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    Which Linux Flavor is Best?
    Finally someone with enough guts to share their personal view straight up and answer the age-old question, which one do I get?  Originally published on under our Humor Mixed with Reality section.

    By Mark Rais, author of Linux for the Rest of Us

    Well known to me when I started writing this piece were some of the many passionate Linux users who love their different flavors.  To these passionate people I tip my hat with great respect, since it is without question those who love Linux so much are also the ones who have brought it so far.

    Yet, the age old question so, which Linux flavor should I get? keeps popping up and as far as I know, other than basic reviews of new shrink-wrapped versions, few have stood up and given a straight answer.  People who finally accept the reality that Linux is better, and are ready to use it, hound me almost weekly.  They stop by the message boards or my office and ask, So which one do I get?  As if to say, now that I have finally come around to agree with you about Linuxs greatness I need to get a simple answer.

    I respect their desire and want to help them badly.  Its obviously something in need of a concrete answer.  Our message boards have more hits on the ONE single forum which Linux flavor to get? than ALL of the rest of the hits to the boards combined!

    So the big people here at grabbed me one evening, as I was finishing up and trying to wash my hands, and pushed me against the stall door with a word of advice I have heeded.  We want you to be the scape goat and write an article on which Linux flavor to get, and have it ready for publishing ASAP or this bathroom becomes your office! [okay, this part is humor, see Im laughing, really]

    Now, Im very open to good advice and since these fellows were both bigger than me and control the root passwords to all of the office servers, I decided to placate their wishes.  It was either that or I live the rest of my Linux career out in the third stall of the restroom.

    I began my write up by recalling the sagas of Linux I had personally lived over the past seven years.

    My initial intro to Linux began with Slackware, for which to this date I still have nostalgic love.  This was a beauty of simplicity and straightforwardness.  However, if I were to recommend it to someone who is afraid even of the words format your Linux partition theyd ignore my advice or call me late one night yelling about how I screwed their system with bad advice!

    What then should I recommend to the infinitely increasing masses of people who dont have time to figure out how to partition their disk for Linux and yet want to gain the tremendous benefits of Linux any Linux flavor I might add!  What should I say to the masses of people who dont like to tinker with their OS, but are technically adept?

    I think through the experiences Ive had with SUSE Linux or other flavors based on the significant work of Debian Linux such as Ubuntu or Xandros.  Perhaps one of these would be the best choice?  Mandriva is another I've used with success that comes to mind.  Each of these flavors comes with all the goodies you need right there at your fingertips, and among others the latest Xandros includes Crossover Office to allow using MS-Office from Linux!  In most of the easy to the desktop flavors you get a whole slew of excellent software installed including my personal favorite OpenOffice from SUN, based on their incredibly useful and MS-Office compatible StarOffice.  All of these are solid flavors, but theres the unresolved dilemma.

    How can I address the unresolved dilemma?  I realize that inevitably if I recommend a flavor that is simple, trimmed down for the new user, they will soon be calling me with all sorts of annoying questions like: now how do I setup a firewall, proxy, web server, etc.  Inevitably, and this is the dilemma, I end up spending even more time helping them install new modules, recompiling the kernel to include some core functionality they now want as a post-novice user, or helping them upgrade apps on a daily basis.

    This doesnt always happen.  Some of the folks Ive helped move to Linux LOVE and never change their initial easy to install flavor and thats fine.  But what about those who dont?  What about those who inevitably want to do more than they would have on their Windows machine?  That's really the power of Linux, to give us far more than just a simple OS and GUIs to do work in.

    Headache! Shaking my fist at the next message in my email box, I cry out, not again, not another user who wants to know which Linux flavor to get!

    Then it becomes obvious.  Now this may not appear at all the case from your vantage point, and I respect that since I dont expect the world to agree with me.  Remember, I was writing this article to keep from making the restroom my office!  So Ive got no qualms whatsoever if you dont like my conclusion, but its what it is, my own experience.

    It becomes clear what I should email back to yet another user who wants to get going with Linux and cant stand hearing all of the thousands of options, but instead simply wants ONE STRAIGHTUP ANSWER!

    Go to this website and you can buy a pre-burned and tested Fedora set of CDs.

    I recommend Fedora for those wanting to also learn Server aspects, and Ubuntu for those just in need of a desktop, but not because I'm some drugged up lover of RedHat or received one iota of payment from Ubuntu.  Instead I can recommend these two flavors because inevitably, as someone who's tried a lot of flavors, I know that if I simply take the route of recommending to newbies that they go get flavor x, y, or z that I KNOW makes things super simple to install and use, they will be back salivating for more power, more functionality, more features or complaining that they don't get enough simplicity. This way, those who want more technical learning get it, while those who never wanted to know start using a great desktop version.

    Fedora is not a panacea for those wanting to learn Linux and use it daily, and I'm not suggesting it will be.  However, it includes in one honed package EVERY THING I EVER NEEDED including the kitchen sink.

    Lets look at just a few of Fedora's offerings:

    • Graphical interfaces including all key versions: GNOME, KDE, XFce, X!
    • Server daemons and apps to run a tuned Apache web server, SAMBA, NFS file serving, and MySQL among many others
    Fedora Linux has been tuned for performance so that IF my ambitions run high and I want to serve 30 users off my machine sitting under the desk I can -- and have (actually running a server with more than 50).  It also gives me the flexibility both at install and after to control and manipulate just about every nuance, even to the point of getting rid of their home designed interface, if thats where I want to go with my changes.

    Fedora does the job for beginners needing a simple install and rudimentary applications in an easy to use environment with plenty of preinstalled server capabilities.  Ubuntu offers newbies the many essential applications they need already preinstalled.  Ubuntu offers users a versatile, stable, and significantly easy interface especially if they just want to switch from Windows and get started using applications.   Overall it is fast, flexible, and feature rich for all users.

    Would I push Fedora and Ubuntu down the throat of someone who's already up and running on another flavor, NO WAY!

    However, if you're someone who's just looking for one flavor you can get started with easy enough and then grow into, both of these flavors offer their own unique benefits.  Certainly, there are other flavors available that do well, but Fedora and Ubuntu help me personally to answer the age old question: "So, which Linux flavor should I get." Get the one that meets your needs: more technical but easy to install, or more desktop centric and simple to switch to.

    EDITORS NOTE:  We vehemently believe that choosing to switch to ANY LINUX FLAVOR is a winning move. editors view the decision to choose a flavor as a personal choice and recommend that you always refer to more than one source to make informed decisions.

    Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds.  Red Hat and Fedora are trademarks of Red Hat Inc.  All other trademarks and registered trademarks belong to their respective companies.  Opinions noted on this site are not to be deemed factual.  For factual information refer to more than one source and decide for yourself.

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    Copyright 2006 Mark Rais   All Rights Reserved.

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