Which Linux Distribution to Install?

December 14, 2009

Deciding which Linux distribution to install is more of a personal choice. You should install a few of them to see which version do you like. However, there are some characteristics that could identify among the different distribution. The most popular Linux distribution is Fedora and Ubuntu.

Ubuntu

If you are new in Linux, Ubuntu is the only choice. Ubuntu is design for people who are migrating from Windows or Mac. It is novice friendly and easy to use. Its documentation is very rich and clear. Ubuntu also has a very large support community. Furthermore, Ubuntu focus its feature enhancement more on the desktop experience. Compare to Fedora, Ubuntu is more concern of stability and therefore it won’t adopt any new technology that is too new and unstable.

If you want a stable and user-friendly desktop experience, Ubuntu is the choice. If you do not like to tinker with operating system and just want to use it for normal usage, choose Ubuntu.

Fedora

Fedora, however, is the most technically advanced distribution. Any new technology will be adopted by Fedora first.  If you want the latest and most advanced technology, use Fedora. Therefore, Fedora is not as stable as Ubuntu. Sometime you would get a problematic kernel update which forces you to switch back to older kernel for a while. Fedora is more suitable for season Linux user who wants to try out the latest. You must not be afraid of tinkering with the operating system when using Fedora. If you are technically inclined but new to Linux, you could try Fedora. The support community for Fedora is good.

For feature enhancement, Fedora is more concern of security and it may include enterprise feature which might not benefit you. Fedora is the test bed for trying out new technology before such technology is adopted by its sponsor Linux Red Hat in their enterprise operating system. If you are an IT professional considering adopting a new skills in Linux administration, Fedora is the choice. By learning Fedora, you will be sure that Linux Red Hat would adopt some of the technology eventually. For anyone who would like to learn some system administration that could help in their career in IT, Fedora is he choice.

Enterprise: Linux Red Hat and CentOS

In the enterprise market, Linux Red Hat is the most popular open source distribution. However, Linux Red Hat is not free. You can download Red Hat for a free trial. After which, you have to pay for any updates and support. For those looking to learn the skills in administering Linux Red Hat, you could use Fedora or CentOS. CentOS is very similar to Linux Red Hat. In fact, what CentOS did is to get the source code from Linux Red Hat, remove its trade mark and marketed as CentOS.

Please bear in mind that CentOS is not 100% compatible with Linux. CentOS is trying to be as similar to Red Hat as possible. I could say that CentOS is 99% compatible with Linux Red Hat. For those who want to learn Red Hat administration, CentOS is the choice because you can download it for free. In the enterprise market, some companies try out CentOS before adopting Linux Red Hat. There are some companies who would not like to pay for updates and support would use CentOS operationally.

Mobile Distribution: Knoppix and DSL

Beside the two popular desktop distributions Fedora and Ubuntu, I would like to introduce you to some light weight and mobile distribution. Such distribution is not rich in software but it is good enough for simple usage. Knoppix contains in a bootable CD with a collection of GNU/Linux software. There is no need to install Knoppix to the hard disk as you can boot it up from CD.

Another mobile distribution is DSL (Damn Small Linux). It is derived from Knoppix and it is much smaller in size. It contains only 50MB and could be stored in a thumb drive. Mobile distribution could be used for demonstrative or educational purpose. However, Linux administrator uses it frequently for hardware troubleshooting or repair.

Distribution for Hardcore Geek: Gentoo and LFS

Gentoo Linux was designed for power users. Its installation could be cumbersome although recently it includes an installer to simplify the installation. If you would like to modify your operating system to your liking, Gentoo could be your choice. Gentoo also got a good support community with comprehensive documentation.  Gentoo users are more technically inclined. In fact, Gentoo forum provide a lot of the highly technical solution to the common problem in other distribution.

If you want to build Linux from scratch, you should consider LFS project. Linux From Scratch (LFS) is a project that provides you with the steps necessary to build your own custom Linux system. The most important reason for using LFS is to learn how a Linux system works internally. Building an LFS system teaches you about all that makes Linux tick, how things work together, and depend on each other. Along the way you could customize it to your own taste and needs.

Debian

Finally, I would like to mention Debian. Before Ubuntu arrives, Debian got the largest support community with a large collection of software. Debian also got the largest group of developers working on the project. The existence of Ubuntu, which uses the base code of Debian, split up the manpower and resource from Debian. In fact, a lots of other Linux distribution are derived from Debian.

Usage

With all the different Linux distributions mentioned above. I would like to highlight that the usage between these distributions can be very different especially in the area of software installation and distribution. We can categorize most Linux distribution into 2 classes.

The first class is the Red Hat class of distributions. Red Hat uses rpm files to package their software and it uses yum for software update and distribution. Red Hat class distribution includes Linux Red Hat, Fedora and CentOS.

The other class, is the Debian class of distributions. Obviously, these distributions use the base code of Debian. Debian uses deb package for software packaging and it uses apt-get for updates and distributions. Debian class of Linux includes Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Knoppix and DSL (via Knoppix).

I hope the analysis above will help you to make up your mind on which Linux distribution to choose.


Which Linux Distribution?

December 8, 2009

Deciding which Linux distribution to install is more of a personal choice. You should install a few of them to see which version do you like. However, there are some characteristics that could identify among the different distribution. The most popular Linux distribution is Fedora and Ubuntu.

Ubuntu

If you are new in Linux, Ubuntu is the only choice. Ubuntu is design for people who are migrating from Windows or Mac. It is novice friendly and easy to use. Its documentation is very rich and clear. Ubuntu also has a very large support community. Furthermore, Ubuntu focus its feature enhancement more on the desktop experience. Compare to Fedora, Ubuntu is more concern of stability and therefore it won’t adopt any new technology that is too new and unstable.

If you want a stable and user-friendly desktop experience, Ubuntu is the choice. If you do not like to tinker with operating system and just want to use it for normal usage, choose Ubuntu.

Fedora

Fedora, however, is the most technically advanced distribution. Any new technology will be adopted by Fedora first.  If you want the latest and most advanced technology, use Fedora. Therefore, Fedora is not as stable as Ubuntu. Sometime you would get a problematic kernel update which forces you to switch back to older kernel for a while. Fedora is more suitable for season Linux user who wants to try out the latest. You must not be afraid of tinkering with the operating system when using Fedora. If you are technically inclined but new to Linux, you could try Fedora. The support community for Fedora is good.

For feature enhancement, Fedora is more concern of security and it may include enterprise feature which might not benefit you. Fedora is the test bed for trying out new technology before such technology is adopted by its sponsor Linux Red Hat in their enterprise operating system. If you are an IT professional considering adopting a new skills in Linux administration, Fedora is the choice. By learning Fedora, you will be sure that Linux Red Hat would adopt some of the technology eventually. For anyone who would like to learn some system administration that could help in their career in IT, Fedora is he choice.

Enterprise: Linux Red Hat and CentOS

In the enterprise market, Linux Red Hat is the most popular open source distribution. However, Linux Red Hat is not free. You can download Red Hat for a free trial. After which, you have to pay for any updates and support. For those looking to learn the skills in administering Linux Red Hat, you could use Fedora or CentOS. CentOS is very similar to Linux Red Hat. In fact, what CentOS did is to get the source code from Linux Red Hat, remove its trade mark and marketed as CentOS.

Please bear in mind that CentOS is not 100% compatible with Linux. CentOS is trying to be as similar to Red Hat as possible. I could say that CentOS is 99% compatible with Linux Red Hat. For those who want to learn Red Hat administration, CentOS is the choice because you can download it for free. In the enterprise market, some companies try out CentOS before adopting Linux Red Hat. There are some companies who would not like to pay for updates and support would use CentOS operationally.

Mobile Distribution: Knoppix and DSL

Beside the two popular desktop distributions Fedora and Ubuntu, I would like to introduce you to some light weight and mobile distribution. Such distribution is not rich in software but it is good enough for simple usage. Knoppix contains in a bootable CD with a collection of GNU/Linux software. There is no need to install Knoppix to the hard disk as you can boot it up from CD.

Another mobile distribution is DSL (Damn Small Linux). It is derived from Knoppix and it is much smaller in size. It contains only 50MB and could be stored in a thumb drive. Mobile distribution could be used for demonstrative or educational purpose. However, Linux administrator uses it frequently for hardware troubleshooting or repair.

Distribution for Hardcore Geek: Gentoo and LFS

Gentoo Linux was designed for power users. Its installation could be cumbersome although recently it includes an installer to simplify the installation. If you would like to modify your operating system to your liking, Gentoo could be your choice. Gentoo also got a good support community with comprehensive documentation.  Gentoo users are more technically inclined. In fact, Gentoo forum provide a lot of the highly technical solution to the common problem in other distribution.

If you want to build Linux from scratch, you should consider LFS project. Linux From Scratch (LFS) is a project that provides you with the steps necessary to build your own custom Linux system. The most important reason for using LFS is to learn how a Linux system works internally. Building an LFS system teaches you about all that makes Linux tick, how things work together, and depend on each other. Along the way you could customize it to your own taste and needs.

Debian

Finally, I would like to mention Debian. Before Ubuntu arrives, Debian got the largest support community with a large collection of software. Debian also got the largest group of developers working on the project. The existence of Ubuntu, which uses the base code of Debian, split up the manpower and resource from Debian. In fact, a lots of other Linux distribution are derived from Debian.

Usage

With all the different Linux distributions mentioned above. I would like to highlight that the usage between these distributions can be very different especially in the area of software installation and distribution. We can categorize most Linux distribution into 2 classes.

The first class is the Red Hat class of distributions. Red Hat uses rpm files to package their software and it uses yum for software update and distribution. Red Hat class distribution includes Linux Red Hat, Fedora and CentOS.

The other class, is the Debian class of distributions. Obviously, these distributions use the base code of Debian. Debian uses deb package for software packaging and it uses apt-get for updates and distributions. Debian class of Linux includes Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Knoppix and DSL (via Knoppix).

I hope the analysis above will help you to make up your mind on which Linux distribution to choose.


Ubuntu Installation and Configuration

May 27, 2009

Version: Ubuntu 9.04 (64-bit version)

Downloading Ubuntu

Testing out Ubuntu

  • To test out this Linux OS, boot with Ubuntu LiveCD and preview the software without making any changes to the hard disk.

Installing Ubuntu

  • Click install on the hard disk after you are satisfy with the evaluation.
  • You need to accept the license and answer some basic question. The most important part is to designate the drive partition which the OS is to be installed.

Hard Disk Partition

  • If you have only one primary drive, you should let the system configure the drive.
  • If you are having mixed partition with the Windows File System; then you need to configure the partition yourself.

Manual Configuration of Disk Partition

  • Create 1 partition using ext3 file format (In Linux, we uses ext3) with mount point set as ‘/’
  • Then create a logical partition for swap file.

Setting Boot Loader

  • In the final step of installation be sure to indicate where you want the boot manager to be installed, the default location is hd0 or the very first hard disk in the system.

Completion of the Installation

  • Once is system is up and running, you need to updates the operating system and get the drivers ready for any device that was missed during the installation.

Updating Ubuntu

  • Updating Ubuntu is as easy as Windows and it is automated. You will notice a message indicate that you need to update the OS. Follow the direction in the message will bring to the update manager and follow the instruction.

Updating Drivers

  • Download drivers from the vendors and make sure that they have Linux drivers available. Follow the installation instruction. The usual way of installing Linux packages is using command ‘make’ and ‘make install’.

Installing Creative X-FI Sound Blaster 64-bit driver

An Example: Steps to Install Sound Blaster Linux Drivers

1. Extract the compressed file (with extension XFiDrv_Linux_Public_US_1.00.tar.gz) into a folder, by right click on the file and click extract here.

2. Open the folder and read the installation instruction.

3. In this case open a terminal window and navigate to the target folder.

4. Enter [ sudo make ] follow by the password

5. Enter [ sudo make install ]

6. This should complete the installation.

Configuration of Ubuntu and Installation of Applications

  • Once Ubuntu installation is completed, you can proceed to configure the OS and installation of additional packages.

Security Configuration

  • Usually Linux do not use anti-virus software because there are very few or no virus for Linux. You might need to consider installing anti-virus software if your OS coexist with a Windows operating system.
  • All Linux OS come with its own firewall and be default it is configured to be secured. However, there are still some configurations that need to be done.
  • Basic security for beginners, I recommend this site for information. http://www.itsecurity.com/features/ubuntu-secure-install-resource/
  • You can Google ‘Linux security’ for further information.

Examples of Configuring the OS

Reconfiguring shared memory

  • Load your favourite text editor, open the file “/etc/fstab” and add the following line of code:
  • tmpfs /dev/shm tmpfs defaults,ro 0 0

Securing the Home directory

  • $chmod 0700 /home/username (replace username with the name you use to login to your computer)

Installation and Configuration of Commonly used Applications

  • Most of the popular applications are preloaded with Ubuntu; you need to add some plug-ins.
  • For additional software you can install using Applications >> Add/Remove.. OR System >> Administration >> Synaptic Package Manager. Either way, the utility will search for the application you intended, download it and install it automatically.

Web Browsing

  • Firefox is preloaded with Ubuntu; you just need to install additional plug-ins.

Firefox Plug-ins: Google Toolbar

  • Go to the site where Google toolbar is hosted and install directly from the web.

Firefox Plug-ins: Adobe Flash Player

1. The flash player can be downloaded at http://labs.adobe.com/downloads/flashplayer10.html. Download the package to begin installation.

2. Save the .tar.gz file to your desktop.

3. Quit your browser.

4. Remove all existing Adobe Flash Player installations from the system.

5. Unpack the file. A directory with contains libflashplayer.so will be created.

6. Copy libflashplayer.so to ~/.mozilla/plugins. Create the ‘plugins’ folder if it does not exist yet.

7. Launch your browser. To verify installation in Firefox choose Tools > Add-ons > Select the ‘Plugins’ tab.

Productivity Suite

  • Linux productivity suite is OpenOffice which is preloaded in Ubuntu. No action is required.

PDF Document

  • Ubuntu has default PDF reader so no installation is required. Ubuntu has built in PDF writer; here is the direction of how to use it.
  • For Firefox, select print >> print to file, make sure you specify the document type as PDF and also specify the filename and location of the file.
  • For OpenOffice, use ‘Export to PDF’ function.

PDF Writer for any other Application

  • You will need a PDF writer if you intend to use it on any other application that do not have print to PDF or export to PDF capabilities. In this case, you can follow the following instruction on installing cups-pdf.

Install cups-pdf

Using Synaptic Package Manager

  • Go to System >> Administration >> Synaptic Package Manager
  • Search for ‘cups-pdf’ and install it.

Using Terminal, and execute the following command:

  • $sudo apt-get install cups-pdf

image1

  • Finally, create folder named ‘PDF’ under your home folder. (Important: Linux is case sensitive, make sure your folder name is ‘PDF’; if you missed this step your printing will fail.)
  • If you have changed the home directory permission to 700, your cups-pdf may not work. You need to run the following command $sudo aa-complain cupsd
  • Alternatively, you can change the home directory permission to 711

Playing DVD

  • Playing DVD is more complicated because it involves restricted format.
  • To play the most common multimedia formats, including MP3, DVD, Flash, QuickTime, WMA and WMV, including both standalone files and content embedded in web pages. You need to install additional packages for playing restricted format. Then you need to install a DVD player and CSS Packages.
  • You can refer to Ubuntu community documentation on restricted format at https://help.ubuntu.com/community/RestrictedFormats

Installing Restricted Format Packages

Using Synaptic Package Manager

  • Go to Applications >> Add/Remove…
  • Set Show: to All available applications
  • Search for ‘ubuntu-restricted-extras’ and install it.
  • Note that there is also xubuntu-restricted-extras (for Xubuntu) and kubuntu-restricted-extras (for Kubuntu.)

Using Terminal, and execute the following command:

  • $sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras

Installing DVD Player and CSS Packages

  • Although Ubuntu comes with Totem Movie Player, it lacks DVD functions such as navigation through the menu, titles etc.
  • You can refer to https://help.ubuntu.com/community/RestrictedFormats/PlayingDVDs for additional information and types of DVD player available. In this section we will install CSS Packages first then we will proceed to install VLC Media Player

Installing CSS Packages

Using Synaptic Package Manager

  • Go to System >> Administration >> Synaptic Package Manager
  • Search for ‘libdvdread4’ and ‘gstreamer0.10-plugins-ugly’ and install it.

Using Terminal, and execute the following command:

  • $sudo apt-get install libdvdread4 gstreamer0.10-plugins-ugly

This package could be installed already.

Executing CSS

Use Terminal, and execute the following command:

  • $sudo /usr/share/doc/libdvdread4/install-css.sh

Installing VLC Media Player

Using Synaptic Package Manager

  • Go to System >> Administration >> Synaptic Package Manager
  • Search for ‘vlc’, ‘vlc-plugin-esd’ and ‘mozilla-plugin-vlc’ and install it.

Using Terminal, and execute the following command:

  • $sudo apt-get update
  • $sudo apt-get install vlc vlc-plugin-esd mozilla-plugin-vlc

Additional Note:

  • To set VLC as the default player, open any File Browser. Select Edit >> Preference >> Media as shown below

image2

  • To check your region setting, install regionset from Synaptic and under the terminal command: $regionset
  • After the command, it will show you the region settings.

DVD Ripping

Installing k9copy

Using Synaptic Package Manager

  • Go to System >> Administration >> Synaptic Package Manager
  • Search for ‘k9copy’ and install it.

image3

Using Terminal, and execute the following command:

  • $sudo apt-get install k9copy
  • Please search for k9copy on direction of usage.