Home  |  News  |  Articles  |  Forum  |  Polls  |  Blogs  |  Videos  |  Resource Library

Keywords: Match:
The Best Free Desktop Linux . . . and how to make it better
by Michael C. Barnes (Oct. 29, 2004)

Foreword: Continuing his quest for the perfect Linux desktop, Michael C. Barnes gives readers an in-depth analysis of the technologies that make open source a great alternative to proprietary operating systems. Examining the various components that constitute a complete system, Barnes provides practical advice and instruction on how to improve your desktop experience and productivity with freely available software. He reviews desktop environments, communications using voice-over-IP, common applications, and more.

Barnes selected SimplyMEPIS for his tutorial, noting that this Debian-based distribution offers the "right tools in the right places and makes no assumptions about the users' knowledge of Linux." In this exclusive feature he not only assembles the "best" free Linux desktop -- but gives you the tools to make it better.

The Best Free Desktop Linux . . . and how to make it better

by Michael C. Barnes


For nearly three years, I have been documenting my quest to find the ultimate desktop operating system for x86 platforms. Early on, I realized that there would be no "silver bullet." There are many reasons why a "one-size-fits-all" approach will not work.

The general public has many perceptions about Linux. Some of these are true and some of these are not. Some were true and are no longer true. Most people believe the following:
  • Linux is more secure than Microsoft Windows.
  • Linux is immune or at least less prone to becoming infected with viruses than Microsoft Windows.
  • Linux supports less hardware than Microsoft Windows.
  • Linux supports fewer applications than Microsoft Windows.
  • Linux is harder to support.
  • Linux is less friendly.
  • It is harder to install software on Linux than on Microsoft Windows.
  • There is a major transition effort required to move from Microsoft Windows to Linux.

To some degree, the above statements at one time were true and to some extent, these statements are still true about many Linux distributions.

One of the most challenging aspects of dealing with Linux is that there are hundreds of different Linux distributions and this is overwhelming and confusing to most people trying to learn about Linux. In reality, deciding on what Linux to use is not really a critical issue. It is generally very easy to install Linux; and data from one distribution is easily moved to a new distribution without any problems.

Aside from the windowing system, from a user's standpoint, there are few differences between one Linux distribution and another. The standard application offerings are pretty much the same from one Linux to another.

What makes one Linux different from another has more to do with the ease of initial installation, and the difficulty of installing additional software than it does any other factor. Microsoft has made installing applications on Microsoft Windows about as easy as it gets. The user simply clicks on a single executable and the application pretty much installs itself.

While it is true that some Linux applications are installed from shell scripts that are as easy to install as Microsoft applications, most Linux applications are distributed to a specific packaging system.

Red Hat uses a packaging system that uses files called RPMs. These files can be as easy to install as Microsoft -- providing that all the libraries are present. However, if there are any missing libraries, installing software can be a research and development project.

MEPIS is based on Debian. Debian is a free Linux distribution that focuses more on stability than being "state-of-the-art." One of the things that distinguishes Debian is that it has a packaging system called apt-get. This system is a very powerful way for users to install applications from repositories. What makes it so ideal is that apt-get will install any libraries or other files needed. Apt-get also makes it easy to keep your own distribution up-to-date.

-- Continued --

(Click here for further information)

Home  |  News  |  Articles  |  Forum  |  Polls  |  About  |  Contact

Ziff Davis Enterprise Home | Contact Us | Advertise | Link to Us | Reprints | Magazine Subscriptions | Newsletters
Tech RSS Feeds | ROI Calculators | Tech Podcasts | Tech Video | VARs | Channel News

Baseline | Careers | Channel Insider | CIO Insight | DesktopLinux | DeviceForge | DevSource | eSeminars |
eWEEK | Enterprise Network Security | LinuxDevices | Linux Watch | Microsoft Watch | Mid-market | Networking | PDF Zone |
Publish | Security IT Hub | Strategic Partner | Web Buyer's Guide | Windows for Devices

Developer Shed | Dev Shed | ASP Free | Dev Articles | Dev Hardware | SEO Chat | Tutorialized | Scripts |
Code Walkers | Web Hosters | Dev Mechanic | Dev Archives | igrep

Use of this site is governed by our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Except where otherwise specified, the contents of this site are copyright © 1999-2011 Ziff Davis Enterprise Holdings Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Ziff Davis Enterprise is prohibited. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds. All other marks are the property of their respective owners.