Note: this page is becoming obsolete. A lot of things changed in the
last years in the linux world. Red hat and Suse are no longer recognized
distributions (they moved their business on consulting and ad-hoc solutions),
and newer came into the field. I will probably provide a more fresh comparison
in the near future.
This page is dedicated to a short comparison between the
linux distribution available. Of course I'm actually unable
to review all distributions, so this will cover only the most
widely used and known firms.
How we proceed
Often people ask me "which distribution should I choose?".
Well, obviously there's not the "best" distribution. As usual,
your choiche should be based on what you require to it.
There is a problem: linux could be used for many different
uses. For any of these there is some distribution that behaves better
than others. For you this means that you need to care a lot of factors.
For me this (much worse :P) means that I should spend a lot of time.
So, what will we consider? There's a list of factors I believe most relevant.
This is what I believe important. If you feel there miss something,
- patent: this is an important factor. Some times ago Suse started releasing
their distros under strange patents, disabling users to download ready-made
iso images for free. RedHat just some weeks ago stated their distros are still
free available, but journals aren't free to release RedHat Linux signed as RedHat.
Mandrake seems to be on of the lasts commercial top-distributions leaving truly free.
I believe this is an important factor for leaving linux what it's born for, however, notes
you find here are obviously just my own humble little opinion.
- packages up-to-dateness: this factor is really important since [GNU & ]linux
is always under very heavy development. This covers application, more than kernel. This
one is less worth, today: very short is the list of widely used unsupported devices, so
improvements are often for performances or little bug fixes. I'm talking about x86.
- software available: a lot of people believe that linux is linux and they can
run all applications for this system no matter which distribution they use. They are right :),
but having precompiled packages is something else. Don't believe rpm resolved this
problem. Many applications are often released source-code only, even if they are
almost alway little apps.
- general reliability: speaks itself. Goes from kernel to graphical interfaces
to network servers to whatever a user can try.
- documentation available: this is one of the most important aspect to care.
Good documentation gives soon satisfactions to new users, and then makes easier
the OS at the first approach. On paper => * (only bought packages of course).
- system maintainment: maybe the most important factor. It's looked from an
"administrative" viewpoint. First of all, package maintainement.
- remote support: commercial (non-free support isn't covered. Forums,
mailing lists, web archives, newsgroups, irc and such are components. Any way a user
can walk to get help.
- ease: wm look & feel, applications integration, well-commented default
configuration files, configuration tools, system control panels, well-done default
configurations and so on. This do _not_ include packages maintainement.
- number of architectures: the vendor supports. The naked number isn't
so worth, because someone is much important than others, but we have to compare shortly.
- price: I won't report numbers, they vary from country to country.
The big table
||sorry I tried
||if you like
I hope I'll have time to grow this table. It's very limited right now, so please be patient.
(Actually, maybe no new lines will ever appear).
It is obvious that there's nothing objectively in these notes besides my
These votes come from a end-user viewpoint. For an administrator/society
that do not care how they spend, the table above will be completely different.
If you like to pay, RedHat for example will be always ready to do obey your wishes ;).
Speaking clear, RedHat's commercial services are quite expensive but really
powerful (RedHat network is fine), often the best solution in cases, as said, of
society that would put on the net their servers. Suse as well, but I think it's not so
intrusive (my own impression).
Once upon a time I was using to use slackware. Now I can no longer tolerate its
oldness, even if it's one of the best choices if you (expert sys admin) like to pick up
Mandrake otherway is the worse choice for this job in the list, but I love its ease. It's
so easy that I load it onto my mommy's pc. Some months ago she knew nothing
about computer, and now (thanks to Mankdrake) she is able to dial up the net, browse,
manage her mails, write documents and print them. Try with your! ;)
I'm too lazy to check the list to give "the Winner", and I don't care this. Today
I'm conviced Debian keeps the best distribution a >= medium-expert could adopt, while
Mandrake is the best if you're new to linux and want to try it. If you'll like it (I'm sure you
will) consider to do a little donation to Mandrake Linux or to buy the PowerPack (it's cheap!):
they do not sail good waters.
You can contact me by mail.