Linux Containers Authors: Zakia Bouachraoui, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Stefana Muller

Related Topics: Linux Containers

Linux Containers: Article

Laptop Linux: Which Distro's Best?

"The best distro for me was the least install-friendly of them all: Gentoo"

Recently, I spent some time trying out various Linux distributions on my late model Toshiba laptop. Since that article came out, several new releases have come out and I've tried a couple of new distros. So here's a brief update.

Both Linspire and SuSE came out with new releases soon after the article ran (5.0 and 9.3 respectively). Linspire continues to have problems with missing device drivers and lack of backed-in kernel recompilation support. Frankly, Linspire 5.0 did about as well as Linspire 4.5 did. SuSe 9.3 was also consistent with its earlier release, but in a positive way. The 9.3 release, which is a 2.6 kernel-based distro, supported pretty much everything out-of-the-box.

I also checked out Fedora Core 3 again, armed with some new knowledge about how to get it to boot. Once past the roadblock that stymied me the first time (a problem with the install VGA driver), I was able to fully install it. However, it was missing a lot of the device support I needed, and it took a while to get it anywhere near 100% functional. Definitely not an out-of-the-box experience.

So what distro am I running on the laptop now? Gentoo, which is probably as far from an install-and-boot experience as you can imagine. For those who haven't experienced Gentoo, everything (including the kernel) comes in source form, and must be recompiled before use. What this means is that your initial install could take a couple of days (almost entirely unattended, luckily). The good news is that when you're done, the kernel and all the basic utilities and system software have been optimized for your hardware.

Once the basic install is done, you can spend another couple of days installing X, Gnome, KDE, and all the other stuff that you need to really do anything. OpenOffice was a three-day compilathon, for example. However, I have to say that absolutely everything from sound to wireless networking to cellular modem card worked right out of the (very long, slow) box. The only thing I had to grab in binary form was the proprietary ATI drivers to make my OpenGL run faster (and isn't TuxRacer a kick-butt game?).

I have to say that I really like "emerge," the Gentoo tool that automatically downloads and compiles packages for you. My past experience with from-source installs has been mixed, since you're usually running an out-of-date version of some library or other such problem, but emerge goes out of its way to make sure everything is just right during an install, and I've yet to have a compilation fail.

So, at the end of the day, the best distro for me was the least install-friendly of them all. Certainly I would never in a million years suggest Gentoo as an install for a first-time Linux user. I have heard talk that Gentoo will be getting a graphical installation tool soon, which will help a lot. But even so, the long, long initial install time makes it a distro for the chosen few.

The good news for other potential Linux users is that there's lots of distros that will get a laptop at least most of the way there, and a few that seem particularly suited to laptops. Of course, if you haven't bought your laptop yet, you can always buy one you know works well with Linux. Then you're assured of a great experience.

More Stories By James Turner

James Turner is president of Black Bear Software. James was formerly senior editor of Linux.SYS-CON.com and has also written for Wired, Christian Science Monitor, and other publications. He is currently working on his third book on open source development.

Comments (1)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
@CloudEXPO and @ExpoDX, two of the most influential technology events in the world, have hosted hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors since our launch 10 years ago. @CloudEXPO and @ExpoDX New York and Silicon Valley provide a full year of face-to-face marketing opportunities for your company. Each sponsorship and exhibit package comes with pre and post-show marketing programs. By sponsoring and exhibiting in New York and Silicon Valley, you reach a full complement of decision makers and buyers in ...
There are many examples of disruption in consumer space – Uber disrupting the cab industry, Airbnb disrupting the hospitality industry and so on; but have you wondered who is disrupting support and operations? AISERA helps make businesses and customers successful by offering consumer-like user experience for support and operations. We have built the world’s first AI-driven IT / HR / Cloud / Customer Support and Operations solution.
LogRocket helps product teams develop better experiences for users by recording videos of user sessions with logs and network data. It identifies UX problems and reveals the root cause of every bug. LogRocket presents impactful errors on a website, and how to reproduce it. With LogRocket, users can replay problems.
Data Theorem is a leading provider of modern application security. Its core mission is to analyze and secure any modern application anytime, anywhere. The Data Theorem Analyzer Engine continuously scans APIs and mobile applications in search of security flaws and data privacy gaps. Data Theorem products help organizations build safer applications that maximize data security and brand protection. The company has detected more than 300 million application eavesdropping incidents and currently secu...
Rafay enables developers to automate the distribution, operations, cross-region scaling and lifecycle management of containerized microservices across public and private clouds, and service provider networks. Rafay's platform is built around foundational elements that together deliver an optimal abstraction layer across disparate infrastructure, making it easy for developers to scale and operate applications across any number of locations or regions. Consumed as a service, Rafay's platform elimi...
Two weeks ago (November 3-5), I attended the Cloud Expo Silicon Valley as a speaker, where I presented on the security and privacy due diligence requirements for cloud solutions. Cloud security is a topical issue for every CIO, CISO, and technology buyer. Decision-makers are always looking for insights on how to mitigate the security risks of implementing and using cloud solutions. Based on the presentation topics covered at the conference, as well as the general discussions heard between sessio...
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Day 2 Keynote at 17th Cloud Expo, Sandy Ca...
New competitors, disruptive technologies, and growing expectations are pushing every business to both adopt and deliver new digital services. This ‘Digital Transformation’ demands rapid delivery and continuous iteration of new competitive services via multiple channels, which in turn demands new service delivery techniques – including DevOps. In this power panel at @DevOpsSummit 20th Cloud Expo, moderated by DevOps Conference Co-Chair Andi Mann, panelists examined how DevOps helps to meet the de...
According to Forrester Research, every business will become either a digital predator or digital prey by 2020. To avoid demise, organizations must rapidly create new sources of value in their end-to-end customer experiences. True digital predators also must break down information and process silos and extend digital transformation initiatives to empower employees with the digital resources needed to win, serve, and retain customers.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, will provide an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life ...