After nearly a full week of working with this quad-boot setup in various stages of completion, I can say that I am very pleased. It is working well and it is allowing me to easily compare the three different versions of Linux, which is just what I wanted. Here are some notes about each of the versions as I went through the setup and configuration.
- Ubuntu: This probably wins the "dead easy" install and use award. Not only did it just install and run, it was the easiest to get the additional software packages installed on. Java, Flash, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, C-Kermit and the Gnome Partition Editor were all found in the Synaptic Package Manager, and Citrix, Opera, Gizmo5 and Skype all installed from downloads on their respective web pages without any trouble. This was also the only version on which I was able to figure out how to disable touchpad tapping without a lot of trouble. The automatic update manager seems to be efficient and reliable.
- openSuSE: This probably wins the "cantankerous" award. In the end, it can probably do everything the other can do, but it just seems to make a big fuss over everything. The pacakages are an odd mix; Firefox 3 is now being distributed as an update, but Thunderbird is still at 126.96.36.199 (two versions behind current). Opera and C-Kermit are included in the packages, but Gizmo5, Skype and Citrix are not. Citrix would not install properly from either of the downloads on their web page; I ended up having to figure out where the plugin needed to be installed, and make a symbolic link into it myself. The automatic update wouldn't work properly, perhaps because it was asking me questions that I didn't understand but I don't think so; but at the same time, manual update worked perfectly.
- Mandriva: This may very well end up being my personal favorite. But you have to be willing to accept that this is a very conservative distribution, they don't rush to include all the latest updates and every possible package. Firefox and Thunderbird are still at 2.x releases, Flash is still at least one release behind, and I couldn't find Java or JRE in packages at all. As with openSuSE, when I installed the Citrix client, I had to manually symlink the plugin to the correct directory before it would work. It is very flexible, it did an excellent job of recognizing and configuring all the hardware in my laptop.
Of course, all three of them are more stable that XP Professional on this laptop, and miles more stable than Vista was. But having XP there to boot when I absolutely need it for something is certainly nice.
Over the weekend and next week, I will get into a few more peripherals, and then perhaps try another Linux variant or two.