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(OT?): Operating Systems

by Andrew_Levenson (Hermit)
on Dec 12, 2006 at 20:04 UTC ( [id://589386]=perlquestion: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Andrew_Levenson has asked for the wisdom of the Perl Monks concerning the following question:

When I go off to college in a few months (oh dear!) I am going to be supplied with a new laptop (which will be used for schoolwork and photoediting schtuffs), so I am considering lugging along my semi-outdated desktop I currently make use of, to mess around with a *nix(like) operating system.

What distros/OS's do you suggest? It does not have to cater to PURE beginners, because I am willing to take some time to learn, but I would prefer that it not be purely for the professionals.
(i.e. I'd like to try to stick to the shell, but wouldn't mind a back-up GUI just in case.)

Thanks in advanced!
C(qw/74 97 104 112/);sub C{while(@_){$c**=$C;print (map{chr($C!=$c?shift:pop)}$_),$C+=@_%2!=1?1:0}}

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: (OT?): Operating Systems
by Joost (Canon) on Dec 12, 2006 at 20:17 UTC
    Lots of people seem to like ubuntu linux, and from what I've heard it's fairly easy on beginners. Ubuntu's based on debian linux which is what I use, mainly because it has probably the biggest collection of packages of any linux distribution, but debian does have a bit of a learning curve (I've always had to solve a few problems when installing from scratch - but when it's running it's pretty stable)

    In any case, any recent linux distro should give you the option of a fully functional X server + one or more desktop environments like Gnome and KDE and a few more "minimal" window managers.

Re: (OT?): Operating Systems
by BerntB (Deacon) on Dec 12, 2006 at 22:12 UTC
    Let me guess... tomorrow you'll ask for editor recommendations -- vi or emacs? :-)

    That said, I'm happy with Ubuntu.

    I used Debian before and was happy with that, too. I had no installation pains with Debian the last few years, except for my printer (works perfectly with Ubuntu).

    I went to Debian from Red Hat/Suse because of too many problems with rpm, but that is probably solved by now.

    I've always planned to try out the BSD variants, but never had free disk when I had free time.

Re: (OT?): Operating Systems
by swampyankee (Parson) on Dec 12, 2006 at 21:20 UTC

    I use pc-bsd on (one of my) home desktops. I've used suse in the past, and was reasonably satisfied. I'd say you've a much easier time getting a Linux distro that would be easy to install on a desktop than a laptop(the same applies to any of the *BSD variants).


    At that time [1909] the chief engineer was almost always the chief test pilot as well. That had the fortunate result of eliminating poor engineering early in aviation.

    —Igor Sikorsky, reported in AOPA Pilot magazine February 2003.
Re: (OT?): Operating Systems
by OfficeLinebacker (Chaplain) on Dec 12, 2006 at 22:52 UTC


    I'm a Linux USER at work but not too versed on sysadmin. I tried Mandriva and BSD in addition to Ubuntu and the support and dedication of the community, as well as the ease of installation and use, are a big plus to me.

    Hope this helps, and note those are the only non-Windows OSes I have tried to install, so my sample size is very limited.


    I like computer programming because it's like Legos for the mind.
Re: (OT?): Operating Systems
by wjw (Priest) on Dec 13, 2006 at 01:50 UTC
    You might want to take a look at one of the usb-key distros that are available. Mandriva announced that they have a new distro recently. You might not even have to take your desktop. Just boot from the usb key with your laptop. The live cd's are ok, but it is usually inconvenient to be unable to save your environment, user data ..etc..., without having to mount some writeable media first.

    The usb key distros allow you to save quite a bit of data to the key itself, so your ~/your_home stores all the afore-mentioned things. I tried a previous version out and found that it works very nicely. Check w/ the university you are going to . If they have not disabled the boot device menu on the laptop they are supplying, you just plug in the key and boot from usb. If they do have some restrictions, you may be able to get the restriction waived by signing some agreement... . On top of that, you always have a linux distro in your pocket to boot up someone's broken machine and recover their data for them, for which some folks will pay(in beer if not $$). Good luck with your education!

    Below are a couple of examples... there are more...



    ...the majority is always wrong, and always the last to know about it...

Re: (OT?): Operating Systems
by MaxKlokan (Monk) on Dec 12, 2006 at 23:12 UTC
    Having worked for years with Linux, I would now recommend Solaris and OpenBSD instead. I find Solaris very advanced, while OpenBSD is in my opinion very, how should I say, clean.
Re: (OT?): Operating Systems
by geekphilosopher (Friar) on Dec 13, 2006 at 01:28 UTC

    I'll say Kubuntu, just to be different ;)

    I personally prefer KDE to Gnome, so I pick Kubuntu over Ubunutu, but otherwise they're the same. I started out on Linux with Gentoo, and at first I felt kind of l33t compiling all of my own packages from scratch (mozilla == long time), but I've moved past that stage and now use Kubuntu on every system I own. It's good for newbies, and it's good for power users (I'm a professional developer and I use Kubuntu at work).

    To see if you like it, just boot it up with the CD in the drive and take a spin around - the install disk is also a LiveCD that runs entirely in RAM.

Re: (OT?): Operating Systems
by zentara (Archbishop) on Dec 13, 2006 at 12:19 UTC
    I think Ubuntu is good too, but for a programmer, it may be "too" simple. For example, (without jumping thru some special hoops) it boots directly to a gui, so no terminal (on an old underpowered laptop the gui may be too slow). It dosn't give you root access by default, so you don't get a real feel for administrating a linux OS. But it does install and run well.

    Most of the newer distros have GUI installers, and an old underpowered laptop may not handle it well. I would recommend either Slackware( which still uses the console based installer) or something like DamnSmallLinux.

    I'm not really a human, but I play one on earth. Cogito ergo sum a bum

      Isn't it true that even on non-Ubuntu boxes one only very rarely wants to actually be logged on directly as root? Isn't that the whole point of sudo? I kind of liked that feature on Ubuntu, that you create an account as yourself, then when you need to do tasks that require superuser, you sudo the command, and enter the root password. Also, once you've entered the root password once in an active xterm, ensuing `sudo`s don't ask for your password again.

      I'm familiar with sudo since my job class has some SU privileges (we get to sudo dhog and some other commands I can't remember right now).

      Again, I program in RedHat at work and just have this Ubuntu box for fun--the most complicated thing I did with it was probably get it to run Folding@Home and use LM-sensors (the CPU is overclocked). That and I went with Dapper Drake before it was released, so I had some "early adopter" hiccups. I don't think I wrote anything more complicated than a "hello, world" program on it. Ubuntu has some great games that you can easily `apt-get.` (I have regular Ubuntu but have all the games from Kubuntu and Edubuntu on it) That's about all I use it for now--my 8-year-old son loves Kolf.

      Speaking of which, Ubuntu has cool names for their releases--Breezy Badger, Dapper Drake, etc. That alone is worth the cost of installing it!

      Please correct me if I am wrong about not being root very often, even on your own home computer.

      Edit: Isn't booting to console in Ubuntu as simple as holding down a key or two during bootup?

      I like computer programming because it's like Legos for the mind.
        Well the sudo approach is useful, but for a sysadmin or programmer who is installing packages and moving libraries around, it seems kind of limited to me. Granted, it does prevent the newbie from accidently chmod'ing /usr, or deleting root, etc. And you can use apt-get( or whatever ) for package management, but that limits your exposure to what is really going on in the system. I think programmers should build from sources, so they get a good idea of what programs, and libraries are really all about. Package Managers put an artificial layer of abstraction between you and the program. I also find it more secure, to specifically have to log on as root to do system stuff. Relying on sudo, you may fall into a false sense of security, and walk away from your machine thinking "I'm logged on as user so it's safe", but anyone can walk up to your console and run a sudo command.

        Watching a system boot in console mode gives you an entirely different perspective on what goes on in /etc/init.d. Of course a user really dosn't care, and probably prefers not to know; but a programmer really needs to know what goes on underneath the gui surface.

        As far as a "button hold at boot" ,booting Ubuntu into a console, I think that only boots to what is called single user mode(runlevel 1), and is only for system emergency maintenance. What is normally referred to as "booting in console mode", is multi-user mode, with network, (usually runlevel 3). Ubuntu does have a server-version which does this, and has no gui. They also have a special "alternate install disk" which is text mode, for finicky systems.

        What I am trying to point out, is that Ubuntu, in the name of newbie safety, has made difficult, what is easy in most other distributions. If you wanted to study programming, you would be better off with a more straight forward distro.

        I started with linux probably about 10 years ago, when gui's were just a novelty item. And until just a few years ago, every distro, would install into multi-user-console mode, and after that you were given the option to try and install X ( which was often very difficult because of the lack of drivers). Now, the opposite is happening. Everything is going directly to gui, and the internals are being hidden from you. Often, many servers and services are auto-installed, and bloat and slow down the system. Someone who understands the console mode, more easily understands what he needs and can customize his system for his own needs.

        But all in all, I think Ubuntu is great for spreading linux, and maybe it would be better for a large group to know how to handle sudo, so they can answer sudo related questions as they come along. Me, I'm an old dog, and refuse to learn the new tricks. :-)

        I'm not really a human, but I play one on earth. Cogito ergo sum a bum
      I run Ubuntu/Kubuntu/Xubuntu at home on an old 1Ghz PIII box with 512Mb RAM. It runs just fine. I keep a couple of X-terms open for when I want a command line (fairly often). If I need to be root and don't want to 'sudo' everything I use the common and well-documented workaround - 'sudo passwd root'. Do this once to set a root password and from then on just 'su' the same as on any other xnix system.

      Firefox handles my surfing needs, Thunderbird handles my email, OpenOffice gives me MS-Office functionality and file compatibility. Response time is acceptable - and that's with MySQL and Apache running in the background. More RAM would really speed things up but SDRAM is about $60.00/512MB stick and I'm a cheap bastard at heart. :)

      The one thing I would recommend is using Xubuntu (Xfce gui) instead of Ubuntu (Gnome gui) or Kubuntu (KDE gui), especially if you have a light-weight video card or not much RAM. Xfce gives you good functionality without the overhead of Gnome or KDE.

      Just my .02 worth,


Re: (OT?): Operating Systems
by chrism01 (Friar) on Dec 13, 2006 at 05:22 UTC
    A couple of comments:
    this is a popular qn on, which I can recommend as a free help site for all things Linux.
    Most Linux distros come with a GUI eg RH Fedora Core is popular, BUT, they all also come with the option to bring up x-terms or equiv, so you've always got the choice about how deep to go ie GUI vs CLI.
    As an example, I actually work on an RH FC box, which is handy for browsing (FireFox), email (Thunderbird), but apart from them, I spend 90% of my time in multiple x-terms and can't even see the desktop underneath...
Re: (OT?): Operating Systems
by MidLifeXis (Monsignor) on Dec 13, 2006 at 18:55 UTC

    Since you didn't ask specifically for Linux distro (although it may be implied), I would point towards OpenBSD as well. If you are interested in security, it might be an intersting distro to play around for building firewalls1 and the like.

    1I have two running at home on minimal hardware. One SMB / Web Proxy / internal DNS / jack of all trades server and one external facing firewall. Both have been very reliable.


      You're right, i'm not asking specifically for a Linux distro. What I really want to find is a non-windows (my XP box _literally_ took its own life, funny story) OS (preferably in C, so I can learn to toy with it) in which I won't necessarily need the GUI running at all so I can learn to get used to using a shell. And, it may be stupid to specify this, but it'd be very nice if it were secure, fast and stable.

      Is that a lot to ask for, or does that leave a lot of narrowing down to do?
      C(qw/74 97 104 112/);sub C{while(@_){$c**=$C;print (map{chr($C!=$c?shift:pop)}$_),$C+=@_%2!=1?1:0}}

        If secure, fast, and stable are your requirements, OpenBSD would definitely meet your requirements. Easy to set up -- I would not call it "easy", but rather "not difficult".

        ObHistory - OpenBSD is based more on the BSD Unix family, and Linux follows (well, sort of) the SysV style of Unix.


Re: (OT?): Operating Systems
by Burak (Chaplain) on Dec 13, 2006 at 16:01 UTC
    I think that SuSE is the best linux OS for desktop usage. I've used Mandrake/Mandriva in the past, but SuSE seems better...
Re: (OT?): Operating Systems
by Popcorn Dave (Abbot) on Dec 13, 2006 at 17:28 UTC
    The monks have given you lots of good advice here. Personally I'm sort of biased towards SuSE as well since that's what I started with.

    That being said, I've had SuSE on my laptop for quite a few versions, but I've never been able to get it to "plug and play" my D-Link wireless card. So whatever distro you choose you might want to check in to which wireless cards it supports so you don't run in to the same issues I have.

    Revolution. Today, 3 O'Clock. Meet behind the monkey bars.

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