Which Linux distro for the desktop? The debate continues!

Which Linux distro for the desktop? The debate continues!

Summary: Join the Linux distro debate! Share your thoughts!


One of the best discussions that I've seen on ZDNet blogs for a long time is going on over on a post that I made a couple of days ago regarding which Linux distro I should try first.  I don't know about you but I've learned a LOT for the 350 odd comments attached to that post.  I've read every single comment there (some more than once) and got a lot of ideas from them.

If you've got an opinion, hint, tip or link relating to Linux distros, I encourage you to go over to that post and make a comment.  If you've got an opinion about Linux, I was to read it!


Topic: Operating Systems

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  • how about BSD

    how about evaluating a version of BSD instead of just Linux.
    • The *BSDs are good too, but...

      maybe Adrian should try it [b]after[/b] learning Linux, since there is enough difference between them to cause some confusion. But at least after learning the ropes on Linux, BSD should be easy to learn, in particular PC-BSD.
      Tony Agudo
      • After learning BSD, try Mac OS X again

        You'll know so much more about Mac OS X after you've learned BSD.
        • Halfway there already

          I recently tried out Mac OSX at a Best Buy, and I went straight to the Terminal to see how good my Linux skills would carry over. It felt like I was almost still on Linux, as OSX had bash, emacs, and even gcc and python. One of these days I'll fiddle with a Live version of FreeBSD, perhaps within the next month. :)
          Tony Agudo
          • It's always good for Mac users to try out Linux

            Unix skills are tranferable to a point. Most Mac users never use the terminal, me
            included, but my little piddling with Linux before OSX came out, working with an
            old Sun server in the 90s, and currently running Ubantu in a Parallels window on
            my Mac really give insight into the underpinnings of Mac OSX. I find fsck
            commands on startup to be infinitely useful. I was so glad when Apple used BSD
            Unix in OSX. Unix is much more stable than Windows or Mac OS 7-9. It multitasks
            better. I couldn't believe how much load was put on the Sun servers and how the
            only time we had to reboot it was when we had extended power failures and had
            to take it down. The irony is we were across the street from the power company
            (long story) One time a secretary was cleaning up and unplugged it to dust.

            Back in the mid 90s, we had discussions about how Windows was a compromise
            solution and Mac OS had the best GUI and Unix was the most stable and powerful.
            When Apple announced that it was going to layer it's GUI over BSD Unix I was
            thrilled. OSX 10.0 and 10.1 were pretty rough, but 10.2 blew the doors off of XP.
            10.3 and 10.4 are state of the art for commercial operating systems. Vista is
            playing catch-up in the technology game, although Microsoft is in no danger of
            financial disaster with their huge market share and despite the trash talk Windows
            is a decent product.

            Linux distros are getting easier to use and the abundance of useful free software
            makes it very appealing. I hope that corporations will get away from the one
            vendor- one OS, network solutions and go with a layered approach. I'm not saying
            that they should drop Windows, but the one OS is easier to administer myth needs
            to go away. I've worked on mixed networks and most problems were on windows
            machines. Macs don't have nearly as many problems as Windows and anyone who
            chooses to work with Linux on the desktop probably doesn't need as much hand
            holding and IT help as other users.
  • Your head is planted firmly in the sand

    If you would take your head out of the sand and see what today's Linux actually offers, you'd soon lose your attitude. I used Windows, and nothing else, for 6 years, and I thought Linux was impossibly geeky and difficult - and just plain weird. Now, after 4 months of Linux, I am genuinely amazed and delighted. Two of my four Dells still dual boot into XP Pro to run the apps which haven't been ported to Linux, but the XP partitions are NEVER allowed online. I surf exclusively with Linux and Firefox 2, both PCLinuxOS with its futuristic 3D cube interface (the Beryl project), and Vector Linux with its blazing fast XFCE desktop - brilliant on old P3 boxes.

    So... let go of your hate, and open your mind - like I did. You feel safe hating Linux. It's good to feel safe, but you end up not learning anything.
    Don Collins
  • Do NOT Fear the Penguin!

    MMo o" MMM" oo ""MMMMM
    MMo"M"o" "" MMM" oMMMMM"
    oMM M o" " o "o MMMMMM"
    oM"o " o " o "o MMMMMMM
    oMMoM o " M M "o MMMM"MMo
    Mo " M "M "o" o MMMoMMMo
    MMo " "" M " MMMMMMMo
    oMM" "o o " MMMMMMMM
    MMMMM o " " o" "MMMMMMMMMo
    MMMM" o o o "MMMMMMMMMMo
    "o "ooo o o o"MMMMMMMMoM"
    " o "o "MMo " o" MMMMMMMM"
    o "o" o o " MMMo o o""""MMMM"o" "
    " o "o " o o" " MMMMoo " o "o M"" M "o " "
    "o o" " o o" " " "MMMM" o M o "o" o" o" " o
    M o M " o " " " " MM"" o oMo"o " o o "o " "o "
    o" o " "o " " M " " o MMMMo"o " o o o o" o o" "
    o" "o " o " " o o" M "oo ooMMMMMMM o "o o o " o o o "
    M "o o" o" "o o o " o"oMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMo" o o "o "o o"
    "" "o"o"o"o o"o "o"o"oMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMo"o"o "o o"oo"
    "" M Mo"o"oo"oM"" " MMoM M M M
    """ """ " """ "

    D T Schmitz
    • OK . . .

      That's officially cool!! What program did you use to create the ascii art?
  • No Worries

    I have a 3D desktop, 4 desktops that I switch between. I can keep up.

  • The Linux 3D cube looks like this...


    Try doing that in Vista - it's just not going to happen any time soon. People think Vista Aero looks cool? The cube is cooler. Plus you have four desktops, which is actually a small number for Linux. On Vector Linux I always have 6 desktops running, but go up to 8 or 10 if I'm really busy. Vista STILL has only one desktop. Oh dear!
    Don Collins
    • Excellent video Don!

      And don't forget, Beryl can also have special effects for when minimizing, maximizing, and closing windows. I have my windows set to "Magic Lamp" on minimize, "Beam up" on restore, and my personal favorite, "Burn" on close.

      A similar Beryl video:
      Tony Agudo
    • You know with Beryl

      you can have as many as 32 sides to your "cube". Of course you lose your top and bottom images when you do anything other than 4 sides, but I go transparent anyway, and besides when we're talking about productivity that's hardly a showstopper.
      Michael Kelly
    • Please compare and contrast multiple ....

      ... desktops versus multiple windows. Explain how it is more/less efficient. From what I can tell there is no real benefit.
      • Multiple desktops vs. multiple windows

        Multiple desktops(aka virtual desktops) are an excellent feature, particularly when you have many windows open that clutter up the screen, but you don't want to close anything. If you've watched the YouTube video of Beryl in action(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZD7QraljRfM), you notice that each side of the cube is another desktop space. Suppose you have on the first desktop a word processor, a web browser, a music player and a picture editor all open. With all that open, your desktop is very cluttered. You want to open up an HTML editor, but don't want to be distracted by the other open windows. Switch to desktop #2, and you have a clutter-free screen to work with.

        You could argue that you could just minimize all the windows, but the time spent on minimizing is better used just switching the desktop and launching the HTML editor there.
        Tony Agudo
        • On a Mac hit F11 or F9

          I typically run a lot of applications at once and get too many Windows open. Hit
          F11 once and all Windows go off the screen. Hit it again and they come back. F9
          minimizes all Windows at once and organizes them on your desktop.

          I know this is nothing for Linux users, but I can also run Mac OSX, Ubantu Linux,
          Windows 2000 and XP all at the same time, each with its own desktop or

          I won't trash Linux in any way. As a Graphic Designer, I'm more of a mousing, cut
          and paste kind of guy, but I can appreciate an operating system that gives you the
          ultimate in control, doesn't crash, is less bloated than Mac or especially Windows,
          and has a boatload of useful free software. I've seen a lot of work done in Latex
          that would be impossible or at least very difficult to do in Quark or ID. I'm not
          going to pretend expertise in Latex, but back in the 90s I saw a great many books
          that were produced in some form of tex and their Postscript files were for the
          most part immaculate and problem free. Producing "clean" Postscript files or
          today, PDF files, is not as easy as it may sound.
          • We can do the same thing.

            Using VMWare we can have an OS per desktop as well. We also have [url=http://distrowatch.gds.tuwien.ac.at/images/screenshots/kompose.png]Kompose'[/url] which is a clone of expose' from the Mac. So we can group all of our apps then select the one we want from the screen.

            There are a lot of things we can do with our Window Managers (besides select which we want to use!) that give us little edges in productivity. ]:)
            Linux User 147560
      • As requested.... the benefits of multiple desktops.

        [i]".. desktops versus multiple windows. Explain how it is more/less efficient. From what I can tell there is no real benefit."[/i]

        I used to think the same way - before I had multiple desktops.

        I often do graphics on a separate desktop. I typically have between 3 and 12 windows open - pallette managers, layer managers, toolboxes and several images. By keeping them on a desktop of their own they don't get mixed in editors/web browsers etc.

        I usually divide it up as

        Desktop 1 - Main working desktop, emails, word processing, etc
        Desktop 2 - Interruptions
        Desktop 3 - Graphics
        Desktop 4 - File managers, SSH, FTP etc

        If someone walks to to me and says "Have a look at this - it's got problem xxxxxxx" I switch to desktop 2, investigate it and when I'm done I can close down desktop 2 and return to where I was with everything undisturbed.

        Multiple desktops are just so useful! Having said that, SuSE lets you have 16 of them which IMO is overkill!
      • Find out for yourself

        I was a Beryl non-believer & scoffer, too, when I first heard about it. Like so many other things in life (ummm, single malt Scotch whiskey!), you gotta try it to believe! Now that I have it, I see everything so clearly stated by others already. Give it a try - it won't hurt a bit, and if you don't see the value, dump it.
      • Multiple windows will clutter a task bar

        PDQ, even if you have group similar. But with multiple desktops and using one of several methods to access them, I can have many applications open and not have a cluttered task bar. It also allows me to segregate what I am doing.

        So if I am working on an SQL DB then I can have it on desktop 1 along with spreadsheets or documents, while my E-Mail and web browser are on desktop 2. Desktop 3 will have the Gimp running with several images open while on desktop 4 I have a game (paused...) Also on desktop 4 I have Amarok playing whatever tunes I am in the mood to listen too.

        Bottom line is it makes toggling through windows so much easier to do. ALT+TAB allows me to cycle through active apps on a given desktop while CTRL+ALT+TAB allows me to cycle between desktops. I find that I am faster on a Linux KDE setup than Windows any day. Especially when I have multiple applications open and I am toggling back and forth between them.

        Bottom line, my desktops are less cluttered and easier to navigate. It's also cool when the boss comes around, I can toggle to another desktop and he can't see what is on the other desktops! So I can be browsing the web and he will never know. ]:)
        Linux User 147560
      • Desktops vs. Windows

        I guess you have never seen the "BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH"! When the M$ Windows kernel panics, the system locks-up. The only thing you can do is reboot, & pray your harddrive wasn't hosed.

        With *nix, if a program dies, you can terminate the locked-up desktop and not effect any windows on the remaining desktops.

        I usually try to keep 3 or less windows running on each desktop.