Which linux distro..?

July 10, 2006

If you followed my last post on linux v/s windows, you must have realized that you’ll soon have to switch over to (*free*) linux, unless you love paying those huge bills. This guide is for noobs to decide which distribution of linux to use.

I’ve been using linux for at least four years now, and I’ve tried out most of the top distributions available. Started off with Redhat 5, which came with my machine. Then tried out 6,7,8 and 9 which I got for free along with PCQUEST, one of the computer magazines available here. I also had a glimpse of Mandrake (now Mandriva) and SuSe, before trying out Ubuntu 3. Ubuntu seemed to grow faster in terms of community and support, and is one of the distributions which will detect almost all your hardware. The latest distribution i’ve checked out is Mepis.

Redhat and its community equivalent Fedora distributions lacked installation support. Installing the OS is smooth, but if you want to install a new program, you need to search and download all the dependencies on your own. Besides, there may be conflicts with the components already installed on your system. But in terms of stability, these distributions are one of the most stable distributions that are available. I have just one problem with Fedora, though. From version 4, the distribution stopped detecting my monitor (a samtron 55v).

Mandrake and Suse are feature rich, and as desktop-user friendly as they can get. Lots of eye candy, and an easy to use control center, I’d recommend these for a linux-to-windows transition. Very easy to follow the installation and setup. But again, these require you to download 4-5 CDs, just like in Redhat/Fedora.

Ubuntu is a community based distribution, similar to Fedora. The latest version, 6.06 (a.k.a. “Dapper drake”) is a stable distribution, and comes as a live-cum-installation disk. i.e., you can just pop in the CD and reboot your computer to get a feel of the system, without installing it. This really is a useful feature, especially to check if all your hardware is detected, and to see if you really like the system. A desktop shortcut allows you to run the installer, which is pretty simple to use. What I like about Ubuntu is the support from its community. The ubuntu forum is the most active forum i’ve ever seen. Just type in a query, and people are ready to help. Ubuntu currently leads as the most popular Distro on Distrowatch.

The above distros have certain problems with licensing, and dont come packed with support for mp3 and certain video codecs. Of course, these codecs are available for download, but you need to do that yourself. Same with support for Java, Flash and Real media. I found a solution for this problem.. use Mepis.

Mepis is till now one of the best distribution that I have used. Comes bundled with support for mp3s, divx/xvid/u-name-it codecs and real media as well. Java and Flash come pre-installed, and all you need to do is pop in the live-cum-install CD, and just as in ubuntu, install it. Mepis overcomes a large number of problems, through the Mepis OS center, which i find very useful. Installation takes just 8-15 minutes, which is the fastest I’ve seen. Mepis, though not popular so far, is racing up the ladder in Distrowatch, and is currently at #5. Eye-candy galore, easy to use, runs out of the box. Based on ubuntu, so detects all your hardware. Point-and-click installation of new software. Good community support. I’d pay for my copy, even though its free. It comes in a single CD.

My advice? Go-for-mepis!


7 Responses to “Which linux distro..?”

  1. Marc Says:

    I’m an Ubuntu user but you’ve really piqued my curiosity about Mepis. I’ll probably be reinstalling Linux on one of my boxes where Dapper kept failing (though I suspect it could be because of a bad hard drive). I reckon I’ll give Mepis a look. Thanks!

  2. vm Says:

    ubuntu is all about marketing.

    I cannot imagine any linux distro not meeting or exceeding ubuntu on features, ease of use etc.

    Most distros nowadays have excellent h/w detection. Mandrake does an excellent job with wifi, incl networks requiring WPA. Suse is OK too.

  3. Joe Says:

    Interesting that you mention Mepis as the one to choose. As of now, the latest version (which is the one based on Ubuntu) is till in Beta, and not officially released. That should come soon. One thing you fail to mention is that all of the big name disto’s (the top 4 on distrowatch included) all have a 64-bit version available, but Mepis does not. Perhaps since it is based on Ubuntu, and that does have one, Mepis will offer one in the near future. Another thing to note, is that the internationalization of Mepis is poor in comparison to others. If English is not your native language, you’ll have problems, and even if it is, do you really care what the weather is like in West Virginia?

    If you’re really interested in Ubuntu with KDE (which is what Mepis is) then you might want to check out Kubuntu.

  4. Eric Hawk Says:

    Consider PCLinuxOS…even more out-of-the-box ready.

  5. kellie Says:

    Mepis is hardly “Ubuntu with KDE”. It’s based on Knoppix, *not* Ubuntu. They just switched from using the Debian repos to using the Ubuntu repos. Get it straight, please.

  6. mac Says:

    I had little problem with Suse 10.x on a new laptop. Wifi wasn’t running at the end of the install, but even a noob like me got it running fine.

    The one thing that many Linux distros seem to miss that might prevent Windows-switching is how “not easy” it is to install software. A good Windows program only requires popping in a disk or double-clicking an installer, hit next about 5 times to accept the license and default installation, and you’re running. Dependencies, compiling and such are confusing and not what Joe Average is interested in doing. Joe Average wants a computer that just works, he doesn’t want to feel like an idiot because of his OS. This is where Mac OS is the clear future if Apple ever opens up the hardware to third party vendors.

  7. tazo Says:

    Using Fedora 4 and 5 on multiple machines at my apartment here. And soon as I can afford it, along with a Mac to better do my pics and design.

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