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The Year In Review: LinuxPlanet's Picks for the Best and Worst of 2001 - page 3

2001: The Year That Was

  • December 30, 2001
  • By Michael Hall
The past year has seen every major distribution improve in one way or the other, and it also saw the quiet death of a few other distributions we'd hoped to see go the distance. SuSE gets more nods than any other here, with a lone voice mourning the passing of Progeny -- another Debian derivative that didn't make it. Noted:
  • SuSE
  • Red Hat
  • Progeny

Favorite Distribution: mph

My favorite distribution this year was Progeny's Debian-based distribution, and I stuck with it until it was clear the company wasn't going to go anywhere with it.

I don't think anyone on the Debian project will get too upset if I point out that development on that distribution is fairly slow, and Progeny offered a great way to get some current goodies within the safe confines of Debian's framework. Unfortunately, as the company suffered, so too did the distribution, and it went from being fairly cutting edge to lagging well before summer. The main attraction to Debian is the conscientious efforts of the developers maintaining it, with apt as a close runner-up... I'm really hoping the work being done to spread apt to RPM-based distributions continues beyond Conectiva.

At the moment, though, I'm running Red Hat 7.1/7.2 on the three Linux machines I have in the house. With the addition of a few guest users on the server machine, and the fact that Red Hat 7.2 installed very cleanly on my Dell Inspiron 3800, the only real room for change will be on the desktop machine: I'll take Woody for a spin when it's finished.

Favorite Distribution: bkp:

This year, I managed to install and run five different distributions on my Linux machine: Red Hat, SuSE, Slackware, MandrakeLinux, and Progeny. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, but for me, one stands out as my personal favorite: SuSE Linux.

Every version of this distro just gets better all the time. For ease of installation and hardware recognition, SuSE has yet to let me down. I like what they've done with the KDE desktop, right down to automounting Windows partitions detected on my machine.

There are some concerns I have, of course. By necessity, SuSE's RPMs are different from the more ubiquitous RH RPM packages--something that I wish could be resolved so I am not always in a hunt to locate SuSE RPMs. But this may just be the price I need to pay to have SuSE on my PC.

dep replies: Here again we largely agree, but for different reasons. You actually like SuSE, while to me it is least bad. I may have to join the many who, every time i mention a distribution, encourage me to be a man and install Slackware.

Favorite Distribution: dep

My favorite distribution spent 2001 all but disappearing. Caldera Open Linux is still available under a different name, different licensing scheme, and in different form, but it has dropped so thoroughly into its niche that for the broad variety of users it doesn't exist at all. I have not run the current version; I wish Caldera well, but it's not a distribution as we know them anymore.

So I use SuSE. It is my favorite by default, on two accounts: it puts desktops in /opt, as God, as Whose word is interpreted by the FHS, intended, and it is a distribution that does not believe that desktop Linux is a lost cause.

Again, I do not embrace my choice without reservations, but these apply to most distributions and all major ones. SuSE 7.3, as 7.2, as previous versions, is too dependent on its distribution-specific configuration tools, YaST (text) and YaST2 (graphical). If this were not bad enough, these tools and the distribution itself generate all manner of configuration files that have no analog elsewhere. There is no need for this. There are very good arguments against it.

Other distributions do this kind of thing as well. They, too, are killing the goose that lays the golden egg, because they're forking Linux to the extent that the word "Linux" now means a kernel only, where once it meant so much more. An RPM used to work pretty much everywhere that the same C libraries were used -- no more. This harms Linux in general, because it fragments things long before the critical mass necessary for widespread Linux acceptance is achieved.

The big distributors might well realize that cooperation among themselves is still necessary -- there's plenty of time later to do battle, once they've secured the battlefield.

Still, if I were recommending a distribution for a desktop user it would be SuSE, even though at the moment I think of it more as the death distribution from Hell, in that I have spent 16 straight hours trying to get it to recognize a sound chip -- the Yamaha OPL3SA3, with absolutely default settings, even according to YaST2 -- that is supported by everything since CP/M and by every other Linux distribution on the planet, and probably other planets as well, in that there was Linux on that little rollerskate thing NASA sent to Mars. (The fact that every NASA probe to Mars since then has crashed and would have burned had there been sufficient oxygen for combustion suggests to me that NASA, too, switched to SuSE and tried to control their probes through YaST or, worse, YaST2.)

I cannot abide Debian's politics; Mandrake passes through Red Hat's latest, breaks all kinds of things, and ships it; Caldera has gone all goofy on us (question to theoretical physicists: is this the first symptom of disappearing into a black hole?); SuSE has hung its spiked helmet on an ease-of-use system that doesn't work; Red Hat puts things in all the wrong places in its too-early attempt to run away with Linux entirely.

I wonder if next year, my answer in this category won't be Slackware.

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