Married to the Mainstream

images.duckduckgo.comAfter months of struggling and solving simple problems with ‘heavy duty’ programming tools I finally decided to go mainstream. One doesn’t need to set up a minimal system each and every single time a new computer is bought/fixed/brought back to life. It’s demanding. It’s highly educating. It’s definitely FUN, but…there is a time in the life of every citizen of Linux-ville to switch from maintaining a system to finally using it. For me, this time has finally come.

Currently, I am using several of the so-called ‘mainstream’ Linux distributions on and off. Each I appreciate for specific features and depending on how fast I get annoyed with the features I don’t appreciate so much, I make a switch. I decided to put down my thoughts on the aforementioned ‘main-streamers’.

Ubuntu and its many derivatives are possibly the most widely known. Though most people don’t know what Linux or Unix are, I’m perfectly sure they have heard of Ubuntu before. Not only as an African word meaning ‘humanity towards others’, but also as a fringe Windows competitor for geeks. Ubuntu sports possibly the best hardware support and is the default choice of multimedia and game developers. Lastly, it has the largest repositories with some unique and useful software packages like nvidia-prime for Intel + Nvidia Optimus laptops.

Fedora is a very interesting alternative to Ubuntu. While Ubuntu offers appealing out-of-the-box experience for newbies, Fedora is more geared towards experienced users, developers and engineers. It also emphasizes the use of open-source and free software whenever possible. Fedora may seem slightly less flexible than Ubuntu in terms of initial desktop choice, but its netinstall liveCD more than makes up for that. I found the possibility to select software categories during installation extremely useful.

OpenSUSE is a curious mix of a community-driven distribution for developers and users alike with a strong enterprise focus. The online Build Service lets programmers easily produce software packages for openSUSE and many other popular distributions, while openSUSE Studio offers an online manager for building custom liveCD images. Much like the somewhat loathed Windows, openSUSE is governed through a Control Panel manager called YaST. With its central management and fast ‘1-click installs’ it will definitely win the hearts of Windows escapees. I much enjoyed working with the green lizard, except for some minor kinks.

At this point you may ask – Why only those 3? Where is Debian, it’s also very ‘mainstream’? In principle, Debian is a ‘mainstream’ distribution, however its general purpose is a stable development environment or a server. Desktop environments and a certain degree of user-friendliness are offered, but they’re not the focus of Debian. In all honesty, there are many more distributions which though not ‘mainstream’, could be considered at least easy to use. More on those in my next entry!

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