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What's Your Favorite Unix/Linux Server Distro? And why?

OK so here's the deal. I've been a FreeBSD fan for um-- well a long time. But the 5.X family has me completely worn out. I've read rumblings before but now I've seen it for myself. I think 5.X was a downgrade from the 4.X line.*

So I'm looking around to see if the grass is greener.

I used Redhat quite some time ago and it was OK but I left it when they wanted you to pay 400 bucks a year to use their software. I've played with SUSE and it is downloading in the background.

And I should mention I'm talking about servers only... I don't care anything about Linux on the desktop for my use.

So here is what I'm looking for.... A decent distro that is STABLE (I'm a BSD guy after all) that will run a bullet proof http/smtp/samba/bind etc server. RH had a cool server admin GUI even a few years ago. That is a bonus but I can manage it from the console just as easily. (Or install webmin)

OK any server (especially NetBSD) admins want to share what they think is winning right now and -more importantly- why?

* Note this is on the i368... I'm running it on the AMD64 and I like it better although others have said it was not ready for prime time on AMD64 so YMMV

Comments (26)

I personally like Knoppix</... (Below threshold)

I personally like Knoppix


However, it's based on Debian, and there's supposed to be a new stable release of that OS:


I've always thought Debian ... (Below threshold)

I've always thought Debian was pretty convenient but haven't used it in over two years. I moved to a stripped RedHat for firewalling and it's also what my webhost uses... surely ubiquity has its pros.

Since your focus is on bind, why not get the source and roll-your-own? Then compile only what you need. Seems that with such a small engine, you could minimize overhead and optimize for the few mandatory tasks.

Or maybe I should read that "worn out" line to mean that rolling-your-own is right out.

Lastly, have you considered going to the Solaris route? I dabbled on that some time ago and they've dropped licensing fees pretty heavily since then. Could be a viable option even though development for Linux is a bit more active.

>Or maybe I should read tha... (Below threshold)

>Or maybe I should read that "worn out" line to mean that rolling-your-own is right out.

RIGHT! I don't need a hobby, I need to get some work done.

If I want a hobby, I have airplanes to fly, a hovercraft that is feeling neglected and I'm sure the fish are biting... At this point in my life, it's all about production.

I'll ponder Solaris.

Fedora Core 3 and Suse 9.2 ... (Below threshold)

Fedora Core 3 and Suse 9.2 are both pretty stable and easy to work with. I have Suse on my desktop and FC3 on my laptop and I've had really no problems with either (except PRISM54 wirelesss ethernet cards).

We've been using Fedora on ... (Below threshold)

We've been using Fedora on a couple of critical project servers for two years now and the only downtime has been the occasional reboot after an update.

Solaris is dying a slow and... (Below threshold)

Solaris is dying a slow and painful death at my company (which is unfortunate since I support it) because the hardware and support are too expensive to justify. RHEL 3.0 has become our standard since you get the reliability/robustness of UNIX and the cheap hardware (Dell, HP) all rolled into one. Our engineering community tested RedHat pretty intensively and the performance from a computing standpoint was markedly improved...and that was really the deciding factor.

Go with Fedora, especially ... (Below threshold)

Go with Fedora, especially as your're talking about a "production" sys as opposed to a "leaning/hobby" sys. We use IPCop to front our home network but that is just a firewall/router distro. At work we have a RH Fedora server and have no problems at all with it.

Fedora might be overkill if... (Below threshold)

Fedora might be overkill if all you want is a server system. I'd go with Debian, which is well behind the curve in terms of desktop usage, but is the most rock-solid Linux server platform you could ask for. Alternately, if you want something with a bit better desktop support, Ubuntu is basically a more up-to-date Debian with an easier install.

I've not played around with Fedora, but I hear good things about it - and heck, they're all free (except for SuSE), so it's not like you're out much if one doesn't quite meet your needs - if you make sure to back up your configuration files for things like bind you should be able to transfer them from one distribution to another without a problem.

Debian. No question.... (Below threshold)

Debian. No question.

Slackware.Someone ... (Below threshold)


Someone had to say it.

Easily Slackware. Just use the stable release, don't bother with Current for a server.

I forgot why.Most ... (Below threshold)

I forgot why.

Most Unix like distro. I've used FreeBSD before.

Simple to setup. Easy to use. The stable release is just that. Stable. No beta packages or anything included in the release.

Debian. Solaris mi... (Below threshold)


Solaris might be a better option if you're migrating from a bsd; there's lots of similar brain damage...

I suggest Debian stable, or... (Below threshold)

I suggest Debian stable, or if you want something closer to the edge, Ubuntu. Ubuntu's generating a lot of interest as a desktop, but it also has an option to install as a server. For both Debian and Ubuntu the new installer is great, and maintenance with apt is easy.

If you want a stable RHEL-l... (Below threshold)

If you want a stable RHEL-like distro, you can't go wrong with CentOS. It's a package-for-package source recompile of RedHat Enterprise Linux with all RedHat copyrights stripped out. It's as stable and as robust as RHEL, it's just free.

I've run it on servers and desktops and it stacks up admirably against the RHEL desktops and servers that I admin. I'd use it before I used Fedora.

Give it a look.

Gentoo.I'm still b... (Below threshold)


I'm still being converted over. I run RH on the desktop, because it's got the kitchen sink installed. I don't run it on the servers, because, it's got the kitchen sink installed.

The Gentoo install isn't as pretty. If you're running *BSD, you should be able to follow it.

Updating is easy, you can build a very lean and mean server easily, and the gentoo support forums (and the people in them) have blown away all the others.

Debian wouldn't be a bad choice, but I've been run off of it by the Snobbian Zealots. Not worth getting into, or starting a war with those who like it - but I'll just say, the Gentoo forums have lots of people who switched because of that.

You may want to look at Dar... (Below threshold)

You may want to look at Darwin, the core OS of OS X: http://developer.apple.com/darwin/. It's based off of BSD 4.4, and is actively in development alongside OS X. In addition to PowerPC, it's compiled for X86.

As many have stated I recom... (Below threshold)

As many have stated I recommend a Debian based system.

Two in particular come to mind:
Mepis Linux (which is free) (highly recommended)
-a live CD based on Debian, basically after install it's Debian with hardware auto-detection so you dont have to go through the hell of a text based config. It's "debian without the hassle".
www.mepis.org, www.mepislovers.org
(this is almost pure Debian as you dont get the /KNOPPIX directories added)

The second is "Kanotix Linux"
Also Debian based but it leans more towards KNOPPIX than Mepis does (it has the /KNOPPIX structure in place)

Info on both can be found at distrowatch.com.


Debian has a strong server ... (Below threshold)

Debian has a strong server focus.

If you are a server guy that likes living without a gui net then Debian is a good chose. I have done stripped down non-X gui installed Debian server in the past (toshiba laptop 300M HD no CD). If you want a gui it is there but if not...

I've been using NetBSD for ... (Below threshold)

I've been using NetBSD for years, although not with a heavy load. I've run web servers (primarily thttpd), SMB services, and AppleTalk on it for a small office with no trouble. I've been using 1.6.2 for the last half a year or so (since I got a new PC; I took the opportunity to update from (IIRC) 1.6). I've not yet looked at 2.0.

My primary interest in NetBSD is that it runs on things that aren't PCs. I've run it on a variety of VAXen (at a PPOE I ran a publically-visible webserver on my trusty VAXstation 4000/96 for about a year), an Alpha or two, and even a couple of PowerMACs. However, my current PowerMAC is one of those freakishly evil Beige G3s that the NetBSD folks just don't seem to be able to figure out how to boot properly, so it's currently running MacOS X (thank you XPostFacto).

My personal gripe with Linux is that I just have trouble getting things going on it that Just Work(TM) on NetBSD; for example, if you need to play with files bigger than 4GB, there are magic incantations you need to do to your source that I've never quite seem to figure out. I'm not a sophisticated Unix person; my true love is VMS.

One of my NetBSD file server installations at a PPOE was prompted by Linux problems; we had a 50GB RAID array (this was quite a few years ago) that Linux just couldn't handle. It would keel over whenever the array got more than 50% full. Threw NetBSD and it and every thing was peachy-keen for the couple of years before the company died. This was serving a few dozen Apples running MacOS 9 (AppleTalk) and a handful of PCs running SMB.

About the only thing I've noticed is that NetBSD is a bit slower than FreeBSD. Or, it was the last time I took both for a spin.

I have only used Debian and... (Below threshold)

I have only used Debian and Red Hat advanced server myself, but Debian's package management leaves Red Hat in the dust.

Slackware. I've been runni... (Below threshold)
Mark Flacy:

Slackware. I've been running it on all my linux boxes since 1998.

I've never used CentOS, but... (Below threshold)

I've never used CentOS, but I use WhiteBox Enterprise Linux. It's a recompile of RHEL, and so is a great performer and very solid and stable. I haven't had any complaints about it at all.

Well, one minor one: if you want to use up2date, it is a front end for some other packaging systems in WBEL, and it's not currently capable of checking multiple repositories.

Get a Mac. It has some of ... (Below threshold)

Get a Mac. It has some of the best supported unix on
the planet and a lot of other great goodies to boot.
I am one with my Mac and it dances circles around
my Sun Solaris workstation.
If you can wait until Mac switches to Intel, then you'll
get a machine that can do just about anything.

Another for Debian. The sta... (Below threshold)

Another for Debian. The stable branch is about as conservative as FreeBSD-stable, with only security changes making it through between releases. Security updates are generally done by backporting patches to the current version of the software instead of upgrading to the latest and greatest version -- no reconfiguration headaches or cascades of library updates just because you needed a minor apache fix.

Fedora 3 on the Server -- I... (Below threshold)

Fedora 3 on the Server -- I run a very minimal install, easy and simple.

Ubuntu on the Desktop - A great desktop

I have one of each running in my house. Don't be afraid on Linux on the desktop. Ubuntu is a great step forward.

Try ClarkConnect. It's a no... (Below threshold)

Try ClarkConnect. It's a no-nonsense SERVER ONLY distro. It was built with only that purpose in mind and based on CentOS. A quote from DistroWatch about both : "With a lot of help from Linux open-source software and a little help from ClarkConnect, you can transform standard PC hardware into a dedicated broadband gateway and easy-to-use server. The software is a great solution for small businesses, home offices, and networked homes! Starting with Red Hat as a base, we have removed unnecessary software, secured it, added useful Internet gateway software, and made it easier to install." - "CentOS as a group is a community of open source contributors and users. Typical CentOS users are organisations and individuals that do not need strong commercial support in order to achieve successful operation. CentOS is 100% compatible rebuild of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux, in full compliance with Red Hat's redistribution requirements. CentOS is for people who need an enterprise class operating system stability without the cost of certification and support."






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