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So over the past couple of weeks, there have been new versions of :

and a new version of Redhat is due in January 2010.(apparently).

What the are key differences between them, as from my perspective, they seem to be all pretty much the same.

From my perspective, I keep trying Linux every couple of years or so, to see how it compares with Windows, and I'm looking to use it to work on Mono and Java. Both of these I can do, but am not entirely sure which would be best, and the positives and negatives of each.

Would welcome any comments!



ps. Date in the title as I'm pretty sure this will be time specific due to new versions, patches, etc...

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you mean aside from the fact that FreeBSD isn't a Linux distro? – quack quixote Nov 27 '09 at 18:46
Good point, actually.... – Nick Haslam Nov 27 '09 at 22:04
1) Unix tree (OpenSolaris, Solaris or IBM, HP), Unix like system is FreeBSD 2) Linux tree (OpenSuse or Ubuntu or Fedora or Archlinux or Gentoo or TinycoreLinux or Microcorelinux or Debian shares the same linux kernel). 3) Windows tree arrived from FreeBSD like system which was Minix 4) Apple/Mac is licensed Unix tree which is also FreeBSD like family. 5) PDP-11 from main origin of Unix is still the main unix out there. – YumYumYum Apr 21 '12 at 15:42
up vote 12 down vote accepted

FreeBSD - This is not a Linux distribution, but rather a member of the BSD family which is mainly focused on being a mainstream server platform and supporting as much i386 hardware as possible. It supports the most x86 hardware out of all the BSDs, but likely not what you're after for a development platform unless you're programming server-side software.

OpenSuSe - More user friendly as a desktop platform. Not as much support and up to date software available, which is important for a development machine. Great for a regular end-user desktop environment though.

Ubuntu - This is probably what you're after if you're making desktop software. HUGE community support, currently ranked 4th in up-to-date software packages, and great as a desktop platform for end-users. Based on Debian.

Fedora 12 - Also great as a development platform - it's based on Red Hat Linux distribution therefore is rpm based. Currently ranked 2nd in up-to-date packages. Highly maintained, I see it as a nice mix between a desktop/server platform, you can install whatever you want and it's easily customizable. Not as popular as Ubuntu in the desktop world but heavily used in the server world. Great free alternative to Red Hat, CentOS is similar.

Other great development platforms include Arch Linux (if you're comfortable with some configuring - it's ranked 1st in updated software), and Gentoo.

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+1 - Nice summary. Only things that I would add: (a) BSD is not a linux distro, but another flavour of unix-like systems! (b) Fedora and Ubuntu are very committed to the values behind the free software movements. OpenSuSe (Novell) got this really bad idea of buddying up with Microsoft (patents, mono...). Not a technical difference, but an important one if you care about free software. On another note: what is the source you used for the ranking in up-to-dateness of the various distros? – mac Nov 28 '09 at 0:24
@mac, thanks for pointing that out, I must have read it over too fast! (the part regarding BSD) that aggravates me to an extent as well. As for the software, check out OS Watershed: – John T Nov 28 '09 at 0:28

The primary differences among these distro are their lineage, which several answers have covered. That largely affects how you administer them and the size of their software repositories. Anything based from Debian is going to have a very large collection of software to choose from. All the distros you've listed have plenty of support for developers.

I really agree with John T's remark about OpenSuse - it's not the best choice as a development platform. zillion makes a good point, FreeBSD is 'the' BSD distro. And to expand on matpol's anser: There used to be only 'RedHat'. In 2002 (or so) two forks were created, Fedora and RHEL (RedHat Enterprise Linux. Defora is spnsored by RedHat, but is a community supported distro. From RHEL or Fedora:

A few years ago there was just one Red Hat Linux. As acceptance grew and Linux reached further into enterprise computing, one Red Hat Linux product could no longer be all things to all users. That's why in 2002 Red Hat created Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Stable, supported, certified -- Red Hat Enterprise Linux has become the Linux standard.

The Fedora Project was introduced in late 2003. Built for and with the help of the open source community, the Fedora Project is for developers and high-tech enthusiasts using Linux in non-critical computing environments.

If they all seem pretty much the same to you, it's because they are. They all use very similar linux kernels. They all can run gnome, kde, or openbox desktops. The core software (GNU), which is why purists refer to these systems as Gnu/Linux systems.

When choosing a distro, I typically advise people to pick one they are familiar with - one you can administer with no fuss, after all you want to spend your time working, not figuring out how to get that $#@&&! video driver to work.

If you are new to linux, stick with a stable, popular distro which will provide the most help if you need it. That means Debian, *buntu, Fedora, Slackware, Mandriva or CentOS.

Personally, as my main development box, I would avoid anything that advertises itself on the 'bleeding edge' asuch as ArchLinux, but that is because I am old and get cranky when I perform a routine software update & my video drivers break.

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as someone who's used RedHat (in the original sense, not this newfangled Fedora stuff), Slackware, Ubuntu and now Debian linuxes, take it from me -- the point about picking one you're already familiar with is a good one. it takes time to figure out how a new distro does things. – quack quixote Nov 28 '09 at 1:50

redhat and fedora are similar. Ubuntu is based off debian. The difference between distros to me seems to be the way you install packages and where stuff is. In debian/ubuntu you use .debs and in redhat/fedora/centos you use rpms. I use ubuntu for desktop and server - it's pretty easy to keep up to date and install software. I have used the redhat variety - I found this a bit more difficult to maintain.

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FreeBsd is the main Bsd distro, Bsd is more secure than linux but more limited, it's also more structured than linux between projects but some softwares won't compile on it ...

Others are only linux distributions, it's all the same mostly but you choose depending your needs and knowlegde a decent distro, there's a lot of them and they are less structured but linux evolve faster than any operating system that way ...

For linux, I suggest you to try :

Slitaz 2.0 : for an old computer or to bring with you ... Ubuntu : a good distro to learn the basics first but don't stick on it too long ... Archlinux : If you want a real linux that could stay a lifetime on a computer even an old computer, I suggest you to try and install by Chakra live cd/dvd the first and keep important files, you could begin with it be prepared cause it will be really hard sometimes but valuable for a lifetime ...

Note : I use Archlinux 64 bits now ...

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I'm also trying to figure out the question what is the damn difference between different Linux distros and also how Linux is different from BSD.

As far as I know, the OSes that you mentioned can be considered into two categories:

  • BSD
  • Linux Distros

For the difference of BSD and Linux, I strongly recommend this article:

{BSD vs Linux}(

It's really lengthy, but worth reading and the comments are really brilliant. You won't want to miss it.

For the difference of Different Linux Distros, to know the components of a Linux distro is definitely a great starting point, IMHO, you want want to see around {LFS}(

And the big differences would be:

  • Kernel
  • Desktop Environment
  • Package Management
  • Community Support
  • Target User

Checkout this post What’s The Difference Between Linux Distributions If They’re All Linux?.

Hope this helps:-)

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