Distro wars

I have a problem. I’m probably the most indecisive person that I have ever known. I have severe difficulties deciding what dressing to put on my salad. Guitar strings? I need an hour of research. So it’s fairly obvious that I’m horrible at choosing a Linux distribution.

The problem is, there’s so many! Since I first saw Linux about 3-4 years ago, I’ve tried Fedora, Gentoo, Debian, Slackware, Sourcemage, SuSE, Lunar Linux, OpenBSD (it’s close enough), and Ubuntu. I’m sure there’s more in that list.

I believe the first distro I ever used was Fedora. That was Fedora Core 4, on a slow-as-dirt i386 machine clocked at around 133 MHz. I then used most of the distributions in the above list on that machine. Guess how well Gentoo performed at package installation on that machine. Needless to say, I soon upgraded my laptop to a blazing fast 1.6 GHz machine. Compared to what I used before, it was raw power.

Of course, having a faster machine also meant that I would need a correspondingly good distribution to handle the awesomeness (Seriously, 1.6 GHz was a huge step up from 133 MHz, it was a power trip). So then I cycled through every single distribution I knew. Finally, I settled on Ubuntu, because it was the only distribution that actually worked with my annoyingly-unsupported i810 on-board graphics chipset. That lasted for a good 6 months. Then, for some odd reason, I decided to switch to Gentoo. I backed up my machine, wiped the drive, and… Gentoo didn’t work with the i810. Great, I thought. I’ll just go back to Ubuntu. And so I did, for another month or so. Then I tried going back to Gentoo. And it failed again. This continued for a good 4 months or so (I didn’t know at the time that there was an i810 driver in the kernel, which I neglected to enable). Finally, Gentoo worked! It was a miracle! And so, I became one of the Linux elite who compiled everything from source and could manipulate the command line blindfolded while drunk. That lasted about another 6 months. Then, I realized that I was spending more time compiling and configuring than I was doing work. So, I switched to Fedora, which had gone through two cores already and landed at Fedora 7. That’s where I sit today.

However, I’m starting to think that Gentoo isn’t so bad after all. I mean, I’m a geek. I like to do geeky things. I like seeing my system exposed, like it was in Gentoo, not like with Fedora, where all I do is type `yum install evolution’ and sit back and watch, blissfullyunaware of what is going on. Fedora’s great, don’t get me wrong. If I had used Gentoo for my MythTV setup, it would have taken at least two weeks. But Gentoo seemed so… fun, I guess (As I write this, I notice that jhbuild is building evolution-data-server, which is the farthest it’s ever gotten. Hooray!).

The real question is, if I switch back to Gentoo, what happens? Will I finally resign from Wikipedia? Become a kernel hacker? Oh, that’s the other thing. On Gentoo, kernel modules were dirt simple to build. Just cd to /usr/src/linux/drivers/misc, write a test driver, insert the corresponding fragment into the Makefile, and type make. Done.

But anyway, I don’t know if I’m even sure that I want to start thinking about switching. I need to do more research, my intuition is notoriously unreliable for this sort of thing.

~alex

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