What are the different versions of linux, and how do they compare?

by HSG on Jul 22, 2012 in Articles from Software Fans

Attempting to create an intelligent entry about Linux for such a wide ranging audience is a bit like trying to compare a presentation on quantum mechanics for physicists while being readable by somebody with a junior high school education.

If you are a *NIX expert, then I suggest you keep on reading so you know how to explain this world to mere mortals.

I called it *nix for a reason. It represents a family of thinking. It is not unlike the difference between the language C and C++. Are there differences between the two? Certainly. And it is not like the difference between COBOL and C.

Years ago when I ran my own vo-tech school I would teach the students there are only two things in life. MS and *NIX. A friend of mine, a genius developer in her own right was aghast.

I said to her, "what's the real big deal difference between FreeBSD and Plan 9? Her response was running off a litany of minutia. About how Plan 9 from AT&T was more suited to real-time apps, yada yada.

After listening for 10 min., I went to the whiteboard and wrote two commands. IPCONFIG - IFCONFIG.

I then said, "for my troops, this is all they need to know. One is Microsoft, the other is *NIX."

In the 1980s there was an attempt to unify *NIX, to be an alternative to Microsoft. Years of effort went down the tubes.

It is not practical. It is the very forked nature of *NIX that makes it so successful. Let's face facts. An embedded Linux does not need bloat of a GUI. In many cases you only need one type of network I/O, or perhaps none whatsoever.

For a more full-featured OS, our choices break down like this.

RPM or Debian.

Without getting into the minutia that OS X is really BSD with a proprietary Cupertino GUI, it still really just IFCONFIG stuff, not IPCONFIG stuff.

Linux is a variant of UNIX.

Within the Linux world it comes down to Red Hat Package Management (RPM) or Deb and Ian (Debian).

Since I have met both Bob Young (the founder of Red Hat) and Ian, this is how it looks to me. Bob had a good idea, took action, built it and sold the company. Ian look at RPM and improved on the concept.

My Linux choices are clearly down the Debian pathway. This is only because I find once I get the concept of Synaptic Package Management into the heads of end-users, they are thrilled and I never hear from them again. I only hear from people they have referred.

That is my kind of end-user.

Certainly I am not dissing Plan 9. It's great. And I don't work on virtual PBXs anymore. Today I teach people how not to get caught up in the minutia.

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