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There are a large number of websites and documents covering GNU/Linux, specific versions, technical guides for specific tools and tasks. What's markedly harder to find is an overview guide addressing issues, considerations, and information which would be useful for people and organizations getting started with GNU/Linux. Assembled here are some tips, information, and resources I've gleaned in my own eight years' experience with this technology phenomenon. This is not an in-depth guide, it's an introduction to some basic concepts. It's also (mostly) not about why you'd want to use GNU/Linux over other platforms, though we touch on this briefly.

This page covers multiple distributions, and even some non-Linux systems. I've had direct experience with most, though I do bring my own set of biases to the table. Having worked with, deployed, and maintained a range of Unix, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems, I find myself favoring Debian strongly, though I'll highlight other systems' benefits where appropriate.

This guide is aimed generally: I'm talking to small/home office users, enterprises, embedded developers, and personal-use. Where distinguishing among these audiences is appropriate, I do so.

Specifically covered are:

Caveats

Computer users can be a highly opinionated bunch (they don't call 'em "holy wars" for nothin'). And I've got my own biases. I've also worked with a wide range of GNU/Linux distros, and other platforms, over the years. My own strong preference is for Debian (or Debian-based) distros, based on my own experiences with both them and other offerings. There are benefits to other distros as well, and I try to give a fair representation of the major players here.

The Short Answer

The original plan for this guide was to have a relatively brief page touching on these themes. Approaching 20 pages now, this is clearly no longer the case....

In the interest of an executive summary, and revealing my own biases, some short answers.

What is GNU/Linux?

You may think GNU/Linux looks something like this...

term window

 

But that's only a small part of the picture.

term window
It's a bunch of RVs, yurts, tepees, and geodesic domes set up in a field and organized by consensus.
Neal Stephenson, "In The Beginning Was The Command Line"

GNU/Linux is a Unix-like Free Software operating system, with roots stretching back over 35 years. The heart of the system is the Linux kernel itself, begun by Linus Torvalds in 1991. Additional software, much of it from the GNU Project provides the actual softare used. The combination of the kernel plus applications layer is often called "GNU/Linux", and I do so in this guide. "Linux" is often also used as a shorthand reference for much of the Free Software movement itself, though this includes other non-Linux operating systems, and even software running on Microsoft Windows.

Principle advantages of GNU/Linux are its cost, security, stability, and flexibility. GNU/Linux is inherently multi-user, multi-processing. Much of today's Internet was built using GNU/Linux-like computers, and much of it now runs on GNU/Linux.

From your (the user) perspective, a GNU/Linux system could be:

The smallest GNU/Linux systems are the size of a pack of gum or less, the largest fill warehouses.

There's a surprisingly stubborn myth that GNU/Linux is strictly a command-line based OS. Not that there's anything wrong in communicating with words. But as the screenshots at right show, that's only a small part of the picture. For more examples of available interfaces, see Window_ Managers for X. Hopefully you'll come to realize that the GNU/Linux command line is vastly more powerful than Windows' DOS shell. One reason for its enduring prominance is its power and utility.

Why GNU/Linux?

If you haven't drunk the cool-aid yet.... Some reasons to consider:

Choice

The leading reason. The one Microsoft doesn't want you to think about. It's a word which rarely if ever appears in their own marketing materials.

Under GNU/Linux, you're free to choose your: Platform, Software, HW Vendor, Support vendor, Upgrade schedule, Server software, Data formats, and more.

Flexibility

This is hard to quantify or explain clearly, but the lack of restrictions means that a great many things are possible with GNU/Linux:

Reliability

GNU/Linux is reliable: it rarely crashes, has long uptimes, and provides a consistent level of service. If a system does go down, it's very nearly always a hardware or bad kernel driver issue. Or mains power. Many distros are designed so that routine system updates don't require rebooting, or even requiring logging users off the system. The only routine reboots required for GNU/Linux systems are updates to the kernel itself, or hardware upgrades.

Unplanned downtime, planned downtime, frequency. FIXME.

Security

GNU/Linux is based on an inherently multi-user, multi-tasking operating system. It's got a security model and tradition backed by over three decades' real-world experience. Not wishful thinking and marketing hype.

Among the features which make GNU/Linux secure are:

Performance

In general, GNU/Linux extracts a high performance/cost benefit from given hardware. Low-end hardware (386, 486, Pentium-1) can be used effectively as low-end small office file/print and Web servers, embedded systems, or shell (console-only) servers. Projects such as LTSP repurpose 20 - 80 older PC hardware as thin clients run from a single server, stretching thin hardware budgets and reducing administration overhead. Given resources, GNU/Linux performs very well on higher-end hardware. And clustering multiple computers allows creation of "supercomputers" on modest budgets. In network service operations, load-balancing and failover configurations provide high performance and reliability.

Multi-Platform

While not a major concern for most shops, GNU/Linux's multi-platform support means you are not locked in to a single hardware vendor, can grow into new hardware as it becomes feasible, and can repurpose existing mixed hardware on a single platform without having to sacrifice usable kit.

Supported platforms (from Debian):

Cost

The cost savings of GNU/Linux vs other platforms is hotly debated, difficult to measure, and studies are generally accused of bias. Some aspects are highly subject to decisions by Microsoft and other vendors as to their own price-points.

There are several components to overall cost, including:

    Various components, difficult to manage.  SW aquisition costs going
    down, MSFT cutting prices dramtically (50-90%).  Particularly in
    emerging, educational, non-profit markets.  Significant price
    negotiation room.  Ongoing maintenance, security, system rebuild,
    etc., costs.

    TCO studies.  Bias.  Opinions and backsides:  everyone's got one.

      Hardware + software + training + administration + security add-ons
      + security time + risk costs.

    

We're not in Kansas anymore

Some things aren't the same as legacy MS Windows. What?

...and how much of this to get into?

Viruses & Malware

    Viruses, adware, spyware:  not a problem.  You don't need a/v,
    anti-adware software (unless you're protecting legacy MS Windows
    systems you're serving).

    There are exploits and bad software.  chkrootkit (Moen's rant on
    what rootkits aren't).
    

Maintenance Tasks

    No need to defrag.  Scandisk equivs (fsck) much faster.  Backups
    easier.
    

Software

    Don't go hunting randomly over the 'Net.  Use your distro's tools
    and archives first.  Design differences (task, not format,
    oriented).  Somewhat. 
    

Users

    GNU/Linux is true multi-user.  More than one user on system at a
    time.  One user w/ multiple logins.  Users own files and processes.
    You log in as yourself.  Root account:  "superuser".  Use only as
    necessary.  Can run programs as root via 'sudo'.
    

Permissions

    What you can do depends on who you are, who owns what you're
    accessing, and permissions granted.  "Owner", "Group", "Other", and
    "Read", "Write", "Execute".  Plus a bit.
    

Processes

    Running instance of a program.  "Tasks" in legacy MS Windows (Task
    Manager).
    

Command Line

    Not that GNU/Linux doesn't have a GUI.  legacy MS Windows lacks a
    uniform, powerful commandline.  Yes, DOS does suck.
    GNU/Linux shell (bash / tcsh / zsh) isn't DOS (but lsh is close).

    It's like talking.  A lot more efficient than hand-waving.

    Good basic shell reference?  Link.
    

Documentation

    Tons.  Literally.  Knowing how to find it is key.  "You're an adult,
    look for it".  Know how to search, not how to do.  "Teach a user to
    type a command, s/he doesn't bother you for a minute.  Teach a user to
    search documentation and the Web, s/he doesn't bother you for
    years..."   the More under "Getting Help"
    

Distributions

GNU/Linux is available in numerous different versions, called distributions or 'distros', so once you've decided to evaluate GNU/Linux, the next question becomes: which should I choose, and why?

The LWN distributions page shows well over 400 distros, though most are quite specialized, and a handful account for most general use. One may stand out though any should be well suited to your needs. There's also the world of "bootable" distros which we'll cover lightly. Most of the existing GNU/Linux distros are based on and in general strongly reflect Debian or Red Hat, and are often classed by their packaging systems, APT or RPM. Several larger distros are fully independent, Slackware and Gentoo, in particular. Some of the smaller microdistros are built from scratch.

Few GNU/Linux sites provide much in the way of useful guidance in distro selection, either falling back on "it depends" or relentlessly plugging the author's on personal preference. In the interest of helping guide an educated choice, I'm going to cover some of the key distros, their differences, focuses, and guidelines in selecting among them.

Big Three and The Other Four, and BSD...

It's possible to classify GNU/Linux distros by several criteria. These largely break down to:

Of the hundreds of GNU/Linux distros, many targeted at specific niches, you can largely focus on...

The Big Three distros are Debian, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and Novell/SuSE. Two of these are commercial distributions, with their own dedicated corporate support. The third is a project of the nonprofit Software In the Public Interest.

The Other Four are among the more popular alternative distros, including Fedora Core, Gentoo, Ubuntu, and Mandriva (formerly Mandrakesoft). While not strictly "Linux", the BSDs, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and NetBSD are similar, Unix-like operating systems.

One of the more complete listings of GNU/Linux distributions is maintained by LWN at their distributions page.

The Big Three

Debian
Noncommercial, community focused distribution, devoted to quality, software selection, and support for multiple hardware platforms, over specific release cycles. Long support window (3+ years for stable). Sometimes considered a "meta-distribution" from which more targeted products can be formed, is the basis of numerous other distros including Adamantix, Knoppix, Libranet, Linspire, Lycoris, Progeny, Ubuntu, Xandros, and others. In this guide, "Debian" refers largely to any of these Debian-based distributions, all of which share substantially most major characteristics. Reknowned for sophisticated 'APT' packaging system, ease of maintenance and upgrades, and large (17,500+ packages) software selection. Debian differs from most distros in having three current releases: 'stable' (the official release), which is subject only to bugfix and security updates; 'unstable', the development release, its name refers to the changability of the relase, not its quality; and 'testing', which attempts to provide a somewhat more reliable environment than unstable. Despite its noncommercial status, Debian gets significant support from HP and other partners. Products: In Debian's vernacular, release: stable, unstable, and testing. These refer to the level of change within the packages, not software quality, per se. Platforms: Intel x86/IA-32/i386, Motorola 68k/m68k, Sun SPARC/sparc, Alpha, Motorola/IBM PowerPC/powerpc, ARM, MIPS/mipsel, HP PA-RISC/hppa, IA-64/ia64. As yet unreleased are AMD64 and Hitachi SuperH/sh. There are also ports to non-Linux kernels: Debian GNU/Hurd/hurd-i386, Debian GNU/NetBSD netbsd-i386/netbsd-alpha, Debian GNU/kFreeBSD / kfreebsd-gnu. Debian has more active ports than any other GNU/Linux distro.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux
Solaris killer. Red Hat are positioning themselves primarially as an alternative to proprietary Unices such as Sun Microsystem's Solaris in the enterprise space. Offers proprietary ISV (independent software vendor) certification for large enterprise vendors such as Oracle. RHEL is aimed at enterprise upgrade cycles with a release cycle of 12-18 months and seven years of support for every version. Red Hat is the origin of the "RPM" (Redhat package manager) packaging system, common to several distros. Popular, though maintenance and upgrades can be difficult. Changes in end-of-life and support terms for its earlier product, Red Hat Linux, and confusion over the role of the related- but- independent- in- theory community-based project, Fedora Core, have left many smaller users stranded or porting to alternatives including Fedora Core, Novell/SuSE, and Debian. RHEL, "Red Hat Linux", and Fedore Core are three separate products and projects. Products: RHES, AS, WS, Desktop, and Academic Products. Platforms: Intel X86, Intel Itanium2, AMD AMD64, and Intel EM64T. Upcoming: IBM Power (RHEL4).
Novell/SuSE
As with Red Hat, but less so. Has a strong relationship with IBM, particularly zSeries (mainframe) support for running virtual Linux systems on a mainframe. Originally a German company, reputation for solid engineering, now owned by Novell. strong Novell networking support, likely future growth line for Novell. Current marketing emphasizes migrations from both legacy MS Windows NT and proprietary Unix. Products: including SLES (long-term support and slow release cycle), "Pro" (fast release, medium support), and NLD (Novell Linux Desktop). Platforms: x86/i386/IA-32, IA-64/IA64, PPC/powerpc, s390/zSeries, sparc, AXP (Alpha).

The Other Four

Fedora Core
Red Hat's development sandbox with community support. Has a reputation as something of a neglected stepchild. Positioned as an alternative for smaller organizations and/or individuals previously using Red Hat. Fedora Core also directly feeds RHEL as a testbed and development platform. "Fedora Core" is the distribution, "Fedora" is the project. Products: FIXME Platforms: FIXME
Gentoo
Noncommercial, community focused, devoted to performance tweaking and extreme customization. Gentoo's claim to fame is that the entire system is compiled to your own system's configuration. This is seen as both its major strength and weakness. Gentoo has a reputation as a "ricer's" system (as in souped-up Japanese import cars), though it's also got some solid technical folks on it. Software packaging system is similar to the BSD 'ports' system. Rice. Roughly 9,000 packages in portage system. Products: FIXME Platforms: FIXME
Ubuntu
Noncommercial, desktop-oriented, community focused, to six-month release / 18 month support cycles, based on a subset of Debian packages and the GNOME environment. Aims at ease of use, ease of install, and quality, over software selection, hardware platforms. Ubuntu shares many of the positive attributes of Debian, above. A newcomer, released in September, 2004, with a surprisingly rapid rise and broad respect. The project is sponsored by Canonical Ltd.. An alternative based on KDE is available as Kubuntu. Products: FIXME Platforms: FIXME
Mandrake
Originally a Red Hat-derived commercial distribution with a French flavor and more user-friendly twist, it remains popular, if somewhat difficult to pin down. The company has struggled financially for several years though it appears profitable at present. Products: FIXME Platforms: FIXME

Finally, I'd like to make mention of CentOS, another Red Hat derived GNU/Linux, which has made a significant splash in the past two years. The distribution is based on recompiled Red Hat RHEL source packages (SRPMS), less a few trademarked items in a very small handful of packages. With the addition of the yum package manager and a distributed set of repositories similar to those used by Debian, the result is a system which looks, acts, and feels very much like its big brother, but avoids the licensing costs, and is worlds easier to manage updates for to boot. If you need to be RHEL-compatible but don't care for costs and restrictions imposed by the guys in the red fedoras, look here. A surprisingly large number of end-users and software developers are. A key benefit over Fedora Core is that the distribution is stable and of release rather than development quality.

The BSDs

All three are based on the branch of Unix developed at the University of California, Berkeley, hence "BSD" for "Berkeley Standard [Unix] Distribution". BSD licensing allows development of proprietary systems based on the projects, and the distributions are popular in embedded products, copiers, and even as the basis of Apple's Mac OS X. Though the rest of this guide doesn't discuss the BSDs specifically, much of the general information is applicable to them as well.

FreeBSD
A full-featured desktop/server oriented distribution. Comperable to mainstream GNU/Linux, though it (and the other BSDs) have a distinct packaging system called "ports".
OpenBSD
Among the most secure generally available operating systems. OpenBSD is targetted at public-facing server roles, and not desktops per se, though it is run as same by many of its developers.
NetBSD
Slogan: "Of course it runs NetBSD". Aims at being the most hardware-portable operating system, though GNU/Linux, particularly Debian, are matching or exceeding it in this regard. Principally aimed at embedded products.

Bootable Distros

While not full general-purpose distributions in their own right, there are a number of projects to create "bootable" GNU/Linux systems. These run without the need to be installed on a computer, directly off of removable media: floppy drive, Zip disks, CDROM, DVD, USB, or pretty much any mode of transferring data from one system to another.

Use of bootable distros ranges from rescue or technical systems, similar to an old-fashioned DOS boot floppy, to powerful "instant" desktop or demonstration systems. Often, bootable distros have powerful and effective hardware detection and configuration tools. They're also useful for performing emergency system recovery, forensics, data transfer, or even new system installations.

While bootable distros, particularly Knoppix or MEPIS, can be used as a desktop, they're more generally useful as recovery tools on steroids. Don't leave home without one...and another to share with a friend ;-)

As usual, LWN has one of the more extensive listings at its distributions page. Some the better-known bootable distributions are listed in the sidebar at right.

So...What should I use?

It depends.

I mention a number of decision criteria you should consider...and a few you probably shouldn't, below.

I'd suggest going with one of the Big Three, or a closely-related project. Ubuntu is markedly popular for a new arrival, both with GNU/Linux neophytes and long-time users. My primary concern would be the sustainability of its sponsoring company. For ease of install, use, and maintanence it has strong marks. Any of the major GNU/Linux distros will give you a good and worthwhile introduction to GNU/Linux, whether you want to experiment, or stick with one for a while.

Additionally, switching costs between GNU/Linux distros, or between GNU/Linux and other Unix-like systems, are low. If you decide you want to switch later, you can. It's generally easy to migrate platform-to-platform. It's even possible to run mutiple environments on the same system, running at the same time. You may want to explore chroot systems, user-mode linux (UML), Xen, and VMWare, among other options.

If you have a business need that dictates use of a specific distro, your answer's pretty much made for you. This is particularly the case if you are (or plan to) deploy "enterprise grade" software such as Oracle, a major ERP, CRM, or similar package, which restricts support to specific Linux distributions. Vertical applications such as payroll, point-of-sale, shop-management, warehouse, and other systems. Explore these requirements closely as they often restrict you to both a vendor and (often antiquated) release of a distro.

Personally, I run Debian in both workstation and server roles, in technical, educational and home use. I've tried most of the major GNU/Linux and BSD variants over the years, starting with Red Hat, which I've continued to run and maintain it over the years. I've also had experience with Novell/SuSE, Mandrake, TurboLinux, FreeBSD, and OpenBSD. Of the lot, I find Debian to provide the best mix of power, currency, security, maintainability, and upgradability. In general, Debian is my first choice for deployment.

It is possible to mix and match deployments with relatively little pain. If you prefer Debian as a first choice but require Red Hat or Novell/SuSE for a particular application, most of the user experience, monitoring and access tools are identical. The primary differences are in installation and some package maintananc utilities.

Some basic guidelines...

Enterprise vs. SMB vs. SOHO

RH/SuSE | Debian variant.

Server vs. Desktop

False dichotomy, for middlin' versions of either. Large-scale ops, datacenter (racks) are different, mostly as a matter of hardware, redundancy, power, remote access (serial, remote boot), etc.

Red Hat, RHEL, Fedora, and you...

    On RH's RHEL/Fedora stumble.

    Red Hat: Fedora will engage customers
    Published: February 18, 2005, 4:37 PM PST
    By Stephen Shankland 

    

Top Linux seller Red Hat acknowledged on Friday a misstep in its relations with technology enthusiasts but said the profit motive is helping it to mend its ways.

The problem came in recent years when Red Hat threw its energies into a stable product called Red Hat Enterprise GNU/Linux. RHEL let the company grow from a small market of technically savvy customers to the large market of mainstream customers.

"One of the mistakes we made when we launched this Enterprise Linux product was we focused so exclusively on this enterprise market that we left this (early-adopter customer) square uncovered," Tiemann said. "It insulted some of our best supporters. But worse, we lost our opportunity to do customer-driven innovation."

Decision Criteria

At its simplest, picking a distribution is a balance of costs vs. benefits. You're looking for a choice which minimizes long-run costs and maximizes long-run flexibility, without limiting your options excessively. Small initial hurdles should be discounted, as long-term benefits often outweigh these. However if you have specialized or specific operating requirements — particular software, hardware, vendor relations, or user requirements — which you must address, then by all means be guided by them. Beware excessive constraints, however, as these often have hidden but high long-term consequences. The key is utility, not ideology [FIXME: alt word?].

Poor Decision Criteria

There are a number of justifications given for choosing a distro which I find unpersuasive, if not utterly misguided.

Relative Rankings

Netcraft: Linux distributions by active Webserver sites, 2004
Distro Jul 2003 Jan 2004 Market
Share
Growth
Rate
Debian 355,469 442,752 16.1% 24.6%
SuSE 240,411 296,217 8.6% 23.2%
Gentoo 20,273 24,229 0.9% 19.5%
Red Hat 1,231,986 1,451,505 52.6% 17.8%
Mandrake 51,299 52,543 1.9% 2.4%
Cobalt 553,012 548,963 19.9% -0.7%
    Updated April 2005:
    http://news.netcraft.com/archives/2005/03/14/fedora_makes_rapid_progress.html
    Distribution  Active sites Active sites    6-month
                  Sep '04  	 Mar '05      Growth Rate 
    --------------------------------------------------
    RedHat	1,630,382	1,610,427	 -1.2%
    Debian	  693,941	  791,086	 14.0%
    Cobalt	  619,960	  516,963	-16.6%
    SuSE	  399,031	  442,908	 11.0%
    Fedora	  182,421	  405,682	122.4%
    Mandrake	   62,972	   73,459	 16.7%
    Gentoo	   43,525	   63,160	 45.1%
    --------------------------------------------------
    

Generally, Red Hat is the leading distribution in the US. SuSE has had a traditional lead in the EU, particularly Germany. TurboLinux has a strong presence in Asia, particularly China. Connectiva is strong in Portuguese and Spanish-speaking regions.

Of other distributions, Debian has shown an increasing presence, particularly outside the US. Newcomers such as Gentoo and Ubuntu have very rapid growth rates but are starting from a minimal base.

The table at right shows data from Netcraft, who survey webservers worldwide for software and operating system platform. They noted in 2004 that Debian is the fastest growing GNU/Linux distribution. Please note that webservers may not be representative of all GNU/Linux deployments, though it's reasonable proxy measure.

Linux Journal is a leading GNU/Linux publication popular with technical users, and runs an annual "Readers Choice" survey. In 2004, for the second year running Debian was the most popular distro.

Package Management Systems

One way of classifying GNU/Linux distros is by the package management systems used. This is the set of tools, formats, network resources, and package manager guidelines for preparing software for a given GNU/Linux distro.

What is Package Mangement?

Under legacy MS Windows, installing software is taken care of through third-party installers. "Install Shield" is one popular such tool. This takes care of copying files where they're supposed to go, modifying the system registry, and pestering you with unread legal EULAs and advertising pitches. Sometimes the tool will even remove the software, though this often leaves stray traces on your system.

GNU/Linux software management — installation, removal, updates, and querying availability or status — are generally accomplished through a package management system. This is a set of tools, package formats, "mirror" sites for distribution, and other features. The really important idea is this:

Package management tools under GNU/Linux generally take the place of the legacy MS Windows "Install Shield" and similar tools. Your first source of software for your system should be within your distribution's package archive and using its package management tools for installation and removal.

While you can install non-distro ("third-party") software, and there are Install-Shield-like tools for GNU/Linux, your package management system is easier, more robust, and generally solves a lot of headaches for you. Use it. You'll save yourself a world of headaches.

Package management systems generally consist of:

A detailed analysis of common packaging formats has been written by Joey Hess, of the Debian project.

Christopher B. Browne has an excellent description of Linux System Configuration Tools.

Why Does Package Management Matter?

In a word: updates.

They're both a part of ongoing system maintenance: at some point you're going to want to install new software or update to the next release. And whether you want to or not, security issues are going to require system updates.

A good package management system takes much of the pain out of this process.

Contrast with MS Windows: update hell. Patches that break things, require testing, make systems nonbootable (Win2K server....) etc. Trial-and-error.

Patch and Pray Scott Berinato, CIO Magazine, August 2003:

It's the dirtiest little secret in the software industry: Patching no longer works. And there's nothing you can do about it. Except maybe patch less. Or possibly patch more.
    Slammer worm.  1% noncompliance rate sufficient for spread.

    Debian's win:

        A package which violates policy will not be included in
	the official stable Debian release.

    

Package Management Flavors

Package management is one way of segmenting GNU/Linux distributions. Most distros follow one of the main packaging formats, and uses the tools associated with this format. Generally these divide among:

RPM
RPM Package Manager, f/k/a Redhat Package Manager. One of the first widely used packaging formats. Distros include Red Hat, SuSE, Mandrake, and Connectiva Linux, among others. Tools include rpm, up2date, urpmi, and yum. Others are listed at http://rpm.org/software/updaters/ Caution: different distros have incompatible RPMs. When installing third-party RPMs be sure to select the proper distro.
APT / DEB
A Package Tool. "DEB" refers to the package format, "APT" is the packaging system as a whole. Distros include Debian, Libranet, Linspire, Xandros, Progeny, UserLinux, and Knoppix. Tools include apt-get, dpkg, aptitude, and synaptic.
Portage (Gentoo)
Slackware
BSD Ports
Others
Various tools, some based on or used with the obove, others independent, including: Alien , autopackage, Depot (CMUInstaller), GNUpdate, GNU Stow, InstallShield wizards (Solaris), OpenPKG, RERO Release Manager, SLP (Stampede GNU/Linux, now defunct) SoftInst, etc. Distrowatch has a page on distros by package management system includeng a few addition entries.

Tools

    rpm:  rpm, up2date, yum.

       rpm:  RPM Package Manager (previously Redhat Package Manger)

       urpmi:  ???

       Red Carpet: ???

       yum:  http://linux.duke.edu/projects/yum/
             Yellow dog Updater, Modified.

    apt:  dselect, dpkg, apt-get, aptitude, synaptic.

    Gentoo:  ???

    Slackware:  ???

    Ports:  ???

    

Getting Help

A major key to realizing GNU/Linux benefits is knowing how to get help, and when.

Support Vendors

    HP, Spikeware, IBM, LinuxCare (now dead)...
    

Where to go for help...

General: Man, Apropos, Info, HOWTOs, LDP, etc.

Also:

Google. Linuxmafia KB. LDP. Freenode. LUGs. Smart Questions. How to file a bug.

Local docs:

man, info, /usr/share/doc (RH equiv?)

General guides:

    http://tldp.org/LDP/intro-linux/html/index.html
    Introduction to Linux:  A Hands on Guide
    Machtelt Garrels

    http://speculation.org/garrick/newuser.html
    New User Schpeal
    ?? Garrick

    

News

Linux Weekly News, Slashdot, and Freshmeat NewsForge The Register The Inquirer Linux Journal

Conferences


    LWCE
    O'Reilly Open Source Conference
    

    

Some common issues

Installation

    RPM install:  kitchen sink.

    APT install:  selected components.

    Debian sarge netinst:
    http://www.nl.debian.org/devel/debian-installer/

     - Manual  http://d-i.alioth.debian.org/manual/
     - FAQ  http://wiki.debian.net/index.cgi?DebianInstallerFAQ
     - Wiki http://wiki.debian.net/index.cgi?DebianInstaller

    Hardware detection.  Best x86 HW detection distros / tools?

    

Multi-Booting

    If you can help it:  don't.  If you must do it, yes, you can, but
    it complicates things.  Problems tend to be MS Windows' lack of
    tools for dealing with bootloaders, partitioning, etc.  Can end up
    with a nonbootable system.  fdisk /mbr.  Other (Google) FIXME.

    If you can't help it:  separate HDs.

    Problematic:  defrag, resize, repart, bootloader.  Dedicated boxes
    (real or virtual (VMWare) are preferred.
    

Bootloader Alternatives

    LILO & GRUB ("the usual")
    LOADLIN.EXE (DOS)
    YaBoot (PPC)
    NTLDR.EXE (WinNT/2K/XP/2K+3/Longhorn)
    Boot floppy
    PXE Boot
    BootCommander (?) (Proprietary)
    

Partitioning

    Many installers automate this.  One partition + swap minimum.
    Others as desired.  Link to FAQ.
    

What to Install

    RPM:  Everything.
    APT:  What you need.

    Package lists.
    

Drivers & Configuration

Sound

Graphics

Multimedia

Software

    http://www.boutell.com/lsm/
    http://www.freshmeat.net/
    http://www.sourceforge.net/

    Office
    Browsers
    Mail
    Chat
    Graphics
    Sound
    Video
    

Financial Software

FUD

A cold day in...

Old FUD

    It's interesting to note the stuff that's not being said any more.
    

New FUD


    Caldera / DRDOS (old campaign):
    http://www.maxframe.com/DR/Info/fullstory/factstat.html

    Security

    Support

    Integration

    Interoperability 

      http://www.microsoft.com/interop

      Opera to MS: Get real about interoperability, Mr Gates
      By Hakon Lie
      Published Friday 11th February 2005 18:00 GMT
      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/02/11/hakon_on_ms_interroperability/

	Laundry list of interop / compatibility failures of MSFT, mostly
	browser-related, also Word docs.

      Information Rules, Varian & Shapiro.


    Training

    Support

    User Focus

    CHOICE!!!

    Modularity

    Data access, Lock-in

    Licensing Clarity

    Accountability

    Future-proofing.  Support won't just go away (it can be bought, at a
    price)

    
Linux FUD FAQ Linux Myth Dispeller. disclosed

Mouthpieces


    People
      DiDiot
      Enderle
      Moody
      Zuck
      
    Companies:
      Gartner
      Meta
      Yankee (DiDiot)
      Forrester
      Giga
      IDC  (tends to be balanced)
      Frost & Sullivan:
	http://www.frost.com/
	See:  http://www.newsfactor.com/story.xhtml?story_id=30191
      ???

    "Independent Research"
       Zuck's outfit.
       CCIA?


    

Linux FAQs

And, for the heck of it, I've posted some gratuitious screenshots. Note to the bandwidth-challenged, the 1/4-size "thumbnails" are still pretty hefty of themselves.


Misc Links


    ...in no particular order....

    ...and with no particular intent to use...

    http://www.debian.org/doc/FAQ/
    The Debian GNU/Linux FAQ 

    http://www.linuxmafia.com/kb/Debian
    Linuxmafia.com KB : Debian

    http://www.advogato.org/article/169.html
    It's All in the Packaging [DRAFT]

    http://tldp.org/FAQ/GNU/Linux-FAQ/index.html
    The Linux FAQ

    http://speculation.org/garrick/newuser.html
    New User Schpeal, by Garrick Staples,
    (Slight Mandrake focus, pretty general)

    http://dag.wieers.com/home-made/apt/FAQ.php#B3
    DAG Apt/Yum RPM repository  Frequently Asked Questions 

    http://tldp.org/LDP/intro-linux/html/index.html
    ntroduction to GNU/Linux
    A Hands on Guide
    Machtelt Garrels

    http://www.google.com/search?q=linux+faq
    Google: Linux + FAQ 

    http://www.linuxforce.net/debian.html?Printable=yes
    Why Debian GNU/GNU/Linux
    A Computing Platform to meet your needs: Debian GNU/GNU/Linux
    (LinuxForce.net)

    http://www.infodrom.org/Debian/doc/advantages.html
    Debian Advantages HOWTO
    Martin Schulze

    http://www.linux-mag.com/2002-03/debian_03.html
    GNU/Linux Magazine / March 2002 / FEATURE
    The Importance of Being Debian

    http://applications.linux.com/article.pl?sid=04/12/03/177243&tid=47
    Tools & Utilities , Software , Debian , Mepis
    Printer-friendly  Email story 
    An apt-get primer
    Thursday December 09, 2004 (08:00 AM GMT)
    By: Bruce Byfield

    http://tldp.org/FAQ/GNU/Linux-FAQ/
    TLDP - Linux FAQ
    David C. Merrill
    (dupe)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linux_distribution
    Wikepedia: Linux distribution page

    http://yakko.cs.wmich.edu/~moxjake/linux_faq.html
    Which Distribution FAQ
    Version 4.1.0 Printable
    (Recommended reading)

    http://tldp.org/FAQ/
    LDP FAQs

    http://www.linuxmafia.com/debian/tips
    Debian Tips by Rick Moen (oldish, 1999-12-09)

    http://www.nl.debian.org/devel/debian-installer/
    Installing sarge with the Debian-Installer

    http://www.debian.org/doc/manuals/reference/reference.en.html
    Debian Reference 

	This Debian Reference is intended to provide a broad overview of
	the Debian system as a post-installation user's guide. It covers
	many aspects of system administration through shell-command
	examples. Basic tutorials, tips, and other information are
	provided for topics including fundamental concepts of the Debian
	system, system installation hints, Debian package management,
	the Linux kernel under Debian, system tuning, building a
	gateway, text editors, CVS, programming, and GnuPG for
	non-developers.  (Sarge Installer)

    http://www.speculation.org/garrick/urpmifaq.txt
    PRPMI Frequently Asked Questions

    http://people.debian.org/~srivasta/talks/why_debian/talk.html
    Why Linux?  Why Debian?
    Manoj Srivasta

    http://distrowatch.serve-you.net/dwres.php?resource=article-rpm
    What are your experiences with the RPM package format?
    Ladislav Bodnar, 2002 
    (Critical review of RPM)

    http://cbbrowne.com/info/linuxsysconfig.html
    GNU/Linux System Configuration Tools
    Christopher Browne's Web Pages

    Debian FAQ on Debian advantages (abridged):

      1.4 What is the difference between Debian GNU/Linux and other
      Linux distributions? Why should I choose Debian over some other
      distribution?

      These key features distinguish Debian from other Linux
      distributions:

      The Debian package maintenance system:
	  The entire system, or any individual component of it, can be
	  upgraded in place without reformatting, without losing custom
	  configuration files, and (in most cases) without rebooting the
	  system. 

      Open development:
	  Debian is the only Linux distribution that is being developed
	  cooperatively by many individuals through the Internet, in the
	  same spirit as Linux.

	  More than [1000]volunteer package maintainers are working on
	  over [17,500] packages and improving Debian GNU/Linux. The
	  Debian developers contribute to the project not by writing new
	  applications (in most cases), but by packaging existing
	  software according to the standards of the project, by
	  communicating bug reports to upstream developers, and by
	  providing user support.

      The Bug Tracking System:
	  The geographical dispersion of the Debian developers required
	  sophisticated tools and quick communication of bugs and
	  bug-fixes to accelerate the development of the system. Users
	  are encouraged to send bugs in a formal style, which are
	  quickly accessible by WWW archives or via e-mail. 

      The Debian Policy:
	  Debian has an extensive specification of our standards of
	  quality, the Debian Policy. This document defines the
	  qualities and standards to which we hold Debian packages. 

    http://debian-br.sourceforge.net/txt/debian_vs_redhat.html
    A Red Hat user's introduction to Debian
    Alex Shnitman

    http://www.debian.org/intro/why_debian
    Reasons to Choose Debian

    [Note:  I'd add similar testimonials for other distros...if I could
    find 'em.  Suggestions welcomed.]
    
    http://dudle.linuxroot.org/docs/debian-install/
    Debian Install
    Haim Dimermanas haim@metrofiberlink.com
    Friday June 15th 2001
    [Yet another debian install guide/howto]

    http://www.sowerbutts.com/linux-mac-mini/
    Linux on the Mac Mini
    (Debian, at that)

    http://www.thelinuxbusinessdirectory.com/
    The Linux Business Directory
    'aims to be the world's largest directory of open source and
    GNU/Linux companies' 

    http://www.eweek.com/print_article2/0,2533,a=145321,00.asp
    Fee-based GNU/Linux Offers Options
    February 14, 2005
    By  Jason Brooks 

      Linux distributions best-tailored for enterprise use are sold
      under per-machine, annual-subscription-price models that are far
      from free.

      Red Hat Inc. and Novell Inc., producers of the two most popular
      enterprise Linux distributions, require per-machine licensing for
      their products, which they enforce through controlled availability
      of security and bug-fix updates.

      Freely redistributable, license-cost-free alternatives to
      per-machine licensed distributions do exist, including free clones
      of RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) and a variety of so-called
      general-purpose Linux distributions.

      ...

      While noncommercial Linux distributions lack the sort of direct,
      vendor-provided support of the enterprise Linuxes, the much
      greater popularity of these distributions results in more
      available information on the Internet, including surprisingly good
      support information from mailing lists.

      It's also much easier to find precompiled software packages on the
      Internet for particular releases of Fedora or Debian than for
      various enterprise Linux products.

    Free software as innovative?  "Sweetcode" lists innovative free
    software projects:

        http://sweetcode.org/

	Sweetcode reports innovative free software. "Innovative" means
	that the software reported here isn't just a clone of something
	else or a minor add-on to something else or a port of something
	else or yet another implementation of a widely recognized
	concept. 

    David Nagel, Palmsource CEO, 15 February 2005

	
Most, if not all chip makers, now ship an initial implementation that runs on Linux. Implementations for the other operating systems follow. So again, by moving to a Linux platform, we avoid a lot of work. This translates into cost savings in development.
Financial companies lead GNU/Linux charge Carol Sliwa 22/07/2005 15:31:20 Open-source zealots may continue to play a part in instigating the spread of Linux across the European continent, nearly 14 years after Linus Torvalds hatched the operating system in Finland. But private corporations and public-sector users in Europe typically cite pragmatic reasons for taking up the open-source operating system. They point to price and performance benefits. They want freedom to swap out hardware. They find the operating system reliable. They like its flexibility. "It was not that we just wanted to do open-source. We had to find a way to protect our investment in network computing," says Matthias Strelow, a technical project manager at LVM Insurance in Munster, Germany. "I'm not sure it would have been possible with any other operating system."

Acknowledgements


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Last updated 2006/03/21 07:32:11