There's Way More to Linux than Ubuntu: 8 Distros Compared



+ Add a Comment


If you think these distros are worth reviewing, build a machine and bench mark them. I'm guessing that which ever company (either Nividia or ATI/amd) has the least crappy driver for linux will probably win.

If you really want to do an actual linux review, at a magazine based around gaming rigs, tells us which version is most suited for a linux dream machine. I think that would make for some very thorough, testable, verifiable and recreate-able reporting in this industry. It would also make for some very good reading.



I may be a little late to the commenting game here, but I must say that this article sparked my internest in Linux (again).

I have dabbled with Linux probably once or twice every year for the past decade... ...and I have always wound up just appreciating the polish of Windows more each time. But this time, I was REALLY turned on by the fact that Mandriva came bundled with huge usability/administration improvements, such as the device manager and the mac-like control panel stuff. I was really looking for something that would make my computer pretty and fun to use again, but unfortunately I ran into a few snags along the way... Mandriva 2009.1 failed to work properly with my video card (GeForce 4600Ti), so I ditched it for Xubuntu - lightweight and pretty. I ran into some other hardware issues here that weren't resolvable with my limited knowledge, so I ditched it and went to Kubuntu (I really like KDE 4.3). I had the same issues with my video card, so I ditched it and went to Ubuntu. 

The main benefit to Ubuntu is that the user base is SO much larger than the rest that if you run into an issue, there's almost certainly somebody else out there with the same issue. That's how I found the fix for my videocard woes: a simple line of text added to a single file and a reboot. Now, my P4 2.53 and GeForce 4600Ti are as pretty and snappy as a Core 2 Duo and a 9800GT running OSX. Sweet. Combined with MS Office and Money running through Wine, the only reason I still have Windows on this machine is to sync my wife's GPS watch! Even she's using Ubuntu!




I don't know why Debian gets ignored. My experience with Ubuntu has always felt sluggish in comparison.



PCLinuxOS ranks higher than any of these distros you've highlighted!



I think its great more people are discovering linux.

I am a little dissapointed about your coverage of arch linux. Yes, it no where near as easy to just install and use; but if you really want to know what you are doing with linux use should try arch linux. I was once told that arch linux should be the first distro you install if you want to use linux; and i agree with this completely IF you want to know what your doing with linux.

I had been using fedora for quite some time, and this semester at uni i took a course in unix and network programming, so after a couple of weeks of that i felt comfortable to install something other than fedora, so i installed arch linux. Arch linux takes a bit too set up but they have a lot of information on how to do all these sorts of things on there website. It is not nearly as hard as you make out. There are only a couple of files that need changing and thats mainly to get your networking to work. once it is installed PACMAN is really easy to get new packages installed. I found that in just a couple of weeks of using arch linux i had learnt much more than i had in months of using fedora.



The reason Ubuntu doesn't have a separate root password is because it is very dangerous to login as a superuser, especially in a GUI. It's much safer to use your own account and give access to commands one at a time, but you can change this later if you're dumb enough.



I love the fact that people are talking about Linux.  I just wanted to remind everyone that Linux, Mac osX and Windows are all a personal choice.  If you want to pay a high price for your OS buy Windows.  If you want to pay a high price for your computer buy a Mac.  If you love the computer you have but don't want to pay for your OS use linux.  As for what distro of linux, well use their live cd's to see which one you like , or maybe  to find out which one works better for you.  You don't have to "follow the crowd" for a certain distro, just try a few to see which is right for you.



....and again, no mention of PC-BSD. PC-BSD is THE most widely distributed packaged desktop version on a UNIX based foundation (not including Solaris, but Solaris is more POSIX than UNIX) than any other.

 Editors of MaximumPC, shoot me an e-mail if you have questions I'd love to a) help you build a BSD desktop or b) install and use PC-BSD. I'd recommend going with a) so you can appreciate what PC-BSD is and understand the innards of FreeBSD.





Don't wait for them. Tell me. I have enough junk in my closet to build 2 or three clones. (8x agp and older). I have an amd phenom quad core an ati graphics card which might be a 7800 series and, two laptops, an hp dv7 blu-ray and, a dell m4700.

I would love to get bsd running on a couple of machines. Even if it's only for educational purposes.




But, Have you ever tried the distro (in beta form) Klikit Linux....
I use it often as a main OS even though it is in beta, but I happen to not fault it. By beta standards its very stable and has a great and active community. You give it a go and see what you think... Built upon Kubuntu but with its own community feel and input.

cheers all...



In about 10 days from today, May 9th, Fedora11 will move from Beta to released.  I can't wait.

 First of all, it is boots more quickly, and from my testing for the past month, not one problem did I detect.

The standard Fedora 11 version has locked out the root password from the GUI, but with a change to two files in /etc  one is able to log to root in Gnome and KDE.  Sudo works as expected, asking for Roots password, not the users logon password.  This allows me to share my user logon with others (software package restricted to one user).  This is way way to dangerous in UBUNTU, as the access to sudo requires the users logon password. (NOTE: In installing UBUNTU, make the very first logon you create to be titled admin.  Once in admin, create your own user id. ADMIN can be hidden from the list of users in the login menu where all users are shown).  From Admin, edit using visudo to give group access to admin, and if you want, without having to provide password for the sudo command. Then exit Admin and from then on use your user account and password). 

I added the extra repros (adobe, livna and the combinedrpmfusion one ).  With F10, livna had a few more (ugly) packages then did rpmfusion. These were important for some multi-media.

If I have to fault two distributions (UBUNTU and Fedora), it is for poor webcam support. When will linux get it working. There are certainly more desktop users then there are server users and webcam functionality is essential.  (My webcam was the X1000 from Microsoft, one of the most widely sold units-- still no support).

 I use Ubuntu and Fedora concurrently, and its hard to tell which I like better. Perhaps I am biased slightly, but I started with Fedora 4, and so, I know the insides a little better then I do UBUNTU.


In closing.  with UBUNTU, I assign a root password, and login from the virtual terminals.  (ctl-alt-f1 to ctl-alt-f7)  

To force root password  

 from admin in UBUNTU


sudo su

provide user's login passwd


passwd root





(Mr) Leslie Satenstein

Montreal, Quebec, Canada



I believe Linux will become the OS leader.  Some day.  For many people it's the best choice right now but until Linux becomes capable of playing any game Windows can, (and just as well!), I won't even consider it.


The inability to play any game is a huge short coming.   It doesn't matter to me weather it can play anything or weather the game developers just aren't supporting Linux.  The outcome is the same.


Also, I have way better things to do than gather tar balls and screw around with all that sudo apt get crap.  I don't want to be a programer and I don't want to learn another language.


I also don't want to keep getting MS products but here's the thing.  MS is suited the the vast majority of users because of ease of use, program compatibility, and it's actually getting better and more polished.


I will be very glad when Linux is as user friendly as Windows and has ALL the functionality that Windows has.  I won't hesitate a second to make the switch to Linux.


And to the Linux folks who would say Linux is ready now for the average user.  No it's not.  A couple times a year I try another distro of Linux, go through the forums for that distro and attemt to make it as friendly as Windows.  I just can't get everything I want out of Linux.  And I am a very technically inclined person.


I will be so glad to say hell no to Redmond, but that day has not come yet.At least not for me and the overwhelming majority of computer users in the world.


opensuse 11.1

First it's good to read about something other than the next release of windows.

For your fault with OpeSuse security.  The root password can be set at during the installation of the OS.  When the installation halts and ask you for the USER ID and password there is a check box under the password that reads I believe make this password the root password.  If you uncheck that password then it will ask you for a root password as well.  Since most poeple that enjoy OpenSuse are the only users they are typically in the root account so the password choice is there.  It's your fault for the security.

Next, the lack of software did you try the one-click install on the OpenSuse website?  If you need software goto:  This is the opensuse one click search page from which you can install most packages.  

 Also OpenSuse is geared towards using either GNOME or KDE desktops.  Somethings I find in GNOME much easier to use that with KDE.  While it seems KDE 4 + is currently moving to become the eye-candy desktop of the future.  GNOME is also there with its newest desktop version.  Also one can use the older KDE 3.5 and other variants of GUI's to find the one that works for the user. 



<cite>Fortunately, is able to partially compensate for this problem.</cite>

Starting from Fedora 10, RPM Fusion replaced Freshrpms and Livna. I think the article should be updated to reflect the change.



"Fedora is designed as a desktop-oriented distribution. All server functionality has been separated into the official Red Hat Enterprise Linux distribution, available from Red Hat."

Ever since I started using Linux I have been using Fedora. It was what I was first acquainted with and I actually find it more pleasant than Ubuntu. I certainly wouldn't call it a desktop-oriented distribution. The Wikipedia article describes it as a general-purpose operating system, and like some other distributions, the installer includes all of the typical [free] server software as well as an interface for choosing the role of the installation (Workstation, Web Server, etc.). Whatever isn't on the installation media is likely to be in the online repos, with the exception of non-free software which can be added from third party sources as the unofficial Fedora guides detail.

I also would have liked to see Gentoo rated. As I get more familiar with Linux, I am interesting in moving towards Gentoo. I really like the idea of optimizing the installation and installing everything from source and at the same time through a package manager. I've played with it a little bit and it was pleasant, though there is somewhat of a learning curve (which is why I'm still using Fedora now).



I always wanted to be adept enough at rolling my own distro. In a future article it would also be nice to see something on beowulf clusters or hpc (high performace computing).



why isn't slackware on this list



I disagree with your evaluation of ubuntu.  Sure, tag me as a ubuntu-nut up front but frankly I have over 15 years of experience as a unix admin and I think your view of the "security" and "administration" of ubuntu to be flawed.

 Firstly, ubuntu is targeted towards the individual user whereas the other distros (save knoppix) are targeted towards multi-users.  With that in mind, the sudo access style is brilliant.  There isn't any point to separation of root/user on a single user machine.  

 You cite the "stealing a single password" as a problem when you should know as well as anyone that password theft is rarely the way people break into machines.  Typical violation are through buffer overflows or incorrect configurations on webservers/php/sql/etc.  These things are covered with ubuntu with the default packages and dpkg.

Secondly, you touch upon the administration as poor vs. fedora.  Give me a break, fedora's system is confusing, incomplete and typically a royal pain in the *SS.  I administrate hundreds of cores of redhat (fedora's base) on a daily basis and frankly i'd rather shoot myself than run/administrate a fedora box.  With ubuntu its all clean cut and straight-forward.  Screw the "central control".  Even windows is just a bunch of buttons in a central location.




I'm thinking of going with Ubuntu or Fedora since I'm brand new to Linux.



 Try Linux Mint it is a Ubuntu based Distro. Try the live CD first it is slow loading but you can try it out before you install. I poped in the CD and rebooted the machine (your bios has to be set to boot to CD) and two min. later i was on the internet it configuared everything for me. if you like it you can install it by it self or duel boot with your current OS.

Linux Mint,Duel boot/Vista,AMD Athlon+ x2 5600,3 Gig ram,500 Gig HDD,ATI 1300 Video.



since all things in most Linux distros are configurable, this comparison makes no sense. The Linux world is where you look for a distro you like and shape it into what you need. This is a Fedora commercial.



Slackware 8.1 was my first distro after using Apple products at home for almost 20 years and using Windows at work.  It was simple to install.  So is 12.2.  Arch takes more work, but once you're done you've got a beautiful system.

Slackware and Arch verusus Fedora and OpenSuse is kind of like my Mini versus a fire truck.  Sure the fire truck is big and shiny and does a ton of stuff.  It's just stupid to take it down to the corner for bread or drive it around on Sunday listening to the radio. And the beauty of Slack and Arch is that they are very easy to add things to, so if you do eventually want to run the space program from your desktop, you pretty much can.

The field is big enough for all tastes.  If you want to mandate things
you should go to work for Apple or Microsoft where that's the nature of
the beast and everyone bows to that tin god already.  In my experience it's not the Linux way.



Ubuntu Hardy has been the greatest for me so far.




It never got any better than the Hardy Heron/Intrepid Ibex combo. I guess I just had the right hardware. I doubt that every body had such smooth sailing with both versions back to back, but "Hardy" was a very hardy o/s.



I would love to see your comments in regards to Opensolaris.  ZFS, logical domains, dtrace, etc.   Opensolaris has a TON of great stuff to offer and is free as well..





I wish speed and performance was compared among the various distros.



I just finished a rant about the fact that so much attention is paid to Ubuntu and many other very good releases are neglected.


Thank You for this article. No one is going to agree with everything but with the varying levels of skill and knowledge out there this was a good high level overview. Here are a couple of my favorites:

Fedora (currently 9)






 No PCLinuxOS?  I'm suprised!  PCLinuOS is my favorite distro.


Cheap Web Hosting from Nova Internet Services!



What are your scores scaled to?  I've used live CDs but never a distro on a production machine, what would say OS X Ease of Use be or Windows Support Availability or Software & Package Management be?  Without some reference to other OSs the obvious work you put into your guide seems of limited value to those who both have run a Linux distro and want to try or have the inclination to try another one.



"Although security is generally good, openSUSE suffers from the same
flaw as Ubuntu: out of the box, the regular user's password can be used
to perform root-level activities."


Umm uncheck use same password for root during the account setup. Also dropping to cli is not necessary if you forget too.  YaST--> Accounts will allow you to change the password if desired.



Great article! Hopefully MaxPC would do an "open source gaming" benchmarks of these distros in the near future. I'd also like to find out which one is best and runs the smoothest on a hacked PS3/360.


he's pwning with a trackpad? oh really? oh reheheheeally?



Hey guys, great feature. Give Linux Mint a try some time for a future one. It's based on Ubuntu but it has really taken on a life of its own. Version 7 just went to RC which includes the 9.04 Ubuntu base and new Mint-flavored features, updates and revisions.



Does the install routine give you the opportunity to select advanced options like encrypting an entire hard drive, or do you have to go back and install those kinds of things after the install?

That's something that should've been covered in more detail. It got mentioned in passing (and I'm not complaining) but a more thorough review of how these distro's install would be helpful in deciding which distro to install. ;)



I think I will buy a subscription now if this stuff like this is provided in the magazines.



With the Steambox project underway, it might make sense to have a fork in the project. Then maximumpc hardcopies could ship with their own linux distro's every month. All of the linux specific articles could remain online and on the distro, along with updated drivers every month, and the main focus of the print version would still be the win/tel combo.



They put the exact same stuff in the magazine and on the website. This article, which is free on this website, will probably show up in the magazine, which I pay good money for, in a couple of months. I can't see myself renewing my subscription because I can get the same content for free online. Come on, Maximum PC, as a subscriber, I deserve certain advantages that I am not seeing.


The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.



Its def worth it



When are we going to see Linux Ubuntu coming pre installed in brand new PC and laptops? Why none has been done so far? We are still living in a Windows World..! I have made my move to Linux long ago and changed recently from Ubuntu 9.10 to Ubuntu linpais which is an advanced linux distro derived from Ubuntu. never had major issues with none of my machines. I can't believe that there is still people out there that pays money for a OS. Peraphs if we stop buyng Microsoft Licenses we will also stop Microsoft to boycott Open Source, creativity and style.  


Log in to MaximumPC directly or log in using Facebook

Forgot your username or password?
Click here for help.

Login with Facebook
Log in using Facebook to share comments and articles easily with your Facebook feed.