What's the dope on Linux distributions?

So I have this old notebook that’s sitting at home and that I fire up occasionally. I’m running Windows 98 on it, but since my other machine is also on Windows, and my computer at school is a Mac, I thought I could cover all my bases by switching it over to Linux.

So I hopped on to http://www.linux.org/dist/list.html and much to my horror found that there are some 69 distributions that fit my criteria. My questions are thus:

-How are they different?
-Which one would be best for an oldish PII machine, that never goes on the net?
-Any distro to avoid like the plague?
-Is it worth to spend the money, when free versions exist?

If you have a way of download and burning the images from the online sites, then you should just do that. No point in paying money unnecessarily. If you don’t or can’t, then and only then pay for them.

Most would run fine on a pII as long as you don’t use a bloat-heavy desktop like KDE.

My personal choices would be SUSE, Mandrake or Redhat, with a slight bias towards Mandrake, due to its newbie friendly setup.

I wonder if I might tack a related question onto yours Jovan

With everybody developing and modifying it openly in their own ways, how is it that Linux still remains a single standard? - will it ever branch into a number of different, not-quite-compatible OSes?

Because no one is really forking (i.e., modifying in their own way) the most basic, critical components: the kernel (heck, this is what makes it Linux :slight_smile: ), the standard C library (everybody uses the GNU C library), the C compiler (everybody uses the GNU C compiler), the shells (everybody uses bash, tcsh, pdksh, etc.), the standard text utilities (everybody uses the GNU ones), the GUI (everybody uses the XFree86, which is based on the good ol’ MIT code that just about every X client or server is built on), etc.

Most of the differences between distributions are differences in:
[li]How applications are packaged for distribution[/li][li]What version of the above import components are used[/li][li]Miscellaneous administrative stuff (e.g., initialization scripts, what MTA is used, etc.)[/li][/ul]

I’ve long been a fan of Red Hat Linux. Even the latest (Red Hat 9) runs fine on my old Pentium MMX 166 laptop with 64M of RAM, although I don’t run the GNOME or KDE desktops on that machine unless I feel like waiting a very, very long time for anything to happen. However, Red Hat is discontinuing their free product, though - there will be no more Red Hat Linux after version 9, and support for Red Hat 9 will be discontinued next April.

I’m seriously considering switching to Debian. It’s got a huge following of rather rabid fans who make some great arguments for it (many of which center around the apt package manager, which apparently kicks all kinds of ass). Other popular distributions are Mandrake, SuSE and Slackware. I used to run Slackware back in the day - it runs well on minimal systems but doesn’t have a terribly user-friendly installer. I’ve never worked with SuSE or Mandrake, but Mandrake is apparently easy to install. You also might want to check out Knoppix - it’s a full Linux distribution on a bootable CD. It’s Debian-based and auto-detects hardware like nobody’s business and it’s a great way to try out Linux without actually having to load it onto a hard drive.

If you want to download full Linux distribution CD’s for free, check out LinuxIso.

Other links:


My SO installed Debain on his computer, mine, and his laptop. He is the geek, not me, but as someone who uses it regularly (like, right now), Debian is pretty simple to use, though I do have the KDE environment. I used to have Gnome, but KDE is prettier!

And I LOVE the apt thingy! I have downloaded all by my self a bunch of games and useless but funny aps, and I have upgraded things with it and its so easy, because it does eveything for you.
apt-get install packagename is a great feature!

Though as I said, I know nothing of installing Linux, but the apt system is great and the whole thing is fairly easy to use for day-to-day things. Though you said you wouldnt have it on the net, which makes apt useless. Consider at least making the laptop internet ready for when you want do update/install new packages.