Over the last week I have been testing various Linux distributions to ensure that Ubuntu is the best one for me. There really is not anything scientific to this article as I basically only spent a few hours with each to get a general idea about the system. Yes, I do realize that Linux is meant to be customized and that any distribution can basically look like any other; however, in this case I am just looking at the clean install with no customization. Below are my brief notes on each distro.
openSUSE is arguably the second most popular Linux distribution, next to Ubuntu. I have installed SUSE years ago, but it never stuck with me, which is why I decided to give it another shot. I downloaded the openSUSE 10.2 image file and burned it to disc to install on my laptop. My laptop is a Dell Inspiron 8500 and is approximately 4 years old, but hey, Linux is not so fussy on requirements so I figured it should be more than adequate to run any Linux distribution.
Okay, lets get to the notes on openSUSE. First, the installation wizard is extremely user friendly and anyone who has ever installed Windows will have no problems installing openSUSE. However, installation speed is my biggest caveat. It took almost an hour and fifteen minutes, whereas Ubuntu installs in about 15 minutes. I realize there was more software for openSUSE to install, but anything over 30 minutes is unacceptable. Once installed, openSUSE is a breeze to use. I felt the support for my hardware (particularly wireless card and videocard) was top notch and even better than Ubuntu. During the install you have the option to install either the GNOME or KDE desktop environment (more on this in a future article). Other than the slow installation I can definitely see why openSUSE is one of the most popular distributions.
While Ubuntu is based on Debian , I have never actually used the Debian distribution so it was next on my list to try. For this installation I decided to use the “net install”. This allowed me to download a small 200MB image file which begins the install process and then fetches the other packages over the network. Even with the Debian installer grabbing nearly a gigabyte of data over the network the entire installation took approximately a half hour. When I booted Debian for the first time I noticed the desktop looks almost identical to that of Ubuntu. Actually, nearly everything is just like Ubuntu; however, it lacked much of the Ubuntu ease-of-use. While Ubuntu is easy to use for anyone who has ever used Windows, Debian requires a stronger background and should generally only be used by those comfortable with the command line.
Finally we have a Linux distribution named SimplyMEPIS. I installed version 6.5, which was just recently released to public. The MEPIS image disc can be used to load a “live CD” version of MEPIS, allowing users to try it out before committing to an installation (Ubuntu and many other distros have this feature as well). Once the live CD loaded I went ahead and began installing. The installer for MEPIS is very well organized and just as good as those in Ubuntu and openSUSE. Installation was similar to that of Ubuntu and clocked in around 16 minutes. Once complete, I immediately booted into MEPIS and was extremely impressed. The hardware support of my laptop was top-notch and apparently Beryl installs automatically during the MEPIS installation (and works likes a charm). I can’t say enough about the default interace as everything just seems to be perfect. KDE is the default environment, but seems to be customized better than any other KDE default I have seen. MEPIS has remained on my laptop since I installed it and I am confident it will remain. I am hoping to get an install of MEPIS going on my desktop to see how it performs with everyday tasks including virtualization of Windows installs.
If you do not want to give Ubuntu a shot then I highly recommend you give SimplyMEPIS 6.5 a try. I am really looking forward to using it more often in the future. At the moment I am downloading the image files for FreeBSD 6.2 (BSD is Unix-based but different from Linux in some ways…I am hoping to find out how different). I should have more on this and more in the coming weeks.
For those in Canada, have a great long-weekend!