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[aclug-L] Linux in the news: Fred Langa's Column

[aclug-L] Linux in the news: Fred Langa's Column

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To: aclug-L@xxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [aclug-L] Linux in the news: Fred Langa's Column
From: Dale W Hodge <dwh@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 14 May 1999 12:15:10 -0500 (CDT)
Reply-to: aclug-L@xxxxxxxxxxxx

Which Linux?

By Fred Langa 

With the new 2.2x Linux Kernel now in high-volume production, I've been
making the rounds of Linux vendors to scope out the newest

But man, there's a lot! And while not all are using the newest kernel,
there still are enough current choices to give anyone pause.

For example, over at Linux.Org, they list the following
English-language distributions:

Caldera OpenLinux

Debian GNU/Linux

Linux Mandrake


Linux Pro



RedHat Linux

Slackware Linux

Stampede Linux

S.u.S.E. Linux


Yggdrasil Linux

DLX Linux

DOS Linux

hal91 Floppy Linux


These range from tiny, single-diskette implementations (the last four
in the list) that cost little or nothing up through massive $130
packages that toss in a wealth of tools and utilities.

Of course, you're not limited to just the current distributions: Over
at CheapBytes, for example ( you can pick
from 32 different flavors of English-language Linux distributions
ranging from $1.99 CDs of older builds through the current $124 "Linux
OS, the Professional Edition."

So how do you know which version to pick?

One approach (unless you're looking for a specialty application such as
a fit-on-a-floppy version) is to look for a current distribution using
the 2.2 Kernel, and then add your own personal filters from there.

Price is one possible filter: Most distributions are priced around $40
(SuSE, Caldera, Mandrake, MkLinux). Curiously, Red Hat Software has
opted for premium pricing--around $80.

You can look at add-ons. For example, Caldera's OpenLinux ships with a
polished, commercial-quality partitioner (PartitionMagic) instead of
the rough-cut partitioners you get with some other distributions. SuSE
6.1 includes a copy of StarOffice 5 Personal Edition and a Personal
Edition of Corel WordPerfect 8 as well. The Linux Pro distribution
includes "...the Linux Encyclopedia; a 1,600+ page reference manual of
information with tutorials on setup, configuration, kernel hacking,
plus all Linux Usenet News group postings and Mini-Howtos."

Or you can look for ease of setup. Yggdrasil Linux, for example, is
trying to produce a plug-and-play Linux distribution that auto-installs
with essentially zero user input on supported hardware.

Or, consider tech support. Red Hat, for instance, probably comes the
closest to the kind of tech support you'd get from any mainstream
operating system supplier--although you pay for it in the extra
up-front cost of the software.

OK, which one?

All this choice is great, and indicates just how robust the Linux
movement is. But it also begs several questions:

Do all these versions imply fragmentation of the Linux market? With so
many versions in competition, can any one achieve the critical mass
necessary to really make it to the big time with widespread deployment
on business desktops? Or will Linux suffer the fate of Unix two decades
ago, splitting into increasingly smaller, increasingly incompatible,
and increasingly irrelevant niches?

How do you choose which distribution to run? I've run three of the
versions above, but, frankly, there were several on the Linux.Org list
I'd never even heard of before. In this week's discussion area, let's
pool our knowledge and help each other sort out the burgeoning choices
we all face in Linux! 

Fred Langa is a senior consulting editor and columnist for Windows
Magazine. Fred's free weekly newsletter is available via
subscribe@xxxxxxxxx. You can contact him at fred@xxxxxxxxx or via his
website at 

 Dale W Hodge  dwh@xxxxxxxx, dwh@xxxxxxxxxxxx  
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