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Thread: Looking for input on choosing a distro

  1. #1
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    Question Looking for input on choosing a distro

    First, I am not looking for a distro flame war. I will give some history of what I have used and what I am looking for, then hopefully I will get some suggestions that point me in a solid direction. Thanks for all who read the following and offer suggestions.

    I have dabbled with Linux for 10 years or so and have been running it as my primary OS for almost 5 years. At one point in the past before Linux was my primary OS I had gentoo running pretty well, but compile times and lack of mainstream gaming put that system on the way back burner. I finally made the permanent plunge on Ubuntu 4.10 or 5.04 due to how quickly and easily the installer ran and how my hardware just worked.

    Maybe a year ago I build a new machine with a quad core Athlon II, and an ATI 4200 IGP. Before installing Ubuntu I gave gentoo a try and for the life of me could not build a kernel that would boot xorg. I really wanted a rolling release so I gave Arch a try but had some issues with adding additional repositories, I think it was for Virtualbox but I can't for sure remember any more. Ultimately I settled back into Ubuntu because it again just worked.

    I have upgraded my system to 10.04 and I told myself I would sit there until 12.04 so I wasn't redoing all my settings every 6 months (I find upgrading Ubuntu to be very hit and miss), but I am getting the itch to see how the new stuff runs, so here I am asking for some advice.

    Also, I have always seemed to prefer Gnome over KDE, but I keep hearing good things about KDE. I also am not fond of the direction Ubuntu is moving with Unity, maybe it will pan out, but I would at least like to have some other solid options. Reading the thread about Unity in Ubuntu brought out some suggestions of what KDE distro people prefer which also fueled my fire to try out something new. I have installed the Kubuntu packages in 10.04, but I have only used them a couple times.

    Ok, so with all that history, here is what I am looking for. I prefer something that is a rolling release, or at least has very minimal breakage between upgrades. I would like it to be simple to add additional repositories to the package manager so I don't end up having to manually manage a bunch of apps. I would like something that has a decent implementation of KDE and Gnome so I can play with both DE's. I also like to game from time to time so I dual boot with Windows, but I would like the system to to relatively easily handle binary drivers for my VC so I can get as much gaming performance under Linux as possible.

    Thanks for reading!

  2. #2
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    I am currently running Kubuntu Lucid at work (it's been pretty solid for me on this computer and runs Unigine at least quite well).

    At home I am running KXStudio which has been a little more thorny but good if you want a sound/video/graphics creation box and you don't mind the bleeding edge.

    I also tried Chakra this year (based on Arch) but Kubuntu has been working better for me (I am sure you can find people who have the opposite experience).

  3. #3
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    Try openSUSE. It should meet all your needs.

  4. #4
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    I see you try to install gentoo a lot and falling back for some case.
    Im using Athlon II x4 630, HD4770 on Gentoo x64, KDE 4.5.2 right now(mfc, tablet, etc).
    If it is hard for you to set up, give Calculate Linux a try, it is pre-configurated and pre-brewn Gentoo with generic configured kernel. It is sane, native gentoo under the hood, just using own Calculate profile(easily switchable).

    Of course, if you favor flexibility to easiness. There is no quick-setup in gentoo(for reason), but Calculate follows the idea of average Joe configurated gentoo, and coming with graphical installer.
    Still, you have to know what portage, make.conf, emerge and eix are; and how to update the world. Calculate has own help, forum and IRC, but you can always apply Gentoo resources too.

    I have used Arch for a year in the past and Ubuntu for 1-1.5 years. Too limiting and too hard.

  5. #5
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    Smile

    Thanks for the responses so far!

    I have tried out Kubuntu Lucid along side Ubuntu Lucid. I just didn't feel compelled to use KDE over Gnome in this case, maybe it would be different if I didn't have Gnome there, but I feel like I would still be in the same boat of ugdgrading every 6 months and having to do a bunch of configuring. I am intrigued by Chakra and I may give it a go once it stabilizes a bit if after this attempted move I still end up on Ubuntu...

    If I am not mistaken openSUSE is not a rolling release. That may still be ok if upgrading from release to release is relatively painless. I also really like what I have read about the build service. It seems like the ultimate repository solution. How does it work in practice?

    Gentoo is still the "pie in the sky" solution I kind of wish I could get working. It seems to have everything I want, but I am just missing the mark in getting it setup. I may have to check out Calculate since that would give me a solid base, and then I can screw around trying to build my own kernel. I am familiar with portage and updating the world. I also understand the make.conf file and the different flags, well I wouldn't clame to completely understand ALL use flags, but I can probably get by there. I hadn't heard of eix before, but a quick look through the wiki makes it clear it is for searching portage. So far Calculate is the most compelling option.

    I am still not ready to call the search off. I really appreciate the input so far. One more question to throw into the mix. Would anyone recommend having 2 separate distro installs? The hardest part for me when I was working on installing Gentoo is if it didn't work I ended up stuck at a command prompt and had to reboot into a live disc to get on the net to try to figure out what I messed up. Maybe having a 5-10 GB partition of ubuntu to fall back on and then the remainder for gentoo would be an option. Any thoughts or suggestions on this idea?

    Thanks again.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by daveerickson View Post
    If I am not mistaken openSUSE is not a rolling release. That may still be ok if upgrading from release to release is relatively painless. I also really like what I have read about the build service. It seems like the ultimate repository solution. How does it work in practice?
    openSUSE is not a rolling release but they do however officially support upgrades to items like KDE and Gnome. If a new version of KDE is released between release cycles for example, it will be built for all versions of openSUSE that are within their 18 month support period and is officially supported. Because of the build service you can make openSUSE pretty much a rolling release if you desire. They also have daily builds of items like the kernel, alsa, etc etc.

    The build service is a very powerful service. The one restriction that it has is that the items built on it is that the packages must be free of "legal gotchas". Items like ffmpeg, libdvdcss, etc have been blacklisted but you can setup your own local build service locally for those packages if desired. It even allows the building of packages for other distros other then openSUSE. There is also items like suseStudio that allows you to easily respin a distro to your own purposes and even publish it for others to use.

    A lot of people setup their own repos to handle the packages they use the most and wish to keep current. One really nice feature is that you do not have to do everything from scratch to create most of these packages. You can easily link a package you desire to someone elses and it will appear in your own repo.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by daveerickson View Post
    Thanks for the responses so far!
    Any thoughts or suggestions on this idea?
    Gentoo allows maximum customization. This requires tools and knowledge to work with them. Either you work on your own and share, or you use the result of somebody else and accept it. You are also building (somehow eased up) version of your own linux.

    If you definately ok with using maintainer version, ok using distro featureset, ok using extra added garbage for maximum functionality, dont have time for learning how system works - you dont really need gentoo. A good option is also setting up gentoo in VM. You loose nothing.

    I heard Clang will have an option to detect options runtime, instead of compile-time only (gcc), but Clang is BSD license, which means stealing and wrapping into proprietary is ok. Also it is yet young.

    Compilation time is not an issue once you have more than one 2Ghz core. Things that take most time usually improve by it(with exceptions), binary packages for gentoo exist(ooo, firefox etc).

    You may still be forced to switch software if it outdates or is no longer compatible (kde3.5). So its not total freedom.

    Things might very well break, but not usually and not on regular basis.

    The amount of work vs Arch is similar, although you (may) pass knowledge on how to make kernel/initramfs(if needed). The positive on gentoo is that you are not forced to upgrade - you decide unless really no option, you're are much safer upgrading from portage than from AUR, you have more easiness of controlling options via flags.

    Negative is that gentoo developers can sometime behave like closed circle and do not (easily) accept things into portage tree. You can setup your own tree, your own layer and there is exherbo project underway(well, its based on and paludis can do this on gentoo too, but exherbo really targets for multiple little repos instead of one tree and small layers).

    Flags are just words, nothing more, inside individual ebuilds that make them perform actions. Each package may have different meaning for use flags, example "symlink" for gentoo-sources(kernel) is to "set it as default automatically", for busybox it is "replace normal versions of binutils(cp,mv,and so on) with shortened versions from busybox" with will break a lot of things unless preseen(Puppylinux uses this). So best is using per-package settings and using as global is only acceptable for something like "jpg" or "wav" or "ogg" which are 100% understandable. Best option is to read corresponding ebuild source, or look on gentoo-portage.com. You can call the whole list of packages in tree form with useflags shown so you go down and decide which should and should not.

    For questions there is always gentoo forum and gentoo-wiki.com, as well as some info on sabayon and calculate. Calculate is much closer to gentoo than sabayon, btw.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by daveerickson View Post
    Would anyone recommend having 2 separate distro installs? The hardest part for me when I was working on installing Gentoo is if it didn't work I ended up stuck at a command prompt and had to reboot into a live disc to get on the net to try to figure out what I messed up. Maybe having a 5-10 GB partition of ubuntu to fall back on and then the remainder for gentoo would be an option. Any thoughts or suggestions on this idea?

    Thanks again.
    Sorry I overlooked that part. Yes you can have as much distributions on bare hardware as you wish, granted you know how to edit bootloader and fstab.

    Also, when installing gentoo, you should chroot from any LiveCD(including Ubuntu, Suse, Calculate, whatever live distro) and work that way till you have Xorg set up. Having "links" installed may prove useful as well, but you can always pull it from console, just you have networking working.

    Functional Gentoo install requires at least 12Gb on space, actually just as any distro.

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