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Why Top Linux Distros Are For Different Users 496

Lucas123 writes "Fedora, openSUSE and Ubuntu Linux desktops may look alike, but they've got some important distinctions, like the fact that Fedora and Ubuntu use GNOME 2.28 (the latest version) for their default desktop, while openSUSE uses KDE 4.3.1. And, Fedora's designers have assumed that its users are wiser than the general run of users. 'For example, in earlier versions, ordinary (non-admin) users could install software on Fedora without access to the root password. As of this version, however, local users will need to enter the root password before they can install software (as they do on almost all other Linux distributions).'"
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Why Top Linux Distros Are For Different Users

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  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:08PM (#30459714)

    Does the distro work with your printer without any complicated installation procedures?
    Does the distro work with your audio hardware without any complicated installation procedures?
    Does the distro switch between all the resolutions supported by your video hardware?
    Does the distro have a reasonably good package installation mechanism?
    Does the distro support your applications without special package installation requirements?

    If the answer is affirmative to all of the above, then you've got yourself a winner. It's very cool how Ubuntu has essentially forced every other distro to get up to speed on these seemingly basic features. Otherwise, the distros are just flavored differently. It's all the same under the hood.

  • Of course (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:12PM (#30459788) Journal

    If Linux Distro's were targetted for the same users, there wouldn't be anything to distinguish them amongst each other, ultimately defeating the point of having a seperate distro.

    I should write an article about "Why People like different foods" and see if it makes the front page

    In all seriousness though, its a decent breakdown of the Distro's, but I've always kind of been on the impression that anyone who has seriously considered using Linux already knows what distro they expect to be using.

  • root password?? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pydev ( 1683904 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:27PM (#30460074)

    As of this version, however, local users will need to enter the root password before they can install software (as they do on almost all other Linux distributions).'"

    You don't need to enter the root password on Ubuntu or Debian; you enter your own password. And that works if you have administrator privileges, which is a choice while setting up accounts.

  • by Improv ( 2467 ) <> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:33PM (#30460176) Homepage Journal

    It's not like mainstream distros put you in handcuffs. There are plenty of us who customise our chosen distro quite extensively (for example, I've used Redhat/Fedora ever since I switched from Slackware ages ago, and I use WindowMaker instead of GNOME, disable SELinux, reclaim /media for storing my media files, tweak the categories of things the package manager will install from an rpm, replace a subset of the software with things I compile myself, etc). I have multiple terminals open all the time too, and as I said above, I *have* the WM of my choice - I have as much control over my system as you do yours and can change my defaults.

    Not everyone really wants to be on the cutting edge, and I like being at least a bit closer to Fedora/CentOS because i use them a lot at work (Debian and CentOS/RHEL are among the best Linuces for servers, while Gentoo is completely inappropriate (although this almost never comes up because Gentoo fans are also completely inappropriate as sysadmins)).

  • by Stone316 ( 629009 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:36PM (#30460224) Journal

    I installed Ubuntu 8 on my kids computer and they loved it... I played about with it as well and liked it enough that once it came time to rebuild my linux box I decided to install 9.04... I have to say, i'm not impressed with 9.0.4... I have had issues with using the software manager to install new applications.. I miss the popular column and thought that was great. Switching to a static IP address wasn't straight forward... It seems that if you are the type of user that will just download it, install defaults and use it, then its fine. But as soon as you want to make changes, it started to get painful.

    So for now i'm switching back to Fedora.. Something i'm familiar with and just seems to work.

  • by xouumalperxe ( 815707 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:51PM (#30460460)

    So according to this "logic", Microsoft assumes that its users are wiser than the general run of users too?

    While I don't know whether Microsoft actually designed their operating systems with that rationale in mind, C is a clear case of it: most bugs in C programs come from the language being designed expecting people to really know what they're doing. and therefore allowing all sorts of strange stuff.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:53PM (#30460482) Journal

    And these are the reasons Windows still has marketshare.

    Nah. Main reason is most of the driver and install issues are figured out by the vendors at the factory. Once it comes out of the box the users are willing to take lots of punishment when it comes to Windows. Things dont work. Crapware installed by vendor keeps nagging them to upgrade and get the "new and exciting features". Security holes. Forced to buy anti virus products. Vendor lock. Upgrade treadmill....

    Through it all the people suffer stoically. But when you suggest switching to Linux they balk. The first thing that does not work, they bitch to high heaven and run back to their captors. One would think the typical PC user is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

    There are many reasons why Windows has its market share. "It just works" is not one of them.

  • by silentsteel ( 1116795 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:03PM (#30460668)
    A bit beside the point of this argument, but I happen to use Ubuntu as my primary system because I support several people who I have migrated to it. These users are only concerned with a web browser and an email client. Using Ubuntu makes it easier for phone support, at least in my opinion. I usually open a shell when I am working on their systems directly. I run Slackware and Cent on a couple of "servers", but I, obviously, am most familiar with Debian-based Linux at this point.
  • by Zombie Ryushu ( 803103 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:19PM (#30460940)

    I'm not trying to say that user choice and the variance of Linux distributions are bad, but I see some problems that make my life a headache. Especially on the RPM side of things.

    For example.

    The Four major Desktop distributions out there are:


    Ubuntu is Debian based, and not like the other three. So, I will set it aside just momentarily. I'd like to focus on the RPM based systems for the moment because that is what I have the most experience with.

    The three RPM based systems have a whole lot of needless Dissimilarities. Even in the RPM system itself. has strange separations in the way it handle packaging. There really is no reason for these differences to exist. Other than making it more difficult to install and manage software, there is no reason for these differences to exist. They just confuse people.

    Another thing that drives me berserk is how the RPM distributors tend to "tinker" with the default KDE and Gnome Installs configuration. For example, replacing the Kicker logo with their own Mandriva/Suse/Fedora logo. This really confuses people. It doesn't add to the user experience at all to change how applications are ordered at random, or change the Icon for the K and Gnome Menus. It just confuses people more.

    You don't see this in the Debian world. They leave should leave the default configurations of KDE, Gnome, and the other Window managers. Also, a memorandum of understanding or treaty should be formed that says that they will have uniform RPM Macros, and Uniform Application categories.

    I do alot of packaging for Mandriva.

  • Re:Who cares.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BJ_Covert_Action ( 1499847 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:35PM (#30461180) Homepage Journal
    Agreed, wholeheartedly so. I hopped from the sinking Windows ship after XP and started using Ubuntu on release 8.04. I must admit that I am not nearly as proficient on Ubuntu or Linux as I would like to be, but I am learning quickly. Where the first few months of my Ubuntu experience had me clicking through GUI's and resetting defaults regularly, after a few months of posting on the Ubuntu forums and getting a feel for how problems can be typically trouble-shooted, I started gediting config files and browsing through /etc on a regular basis. I started downloading some programs that could not be found in my repositories (with more confidence) and even started editing my sources list. Eventually I switched my default editor over to vim and began spitting out shell and perl scripts right and left to keep things simple for me and give me some peace of mind security wise. I've been using Ubuntu for just over a year now and, already, I am now posting advice on the Ubuntu forums more frequently than asking for it.

    The point isn't that I learned quickly, its that, since I wanted to learn some of the more hardcore and advanced features of linux, it was easy for me to go out and do so once I got comfortable. The nicest thing about Ubuntu is that it doesn't scare the crap out of you the first time you use it. As a social experiment, I often take my non tech literate friends and sit them down at my central living room computer (hooked to my TV) which is running 9.04 and tell them to put on some music to listen to. None of these folk have ever used anything but Windows. None of them take more than 20 minutes and maybe 1 or 2 questions to figure it out.

    Once someone gets comfortable with Ubuntu, if they want to start developing more advanced skills, they have a friendly place to ask which is easy to find (almost always google search result #1 with the word Ubuntu in it), the Ubuntu forums. When they do start asking about advanced topics, they are never dismissed as newbs or told something condescending. They are never attacked or outright flamed. Instead, if what they are asking about really is something of concern, they are told, in a rational and mature manner, about the risks they may or may not be taking. I couldn't be happier with the Ubuntu experience so far. I may decide to distro jump sometime in the future out of boredom or curiosity, but in terms of need, I really can't see a good reason to find something else.
  • by onefriedrice ( 1171917 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:36PM (#30461204)

    Ubuntu also brought something else to the table: The Debian package manager.

    So the most notable contribution of Ubuntu for you is a package manager which existed before Ubuntu... Yeah, I'm pretty sure that is actually in support of the point I made.

  • by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:36PM (#30461216) Homepage Journal

    And these are the reasons Windows still has marketshare.

    What is this? Proof by counterexample? Let's try those criteria against my wife's HP laptop:

    Does the distro work with your printer without any complicated installation procedures?

    "Where'd I put the driver CD for the HP printer that Linux, FreeBSD, and OS X supports out of the box?"

    Does the distro work with your audio hardware without any complicated installation procedures?

    Ask a Creative owner.

    Does the distro switch between all the resolutions supported by your video hardware?

    "Oh look! 640x400 until I find the right driver on, except that now it's telling me to use the special drivers packaged by my laptop vendor and not the "generic" ones directly from Nvidia."

    Does the distro have a reasonably good package installation mechanism?

    On Windows? LOL. Even billg agrees that "Add/Remove Programs" is a stupid name for an app that doesn't actually add programs.

    Does the distro support your applications without special package installation requirements?

    Windows supports precious few of the Linux apps I need to do my job. Mac users would have similar complaints.

  • by Tubal-Cain ( 1289912 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @03:32PM (#30462140) Journal

    Speaking of easy, openSUSE is also the first of the major Linux distros that makes it simple to upgrade the system over the Internet. With most distros, you need to download an ISO image of the new release and then boot from it to upgrade your Linux distribution. However, I was able to do an in-place upgrade of openSUSE 11.1 to 11.2 on my ThinkPad over a Wi-Fi connection. This arrangement makes upgrading the entire operating system as simple as installing one really big program.

    That's been a part of Ubuntu's Update Manager many years now? And in Debian using stable rather than lenny in your /etc/apt/sources.list will achieve the same effect. Or you could just use testing and enjoy more-up-to-date-but-still-stable software that has rolling updates.

  • I don't get it... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by beetlejuice321 ( 1153603 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @04:21PM (#30463120)

    I don't get this article. Comparing Linux distributions is a old game and debate not worth even having anymore. With LSB and as others have mentioned all programs run exactly the same on all distributions. What's the difference between installing Fedora, Gentoo, Ubuntu or Susu, and customizing it by installing your own dekstop etc? Nothing! All linux distributions are the exact same Linux.

    The only difference is the package manager. Thats it. On a server side it makes since to care if you pay for vendor support, but for a dekstop it makes no difference. It boils down to do you like RPM or Debian (or portage in Gentoos case) packages better. Thats all.

    The reason the author complains about Ubuntu is because they are driving an improved graphics performance in the desktop. Pioneering new features (enabling desktop effects etc). This is something that people want and is needed if you want to attract people from Mac OS and Windows (Vista/7). If the author had installed the same features on Suse or Fedora, he would have noticed his Intel drivers had problems with those distro's as well...because its Linux, not Ubuntu with the Intel driver problem.

    I have used just about every major Linux distribution out there, and a couple years ago I switched to Ubuntu. Ubuntu just works, but mostly its the community. Ubuntu has such an incredible amount of support from a world wide community, it makes it a breeze to accomplish just about any task you may find yourself needing help with.

    I wish Linux users would stop worrying about who has the biggest #$@@, and start comparing themselves to something really competitive, like doing things better and faster then Windows or Mac! I am tired of games not running, online streaming content (audio/video) partial working, and the lack of developed software such as beta versions of everthing from Skype to other apps. If you want Linux taken seriously by software developers, why not start unifying efforts to make "Linux" better. Instead of complaining about why some distro isn't as good as another.

  • Re:Who cares.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rennt ( 582550 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @04:55PM (#30463706)

    Ubuntu is not a toy - but it is a "desktop" distro, which means it does get in your way if you are used to managing a system the Unix way.

    Which is fine - for a "desktop" user. But if you are actually interested in how the system works, you probably *will* want to move to Debian or Slackware eventually.

  • by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) * on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @04:57PM (#30463722) Homepage Journal

    wheel, admin, whatever. The function of the group is independent of it's name. What we are talking about is the way sudo and gksu work.

    This Vaughan-Nichols guy gets published as a Linux expert in every rag printed - but mis-explains sudo in such a way that exposes his radical ignorance of the sensitivity of root accounts and their passwords.

    In the same article he later waxes on about SuSe being the first distro from which he can now upgrade entire versions over the Internet!

    I did it with RH 5.x in antiquity. Also upgraded my old Debian, around 2000, by swapping tags in sources.list and apt getting away. Ubuntu now makes this a triviality.

    Well, I guess he's paid for dissing Microsoft - which he manages with the requisite contempt.

  • by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) <> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @05:10PM (#30463904) Homepage Journal

        Ya, just wait til you get married, and she takes it and makes a purse out of it. "We got married, so he didn't need that any more." And no, you don't get it back when you get divorced. :)

  • Linux, for the use. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by colinrichardday ( 768814 ) <> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @05:14PM (#30463988)

    I doubt either Windows 7 or OSX could run on my computer (768 M of RAM). Ubuntu 9.10, no problem. Just toss in the Live version and get on the Net

  • by aix tom ( 902140 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @06:41PM (#30465670)

    Yep. I use what I like, everybody else can use what everybody else likes.

    My base home system is Gentoo, the current "install" is from around 2002, and has migrated over 4 or five different systems by now without having done a single complete re-install. Whenever I get a new system I just copy over the entire portage tree and sync/re-emerge everything after I have booted from the install disc and adjustments in the make/portage configuration. Sure, it might take a few hours or even days of chugging away in the background, but after that I have a system that is pretty much identical in setup to the original system, just with up to date software versions.

    That's basically the one main point why I like it, that the distro itself is versionless. No "Oh, new Distro version out, should I try it?, should I not?", I just have a look every few month which ebuilds have been updated, and update the ones where I like to try the new version. Security and System updates regularly, things like OpenOffice or stuff I don't use much not so regularly.

    And in the last couple of years the build - in documentation of what what problems you might have to be aware of in certain package versions is quite good. I personally would never swap this slow "growing" with the "version jumps" of other distros or Windows any more. It might take a little longer to initially set up, but once it is set up you can pretty much have it running forever with regular updates without having to think about re-installs.

    OTOH when I needed some "I need a quick OS on this boxes here to keep some people browsing for a few weeks" I obviously installed (X)Ubuntu.

  • by imtheguru ( 625011 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @08:21PM (#30466988)

    I actually like WoW's way of doing things: want to backup/restore WoW, or put it on antoher PC ? just copy WoW's dir. No dependencies. No DLL Hell. No registry hacks. Want to wipe it ? Delete the directory.

    I wish all programs worked that way and were that easy to manage.

    BTW, Data and program files are segregated in separate subdirs. User data, too.

    By the same token, one only has to launch the WoW executable to run it in Linux using WINE.

  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @09:58PM (#30467918) Journal

    Basically, don't knock it till you try it.

    My "condescension" stems from my experience. Gentoo was my second Linux distro, and my first "real" Linux distro (before that I've used Mandrake, but I didn't really do much with it). I used it for almost two years exclusively (of any other Linux distro) as a primary desktop OS, and genuinely held the same opinions that you did - that it's somehow "closer to the metal" than all alternatives, and "teaches me more about Linux".

    It was much to my surprise when I found, later on, that Debian requires essentially the same degree of mucking with configs and such (and consequent exposure of those things) from me than what I was used to in Gentoo. Combined with semi-permanent Portage breakage, multi-hour compile times for many large packages on every minor update (KDE, etc), and the fact that much-touted USE flags can (and do) easily break package dependencies, I've had enough aggregated annoyances to switch to Debian as a primary system for some time, and after the experiment proved to be immensely successful, I've never looked back since.

  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Thursday December 17, 2009 @10:57AM (#30473368) Homepage

    I put WoW in its own directory in the root of my Apps drive

    That's not what we are talking about. The discussion is about why applications should not store data C:\Program Files, on the system drive. What you have done is totally customized, and solves the problem that WOW introduces. I would probably do the same thing you are doing.

"my terminal is a lethal teaspoon." -- Patricia O Tuama