors. How much previous experience and exposure to Linux do you have? (From *how* you've asked what you've asked, clearly you have *some* kind of exposure.) What is your level of technological savvy? How caught up are you in the never-ending fad of having the latest versions of "everything"?

If you're trying to make managing a computer easy, then I'd think you'd actually want to go with Canonical's Ubuntu roadmap (https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Releases). It's fairly conservative for an aggressive 6 month release schedule, and I would think will make your life easier.

In the end, however, it's really up to you.
Well, my exposure to linux is using it for a couple of weeks, other than that its just some stuff I read on the web. All my technical savvy is from using a mac. I don't know what you mean by Canonical's Ubuntu roadmap (https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Releases), could you elaborate?


Keep in mind that the OP asked for more detail than just the name of a distro. It would probably be more helpful if you would list your reasons for why you think that is the best choice.

I'm sure the reason he is suggesting 10.04 LTS is because the LTS part stands for "long term support", meaning that it will be supported by canonical for three years on desktop and five years for the server edition, rather than the 18 months that other Ubuntu versions are supported. This is good for anyone who doesn't want to install the new versions that come out every 6 months.

As far as running Gnome goes, though, that is really up to personal taste. Some people like Gnome, but others like other desktop environments. Gnome is what I prefer as well. I didn't like KDE last time I tried it out, but I can't really give any solid reasons for that. The default settings seemed a little sluggish on it, but I have heard claims that it isn't difficult to fix that problem. I didn't enjoy it, though, so I didn't give it any more thought than that.

The problem with sticking to LTS releases, is that some of the software it contains is "not ready for prime time", and really needs to be upgraded to get reasonable functionality. Either they were missing vital features, or they crashed alot. This was especially true of applications that aren't part of the default setup. it seems that Mark et all, are not concerned with the quality of alternative apps.


The old saying goes "Debian: difficult to set up, but a pleasure to maintain".

I have to agree. It might take a few more steps to get up than Ubuntu, but it also doesn't break quite as easily. At least not if you go with the stable release. If administrator == maintenance guy, then Debian is your choice.
From what I've read, I have been getting alot of mixed messages about Debian unstable vs Debian testing vs ubuntu vs mint. I'd really like to be able to get a clear picture about the differences the pro's and cons of these. I'm especially confused about Debian unstable vs Debian testing I've seen some things that say testing can be buggier than unstable, and vice versa. Ive aslo seen some things that say ubuntu is less stable than debian unstable. from whatI can tell mint is just ubuntu with some extra stuff installed.


I don't think you'll find everything you're looking for in one distro unless you trust most PPAs (and, to be honest, almost all of them are trustworthy even though they don't have to be).

Most distros will either be stable or have the latest versions of software, not both.

So you can get something like Debian, which is stable, no broken dependencies, no software frequent crashes, and has just about all Linux software in its repositories...

or

... you can get something like PCLinuxOS, which is a rolling-release distro and will always have the latest versions of software but may give you some broken dependencies and crashes.

Ubuntu is kind of a middle ground here. It isn't rock solid stable, but it's generally stable. And it doesn't have the absolutely latest software readily available (at least not without PPAs), but it does update every six months.

Any existing easy-to-understand GUI tools for configuring services will be available on all major distros, so that's a non-issue.
this is wehere Ive been getting into trouble, like I said above some of the apps, really need to be upgraded, but when adding ppa's and backports sudently I startd gettin g alot of errors in synaptic (dependency conflicts, packages that couldn't be installed because part of it was installed by another package, file not found errors, duplicate repository errors, authentication errors).

I know no distro is rock solid, but I would like to get as close to rock solid as I can, while getting up to date versions of applications.

Yarui
October 18th, 2010, 09:01 AM
It sounds to me like you know a little more than you were originally letting on and you do have a fairly good idea of what you are looking for. If that is the case and you have already done research on the distros you are interested in, I doubt much can be said that is going to help you decide. Like I said before it is ultimately about what you prefer. If you aren't sure which of those distros listed sounds like the one you are going to like the best, you may have to try a few out and figure out which one works better for you.

Like aysiu already said, there is a tradeoff between stability and how up to date the system is, but if you are concerned about stability and want some software to be a bit more up to date, it is always possible to get up to date versions of software and install them manually, that will just take a bit more effort than you may be willing to put into it. If you are hoping to find something that is a perfect fit for what you are looking for and takes zero effort, though, you are probably out of luck. I have never dealt with an OS and felt like it "just worked".

I personally have never felt that any distro I have tried out wasn't stable enough for my purposes. If I was really worried about having up to date software, I wouldn't really look too much into what distro was the most stable, but that's just me.

mainerror
October 18th, 2010, 09:27 AM
Pretty much what the others said before.

I prefer the deb based package managers as for my they are more flexible and easy to use.

As a distro I use Ubuntu 10.04 LTS for my development machine. It is feels more stable than the others plus I have no real reason to have the latest software on this machine. I like Gnome as my desktop manager mainly because it just feels right for me. I can tweak it to look and feel just like I need it to.

On my Laptop I use the latest version of Ubuntu to keep track of the changes and all whats new.

I guess you will need to try them yourself to find out which feels right for you.

papangul
October 18th, 2010, 10:00 AM
If you are using open source drivers, then you could take a look at LMDE, which is based on debian testing. At-least theoretically, you will never have to re-install it if you update regularly.

NightwishFan
October 18th, 2010, 10:07 AM
"Stability" from my point of understanding should more likely mean; does not change often. This is akin to the release policy of most time based releases, such as Ubuntu and Debian Stable (among others). I see this as a huge advantage (especially for servers and businesses) since you know exactly how long a piece of software is supported and exactly what you yourself need to support or work with. I prefer time based releases a lot more than the rolling model.

XubuRoxMySox
October 18th, 2010, 01:07 PM
One reason for the "mixed messages" in answer to your question is that alot depends on your particular hardware. All the 'buntus and their derivatives work great on my hand-me-down Dell, PCLinuxOS argues with my hardware and I finally gave up on it; SalixOS wouldn't even install (but it still looks awesome) on it... as the say, depending on your hardware, "your mileage may vary."

A second reason for the mixed messages is that people find one desktop environment better than another for them. Gnome is great, but I find Xfce much simpler to use and configure. Even a silly little dixiedancer can understand it pretty quickly! But that's just my preference. You're pro'lly alot smarter than me and could grasp any desktop easily, so it comes down to...

the third reason for the mixed messages, personal preference. And it just takes playing around with them to know which is better for you. For me, Xubuntu was pure simplicity and elegance. But then they went and polluted it with PulseAudio (starting with 10.04), which cripples sound on my 'puter. Sound is critical for a dancer, as you might imagine... but I found a distro that is built on Xubuntu 10.04 but doesn't come with the dreaded, sound-killing PulseAudio! So I'm using it now, and I have the sweet long-term-support Xubuntu-like OS I was looking forward to (I was so mad when I found Xubuntu 10.04 had PulseAudio in it and wouldn't work on my 'puter!).

These three things are the reasons for the conflicting answers and mixed messages, C@ssie. When checking out distros, one of the first things I would look at is the Hardware Compatibility List on the distro's web site. It's a helpful guide to see if the distro will work on your particular 'puter. This narrows things down quite a bit for me. Most distros have "versions" or "editions" or "flavors" or "mixtures" adapted to a particular desktop environment - or no desktop environment at all (you'd be surprised at how easy and fast Openbox is - no desktop at all, but still simple enough for a silly little dixiedancer). Look for your favorite flavor, if you have a favorite. And if not, test-drive them all and see what your own preferences are.

Administrative-wise, I think that the Xfce-Settings app offers the simplicity a newbie likes, and the out-of-the-box versatility and power of a Gnome desktop (only easier on hardware and easier on my eyes as well as my brain).

-Robin

undecim
October 18th, 2010, 01:11 PM
I've messed with my Ubuntu server once since setting it up, and that was to upgrade from 9.10 to the 10.04 LTS.

I also have a debian server, but it's rather unstable because of hardware problems, so I don't even consider it a server for most purposes.

kaldor
October 18th, 2010, 01:14 PM
:P

i will say i'm pretty dam good with opensuse and i think my novice days were over shortly before 9.2, to be honest some tasks are daunting.

just being honest, you should too admit that fact that there are going to be intimidating tasks for new users.

refer to post #1

Yes, but it also has YaST; that can make people's lives easier.

openSuSE is still the only distro I tried that can detect my printer, download drivers and install them and let me print without any issues.

inobe
October 18th, 2010, 10:52 PM
Yes, but it also has YaST; that can make people's lives easier.

openSuSE is still the only distro I tried that can detect my printer, download drivers and install them and let me print without any issues.

yast can be easy to use to install applications but from an administrative point unless one has jumped threw the hoops and are aware of the 9 different categories and 56 sub categories and the hundreds of branches in yast it's a lot to swallow being a new user.

sure the printer works until it needs to be shared with several other platforms over a network, then of course we are running commands in terminal and opening ports, activating services, hunting down packages all in yast.

trying to install a package in yast could get confusing especially when you know for certain you have the active repository yet yast cannot locate the package, so now you looking at repos trying to figure out what in the heck happened until it dawns on us to use zypper, sure enough zypper locates the package.

better yet, yast software sources could go down then your tinkering trying to get to repositories to disable the crippled source and faced with a dialog asking if you wish to skip and install updates manually however it takes you to configure applet when in doubt it's already configured :P

now lets discuss dependency occurrence's, they happen and one is faced with complex set of questions, of course i would know exactly what to do maybe even you too :)

MisterGaribaldi
October 18th, 2010, 11:35 PM
@ c@ssie:

The roadmap link I sent you that you duplicated back at me is there for you to see what Canonical's future intentions are with respect to Ubuntu. What are they planning on adding? What are they planning on removing? What are they planning on changing? These and many other big and small questions are often answered by simply looking at these roadmaps.

Mozilla does the same thing with their applications. For example, here is a roadmap for Firefox 4 (https://wiki.mozilla.org/Firefox/4/Beta). Again, the point is to let you know what they're planning.

To be fair, basically all Linux distros put out roadmaps. How relevant or how intelligible they are to non-developer or non-hard core users can vary widely; Ubuntu and Fedora are perhaps two of the more accessible distributions in this sense.

I've used a number of distos over the years, from RedHat to Mandrake (now Mandriva) to OpenSuSE to Debian, I've seen a bunch. For me -- and I can only speak for myself -- Ubuntu just works for me.

I don't think your issue is honestly so much going to be with any particular distro, but maybe with the more hard-core aspects of "libre software" or "open source software" philosophy.

But, again, what is it you're trying to get done, and what specific kinds of things are you worried about happening? It's far easier to tackle the known than to fight off phantoms of the night.