gentoo or Suse?
February 27, 2004 10:47 AM   Subscribe

gentoo or Suse?
posted by the fire you left me to Computers & Internet (19 answers total)
posted by lalas at 10:52 AM on February 27, 2004

I like gentoo, it hasn't failed me yet. Security updates are quick, installation of software is painless (though chronologically consuming since everything gets compiled from stratch)
posted by substrate at 10:55 AM on February 27, 2004

posted by Space Coyote at 10:59 AM on February 27, 2004

If you're truly serious about the box, or if it's a server, just go with Debian. Either "woody+backports" or "testing." (Although Slack actually makes a pretty fair stable server, if you're not planning to upgrade and maintain the box). If it's just a play machine, Gentoo. RPM-based distributions can be a royal pain in the ass to maintain and upgrade, even with apt-rpm or urpmi. It's not so much that the tools are awful (they aren't) but that RPM package maintainers are -- taken as a group -- exceedingly bad about managing and properly declaring dependancies. Botched spec files are kind of the norm, and "RPM Dep Hell" is an accepted inconvenience. Wild horses couldn't drag me back to an RPM system.

The SuSE core distro is a little better about this stuff than average, but dealing with arbitrary RPMs from around the net is always, always, always going to be painful.

Gentoo, on the other hand, uses a vaguely BSD-ports-like system which is pretty darn nice. Install times are obscene, given that you're building the whole thing from source for each installation: GCC and XFree86 can take hours and hours on anything but a top-of-the-line machine, and I've personally watched Gentoo installs run to 18+ hours.

In a nutshell:
Real Server = Debian (or Slack, if you like to do every little tiny administrative task by hand)
Real Workstation = Debian, period, full stop, end of discussion.
Toybox = Gentoo (or Slack)
posted by majick at 11:20 AM on February 27, 2004

Knoppix. Try it. If you like it you can install it. It's really Debian but it's nice to see how everything works (or doesn't) on your hardware before installing.
posted by TimeFactor at 11:32 AM on February 27, 2004

Agreed: Knoppix is a great Debian installer if you're going to use Debian unstable. Fire it up, run kpx-hdinstall, make swap and Reiser partitions, wait ten minutes, reboot.

The "Live CD" aspect of it is so-so, except as a hardware autodetection and compatibility test, but as an installer it beats the crap out of Debian's. My laptop is actually Debian-installed-from-Knoppix-3.3 upgraded with the KDE 3.2 in experimental. It kicks ass. The most difficult part of the process is rooting out all the de language and locale crap after it's installed and then getting it upgraded to Linux 2.6.

For servers, though, I'd consider installing Debian with Debian. Knoppix is Debian testing/unstable plus some extra very workstation-y weirdness. Servers really, really ought to be woody+backports if they're important.
posted by majick at 11:44 AM on February 27, 2004

Thanks lalas. You stole the words from my mouth.
posted by shepd at 11:53 AM on February 27, 2004

Personally, I've been diggin' the new Mandrake. It's as user friendly as suse, except you can download the latest versions for free as soon as they release a new version.
posted by ph00dz at 12:00 PM on February 27, 2004

are you starting, or thinking of moving to a new distro? i started with suse years ago and it was nice and easy then (presumably it's got even better). i haven't used gentoo, and i now use debian, but i'm not sure i'd recommend debian if you're starting (ot: frankly i'm fed up with linux at the moment - it takes just too much effort on new hardware when windows 2000 + cygwin does everything i need and takes a lot less time to configure into something stable and secure. maybe you should consider that route too?)
posted by andrew cooke at 12:16 PM on February 27, 2004

If you really want to learn how to use, troubleshoot and generally work in a linux environment the way system administrators and power users do, then your best choice is Slackware, as mentioned above. It doesn't have any really robust package management (or it didn't when I used it, anyway), which forces you to learn about compiling stuff, dependencies, etc.

This isn't fun, in fact, it's terrible. But, if the situation comes up where you have some sticky dependency problem between software packages and you need to fix it by hand by configuring/compiling you will have the skill necessary to do so. It's sort of an immune system reaction; because of all the crap you need to tweak and mess with to get Slackware running in a useful manner, you will develop an incredible working knowledge of the operating system.

That said, if you just want something to play with, or you would characterize yourself as a basic desktop end-user, then go with Knoppix. As the other posters have said, it's a really slick little package that's good to go out of the box. In fact, I'd say it's even more complete than a standard install of, say, Windows XP, since it comes with a bunch of software which you're likely to use.

A compromise between these two would be a vanilla Debian install, which has some of the tweakability of Slackware in a more user-friendly, packaged based wrapping. In any case, have fun, try out a few distros and see which one you like, above all else, try to maintain your sanity if you ever have to recompile/reinstall X.
posted by mmcg at 12:22 PM on February 27, 2004

Screw Linux, go with a BSD. Especially if you're using it as a webserver.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:51 PM on February 27, 2004

Ooooo, I can feel the FLAMES a brewin. Better don my HazMat suit.

posted by shepd at 1:04 PM on February 27, 2004

A friend of mine has written about this. Twice.
posted by adamrice at 2:14 PM on February 27, 2004

I like SuSe. The little green lizard is cute, and has been various degrees of kind to all three of the machines I've run it on.

On the other hand, the RPM situation is kinda tough to get a hang of, and it always seems like the support article you're looking for is only available in German. (Which, btw, is much better than a certain other flavor of linux I once tried, in which all of the support and documentation was in Korean. Dropped that one hell fast.)

Slackware is like a self-inflicted root canal. It felt like the OS equivalent of deciding to program only in Assembler.

I haven't tried this new-fangled Gentoo... As for Debian, I never had much fun with it; the couple of times I've tried it, SuSe turned out to be a thousand times easier to get up and running. I'm not a guru, though, meaning I don't get a sick enjoyment of looking for kernel modules at four in the morning when all I want is something that will compile my code in a reasonable fashion.
posted by kaibutsu at 2:27 PM on February 27, 2004

You can use Knoppix to install Gentoo too. In fact I bet you could figure out a way to install just about anything from Knoppix given enough time.

Knowing what you need to use it for, and your level of experience with Linux/*nix, would definitely help in answering the question...
posted by togdon at 2:42 PM on February 27, 2004

I like Gentoo quite a bit... it does take forever to install initially, but then again, upgrades to major system components like X Windows or glibc don't tend to be as near-impossible as they can be on an RPM-based system. And if you're on a T1 or DSL/cable modem, getting new software is a total snap. Also, I really like the way a Gentoo box seems to grow along with you - it has all of what you've needed before, and very little of what you've never used. A big change from something like Red Hat, where even the standard install is kind of bloated.

Really, though, in my experience the easiest Linux distro to use is the one you're already used to. Just pick one, and you'll learn to love it, or at least to deal with it.
posted by vorfeed at 2:54 PM on February 27, 2004

Disclaimer: I work for a commercial Linux distro company

I really like gentoo. It's something of a pain to setup, even with their binary 'stage 3' install, but after that it's mighty nice. They have good documentation, too. Upgrades are easier than Suse, and you have the major bonus of not being at the whim of a corporation for package update schedules.

Oh, yeah, and an obligatory troll: FreeBSD rulez, linux sux0rs
posted by cmonkey at 3:05 PM on February 27, 2004

Another vote for FreeBSD. I've been using Linux since '93, and about two years ago i switched to freeBSD for the servers I manage and I've been very happy.

FreeBSD's benefits really show up over the long term -- it's way easier to keep a FreeBSD+ports system up to date over the long term, than it is with a package based system.

On most linux systems, you use the packages as long as you can, but eventually you'll need to download a tarball and install from there. Do this a few times on a few boxes and it becomes very difficult to figure out what you've got installed, and what needs updating.

On FreeBSD, with one command I can tell you exactly what additional pieces of software are installed, and which are out of date.

Plus the consistency is great -- system configuration is always in /etc, installed software config in /usr/local/etc. Overall, it feels like an integrated operating system, not a hodge podge of different apps all over the place.

That said, my home box has always dual-booted into Gentoo, just because it's a great hobbyist platform -- there's a '0-day' mentality about the race to release ebuilds for every new piece of software that makes it fun to tinker with.

So there you have it:

FreeBSD: secure, stable, consistent, reliable.
Gentoo: fast updates, good community, good to tinker with, fun.
posted by kaefer at 3:40 PM on February 27, 2004

I use and like gentoo but it's going to seriously depend what you want to do. If you want a fire and forget linux distro, don't mess with gentoo.

How you want to use your dist really should be a consideration.
posted by rudyfink at 11:39 PM on February 27, 2004

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