3 Linux beginner questions.

You may think this question is fool but I'm a very beginner on linux. Please tell me more on below questions, thanks:

(1) Someone tell me that Linux is freeware. So, if I use RedHat 6.1 and Star Office for my office computer, shall I pay money for these software to someone?

(2) What is the weakness on using Linux for real business?

(3) Installing a Linux server/workstation, is it simple as install a NT server/Win98?

THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR TELL ME MORE.
saikitAsked:
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DVBCommented:
1> Linux is free. you pay redhat for the packaging and manuals(printed) and support. Star office is free only for personal use, not for commercial use. You can download these from the net.

2> If you are used to point and click, Linux will be slightly tougher. The main problem with Linux is its configurability, the sheer number of options can overwhelm you. It has a steep learning curve, though KDE and Gnome reduce that.

3> Actually easier, if your hardware is supported by default. If it isn't, its tougher for a newbie. Usually your hardware will be supported.  

To get you started off, I would recommend doing a lot of reading (HOWTOs, the LDP, O'Reilly books are good places to start off)
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saikitAuthor Commented:
Cost how much for a star office? Thanks.
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j2Commented:
Staroffice is about $100-200 for commercial use. and it is NOT compatible (yet) for Office2000 files (heck it isnt even fully compatible with Office 95/97 yet)

The _real_ wekness in Linux for buisness if we look at the workstation side is that "it isnt microsoft". You will have a tough time to move documents to/from sites that DOESNT use "staroffice" (or whatever you chose to use). ANd of cource the lack of software that supports "non-english/german/spanish"-grammar/spelling et. al.
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bughead1Commented:
1. Star Office is FREE to ALL and has been for months.  Sun bought it and the old rules no longer apply. See http://www.sun.com for details.  It does handle quite a few Office 97 documents.  There is also (NOT FREE FOR BUSINESS USE) Applixware and Corel Word Perfect 8.0.  Word perfect is particularly useful for downloading government docs (forms), many of which are available in wordperfect format.

2.  Most businesses need accounting packages. They are, after all, in business to make money, and need a means to keep the books.  Linux has been a bit short of accounting software, but check out http://www.provenacct.com and perhaps, http://www.lsic.net for business accounting packages.

3. The initial installation may be a bit tougher with Linux. I'm pretty much a newbie myself.  But it depends on how you define your taks and goals.  I used Linux to set up multiple graphical workstations (Xterminals) off a central file/print server.  The workstations are 486 DX machines with 16 MB ram and have 125 MB harddrives.  The server is an AMDK6 200 with 80 MB ram and with 3 harddrives.  I'm not even certain this could have been done with Win9x, but my experience with Windows and peer-to-peer networking leads me to believe that this hardware would have been far too slow -- the hard drives would have been too small -- the backups too scattered and disorganized -- to have made Windows a practical alternative.

And, in our case, Linux meets 100% of our business needs. We have accounting, we have word processing, we can access the MS documents our vendors send us, we use Netscape Messenger for mail and Navigator to access the VAN that sorts X12 Defense Dept. bid requests for us.

Total cost for software (including accounting, etc.) under $1,000.00.  A few dollars of that is because we have purchased cd's rather than download.

When I investigated a Windows approach with local vendors, the cost for all software and licenses would have exceeded the amount I spent on hardware to do it all with Linux.

So, there is no single answer for all businesses.  In our case, Linux has proven superior.  But I think you have to put the choice of OS in second place.  Look at the applications you absolutely must run.  Those applications will dictate your choice of OS.  Some businesses will require 100% Microsoft solution, some will find that Unix is useful, some will do better with 100% Linux, and still others can take advantage of both.
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EatEmAndSmileCommented:
1) Yes, Linux is free and so is StarOffice until version 5.1. If StarOffice will be or not free on it's next releases, only Sun can tell.

2) You mean the strenghts of using Linux on business, right? Man, nobody uses Windows on business these days anymore. Windows is a children toy for home use.

3) No, installing Linux is not as easy as installing Windows, intalling Linux is much more easy.

 A few thoughts: Beware the "fake Linux" distributions. Some distributions took a different way from the Linux compliant ones and they should not be considered as Linux. Some "fake" distributions are RedHat and Mandrake, for example. If you want the best, grab Slackware.
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j2Commented:
You know, it is hard to take anyone serious that makes a statement like Eatemandsmile did in his second point. Grow up ;)
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EatEmAndSmileCommented:
Man, that's what I was going to recommend you! It takes and adult to deal with important things in a not so seriously way! Leave the stress out of the forum.
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EatEmAndSmileCommented:
Ooh, I almost forgot... Merry Christmas!
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mzehnerCommented:
Linux is easy to install, but can be hard to learn since there are so many tools available.  Start with Redhat for an easy install.  To learn more about the packages, install Debian or SuSE after you have gained familiarity with Linux.
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EatEmAndSmileCommented:
First: RedHat is not Linux, but Linux-based.

 Second: By using "comodities for lazy users" you're going nowhere, 'cause there's nothing to learn from it.
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saikitAuthor Commented:
> First: RedHat is not Linux, but Linux-based.

So, where can I download the real Linux when I think that I'm ready to learn it?

What is the name/version for that real thing?

Thanks.
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mzehnerCommented:
I realize some of these answers are conflicting and can be confusing to a new user.  To help clarify the confusion, it is wise to consider answers that justify their position with some facts.  First of all Redhat is a brand name and company name.  It uses Linux packages the same as any distribution.  The only difference is they have generated some tools to make it easier for beginners like yourself.  These tools include the Redhat Package Manager (rpm), linuxconf, and printtool.  Using these tools can get you up and running more quickly, then as you become familiar with the system and its commands, you can see how configuration files are set up.  Reading man pages will help here.  As you gain familiarity you may want to consider installing a package with fewer up front tools but you can learn on Redhat as easy as on any other system (You don't always have to use the tools). Debian and SuSE help the learning process further since they have installation tools describing the various packages and their associated files/commands.
Considering your question about Linux for real business, for most applications expecially as a file server, http server, etc it works as well or better than other systems.  It can be a little harder to learn up front, but that learning pays off in the long run.  The OS is stable and you don't have to reboot all the time to reconfigure most services.
For your third question, the initial install is about as easy as win98.  You can get your network card and X windows configured during the install.  Also with Redhat, the Apache webserver is already set up to run.  You then need to configure Samba and modems, etc., but there are how-to documents from the Linux community to aid in this area.
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mzehnerCommented:
PS: The comments from DVB and Bughead1 were very accurate.  J2's comments were also accurate except his info on Star Office was not current.  His second comment was especially accurate.
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saikitAuthor Commented:
With reference to the statement: "First: RedHat is not Linux, but Linux-based."

Is it really that there is a real Linux version (maybe the original one) which is other the package linux like Redhat, Debian and SuSE?

Where can I get it?

Thanks.
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bughead1Commented:
One thing you ought to do, if you have time to experiment, and a spare computer you can risk experimenting with, is get a set of "cheap cd's" from someplace like linuxcentral.com or cheapbytes.com.  

Linux is technically just the kernel -- RedHat, Caldera, Slackware, Corel, Mandrake, Stormix, SuSE and a few others produce distributions of Linux -- as has been pointed out.  Each of these distributions has their fans and their detractors. Personally, I prefer Slackware...some one else will tell you Caldera is the only way to go...and so on.

To a large degree, I have concluded that much of the prejudice for -- and against -- a particular distribution is based upon whether or not that particular distribution allows an easy install on the particular hardware that the person has at their disposal.  If Caldera 2.3 installs easily on a computer, and RedHat 6.1 does not, the person concludes that Caldera is the most wonderful thing since sliced bread and that the people at RedHat are thieves and scoundrels.  The next person has a completely different experience and decides the opposite.  Besides, modern people have become very brand loyal...it has become comforting to identify with a particular product.

I'm not an experienced computer user, but I administer a dozen networked boxes all running Linux. 10 have Slackware (versions 3.5, 3.9, 4.0 and 7.0).  One runs RedHat 6.0 (for no particular reason -- it just serves as an Xterminal and could have as easily been set up with anything else).  One, a gateway/router,  runs the "e-smith server" -- a specialized and modified version of RedHat 6.0.  I could have used Slack for that, but this was less work.

The primary differences between all these distributions are in the areas of: Installation, system initialization (read that as "bootup"), default permissions,  and the packages that are included.  

Now, as I said, Slackware is my favorite, but it may not turn out to be yours.  I chose it because the way it is "built" follows an approach to organization that makes sense to me. Somebody apparently thinks the way I do...plus, since Slackware doesn't provide a graphical installation, I find it is often the easiest to install.  The packages it lacks can be downloaded off the Internet and the Slackware forum has been an excellent (and free) technical support tool.

But to get to the point that I decided to use mostly Slackware, I had to experiment.  I bought tons of books and I bought lots of "cheap cds."

So, if you have considered the earlier comments, and believe that Linux can potentially meet your business needs, get the cheap cds and some books -- and see which distribution "clicks" for you.
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saikitAuthor Commented:
Can I say that all the Linux in the world is package by different "brand" (like RedHat, Caldera, Slackware, Corel, Mandrake, Stormix, SuSE...) and the is no original Linux version?

Thanks.
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j2Commented:
saikit: There can't be a "real" linux.

Linux is only the kernel. It NEEDS a lot of other stuff to make it an operating system.

The Linux Kernel doesnt do anything by itself. It is just a platform for others to use.

So all the distributions are really "Linux based operating systems" so to speak.
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saikitAuthor Commented:
Can I say that all the Linux in the world is package by different "brand" (like RedHat, Caldera, Slackware, Corel, Mandrake, Stormix, SuSE...) and the is no original Linux version?

Thanks.
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saikitAuthor Commented:
I see. Thanks.
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EatEmAndSmileCommented:
>It uses Linux packages the same as any
                    distribution.

No. It uses it's own "RPM" (RedHat Package Mess, or like that) packages, that aren't compatible with any other distribution unless you get an utility to convert them to real tar archives. It's also true that RPM's are confuse and complicated to use.

>The only difference is they have generated some tools to
                    make it easier for beginners like yourself.

 And harder for the experience Linux user, right? It's also true that the "newbie" (or any other RH user) won't find a way to configure it beneath it's default choices. Not to mention that due to the confuse file hierarchy the task cannot be done through the standard way.

> These tools include the
                    Redhat Package Manager (rpm), linuxconf, and printtool.  Using these
                    tools can get you up and running more quickly, then as you become
                    familiar with the system and its commands, you can see how
                    configuration files are set up.

 1) No, if the setup fails to auto-detect everything, it won't install at all.

 2) No, you can't see how the configuration files are set up, because their "utilities" don't tell you which files it modifies and worse... In RedHat the configuration can be anywhere, instead of the standard place, so there's no way you're going to set up a RH box quickly.

 Among other problems, RedHat also has a messed up RC structure, so you also can't guess which initialization files load what. To make things more complicated, there's also a directory structure for that, with numbers that don't tell you much.

 You know, I won't discuss the comparison between RedHat and Slackware, because they just can't be compared. RedHat messed up with their distribution so much that it's not even Linux anymore.
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EatEmAndSmileCommented:
saikit: Yes, fortunatelly there's a distribution that could be considered the "original Linux", because it was the first to come out and it's the most well-mantained one. It's name is Slackware. It's the most stable, faster and easiest distribution you can find. Visit www.slackware.com and check out for yourself. You'll also find a bunch of users that will help you on the forum, located at the same place. Piece of cake to do anything when you've got that much on-line support.

 Enjoy your REAL Linux distribution!
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EatEmAndSmileCommented:
I really have no interest on word battles, as I'm no affiliated or refunded in any form by any distribution. My only objective is to help newbies avoid the pain the is try to make work a non-standard distribution. So I'll just state some facts, and not my personal opinions:

 1) I have 3+ years of experience with Linux, having succesfully set many servers and workstations based on Slackware both for my own use and for customers. From file servers, web servers, e-mail servers and database servers to home computers filled with games, it's all in your hands.

 2) 99% of users that came for my assistance saying that they were frustrated with their first Linux experience were trying "RedHat" or "Mandrake". :)

 3) 99% of these same users tried Slackware and had an up and running system as quickly as inserting a CD in the drive and following some steps.

 4) 99% of Slackware users get amazed with the power of the UNIX environment, so they usually become developers themselves.

 5) 99% of RedHat users don't even get to know what a Linux shell is. :)

 6) 99% of Slackware users end up with machines that look just like their owners, because of the easy and complete customization it offers.

 7) 99% of RedHat users think that Linux always have the same layout and usually say "What the fsck?" when they see another distribution by the first time. No, actually I don't think they are presented to the fsck utility. :)
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j2Commented:
Last i checked Yggdrasil was older then Slack, but it still NOT a "original Linux" since (once again) Linux is just the kernel.

I started using linux on kernel 1.0.6, and have deployd everything from PLC-replacements, to near-terrabyte-databases, and Beowulfs. (and of cource the eight linux / solaris / AIX / FreeBSD plattforms at home)

But personally i LIKE RedHat ( i switched from Slack 3.6 -> RH6.1 ) mostly cause i am starting to LIKE RPM (mostly SRPMS really). Cause i realized i would rather spend 2 minutes installing a RPM, and getting creative. Then tinkering with a raw distro for two hours and THEN get creative. Even tho i do not doubt that Slack is a great plattform for learning, since you have to get "down and dirty".

Unfortunately Linux / X still cannot hold a candle to WinNT when it comes to user-friendliness. (and of cource, availability of 'localized' software.)
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EatEmAndSmileCommented:
Ok, j2. Maybe you should try Slack 7.0 now. It passed through lots of improvements since 3.6.

>Unfortunately Linux / X still cannot hold a candle to WinNT when it comes to user-friendliness. (and of cource, availability of 'localized' software.)

 Fortunatelly not in Brazil's case. If you customize Slackware, for example, you can get station much more user friendly than Windows, because you can automate everything and leave no decisions for the user such as "Map net drive?", "Reboot?", "Try again?". Think about it.
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bughead1Commented:
Well.  RPM's are a source of a lot of contention between the advocates of different distributions -- however Slack 7.0 supports RPMS, as does SuSE, Caldera and Mandrake, in addition to RedHat.

And I still contend that a few books and a stack of cheap cds is the best way to answer your questions. When it is all said and done, you will probably become a strong advocate of either RedHat or Slackware -- or decide to Hell with it -- and use Windows and Free BSD happily forever!!!

(Bet that gets a flame or two :-))
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EatEmAndSmileCommented:
Hehehe! Yeah, bughead1, in the end of the story everything comes down to the conclusion made by every user. You can't judge right if you haven't studied and tested all of them...
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bughead1Commented:
Yep.  Except for Turbo-Linux.  It blows :-)
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mzehnerCommented:
Since my last submission, you have gotten accurate and justified answers.  I agree with some of EatEmAndSmiles's comments about Redhat rpms but not necessarily his statistics on users.  Their package manager is overrated.  Also their distributions have had some problems that some others may not have.  They have even been the cause of some frustration with me, such as thread support (EatEmAndSmile laughs, says I told you!).  I don't care who's Linux was first, but what works best now.  I'm not even saying commit to Redhat, just that you will get you off to a fast start and it is effective as a system.  If you learn Redhat, you can quickly learn Slackware and other versions.  But if you can't figure out how to get it installed and configured where are you?  Bughead1 is right about experimenting with the different versions.  Currently I like to run dual and triple Linux systems on one machine.  I agree that Slackware is a good version and do not like overcommercialized versions.  However the fact remains that Redhat is good to learn from since it can get you setup quickly and you can learn by looking at setup files in the /etc directory.  Also, whether we like it or not Redhat is the most popular, although I realize some hope this will change.  If you are having difficulty deciding, here are some options.
1.  You can go to http://www.tucows.com and down Redhat, SuSE, Slackware, Debian, and several other versions as ISO9660 files.  This means that you can get it for free with only the investment of your time.  Once you get the files, you can use a read-write CD-ROM to create install disks.  You will need a high speed connection to the web to effectively do this, however since the files are about 600M each.  Although I have calculated that it could be done over about a 3 day period with a reliable internet connection using a modem.  For all this trouble it is just as easy to go to http://www.lsl.com (Linux System Labs) and buy the Linux distributions.  LSL prices are the lowest on the web that I have found and they are reliable.  You can currently get a free copy of the Redhat 6.1 install CD by making a purchase.  Slackware7 is only $15.95.  Debian 2.1 is only $4.95 though they have just come out with a newer version. The new SuSe 6.3 is now available at $33.95.  You can also get some good books there at good prices.  For the lowest prices in books, go to http://www.bookpool.com.
I don't know what size hard drives you will have with this system, but I can give you some pointers on how to set up a multiboot system, save disk space and make the system convenient to use.  I like to set up a large volume for data that all other systems can see.  If installing windows with this system, make the data volume fat32, otherwise make it ext2 (linux native).  I recommend 1-3G per linux partition and 120M for 1 swap partition.  Make all partitions primary when possible.
I'll bet you never thought you would get so many responses with what you may have thought was a simple question.
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saikitAuthor Commented:
> I'll bet you never thought you would get so many responses with what you may have thought was a simple question.

Yes! I'm enjoy & happy to see so much discussions about Linux between all of you. Thank you for all kind of help.
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EatEmAndSmileCommented:
I've got some more thoughts for you all. Once you get used to Slackware, it's installation comes out to be quite simple, and you may rest assured that if you've installed Slackware 3.6, you'll also be able to install every other version up to 7.0. You'll also acknowledge that whenever you autodetect your stuff, it's performace is compromised. If you care about performance, entering the right settings for your system is the way to go.

Also, these days I've installed Slackware through NFS. It was so cool to see a CD-ROM-less machine installing it while another machine in another room had it's CD-ROM drive's led blinking... Then when I commented out my cool experience with some friends, they told me that RedHat doesn't have support for a network installation.
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j2Commented:
WHat? RH has had support for

CD
Local disk
NFS
FTP
Since version 4.2 i think


SMB
Was added in version 5

HTTP
Was added in version 6

So you friends are totally clueless it seems.
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j2Commented:
and i have to say that a lot of what EatEmAndSmile is saying is totally uninformed.

"Among other problems, RedHat also has a messed up RC structure, so you also can't guess which initialization files load what. To make things more complicated, there's also a directory structure for that, with numbers that don't tell you much"

Is wrong.

There is ONE directory per runlevel. SO the dir for Runlevel 3 is called /etc/rc.d/rc3.d/ and files are called like " S85httpd " which means "Start httpd as task 85" the 85 is just a index, which means that if you want to make sure something starts before the webserver, you give it a number LESS then 85, if you want to make sure it starts after you give it a number GREATER then 85. Complicated? Unstructured? I think not.

EatEmAndSmile might very well be a experienced Slack user, but obviously knows 'nothing' about other distros. I am a slack user, with quite a few years more of slack experience, but atleast i try to make valid statements, and atleast try to know the other enviroments. He says he states "facts", but then backs it with bogus percentiles?

This is not a personal assalut on EatEmAndSmile, but i still think he needs to get some basic info of how other systems works. If he thinks the init structure of RedHat is wierd, then he should get aquianted with Solaris, HP-UX, Siemens Reliant, True64 UNIX (previously DEC UNIX), which is what is used in most _real world_ applications.

*steps down from the soap box*

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EatEmAndSmileCommented:
Well,

"There is ONE directory per runlevel. SO the dir for Runlevel 3 is called /etc/rc.d/rc3.d/ and files are
                    called like " S85httpd " which means "Start httpd as task 85" the 85 is just a index, which means
                    that if you want to make sure something starts before the webserver, you give it a number LESS
                    then 85, if you want to make sure it starts after you give it a number GREATER then 85."

 That doesn't meet the Slackware phylosophy, aka "KISS" (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Did you see Slack's rc structure? Man, even a Winblows user could understand that. :)

 Why do you say I have no experience with other distributions? I had to tolerate a RH machine for about 6 months... I just couldn't take it. As soon as Slackware 4.0 came out, I just replaced the system. And what took weeks to accomplish with RH was done in a few hours.

 Don't worry, I won't take anything personally.
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bughead1Commented:
I can confirm  that THERE IS NFS installation support for RedHat 5.1, 5.2 and 6.0, because I have installed each of these releases via NFS numerous times.  That doesn't mean that other RedHat releases don't support NFS: it means I haven't tried to install them via NFS.

However, it has been my experience that RedHat 6.0 doesn't support NFS installation very well, relative to their earlier releases, and relative to the latest releases of Slackware.  I have compared NFS installation of RedHat and Slackware side-by-side on many of the same machines and over the same network connections.  

And what I found is that RedHat is less tolerant of heavy network traffic and heavy use of the NFS server during installation than Slackware.  Sometimes it simply hangs, sometimes the screen flashes "segmentation fault,"  often the install "bugs out" with Sig 7 errors.  Do I think this means there are hardware problems?  No, because Slackware 3.5 through 7.0 install just fine on these machines and Redhat will too, provided I temporarily mount a cdrom in them. And it doesn't mean that Slackware is perfect in this area either, it means it fails far less often, in my experience.

I am not suggesting that RedHat is no good, nor am I suggesting that you can't get it installed via NFS.  Merely that something, probably the more automated installation utility provided by RedHat, is more vulnerable than the dirt plain Slackware installation.

Now -- intallation is only a small part of the puzzle. You install the OS -- now you must use it.  The more automated the distribution is, the more lines of code it contains.  The more lines of code it contains, the more likely it is that it contains an error.

Above all, don't take what I have written in this exchange of opposing ideas as a pronouncement from some one who considers himself an expert:  I AM NOT AN EXPERT. I AM A NEWBIE WITH VIRTUALLY NO COMPUTER EXPERIENCE. OK?

But I do have 25 years experience as an electronics technician, and before I went into the sales side, I spent years troubleshooting primitive logic circuits down to the component level.

I trust nobody to write bug free code.

The less code there is, the better.

That is why I like Slackware better than RedHat.

That is why LOAF (Linux on a floppy) is the best of all!!!!


BTW, if you check out BSD, (which I did), RedHat's files all appear to be lost, wrong, bizarre, wrong, etc.  If you scope out System V, Slack seems wrong.  So, it does depend upon perspective.

To me personally, BSD and Slack appear to be more logically arranged, but that is my own prejudice.  
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mzehnerCommented:
Each of you have a point in what is said about Slackware and other distributions, especially Redhat.  Although I started with Redhat, I am working my way into other distributions including Slackware, SuSE, and Debian.  It is my intention to become well versed in these distributions.  Now when I install Linux on a computer, I always install at least 2 types of Linux.  By doing this I always have a backup in case something goes wrong.  I can totally screw up my kernel in one distribution, then use the other to rescue it.  More convenient than using a boot floppy since a whole system full of tools is available.
Redhat does have good support for networking.  I have been able to configure it for remote booting another computer into Linux.  The remote computer is set up to run without disk drives.  To do this I, used BOOTP, TFTP, and NFS services.  However I did have a dissappointment with Redhat during this effort.  It would not compile some of the tools in the Netboot package.  I copied the package to my Slackware7 partition, booted into Slackware and did the compilation with no problem.  I think Redhat did not have some of the libraries in standard places, but I didn't have time to play with it.
My other concern with Redhat is along the lines of what EatEmAndSmile has been saying.  Redhat has such a large share of the market when it comes to "Linux" distributions, that is may be close to monopoly status for Linux.  They seem to like to create tools like RPM, printtool, linuxconf, etc with little documentation and modify their system from what some would consider the norm.  This way, their tools can become like a drug fix, and lure many into a version of Linux in such a way that they will not really learn how to configure it.  This would strengthen their hold on the market, and later, perhaps as new users jump into Linux from windows, they can begin to charge for their tools.  I don't know for sure what their strategy is, but whenever corporations become too heavily in a volunteer effort I get nervous.  I wonder when and how they plan to make money on a free operating system.  Why did Redhat stock go from 40 to over 200 in a few months?
Although I recommend Redhat as a starting place, I also recommend that users learn other versions and figure out how the system works.  I recommend Redhat because new users may have difficulty with other versions early and perhaps give up (I realize the danger of addiction here however).  Those who stick with Redhat and do not learn how Linux runs will never be good system administrators.
I consider Slackware and Debian two of the distributions that go hand in hand with the orignal spirit of Linux.  I don't know if Slackware is done on a commercial level or not, but, Debian is done by volunteers.  As long as this is the case, hopefully it will remain in controll of programmers and engineers.  This way design will not be influenced by money motives and it will be the best product.
Being an engineer, I wonder if this website has a buffer limit on the total size of comments associated with a question.
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Linux Distributions

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