Distros - 64 bit
I have been experimenting with many different Linux distributions over the last month as I posted here and here. In my review of the various distributions, I was looking for ease of install and ease of use as the most important factors in my personal ranking system. I believe for Linux to win the desktop war over the next few years they have to appeal to more then just the technical folks who can install distros in their sleep and are wizards at the command line. With that said, here are the distributions I tested:
Distros - 32 Bit
Disclaimer: I am not an expert at administering desktop software (Windows or Linux). I am very familiar with Unix and Linux operating systems from a software development point of view, but not from an admin point of view. I know enough to be dangerous!
PCs & Laptops used:
- IBM Thinkpad, Intel 1.86 GHz, 1.5 GB RAM, 32 Bit
- Dell Inspiron ME051, Intel Celeron 1.4 GHz, 500 MB RAM, 32 Bit
- Dell Inspiron 1721, AMD Athlon 64x2 Dual-Core TK-53, 1 GB RAM, 64 Bit
- Dell Dimension 4300S, Intel 1.70 GHz, 256 MB RAM, 32 Bit
- Dell Dimension 4700, Intel Pentium4 3.00 GHz, 1 GB RAM, 32 Bit
- In general, Linux is very easy to install these days. All distributions have come a long way over the years and no longer requires an experienced administrator to install it.
- 32-Bit - All distros except Fedora 8 installed easily and worked flawlessly. They also all found my wireless network. Kubuntu Gutsy Gibbon was my favorite by far on a 32-bit archtiecture.
- 64-Bit - Mepis had the best driver detection for the newer hardware. Only Mepis could connect to my wireless network without manual intervention. Mepis 6.5.02 was my favorite on a 64-bit architecture due to it's excellent ability to detect newer hardware.
- Best out of the box packages - Kubuntu came installed with Wine (let's you run Windows software on Linux), Adept, and the KDE interface. Kubuntu also comes preinstalled with a nice UI for Wine which made it simple to install Windows programs. I had some issues manually installing Wine on Mepis which are still unresolved to date.
- Flat out didn't work - OpenSuse 10.3 would not install on the 64-bit laptop. Linux Mint kept giving me disk errors. I downloaded it twice and burned the CD at different speeds. I will try again later because I hear so many good things about Mint. Fedora only worked on one machine. It was getting different error messages on different machines.
- Honorable Mention - PCLinuxOS has a great user friendly install process and a nice interface. If it would have connected to my wireless network on the 64-bit laptop I would have ranked it above Mepis due to ease of use.
- Not for Geeks - Freespire was definitely targeting Linux newbies. It is made for people who have never ventured away from Windows. I used it at work for about 2 weeks and I got so annoyed with the interface that I quickly moved to Mepis.
- Linux at work - As I wrote in the past, I have used Ubuntu at work since April of this year. It has been flawless. I tried Freespire for two weeks and then moved to Mepis. Mepis had some issues with my monitor and wasn't able to work on an overhead projector. I am now on Kubuntu for the last two weeks and it has been working great.
All of these distros except OpenSuse (couldn't load) are great options for those wanting to move to Linux (I will try Mint again later). For those who are more experienced with administering Linux desktops, you may have come to different conclusions. I did spend a lot of time with most distros performing command line magic to make some things work (especially on the 64-bit environment). Kubuntu and Ubuntu were the only distros where I just installed and went on my way. All others required some amount of tweaking.
I had the luxury of owning several different machines and some time to experiment with the different Linux distributions. Each distribution that I was able to get up and running ran well. I was able to make use out of some old machines that were running poorly on XP. Most importantly, my new laptop that was running Vista very slowly is now cruising with Mepis.
By no means was this a highly scientific experiment. This is the view from a technical guy with limited systems administration skills. Take it for what it's worth. My recommendation is Kubuntu and Mepis.