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Ask Slashdot: What Is the Best Distro For Linux Lessons? 319

Posted by Soulskill
from the throw-them-into-the-deep-end dept.
MBtronics writes "I work at an embedded hardware/software company and we are currently moving all our products for Windows CE to Linux. Our core development team already uses their favorite distro for development, but the rest of the developers are still working on Windows. We are going to give a series of Linux lessons (from 'what is Linux' to installing, using and developing) for everybody in the company who is interested (including non-developers). They will be allowed to choose their own distro, but we will certainly get requests for recommendations. My question to the Slashdot crowd: what distro (and window manager) do you think is the best to teach Linux to the generic public? We are currently thinking of Ubuntu, Fedora or Mint."
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Ask Slashdot: What Is the Best Distro For Linux Lessons?

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  • Ubuntu (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 02, 2012 @05:12PM (#39225935)

    Ubuntu is the most common, with the most online forums and such... I would recommend that one.

    • Re:Ubuntu (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dak664 (1992350) on Friday March 02, 2012 @05:19PM (#39226045) Journal

      True if most people will accept the default installation, else the forums will not as much. I think acceptance of the default is more likely in mint at the moment.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Uh... Mint I think you'll find:

      http://distrowatch.com/

      • Re:Ubuntu (Score:4, Insightful)

        by aztracker1 (702135) on Friday March 02, 2012 @06:23PM (#39226805) Homepage
        I would suggest Mint as well.. if you go for the Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE), after install, and you have gotten your feet wet, it's easy enough to roll over onto the official repositories, or even onto Debian SID, if so desired... beware the change to Debian's Gnome 3 setup though (ugh).
      • by Jerry (6400)

        That assertion is unsupported. Page Hit Rankings are meaningless, and so easily gamed by enthusiasts for various distros.

        Actually, DistroWatch keeps track of the OS signatures of visitors. According to that [distrowatch.com] Ubuntu (and all derivatives based on it) account for only 3.2% of the visitors using Linux. The distro with the most users visiting DistroWatch is "Unknown", at 36.3%.

        Linux visitors combined account for 41.5% and Windows visitors account for 48.7% of all visitors. So, most of the people

        • Re:Ubuntu (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Smauler (915644) on Friday March 02, 2012 @10:11PM (#39228805)

          2.3% are still using VISTA!

          Vista is a hell of a lot less bad than people think it is. That is, as long as you get it working right. I've had 15 second boot from mbr times to usable desktop, and over 3 months uptime. This is on a personal computer I use for everything, games, etc.

          I personally think turning off masses of the dumb services are key.... but what do I know.

          The reason I'm still exclusively MS on my PC is that fakeraid failed with Linux, back in the day.

    • I prefer Ubuntu, but cut my teeth on Debian. You can't beat Debian's package manager, which continues to be used by Ubuntu and other distros in some form or another.
      • After a few too many issues with Ubuntu on sizable server deployments, I ran back to Debian.

      • by mikael (484)

        I was a Fedora fan for some time, but the conflict with Nouveau and Nvidia drivers forced me to switch over to Ubuntu permanently.

      • Actually, Debian's package manager is only used on distros based on Debian. Distros such as Fedora, which are based on RedHat use rpm and yum.
    • I would have agreed a couple of years ago, but they've made the same mistake most distros eventually make. They've traded ease of use for appearing "innovative and new" The last time I installed it I spent a few minutes trying to find out how to launch the terminal window, realized that I'd eventually find it but if it was that hard, I just wasn't interested any longer, and switch to a different distro.
    • by stanlyb (1839382)
      Ubuntu: YES. But only if the version is less than 11.
      Fedora in my opinion is going to take the lead.
    • by rrohbeck (944847)

      Agree but choose Xubuntu. Unity is teh suck unless you're on a seriously cramped display and Gnome3 isn't mature enough to use yet. At least it wasn't two months ago when I was forced to upgrade my Debian systems. I tried for a week but it didn't work.

    • I personal use I like Ubuntu / Debian. But for work I would use Fedora, because for production work you'll almost certainly be using Redhat.

  • by snowgirl (978879) on Friday March 02, 2012 @05:13PM (#39225947) Journal

    I think it would be openSUSE... #germanophilia

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 02, 2012 @05:14PM (#39225963)

    Why would you teach a different distro than the one you currently run internally?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      it sounds like there isn't *only* one that is in use internally ("development team already uses their favorite distro"), which i think is a mistake. they should settle on one, whether it be ubuntu, debian, suse, rhel, or whatever.

      for 'general' lessons to other employees that just want to learn linux.. choosing from a list of 2-3 free distros that the teachers are qualified or experienced enough in to teach is fine.

      for the general public (which is what the question is for)... stick with ubuntu or maybe suse.

      • by mcrbids (148650)

        Years ago, I chose RedHat because I understood where people would be obligated to make it work, even if they didn't want to. Strangely, RedHat abandoned people like me, and now I depend on unpaid volunteers (CentOS) to give me the RedHat I learned to depend on without getting raped in the process.

        I don't know if CentOS will work forever, but I'm pretty used to the RedHat way and I've never regretted going this route.

    • Why would you teach a different distro than the one you currently run internally?

      Because it's very likely to be used for different things to solve different problems for different purposes.

    • by deniable (76198)
      Because they're allowing developers to choose. It's all there in the summary if you'd care to read it.
  • by wbr1 (2538558) on Friday March 02, 2012 @05:15PM (#39225971)
    ...but why ask a question you already know the answer to? Those are the three I would have picked, and likely for the same reasons. Further, if you are doing lessons, then make sure it is distros you are familiar with enough to help and not fumble around.
  • Slack! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sooner Boomer (96864) <sooner.boomr@gmai l . c om> on Friday March 02, 2012 @05:15PM (#39225975) Journal

    Slackware for the win!

    • Re:Slack! (Score:5, Informative)

      by dakohli (1442929) on Friday March 02, 2012 @05:31PM (#39226207)

      Yes.

      I cut my teeth on Slackware 3.5

      Back then of course the two most common were Redhat and Slackware.

      They used to say "If you run Redhat, you know Redhat. If you run Slackware, you know Linux"

      There are no shortcuts with Slackware. The students can learn how and why. Then, once they get the base knowledge, they can move on to easier distros. I don't bother with endless tinkering anymore, I just don't have the time. But the knowledge I picked up when I had to still serves me well.

      • At least the last time I picked up Slackware it was definitely not for beginners...

        We are going to give a series of Linux lessons (from 'what is Linux' to installing, using and developing) for everybody in the company who is interested (including non-developers).

        If they have non-developers joining in I would say something like Debian, Ubuntu, RHEL, SUSE, something easy, that also looks familiar

        If it turns out no non-developers join, then sure Slackware, but most people don't need to know that much just to get Linux to run, heck I doubt very few non-developers could even do a Windows 7 Install which is point-and-click.

        I am also going with those distros because it gets you/and

      • Re:Slack! (Score:4, Informative)

        by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Friday March 02, 2012 @06:19PM (#39226749)

        I found Gentoo instructive for similar reasons. Painful, but instructive.

        • Re:Slack! (Score:5, Informative)

          by miknix (1047580) on Friday March 02, 2012 @09:01PM (#39228371) Homepage

          I found Gentoo instructive for similar reasons. Painful, but instructive.

          After going through the Gentoo installation handbook one should acquire some basic knowledge about the inner workings of a Linux based system. Not just how to use a Linux system but also how to assemble and manage one.

      • by Sipper (462582)

        Yes.

        I cut my teeth on Slackware 3.5

        I likewise started with Slackware 3(something).

        Back then of course the two most common were Redhat and Slackware.

        They used to say "If you run Redhat, you know Redhat. If you run Slackware, you know Linux"

        There are no shortcuts with Slackware. The students can learn how and why. Then, once they get the base knowledge, they can move on to easier distros. I don't bother with endless tinkering anymore, I just don't have the time. But the knowledge I picked up when I had to still serves me well.

        As much as I agree with what you've said, I wouldn't recommend Slackware for teaching purposes because of it's BSD startup methology, because I found switching over to any other System V type startup with /etc/init.d/ scripts to be painful. Last I checked Slackware 13(something) didn't have an official package manager of any kind. The lack of package management back in the 1999 to 2000 timeframe is what forced me to switch distros to something that did. Than

        • by Arker (91948)

          As much as I agree with what you've said, I wouldn't recommend Slackware for teaching purposes because of it's BSD startup methology, because I found switching over to any other System V type startup with /etc/init.d/ scripts to be painful

          That's very true, but I think you take the wrong lesson from it. SysV init is a monstrosity that should be killed with fire wherever it is found. Switching over to it is always painful, but apparently not as painful as it needs to be to keep people from using it, unfortuna

          • Slackware package system has always worked very well for me. It definitely does have an official package management system and it works wonderfully. On the other hand RPM and even DEB based systems have driven me back to Slack many times. I have lived through many horror stories with those systems - but installpkg has never failed me.

            That's because a Slack package is literally a tarball. I used to maintain a couple of packages on Linuxpackages.net, and have plenty of experience... you could easily build a Slack package even on a system that doesn't have pkgtool installed, by using make install DESTDIR=/work, and then creating a tarball of /work (piped with gzip), and renaming the resulting file from .tar.gz to .tgz. Pkgtool would still happily install the file on a Slack system, and it would still work as long as the dependencies were i

    • Re:Slack! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Dogbertius (1333565) on Friday March 02, 2012 @06:33PM (#39226913)
      Why is this modded funny? I learned on Slackware 3, and to this date, I am generally more proficient in Linux development and sysadmin duties than anyone I've ever met in my age/pay bracket.

      "Learn Redhat, know Redhat. Learn Slackware, know Linux".
      • I am generally more proficient in Linux development and sysadmin duties than anyone I've ever met in my age/pay bracket.

        Presumably more proficient at being a blast to talk to at parties, as well.

  • Slackware (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AntEater (16627) on Friday March 02, 2012 @05:16PM (#39225993) Homepage

    Slackware is great if you want to learn how Linux works - not how one specific distribution does things for you.

  • KDE (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheNinjaroach (878876) on Friday March 02, 2012 @05:17PM (#39226003)
    If you're bringing people over from the Windows world, please encourage KDE. It's a pretty good take on the "taskbar w/ a start button" GUI-style and will be immediately familiar to most folks. One word of advice: "Classic Menu Style" for the launcher will help keep things much more traditional.
    • Re:KDE (Score:5, Insightful)

      by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Friday March 02, 2012 @05:56PM (#39226519) Homepage Journal

      Definitely a good idea to
      - first make Windows look like Linux (using Open Source software like Libre/Open Office, etc.)
      - then make Linux look like Windows (similar layout/style on the screen, programs available where they were, etc.)
      - then later introduce people to the new possibilities. We should learn from the massive Linux transitions e.g. in governments -- some have success/failure stories, and some give "lessons learned" summaries.

      • by Jerry (6400)

        The bestg way to impliment your recommendations is to use the KDE desktop environment. Using that, pretty much any distro is the same because you learn one DE and maximize its power settings.

        I began using KDE with the 1.0 beta release when it came with SuSE 5.3 in Sept of 1998. I am currently running Kubuntu 12.04 Precise, which features KDE 4.8.0. If you like mime and mouse options control and the ability to configure your DE very similar to XP or Win7 so there is less difficulty working back and fo

    • by pinkeen (1804300)

      One word of advice: "Classic Menu Style" for the launcher will help keep things much more traditional.

      Yes, because default Windows launcher still looks the same... *sigh*

      Even Microsoft finally embraced the idea that the "Classic" launcher is not the most productive design.

    • by Sipper (462582)

      If you're bringing people over from the Windows world, please encourage KDE. It's a pretty good take on the "taskbar w/ a start button" GUI-style and will be immediately familiar to most folks. One word of advice: "Classic Menu Style" for the launcher will help keep things much more traditional.

      Agree with the above, with one addition: immediately explain how to turn of Strigi "Desktop Search" functionality, or the people using KDE are going to think that it sucks. Nepomuk/Strigi immediately wants to run 6+ background "ontologies" to search and index files in your home directory, which is such an I/O strain that on old computers it's hard to even operate the mouse on the screen.

  • by compro01 (777531) on Friday March 02, 2012 @05:17PM (#39226009)

    If you're trying to teach them to use Linux for general purposes, I'd go with Mint. It passes the Aunt Tilly test with flying colors in my experience.

    If you're trying to teach them about Linux and how stuff works, Slackware or Arch would be the choice.

    • If you're trying to teach them to use Linux for general purposes, I'd go with Mint. It passes the Aunt Tilly test with flying colors in my experience

      Because I kept getting people recommending Mint to those of us who were pissed off with Unity on Ubuntu, I gave it a try. I honestly don't understand what people like about it. Mint made me jump through hoops to get google as the default search engine in firefox because google doesn't pay mint to "send customers their way." I can understand getting paid to be the default option, but having to go through extra steps to make Google an option? That's an attempt at extortion, and I won't support it. There'

      • by Sipper (462582)

        If you're trying to teach them to use Linux for general purposes, I'd go with Mint. It passes the Aunt Tilly test with flying colors in my experience

        Because I kept getting people recommending Mint to those of us who were pissed off with Unity on Ubuntu, I gave it a try. I honestly don't understand what people like about it.

        There are two distributions of Mint: "Linux Mint 12", based on Ubuntu, and "Linux Mint Debian" that's based on Debian. As a Debian user I tried Mint 12 and also didn't like it, then tried Mint Debian and was much happier with it. I normally use DuckDuckGo via SSL as my search of choice, so if Google wasn't an option by default, I probably wouldn't have noticed. I just double-checked, and Google was the default search engine in Iceweasel (which is Firefox renamed due to trademark action from Mozilla) in M

    • Unless Aunt Tilly is representative of your development staff, keeping her happy probably isn't that important.
  • Unless you want to teach GNOME, or KDE, or Unity, or Cinnamon, start them off with a command line-only Linux install. At that level, all distros are essentially identical except for package management. And even there, the two big ones, apt and rpm, are different only in their syntax.
    • by Wolfrider (856)

      --How about Knoppix ? Live-cd, you get the best of both worlds and can access command-line only stuff.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 02, 2012 @05:20PM (#39226063)

    If you are paying for their time, a question I would ask is do you want to solve problems once, or over and over with all the permutations of each of your distros and versions?

    I would recommend against Fedora unless you want to do fresh installs at least once a year (twice a year to follow each release). I would recommend CentOS (7-10 year install length).

    Whichever you go with, I would standardize on a single distro. Then when you run into an issue you solve it once, and not corner cases that each distro have.

    It really is like learning/deploying/testing 3-4 flavors of Windows all at once (Win2000, WinXP, Vista, Win7) and that's not even introducing 32bit vs. 64bit issues, and actual distro version differences (EL5.x vs. 6.x, etc.).

    Let people dink and learn the Linux distro of their own choice on their own time. Just my two cents.

    • by cptdondo (59460)

      That.

      If you're looking for developer distros, pick one that has the developer tools; I'd go with Debian just because it's stable as a rock and about as exciting.

      If you're going with end-user eye candy, I'd go with Ubuntu. That way you still have the underlying Debian base with a lot of windows-like fluff.

  • If... (Score:5, Funny)

    by AresTheImpaler (570208) on Friday March 02, 2012 @05:21PM (#39226075)
    If you get paid by the hour, then Gentoo is the way to go. Pro-tip: use the slowest machine.
    • by kthreadd (1558445)

      In that case I would go with Linux From Scratch. They should learn from the ground up!

      • by geekoid (135745)

        In order to start from the ground up, they will first need to create the universe.

        With apologies to Carl Sagan.

    • by simonbp (412489)

      If you are teaching sysadmins, then yes Gentoo is the way to go. It teaches you very precisely what exactly you need and exactly what you don't. And, it keeps you getting reliant on a particular vendor's special config tools. If you can get and keep a Gentoo system running, you are genuinely distro-agnostic.

      • I used to use Gentoo, mostly because it was the only distribution which had a bleeding-edge kernel new enough to handle my TV capture hardware. Happily, the MythTV variant of Ubuntu now does just fine...

        Gentoo is good for learning the underlying system though ; the installation manual alone makes you learn a lot.

  • It depends... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ThinkDifferently (853608) on Friday March 02, 2012 @05:21PM (#39226079)
    It really depends on what you're teaching. If you want to teach them an enterprise product, then RHEL/CentOS/Fedora. If you want to teach them a desktop product, then Ubuntu. I know this probably wouldn't be for the poster, but for others who felt comfortable with Windows and would just want to learn basic Linux commands, dare I commit heresy here, might I suggest Cygwin?
    • by Digicrat (973598)

      +1

      If you just want to teach new developers command-line Unix tools, Cygwin is definitely the way to go. If you just want to give them a taste of Linux, distribute some VMs with a distro of choice on it. I've always preferred Ubuntu as the newbie distro of choice, but I haven't really taken a good look at the current state of distros from that perspective in a while.

      Realistically for the average user, once you install the OS for them and choose a desktop environment, the choice of distribution is almost ir

    • by smash (1351)
      Agreed with this. If you want to teach people how the OS works, use slackware. If you want to simply enable people to get work done on something other than Windows, one of the user friendlier distributions would be a better choice. However they will make learning how things work more complicated, due to the more complex init scripts, dependencies, etc.
  • How much time do you have to invest in this project, and how deep does their knowledge need to be?

    I learned more from doing a slackware install (back in about '98 or so) then from all my experience with other Linux installs. I've heard people say similar things about Gentoo/Portage, so YMMV, but a distro that more or less forces people to do things by hand will both teach them, and teach them respect for, the system. You mention two systems that use apt, and one that uses rpm... Pick one architecture, yo

    • by billcopc (196330)

      That depends how much learning you want to do. I'm a hardcore Gentoo fan, not because the source is more easily accessible, but because its package manager makes sense to me, as a developer.
      - It asks me when it's about to do something important, like updating config files or replacing core system tools.
      - It lets me choose which features to build into each package, rather than shoving a preconfigured binary down my throat.
      - It offers timely updates if I want to install them.
      - It shows which patches are appl

  • I'd go with CentOS.

    It's not primarily a mainstream desktop Linux distro but you're in a work environment dealing with a embedded Windows -> Linux transition, so it doesn't matter. For this reason you don't have to deal with the bullshit UI fucking around that seems to be going on in the Linux ecosystem right now, plus it's a very stable and clean distro given its relationship with RHEL. It's our distro of choice for our VME single-board computers.

    I despise Linux on the desktop at home but at work, for ou

    • by rrohbeck (944847)

      Its packages are generally pretty downrev and limited but rock solid.
      However CentOS 6 comes with Gnome3. That's a deal breaker for me.

      • by firefrei (2569069)

        However CentOS 6 comes with Gnome3.

        You sure? I installed CentOS 6.2 this week (I selected the "Desktop" set of packages), and it booted into GNOME 2. Unless you're thinking of something else.

  • by erktrek (473476) on Friday March 02, 2012 @05:28PM (#39226173)

    I think it depends on exactly what you want to teach your general public. If you want to go down and dirty with installation & good documentation then maybe something like "gentoo" (or it's derivatives).

    Otherwise if you just want to familiarize them with a basic gui interface similar to what they're used to and also simple maybe try something like Lubuntu or Xubuntu? Ubuntu's Unity may be too radical a departure for this (yet).

    Mint is cool but stability might be a concern depending on the flavor especially if you want the old-school gnome paradigm.

    Just my 2 cents..

  • FreeBSD (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Barefoot Monkey (1657313) on Friday March 02, 2012 @05:31PM (#39226211)

    Maybe it's not the kind of answer you were expecting, but FreeBSD is great example for teaching how operating systems work. It's not very different from Linux but is very simple and clean despite doing little to hide its inner workings.

  • umm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday March 02, 2012 @05:33PM (#39226233) Homepage Journal

    "They will be allowed to choose their own distro,"
    don't do that, it's going to be a nightmare.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      At least not in the "Which distro do you want?" form, because they probably have no idea. They expect you to know this best. I'd say something like "As I'm sure many of you know, unlike Windows there are many companies and organizations that create distributions of Linux. All of these are built on the Linux kernel but can look and behave quite differently. For those of you who have any experience or preferences in that regard, you're free to choose your own distribution as most of the current developers hav

  • Your audience is programmers, so highly technical is not an issue. So what do intend to teach? How does Linux work, how is it organized, what is its structure? Gentoo stage 0. How do I use the new system you're making me use? Whatever all of your tools best supports, or if that's not a concern just go with the popular Ubuntu.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      these are developers that seem to need the hand held to fgo to a new OS. So I wouldn't be so quick with the " highly technical is not an issue" statement.

  • None.
    You don't administer the machines as everyone uses their favorite distro, it is not your responsibility.
    If you give developers a choice for platform, anything will do as long as they accomplish what they are hired for. Linux distros are a matter of taste, each with benefits and downsides. Choosing is part of the experience.
  • It sounds like you may be using an embedded Linux for your products.

    If so, you should be using the distribution that most closely resembles your delivery systems, rather than letting users pick whatever they want.

    In fact, I can't imagine ever allowing users and developers in any department I'd be managing to choose whatever distribution or operating system they want. Corporate standards are there so that maintenance and integration are manageable issues, and the differences between some distributions

  • by Marrow (195242) on Friday March 02, 2012 @05:42PM (#39226351)

    A mis-mash of various distros inhouse will make backups and other admin tasks more complicated. Choose a distro+version and then mandate its use throughout the company. Backups, package management, user management are all different between distos.
    If you are putting your products on a specific type of linux (embedded), then use a close relative of it.
    I do not recommend Ubuntu variants for learning. Fedora would be better. Dont forget to learn about GPL if you are embedding!

  • I use Edubuntu. Of course I realize that I'm talking about a classroom with kids, and that probably isn't your situation. But the amount of learning utilities and games with Edubuntu can't be beat anywhere else that I've found.
  • by FudRucker (866063) on Friday March 02, 2012 @05:49PM (#39226439)
    if you learn to use Debian you learn Debian, if you learn to use Fedora you learn Fedora, but if you learn to use Slackware you learn Linux
  • Forget about Ubuntu. It may be big, energetic and popular, but one thing it is not is "industry standards" focused.

    CentOS (or RHEL) is based largely on the same old notions and ideas that the earliest Unixes have been based on forever.

    If you want to teach *NIX, then start with where it is most "normalized" and perhaps later show where it varies and deviates. Don't start with a unique, deviated and/or customized Linux like Ubuntu or even anything Debian based. It's just too different.

  • by burne (686114) on Friday March 02, 2012 @06:00PM (#39226547)

    based on my current experience:

    at least three linux flavours, at least two BSD flavours, and add in an additional 'classic' UNIX, like Solaris, IRIX, AIX, True64 or HP/UX, and don't forget OS-X.

    focus on the differences, not on the similarities. Genetic differentiation is what counts, not the similarities.

    'Distro-agnosicm' is what counts.

  • by scottbomb (1290580) on Friday March 02, 2012 @06:11PM (#39226659) Journal

    Notice the "X" in front. Not Ubuntu - but Xubuntu. The US resembles Windows more than any other. It's highly customizable too, and you don't need to do a bunch of command line hacks to make it happen.

  • If you want to get or learn how to get you package into ubuntu, the best way is to get it into debian and let it percholate in. To get your package into debian, you must first get your package into debian unstable. This requires a debian unstable environment. You can virtualize your way in if you want to.

    Debian unstable is not that unstable, most of it works most of the time. It is the source of ubuntu.

    There are some people that run debian unstable as their primary environment.

  • One of the main reasons friends of mine are reserved about trying linux in the first place, is because they don't understand exactly WHY there are so many different distributions out there. I'd start by answering why that is:

    - Show them one or two distributions that are noob friendly enough but do things differently, such as fedora vs ubuntu vs mint, to show what the differences between distributions might be (and more importantly, what the similarities are).

    - Then show them that whichever system you end u

  • It will probably be the easiest long-term if you go in the same neighborhood as what your using in your dev/prod environment... If you're using RHEL or CentOS, go with RHEL, Fedora, or CentOS. If you're going with something from the Debian branch, stick to those choices (Debian, Ubuntu, Mint), or with Suse, go with Suse.

    I've been a linux guy for a bunch of years (Started with RedHat, moved to Debian, but have tried all of the big players) and it's always the little differences (such as netconfig, default

  • A lot of tech companies use RHEL or CentOS for production/development, both (really, they are practically the same) have gui interfaces if you choose to use it.

    It is perfectly suitable for learning, though you mostly deal with RHEL specific install management(RPMs), but most distros are part of a few different management schemes.
  • Support? (Score:4, Informative)

    by s.petry (762400) on Friday March 02, 2012 @07:19PM (#39227409)

    This is the million dollar question, but also comes with a price tag. If you want support, then you want Redhat. Support includes more than you would get with Mickeysoft for much less money.

    RHEL gets you a few other things besides a check book full of support. There are far more experts with Redhat than any other distro (at least in the US). This means if you can't afford, or don't want to pay Redhat you can still find help. Good luck finding that "Gentoo" or "Slackware" expert when something breaks, or good luck affording them since he's booked by some other schlep that went with that brand.

    Lets face a simple fact. At home, you can use what ever you want. Who cares about down time, bugs, learning curves, etc... none of that matters. When it comes to business, you need to have something with a support chain. You also need a fall guy when the shit hits the fan.

    At work, we strictly run RHEL. Kickstarts include the full KDE suite, desk top is changed to KDE and KDE's Kiosk features are used to manage the desktops and give a common look and feel. RHEL will include everything you want from the standard linux stack, though you may have to get both a desktop and server set of media.

  • Any distribution is fine, preferably MULTIPLE distributions. If you settle on, for example, Ubuntu, then you're teaching somebody how to use Ubuntu, not how to use Linux. Install several inside VMs and have the student switch between them each session. And to really drive home the point, maybe a few hours with FreeBSD to give a taste of how UNIX systems are all similar, but not exactly alike.
  • Seems like that would be more helpful.
  • ...and install it on all machines. Set up FAI or Puppet or something to administer it and establish a local repository. Tell the developers that if they want to use anything else they can but they're on their own for support.

  • Time was I would have said "any of those is fine".

    But Ubuntu sets up the Unity desktop, and Fedora sets up GNOME Shell. Both of these are very different from other desktop environments, particularly Windows.

    Unity is very Mac-like, but rather different from Windows.

    GNOME Shell in particular has a brand-new interface that is not like Windows and not like the Mac. It is designed to be easy to learn and use, but IMHO it is egregiously different from what has gone before, and using it is (for me) an exercise i

  • by meburke (736645) on Friday March 02, 2012 @08:42PM (#39228217)

    The qestion shoud be something like, "What distro would you use to teach (x)..?" What you are going to teach and the criteria for teaching it are more important than the software version.

    If you are going to teach Linux administration, I would suggest OpenSuse, Debian, RedHat or Fedora. If you want glitch-free production systems, use something that has universal appeal and stay away from Ubuntu and Mint. (My experience is that they change too much from one release to another, administration tools are not standard, and, although installing some things like LAMP is a snap on Mint, advanced administration takes too much time. My list consists of distros I would never use again because I have work to do and I'd rather not spend a lot of time looking for the exotic configurations that make my distro work. (Top of the list: Ubuntu and CentOS, followed by Mint, Debian Mint and Fedora.) I prefer Debian, but I would go with RHE or OpenSuse without crying. I do development work on multiple hybrid systems that may require computer-machine interfaces, but you should match your requirements to your audience' needs.

  • by smash (1351)
    What they learn today will be mostly applicable tomorrow, and the unix way of thinking learned will help with other Unixes. As opposed to the NIH flavour of the month thinking of the average Linux distribution. If it has to be Linux, go with slackware, as that is the closeted to the traditional Unix way of doing things.
    • by smash (1351)
      Or even better, i forgot to mention PC-BSD. You can even install FreeBSD from it, but it has full hardware detection, etc.
  • A live CD distribution means they can use it at home with little hassle if they don't get enough time in the class. Which one would depend upon what the instructors are used to. Ubuntu confused me a bit beyond normal usage when I first hit it (eg. no "su -" and config in a different place to some others) and the same would be the case from people going from Ubuntu to Fedora, so whatever is similar to what the instructors have used.

When you don't know what you are doing, do it neatly.

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