Eight distros. Seven days. One tired blogger.
In seven words, that pretty much wraps up the “Eight Distros a Week” series, named after (of course) the Beatles song “Eight Days a Week.”
I have used more than eight distros — AntiX, Debian, Fedora, Fluxbuntu, gNewSense, Linux Mint, Wolvix and Xubuntu — but these eight are the ones that I use most, talk about most and would recommend to those looking for a distro.
I do sometimes — and have in the past — used others. These include:
Yellow Dog Linux: While Yellow Dog seems to be putting its proverbial eggs in the PlayStation 3 basket, the distro does have a history as being the distro for Macs. Yellow Dog 3 “Sirius” is a better-than-average distro for Old World Macs using BootX on a separate partition, and its Red Hat roots make is very adequate for those Macs that predate the turn of the 21st century. However — you knew that was coming — Terra Soft Solutions, the parent company for Yellow Dog, is not exactly the most user-friendly company, unless you plop down $70 for an “Enhanced User Account” for YDL.net. By the way, if you’re tired of digging around for the download page for Yellow Dog, it’s here. You’re welcome.
Red Hat: I use Red Hat at school (Go Cabrillo College Seahawks!). Red Hat works behind the scenes for a variety of companies with which I have daily contact. As a distro, Red Hat is ubiquitous and there’s really nothing I can add to the volumes written by one of the oldest distros. It’s huge, it works, it’s corporate — what more can you say?
Mandriva: I can’t figure out Mandriva. At a recent installfest at Cabrillo College in Aptos, Calif., an 11-year-old installed Mandriva on his Dell boxes. In the process, I put it on a Dell box that was doing nothing but sitting there, and I thought the distro worked well. But I installed it once on a laptop and, for some reason, when I went to change the distro, the BIOS had changed to where I couldn’t boot from the CD. Easily fixed, of course, but the thing is I didn’t change the BIOS. My wife and daughter didn’t, and neither did the cat. Mysterious, I know, and more than likely it had nothing to do with the use of Mandriva, but until I can explain some of the strange things that happen when I try Mandriva, I’m avoiding it.
Knoppix: I’ve had this Knoppix CD that I’ve been carrying around for nearly two years, but it wasn’t until recently that I used it for an emergency. If there were a Nobel Prize for distros, Klaus Knopper should top the short list — not only was the disk helpful in solving my problem, I kept it on the machine for a significant amount of time while I waded through what it had to offer. It’s great, but I don’t use it too often.
Ubuntu: While I’m happy with Xubuntu, whenever I try Ubuntu on an Intel box or laptop, I keep thinking, “You know, this screams out ‘Debian’ to me,” and I generally lose interest. Another thing that usually keeps me at an arm’s length from Ubuntu is the split-screen syndrome — the Live CD always gives me a bonus in the screen department with two screens, and I know how to fix it (and do), but I have to say I’m just not a bandwagoner, although I recognize and appreciate Ubuntu’s contributions to FOSS.
One of the universal digital truths is that the difference between most distros is painfully minuscule, and that the object with having a plethora of options — some 350 active distros, according to Distrowatch‘s count — is the beauty behind the freedom of choice you have regarding what runs your computer.
(Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source and Free Software Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
The groundswell of FUD lately arguably can be a cause for concern in GNU/Linux circles. Interestingly, one of the tell-tale signs whether that Web-based story you’re reading has all the hallmarks of propaganda, at the least, and more than likely is outright FUD, at the worst, is whether the site is sponsored by your friendly neighborhood Redmond death star.
So while clowns like Kevin Carmony keeps blogging about how he’s “improving” Linux with the help of Microsoft (waiting for the laughter to die down), more FUD makes its way to the ethereal Internet thanks to a new joker by the name of Alexander Wolfe.
Wolfe, whose “Wolfe’s Den” appears as the “Chips, Vista and Advanced Technology” blog on the Information Week Web site (did you notice the word Vista in there?), wrote in the latest installment on his blog that — horrors! — there are too many Linux distros to choose from.
He makes the self-serving pithy observation that, since there are so many distros, that “Linux is a forking mess.” As if we should only have one or two choices in computing, rather than the 300 choices of GNU/Linux distros (and those are the active ones) offer.
That’s because freedom — whether in computing or in the rest of everyday life — is about choice, and it’s unfortunate that Wolfe doesn’t get it. But then, most corporate lackeys beholden to the party line of their corporate masters don’t; or if they do, they wallow in hypocrisy while ignoring the truth.
Wolfe also operates under the false assumption that all GNU/Linux distros are all competing against one another for the attention of the average user. Wrong again, Alex: Needless to say the distros that are business oriented — your Red Hats and Novells — are going head to head to slice up the corporate IT pie. But distros like Puppy and Slackintosh competing for IT departments’ attention? Sorry, chump, even the greenest of GNU/Linux newbies realizes that this isn’t true. Pity you don’t — or refuse to — get it, Alex.
Also, the argument of distro-as-religion (Wolfe quotes an outdated story on Distrowatch.com) gets beaten to a pulp. That may have been the case at one time, but Alex seems to have missed the trend toward “distro polygamy” that permeates the current GNU/Linux zeitgeist. To wit: This blog is being written on a iMac running Xubuntu 7.04; next to it is a PowerMac G3 running Yellow Dog 3.0; across the room are two Dell Optiplex GXa machines — one running Linux Mint 3.0 Xfce and the other awaiting its install of Mepis AntiX (thank you, anticapitalista). So some may be beholden to one distro; many of us aren’t.
When you read something about how too many distros is a bad thing, especially when it’s written by a Vista columnist, you can be sure that propaganda is at the forefront. Please read it accordingly.
I realize that this may be old hat — a fedora of any color — to long-time GNU/Linux users, so please indulge me on this discourse into the animal kingdom.
One of the joys of having my daughter look over my shoulder while dealing with the GNU/Linux learning curve — despite learning a very colorful and spicy vocabulary (okay, that’s a joke: She gets enough of that when I bring her to the newspaper) — is that she’s enamored by the wide variety of characters that symbolize GNU/Linux (and GNU/Solaris) operating systems, to say nothing of those other-worldly (netherworldly?), but unbearably cute, BSD mascots.
Granted, I’ve weighed in on my animal of use — the beast of burden on my Macs — in earlier blog postings, but as Mirano points out, there sure are a lot of animals out there (“. . . and why no chickens?” since she’s partial to chickens). But this observation, courtesy of a 9-year-old who puts together her own Web site with a classmate, started me thinking: Dang, the ethereal world of free software/open source software is full of animals — and we’re only talking about the mascots here.
There are the standards
GNU and Tux, the former for GNU’s Not Unix, and the latter being the ubiquitous, happy penguin Tux, symbolize GNU/Linux, although in the public mindset, these two animals should be thought of together rather than separately. But there has been an effort, especially around those in the free software movement, to rightfully link the two together, so we have GNU and Tux becoming superheroes battling the multinational corporate software hegemony, as shown below.
As you know, nearly all the wide varieties of GNU/Linux distros have some variation on the theme, but mostly they have Tux as their mascot, without the GNU (pronounced “guh-new”) gnu (pronounced “new”). While we find that unfortunate and hope that developers will rightfully put the two together in their own mindset, and that of the public, we all have our favorites. I can’t get all of them into this blog, but if you comment on which ones I missed, I could give them a fair shake in a later posting.
Who let the dogs out?
Not all GNU/Linux distro mascots graze on the African plains or waddle and eat herring: Speaking of standard-bearers, one of the Linux-for-Macintosh pioneers was Yellow Dog Linux, which has long since expanded not only all the latest Mac hardware, but they’ve blazed a trail into the realm of operating systems for Sony’s PS3 — that’s a good dog, Potter! Despite the fact that I have several distros lined up and waiting to audition to be my GNU/Linux flavor of choice, I currently have Yellow Dog 3.0 on the Old World Macs that I use on a daily basis. Speaking of real dogs, Norway’s http://wolvix.org/”>Wolfix keeps the canine motif going, with their symbol being a little more direct: a wolf’s footprint.
All jokes about Novell executives being legless reptiles for entering into an agreement with the evil empire of Redmond notwithstanding, SuSE has been represented by the noble reptilian iguana for years. It comes in a couple of flavors, Novell and their Enterprise Linux and the German-based OpenSUSE.
Having grown up in Miami, I know a lot about Dolphins, even the ones that swim in the ocean. So it comes as no surprise that GNU/Linux mascots aren’t limited to land animals. In fact two distros distros — Zenwalk and OpenTLE — take to the seas with their mascots. Zenwalk is a French distro that asks the eternal question: Have you ever tried Zen computing? (although we would have asked, “What is the sound of one app clapping?”), and OpenTLE is a Thai distro for Thai users (and if you visit their sites, make sure you have your Thai fonts, because despite clicking on their British flag link, apparently they’re not ready for English-language visitors yet).
Back on the savannah . . .
With its mascot coming from the African grasslands, Nexenta, an American distro, brings an interesting twist to the GNU family: GNU/Solaris running on a Sun kernel. According to its Web site, “NexentaOS is a complete GNU-based open source operating system built on top of the OpenSolaris kernel and runtime . . . . NexentaOS is completely open source and free of any charge. It contains Apache, MySQL, Perl/Python/PHP, Firefox, Evolution, software update manager, Synaptic package manager, Gaim Instant Messenger, abiword, administration & development utilities, editors, graphics, GNOME, interpreters, libraries and many others. All of this is running on the state-of-the-art SunOS kernel.” Naturally they get such a long listing here thanks to the length of the giraffe’s neck.
The devil made me do it
Continuing on the mascots-from-hot-places theme, FreeBSD is (as they say on their Web site) “an advanced operating system . . . derived from BSD, the version of UNIX developed at the University of California, Berkeley” (which begs the question: Why didn’t developers adopt the bear, since UCB are the Golden Bears?). BSD distros tend to be devil-themed (like PC-BSD, although you have to go seaside for the OpenBSD’s blowfish), which may or may not lend itself to the suggestion that the devil is in the details, or that they’re hell to work with (and I’m on the side that says they’re not, so keep those cards and letters).
Lower life forms
Being lower on the food chain does not reflect the quality of http://www.dragonflybsd.org/”>DragonFly BSD, an operating system and environment originally based on FreeBSD. Going even further down on the food chain — down to plants — a stylized tree represents gNewSense, one of our favorite distros due to its commitment to free software, and Slax has its four-leaf clover (that I’ve overlooked before, but not now) as a symbol.
Once again, I know I’m missing some of your favorite distros and their mascots — and if so, please comment below and I’ll make sure I get it mentioned in another posting.
You’ll have to forgive me for being AWOL for the last several days, but apparently the open source gods have dealt me an interesting hand that I’ve been playing to the best of my ability.
While spending most of my time trying to get the hang of Yellow Dog Linux on my G3 Wallstreet (while hoping I can figure out how to go all Linux, rather than booting from BootX), my home machine — the G3 minitower with a G4 processor (thanks, Sonnet!) — seemed to take a vacation when I tried to burn a CD (the drill here is to boot into OS 9 to use the SCSI CD burner, which the machine did not like).
To compound the situation, for some mysterious reason, I couldn’t re-install OS X. This definitely was the exclamation point on the message I was getting from the open source gods: You talked the talk, bub, now walk the walk.
So I went through a few distros to find which one would boot.
Debian: I always have a problem with rebooting Debian after I install it. I don’t know why, but it never works for me, which is unfortunate because I really want to use it.
Gentoo: A very interesting process in installing it, but like Debian, I get a combination of nada, zilch and zero when I reboot.
[Again, this could be PEBKAC raising its ugly head once more . . . ]
So it’s back to Yellow Dog Linux for the G3, because the installer is friendly and I can get it to boot after I install it.
I’m not particularly married to the Yellow Dog, so if anyone has any suggestions for this G3/G4, I’m wide open to them. Further, this sort of speeds up my entrance into the Linux world: I had hoped to leisurely negotiate the Linux learning curve on the Wallstreet and get a handle on it, or at least to the point where I don’t have to reinstall the system if I want to change the monitor settings. The plan was to become a Linux stud, and then jump into converting the desktops at home.
So the “argh” heard ’round the world is really an “ah.”
Incidentally, I’d like to do an informal poll: Which of you readers like better as a desktop, GNOME or KDE?
As you know from reading this blog, I have picked quite possibly the most difficult machine(s) on which to install Linux, upholding generations of Cafiero family tradition by refusing to seek — let alone travel — the path of least resistance.
And it took a walk in the redwoods and a chance encounter with a man and his Golden Retriever to enlighten me to the what I was doing wrong; or rather, what I had yet to do right.
While walking through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in Felton (that’s in Santa Cruz County, Calif.), a man and his dog walked toward me on the trail. I have a particular fondness for Goldens — perhaps the best behaved dogs on the planet — and while giving this one a pat or two and talking to his owner about him, it dawned on me that I hadn’t tried Yellow Dog Linux.
So when I returned home, I found my Yellow Dog 3.0 Sirius disks and, lo and behold, the installation and reboot went without a hitch. While not completely Linux — I have to start with the OS 9 dance until BootX comes along — it gets me into this new open source world.
That means my penguin is a real dog. To many that may be an insult, but not for those at Terra Soft in Loveland, Colo., who would take it as a high compliment.
One thing, though: Can anyone tell me how to empty the trash on KDE?