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Choosing distribution

I want to use Linux for my business I just set up. The reason is that I want to keep the investment low.
Could anyone tell me what the best solution would be for my situation, acording to the following criteria:
- easy to setup (no difficult command line stuff)
- network functionality
- only need Office software
- stable (a crash cost me a lot of money)
- secure (among other things virus free)
- capable of using Windows-only software (like my banking software). Isn't that called Wine?
- should be a reasonable general solution, so that support could be found easily on the Internet

Arie
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De_Hond
Asked:
De_Hond
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1 Solution
 
marxyCommented:
1.
- easy to setup (no difficult command line stuff)
The most of modern distributions use graphical interface to install.

2.
- network functionality
- only need Office software
- stable (a crash cost me a lot of money)
- secure (among other things virus free)
First of all, You have to use distributions that have supporting and enterprise level.
For example RedHat Enterprise Linux http://www.redhat.com or SuSE http://www.suse.orghttp://www.novell.com/linux/suse/index.html
But this list is not full. That's just an example of enterprise ready distributions.

3.
- capable of using Windows-only software (like my banking software). Isn't that called Wine?
That's a problem. Wine is not stable yet. Not all of windows software could work under wine.
Moreover, if you think it works that doesn't mean it would work fine and full-functionally.
If you want to use banking software then I think you should run it under wine.

4.
- should be a reasonable general solution, so that support could be found easily on the Internet
Read the (2.)
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De_HondAuthor Commented:
Thanks Marxy,

Isn't RedHat Enterprise somewhat overkill? I don't need server software. It's just for one PC connected to a small network of Windows XP PC's.

Arie
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JammyPakCommented:
I would recommend RedHat (that's just the one I'm most familiar with...) - but I wouldn't go for the current Enterprise releases, since that will increase your investment significantly.

RH 9 would be good - RHEL 3 was based on that, so it's a safe bet. Fedora would probably be OK, but it's a bit more cutting edge, so it may be slightly less stable (maybe someone else will comment on that...)

you can download it from here: http://www.linuxiso.org/distro.php?distro=7

you'll have to test your banking software...it may or may not work! You can download a WINE binary for RedHat 9 here: http://www.winehq.com/site/download-rh

after you save the file on your server, you can open a console and run 'rpm -Uvh <name of the rpm file>'  to install WINE (yes, command line!)
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macker-Commented:
WINE is absolutely unstable.  If you need stability and you have banking software that's Windows-only, do NOT use WINE.  Quite simply, WINE is for hobbyists.  An application may work great under one version of WINE, and run horribly under the next.

Other options for Windows compatability include the old Caldera WABI, which was designed to let _specific_ Windows applications run on Linux.  The newer functional replacement is CrossOver Office, which allows MS Office to be run on Linux.  Your only other solution is to run VMWare, so that Windows can be run from within Linux.  (Or have two computers or a single computer with dual-boot.)

Yes, RedHat ES is probably overkill for a single computer, but it will be more stable than most Linux distros.  Simply stated, most Linux distros aim to provide current features, functionality, etc.  The "enterprise" class Linux distros aim to run tested and true software.  It will _not_ have the latest versions of software, or the newest features, because that software has not yet had a chance to have all the bugs worked out.

Do NOT run RedHat 9.  All of RedHat's releases prior to the "EL" class (Enterprise Linux) are being End-Of-Life'd and will not have any future support for them.  This is a dead-end path.  The Fedora Project is the direct replacement for RedHat 7/8/9/etc.

Linux in general tends to be pretty stable.  A crash on Linux is normally not like a crash on Windows... you're at much less risk.  But if you want to minimize your exposure as much as possible, only look to distributions which bill themselves as "stable" or "enterprise".  Since you said you want easy-to-use, that precludes the debian/gentoo "stable" branches.

OpenOffice is a great MS Office-style replacement for Linux and will serve most/all of your needs.  If you prefer more Office-like compatability, then CrossOver Office (commercial) will enable you to run MS Office.  In the case of CrossOver, you're paying for their software, you still need a license for MS Office.

No operating system is "virus free", some are just very unfriendly to viruses.  Linux in general is very resistant to viruses, but it's not impossible.  As always, I recommend operating any security-sensitive systems behind a NAT firewall if possible.  This will interfere with some applications, mostly games, but greatly improves your security; they'll have to get thru the router before they can start working on your box.  To date, there's been two? proof-of-concept viruses for Linux.  The rest are worms; so long as your system isn't running any services (e.g. FTP, WWW) then there should be minimal danger here.

CentOS or Fedora are your best bets for overall usability and stability.  CentOS is a RedHat EL "clone", geared for stability, and Fedora is aimed for end-users who want to explore the possibility of Linux (but will include "less stable" software).  Again, please keep in mind, the definition of "stable" in the Linux world is greatly different from that in the Windows world.  E.g. "stable" means it is unlikely to crash ever, not that it's unlikely to crash daily.

There's also a number of "live-boot" CD-based distributions which will allow you to get a feel for Linux without installing to your hard drive.  This can be an excellent way of getting a feel for applications, etc. before taking the plunge.  Knoppix is notable for having been around a long time and focusing on this area.
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De_HondAuthor Commented:
Dear Macker,

Thanks for your fine and thorough explanation. You covered my most important questions. I got into CentOS, and think that it might serve my needs. I still have two questions for you, Macker: is CentOS widely sopported (don't need an exotic solution) and should I need e.g. Kaspersky Linux as virus killer? I have a router and NAT configured in it, so that might be sufficient.

Thanks,

Arie
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macker-Commented:
Hi Arie,

CentOS is well-supported by the current maintainers of the distribution.  That is to say, they're not making any money off of this, and there is no commercial contracts, so it's always possible that they'll decide to discontinue the project for one reason or another.

That said, since CentOS is nearly identical to RedHat ES, any problems you have are probably RedHat ES problems rather than CentOS problems.  What I mean by this is that any problems probably exist in RedHat ES, and the problem was cloned by CentOS.  In general, you should be able to utilize any of the public RedHat support mediums, such as EE and other community forums.  Everything should work the same between the two, the only difference being one has RedHat logos/name and the other doesn't.  (RedHat was extremely permissive in allowing their work to be copied so liberally...)

In short, I think you should have no problems with support for CentOS.  If you do decide you want/need a commercial support contract, etc. then RedHat is the way to go, and it would be an extremely easy migration.

As for anti-virus... I see no reason to be concerned about viruses on Linux at this time.  As I said, it is possible (there have been proof-of-concept viruses), but Linux makes it extremely difficult for these to function.  Anti-virus software wont help you with worms and trojans on Linux, so really the only purpose is to scan for Windows viruses that wont affect you in the first place.  Your NAT router should be sufficient to stop typical worm attacks; unless the router is specifically instructed to forward specific ports to your Linux system, the remote connections will harmlessly drop.

What I would suggest is avoid bad security practices, specifically: use strong passwords, disable services you don't need (e.g. ftp/smtp/www/etc.), and only use the 'root' account for system maintenance tasks like installing new software.  A good way to maintain this habit is to use "su" or "sudo"; both commands are used to temporarily run things as "root" (or other users), without starting a new login session.  su prompts you for the password of the user (i.e. root's password), while sudo uses a table (/etc/sudoers) of users who are allowed to run commands as other users.  In the case of sudo, it logs the commands you run, and can be configured to limit what commands can be run.  su should be fine for you, sudo is more useful for giving partial access to others, without giving them the actual root password.

If you have any other questions regarding this, feel free to ask.
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marxyCommented:
No, Redhat would not be overkill.
It has flexible setiings and you could install the things only that you want.
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De_HondAuthor Commented:
Many thanks Macker! You're really thorough in your contributions. I did some extra reading on CentOS and decided that CentOS is the way to go. I will implement your suggestions in order to have a low cost, stable and secure product.

Thanks all of you for your advice. I'll have to give Macker all the points.

Arie
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macker-Commented:
Thanks Arie...

I see the value of EE as sharing knowledge, rather than just answering questions, so I try to fulfill that ideal.  Glad to hear it hit the mark. :)
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