What distros have you installed lately?


In the quest for the perfect Linux distro, and to better familarize myself with others... I occationally download and install lots of distributions. Recently I gave Vector Linux and OpenSUSE a try.

I always install new distros on my wife's computer. I don't use her computer much because it is almost always in Microsoft Windows XP... since my wife Shelly is mainly addicted to Eudora (which supposedly is going opensource and merging with Thunderbird?) and PaintShop Pro. For most everything else, I have her using free software though - Firefox, OpenOffice.org. etc. I think she would be comfortable moving to Linux and using Thunderbird and GIMP, Inkscape, and XaraLX... but I'm not going to twist her arm.

If I had to guess how many distros I've installed on her computer... errrr... I'd say... about 50. There has been Freespire, FC5, FC6, CentOS 3 and 4, RHEL 5 Beta, several Fedora betas, Debian, Ubuntu... and then there are the LiveCDs I've booted.

OpenSUSE 10.2

OpenSUSE 10.2 was released a week or two ago. I must admit that while I've tried SUSE a few times over the last 10 years, I never really used it long enough to get familiar with it. I've wanted to learn it... especially considering the fact that Red Hat and Novell are the top two "enterprise" distributions. Of course, OpenSUSE isn't SLED or SLES, but it shouldn't be too different, right? I downloaded the DVD and took it for a spin.

OpenSUSE 10.2 was fairly easy to install. The installer detected all the hardware. I must say that the install seemed rather pokey when it got to the actually installing individual packages. I've seen some distros take as little as 5 minutes... but OpenSUSE took around 40 minutes... which is slow on an Intel Pentium 4 with 512MB of RAM and a decent speed DVD drive. Oddly enough, GNOME is the default and even though I selected to also install KDE, it DID NOT. Why, I'm not sure. I would count that as a bug.

After installing it booted up just fine into a graphical login. Since KDE wasn't there, I used GNOME. As you have probably read, Novell/SUSE has altered the stock GNOME (and KDE) main menu. Perhaps I'll slap up a screenshot of it later but it basically has links for the default apps in serveral catagories as well as a link to All Apps which opens up a file browser window showing icons for everything. The menu also has a search feature that uses Beagle I believe (think MacOSX's SpotLight).

The desktop was pretty and everything seemed to work. I didn't get to spend too much time with it so I really don't have much to report other than the install and first boot experiende. I didn't notice anything special really.

Vector Linux

I've tried Vector Linux before... mostly on older hardware where the system resources are lower. Vector is a refactored Slackware with a sub-set of Slackages (a word I just made up for "Slackware Packages") specifically selected for lower-end hardware. It does not include OpenOffice.org nor any other software that is considered to be overly bloated. Think of it as Damn Small Linux but with more software. The latest release of Vector is 5.8 and just in time for the holiday season. Vector 5.8 is a single CD that weighs in around 550MB.

Since I was installing on a fairly modern machine at work (didn't use the wife's machine this time), I selected all of the extra packages. The Vector installer is rather old-school... being totally text-based... well, correction... it is TUI-based as it uses text-based menus. It has been a long time since I've installed Slackware, so I'm not sure how much the Vector installer borrows from it. I found myself actually reading the screens because it was more than just the "hit enter over and over again" experience.

Although Vector is relatively small, it does come with quite a bit of software including a lot of the multi-media stuff you usually have to go hunt down after you do the distro install. Mplayer with all of those legally ambiguous codecs (including DVD playback), and Flash plug-in BETA 9 are included.

Also included were a sampling of OpenGL games that require 3D hardware accelleration to run well. The work computer has a on-the-motherboard Intel video chipset which happens to support hardware accellerated 3D with the stock Xorg distribution. Vector set it up just fine with accelleration enabled. Games like Chromium and NeverBall actually worked... and at 1280x1024 fullscreen.

Vector uses the XFCE desktop and it is pre-configured very nicely. It appears that all of the installed apps are present and grouped intelligently in the application menu. Overall, it is an attractive setup and VERY snappy. It includes a GUI package manager so you can install additional software if desired.


I hope to spend more time with OpenSUSE... as my review wasn't much of one. I'd like to try Vector Linux on one of the Cybernet boxes to see how if it maintains its snappiness on a Celeron 500 with 128 or 256MB of RAM... and whether it will fit on a 2GB drive.

I'm sure a lot of you install various distros like I do... and we'd love to hear your experiences!

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Kubuntu Ubuntu and SimplyMepis

I originally installed Red Hat 9 as a dual boot on my windows machine when I first got into Linux. I could never really get into it, as functionality was just too limited, and frankly it was ugly. I eventually came across a Knoppix cd someone showed me. At that point I decided Linux needed a second look. After searching for awhile, I found Mepis and again installed it as a dual-boot setup on my home desktop. It sat that way for a long time collecting dust. I did try to keep tabs on how linux was developing. Finally when Dapper Drake come out, I found it had everything I needed, ran without problems, and looked great. I took the big step then, deleted windows, and haven't looked back since. I now have Ubuntu on one desktop, SimplyMepis on another, and Kubuntu on my laptop. Over 6 months MS-Free!!

Tried a bunch, usin' four + Windoze

I started out with Red Hat 5.2, but could never get the GUI to work. Went on to 6.0, 7.2, 8.2, 9.1, (GUI sorked on those as I finally got a supported graphics card), and THEN tried SuSe 8.2. Wow! What a revelation! Not only did I have a GUI, but I was on the 'net even before I finished installing! I now have a 300G HD that I've partioned off to allow up to four distros to be installed so I can check out some of the newer distro releases, which I get monthly through my Linux Format subscription, and some downloading. I'm currently running Xandros 3.0, SuSe 10.0, Kubuntu 6.06, and Mepis 6.0. Windoze XP is on it's own drive, 'ya know the problems IT has whith others playing in it's sandbox. Kept upgrading & rebuilding my 'puter till I finally just built a new one 'bout 2yrs ago, maybe 3yrs, not sure anymore. I'm old - my eyesight, hearing and memory are just about gone, but I'm still hangin' in there! My present 'puter is home built - Biostar MB, AMD 2800 64, Nvidia 6800 GT, 'n all.

I find I like certain aspects about all the different distros I've tried, but still haven't found one that can do everything I want or THINK I need to do. When that happens I'll finally be able to kiss Microcrap goodbye. Actually I probably shouldn't be too hard on Gates & Co. They have done a fair job for someone trying to be all things to all users, even if it is a bit pricey to keep up. But I'm NOT going on the Vista journey. I think I can do a lot better downloading distros till I find the right "fit", or even purchasing them. The same holds true for applications, I don't mind spending a couple bucks to get something that works and does the job I need to do.

So for now, I use SuSe primarily to copy my music (analog from R2R tapes & vinyl) to the HD in .wav format, and Windoze to edit and split the tracks, then to Mepis to burn my new CDs. I also use Mepis to burn my archival copies of DVD movies, Xandros for their boot loader and whenever I need the best print job I can get, and Kubuntu just 'case I LIKE it!

Just got the Open SuSe 10.2 and may try it before the next meeting (my first). If I do, I'll let ya'all know how it went. But I'm definitely a KDE user as I haven't completely kicked my windows addiction, yet.

Don't know nuthin' and not sure I want to!


As you probably remember, I've been a long-time user of SUSE. I started with Red Hat 4.2 and went up to 7.2 when I came across SUSE (then version 7.0) and tried it out before switching. At work we use Gentoo and Kubuntu but I use SUSE 10.1 as my workstation (at work and home).

There are always little problems with any distro, but I've had no real 'show stoppers' with SUSE. When two of my wife's hard drives died a few weeks ago, I went to do an online install on her new computer and discovered they'd already released 10.2. It really impressed me, even over 10.1, but it probably helps being a SUSE user. ;-)

The new updater they switched to with 10.1 is still a little problematic, but seems to be working very well under 10.2.

Overall, I'm still happy with SUSE. I like Kubuntu for it's quick install and easy software updating, especially for clients' machines. Gentoo is fun to play with but a real PITA if you want to install a newer version of some program and then find out you have to go through an entire KDE (or GNOME or whatever) compile just to get it. I'm still trying to allocate enough time to learn its emerge/portage system because there must be some tricks to alleviate some of Gentoo's aggravations! ;-)

Scott Dowdle's picture

Reviews of Vector Linux 5.8

DesktopLinux.com did a mini-review of Vector.

Linux.com did a more comprehensive review in which they actually installed additional desktop environments from various sources... for those who must have GNOME or KDE on Vector.

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