Thursday, December 15, 2005

SuSE v. Ubuntu

My latest battle seems to be surrounding on which version of Linux I want to use as the main distro in my household. I enjoy dabbling with various versions of Linux but always find myself coming back to SuSE and Ubuntu. I’ve been trying to convince myself to adopt one distro and fully commit to it but both of these versions of Linux have their appeals that have made it difficult to abandon one or the other.

I am a big KDE fan and that is a huge draw for me to SuSE. The eye candy appeal of SuSE is second to no other distro in my opinion. I like the “look over the shoulder” appeal SuSE commands when someone realizes that I’m not using Windows. I consider Novell/SuSE to be the stand along side Red Hat enterprise distro. That being said, SuSE is has the “look” appeal to pull a Windows user into a Linux environment. As for the normal use, it is not that difficult to toy with the repositories and add what I need to get the multimedia goodies I need along with most other packages I’d want to add to my operating system. I’ll admit that the look and feel is the paramount draw to SuSE but GUI ease of use for wireless networking is a strong sell as well. If I stumble along the way, there are quite a few strong forums available to aid me.

While I’m drawn to SuSE, Ubuntu is so hard to pull away from due to the overall ease of use. The apt-get package management is second to none and the wealth of packages available easily satisfies any user needs. I am not a fan of GNOME but KDE isn’t a far stretch away with Kubuntu but I’ve been forcing myself to use GNOME again lately. I began with GNOME desktop in Red Hat 9 but slowly abandoned it for KDE after some time. Ubuntu has oddly drawn me back to GNOME and it easily runs better on older systems than KDE. Unfortunately, not every PC in my house is of Pentium 4 Hyper Thread processing capacity and KDE doesn’t play as nice on the older less RAM machines. I’ve also come to find that sudo is a very nice friend in the computing world of Linux. While I realize that sudo is available in SuSE, you have to jump through a few more hoops to get it functioning to your needs. The biggest appeal of Ubuntu is the support. The Ubuntu forum is the single best support I’ve ever seen for a Linux distro and it’s free.

As you can see, each has their strengths and either of their weaknesses are so trivial or easily circumvented that it doesn’t permit complaints. Currently, I find myself dual booting most machines in my house. The older machines though typically get the most Ubuntu use while the newer machines access SuSE. If I didn’t have such an eclectic hardware environment, I may be running SuSE only but that’s hard to say because so much time is spent in Ubuntu as well. It really comes down to the plunge as I can do what I want in either. Until then, I will continue to enjoy the beauty of open source and run two operating systems at the cost of zero dollars. I don’t know what’s better, that fact that the choices are so good or the fact that I don’t have to make a choice at all.

Monday, December 12, 2005

How Fedora Fails

My support for the Fedora project has seemed to wane within the last few years due to the poor usability factor for the casual desktop user. It has just become painfully obvious of late that the intent of the Fedora project is to directly fuel the Red Hat enterprise server edition. While I realize that this was the original intent and that they have never denied this, the casual user considering a crossover can and will be turned away by the Red Hat offering in the Fedora project very easily. My feeling is that many will be turned away because Fedora is living up to the Linux moniker that has turned so many away before because it’s not very user friendly.

My Linux experience began several years ago with the Red Hat 9 Linux Bible. I knew very little about Linux but knew the name Red Hat as the alternative operating system and jumped at the chance to get my feet wet in open source. I quickly jumped over to the Fedora project when it was available strictly due to the free updates and the improved hardware support was just an added bonus. Since then, I’ve been using Fedora from the original Core all the way to the current Core 4 version. Until a year ago or so, I may have heard the name SuSE in passing but my Linux world was confined to that of Fedora until I stumbled upon a site called DistroWatch (

Since coming across that site, I’ve tried my hand at well over twenty different Linux variants coming to the conclusion that Fedora leaves much to be desired when considering making the jump over to Linux. Even the latest Core 4 has seemed to just stumble out of the gate as far as usability. I’ve had quite a few problems using the updater and that was the main function that attracted me to Fedora. I think I’d have an easier time digging a tunnel with a spoon than modify and or adding repositories to better support Yum. Now that the sources are even farther removed from the distro, it just seems to make it that much easier to fall into that famous dependency hell that we’ve been so accustomed to with RPM distros. On top of that, the developers didn’t even offer much in the way of a new look to accompany the new version.

Most of these things can be remedied with thorough detailed research across the internet but that is what has seemed to lend to my bad taste when compared to a SuSE or Ubuntu distro today. Overall, the Fedora Project has been a very positive influence in the Linux community in general but the competition has easily surpassed the leader when it comes to usability. I’ve had experience installing Fedora, SuSE, and Ubuntu on the same machine and Fedora comes up lagging. If I want to run a server though, Fedora is my choice and that is where the server model of Fedora just seems to stick out more than anything to me. If I want good wireless support, ease of multimedia function, and general package integration ease, I’m not choosing Fedora. It would seem to me that that once leader of the pack could get better support for the end user I thought they might try to appeal to investing in their product.