Skip to comments.An Intro to Linux Distros and Live CDs
Posted on 10/24/2011 8:47:39 AM PDT by ShadowAce
With over 600 GNU/Linux distributions available, 300 of which are under active development, whats the best? How do you choose?
It would be nice if there was a Linux Store, like the Apple Stores, where you could actually walk in and testdrive a Distro (short for Distribution). Unfortunately, there arent any Linux Stores. Moneys just not there. Apple products are premium products with premium price tags. Leasing a store, stocking it with testdrive systems and having Geeky Gurus on the payroll just wont work with a FREE product.
Why are there so many Distros anyway? Makes it difficult to find the right one. Lets start by cutting the 600 in half. Almost half of the Distros out there are no longer being developed. No longer being improved. Bugs arent getting fixed. Dead bits
This isnt written in stone but probably the best Distro for you will be one of the 300 odd Distros still under active development.
Complicating this dilemma of choice is the broad differences in Distros. Some are general purpose and some have a very specific focus like a Distro for Scientific or Music Production use. Some Distros are for business use and others focus on the individual Home user.
There are others like the ones Banking Institutions have developed where security is King and other Distros can hack your windows passwords or WiFi security.
Even though most Distros are free, the time involved in installing a Distro onto a PC or laptop can be costly because Time is money.
Live CD: A Linux Distro that boots from a CD (or DVD) and runs in your computers memory without being installed is a Live CD.
Rumor has it that Linux Live CDs have been around since 1998, so the concept isnt new. But it is FREE in the best way it frees you from committing yourself until you actually see and testdrive the new Distro. Live CDs free you to sample the field without consequences or investing much time nor will they modify your system (unless you want it).
Last May (2011) Ubuntu came out with a radically new Desktop Interface called Unity that was very controversial. The father of Linux, Linus Torvalds, disliked it so much that he switched to an entirely different Distro of Linux. I downloaded the new Distro (Ubuntu 11.04) and testdrove the live CD. Decided I really liked the Distro so by clicking the Install Icon on the desktop installed it without hitch on my harddrive permanently (until something better comes along). My cup of tea.
I also tried the new Gnome 3 Desktop with the latest RedHat Fedora Distro and didnt like Gnome 3. Went off in a direction that I didnt care for in its look and feel. Was easy enough to find out with the Live CD of Fedora without any wasted time and effort. Just wasnt my cup of tea.
Live CDs are simple to obtain and use. Ill use Ubuntu as my example. Other Distros are similar. There are two ways to get a Live CD of the latest Ubuntu Distro download it from the Ubuntu Website (http://www.ubuntu.com/) or order a free CD already burned for you from the same website.
Modern PCs and laptops have a boot provision that allows you to select the boot device. It varies with the maker of the computer. So its just a matter of inserting the CD , rebooting the system, and selecting the CD Drive to boot from.
However, doing even this simple procedure could get tedious if you try testdriving several hundred Distros.
Some suggestions for narrowing the field:
Googles your friend here.
I tried LFS a few years back. I must have missed something in the process as I didn’t get it to work. Went back to debian, but might try again at LFS.
I use my linux machine as a test server, nothing too radical.
Linux may be a good OS but the lack of standardization is a crippling issue.
as for me I have MINT running on old P4 for YouTube etc on my big screen TV.
for a starter Linux PUPPY is good esp on older Pc’s (it does have some probs with WPA2 networks)
I’ve slowly been switching over from linux to Mac OSX. I don’t like the Ubuntu Unity interface, and I have to keep a windows XP virtual machine on my linux computer just to use my scanner. Seems like too much work these days...maybe I’m getting too old. Soon I’ll be buying a new iMac, and I’ll retire the old linux computer.
One “fact” in the article is incorrect - Live CD’s have been around since 1995ish - Yggdrasil was the first such entry. For those who don’t like to “update” the real problem I’ve had personally is hacked systems. I’ve had a system up and running exposed to the internet hacked twice. It had ftp and http deamons exposed - and these were used as infestation vectors. I’ve found if I do an update about once a year, this tends to not be a real problem.
Over the years I’ve moved from SLS to Slackware to Suse to Ubuntu. I’ve tried many - I’m not real keen on Unity at the moment, and prefer Gnome-2 mostly because it ISN’T that different from what I expect. I have Unity up at home, and Gnome-2 at work.
Unity also had real stability issues on bleeding edge Intel hardware like Sandybridge that was one of my problems with it.
I have Knoppix (debian) on a USB drive that works great. I just save anything I need on another USB.
Saved my butt when the hard disk in my laptop died.
I have ubuntu on one of my computers. Very sluggish (I forget which GUI I have). Anyway, I am looking for a command-line only distro. The main requirement is speed. The only app I run on it is CherryPy. I would also love a replacement for vi (no matter how much I use it, I can never remember how to do anything with it, without the cheat sheet), but don’t want to have to run a GUI.
I have been away from Linux for almost 10 years now.. Didn’t like the Red Hat back then, so I went back to Win..
A couple of months ago I went the easy path and DL/Installed UBUNTU on my laptop. I have had no problems with it so far.. but after advice from a friend in Holland, I searched and found ‘CentOS-6.0-i386-LiveDVD’...
I have not messed with it yet, so I have no idea how it looks.
I am worried that it will be FAR off from the midway point (UBUNTU - Win)..
I used to use unix (decades ago), but I don’t remember the commands.. I at least remember most DOS commands :D
Anyway, any advice on whether I should try it out or not?
Probably heresy to say this - but although I like LiveCD’s as rescue disks - the idea that you slap a LiveCD into a disk drive and then find out if you “like” a distro or no - to me doesn’t really make sense.
Whether I like a distro has to do with how it feels to live with the actual distro - set it up to do real work - a Live CD “test drive” will show you what the user experience “feels like” - but not sure I buy how useful that is in real life.
What I do (or used to do) is install the distro as a virtual machine using Virtualbox. That’s closer to “real” than a live CD.
That said, the LFS documentation is beyond excellent. If you follow the steps to the letter without any deviation, you'll have a fine, working system. As opposed to a pre-packaged distro, I think the LFS docs are so good because they have to be! It also like LFS because it's in the spirit of early Linux as Linus Torvalds wrote back in 1991: "...do you pine for the days when men were men and wrote their own device drivers?"
After a (cross country) family member had a rootkit/trojan on their PC last week, and I “theoretically” got rid of it for them, I suggested to them they create a bootable Linux CD to use for online banking. I decided to test one here, so I downloaded Ubuntu 11.10 and created the disk. I booted my Win7 x64 laptop to the disk and tried it out for a while.
When I rebooted to Win7 it was royally pi**ed about something, and insisted on “recovering” by restoring a system restore. During the time I was running the Ubuntu disk I never once asked it to modify my existing partition.
Now I’m trying to locate a decent bootable Linux disk that can be simply used for online banking purposes, that will guarantee to not touch any existing partitions. Ubuntu has me gun shy.
This distro was so trouble-ridden, so messed up, so full of misbegotten cybernetic dreck, that it cost me two consecutive all-nighters to do something that literally took all of thirty seconds once I blew it off my new Dell server and installed a totally free alternative distro.
I will give the name of the alternative that has now made me very happy and made the learning of wonderful, fascinating Linux the enjoyable experience it should be.
To answer my own problem from above.... I discovered this...
Will burn it and see how it goes.
I don't know if the Ubuntu family can customize the install to do that.
Totally agree - this makes way more sense to me.
Would it hurt to try it?
I don't know what you didn't like about RH 10 years ago, so I can't help you out. However, it has made great strides in those 10 years, and won;t be anything like you remember it.
That what happens when you partner with Microsoft. :)
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.