Desktop Linux choices

IBM has an standard internal desktop Linux image called the IBM Open Client. This image is based off the Redhat Enterprise Linux 5 Workstation and includes a set of applications to let folks get real work done. Recently they’ve introduced early-adopter programs for an IBM layer on top of Ubuntu and Fedora. The nice thing about using something besides RHEL is that with Ubuntu and Fedora you’re using much more recent kernel and Gnome versions, among other things. Before this Friday I need to select one of the three choices for a reinstallation – I’m mostly undecided which to use.

I possess 3 IBM-provided computers: a T60p laptop and two desktops all of which are running some flavor of the IBM Open Client. One desktop resides in the IBM Austin lab and facilitates me being able to work off-site by providing a place to drive long-running tests and some remote storage. This machine is currently backlevel running RHEL4 and needs to be upgraded to something a bit more current while I’m in town over Thanksgiving. Whatever I do is going to require reinstalling the OS so there’s no real advantage to just upgrading to the latest IBM Open Client image (RHEL4 to RHEL5 requires a reinstall too).

The lab machine operates more as a server than a desktop and being an older model computer it isn’t as though I need a bleeding edge kernel to make the devices work. The most important part of this machine is that it stay on the network and require zero physical interaction — including as few reinstallations as possible. Some might immediately point to a long-term supported Ubuntu release, and I’ve seriously considered that option. The problem is that for my entire Linux career, I’ve been a Redhat/Fedora user and am very familiar with how those distros do things (file layout, configuration tools, package management, etc) — I’m not certain I want to jump to a Debian distro for a remote machine. I’m leaning towards Fedora 10 and while that’s bleeding-edge as far as IBM tools go I think it will be a few years before it comes outdated and I am unable to get package updates for it (which is where I’m at with three Linux servers that I’m responsible for — something I keep putting off addressing).

At some point I’ll be making a similar decision both for my T60p laptop and my dual-head desktop boxes although what I decide to do with the lab machine has little sway on what I’ll end up using for my day-to-day machines. Part of me is still strongly leaning towards Ubuntu if only to become familiar with it and use an LTS release to reinstall the aforementioned three Linux servers.

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7 thoughts on “Desktop Linux choices”

  1. Ubuntu is the standard of choice at my new place. Mostly it’s pretty good; I don’t like to admin a box but Ubuntu is liveable. And there’s a lot of help via google search, too (though I found one piece that seemed wrong).


  2. I’ve actually had some pretty bad experiences with managing remote Ubuntu machines… they make big changes before they’re really prepared to deal with the consequences. Of course, as you could maybe tell from the user name (or the full name I use here), I’m more a fan of OpenBSD which doesn’t help you hardly at all. :-)


    1. Yeah, I may be willing to jump the RHEL ship to some other Linux distro, but I don’t think I’ll be jumping kernels to BSD — or at least not until I figure out how to acquire a Mac :)


      1. It’s a hell of a lot more than just a kernel jump, I assure you. :-) There’s not much in a modern BSD system, other than gcc and the rest of the toolchain, that comes from the Free Software Foundation. You can see for yourself in OpenBSD’s case.

        But eh, Unix is Unix. This came up today for me, discussing with my boss what I should install on a virtual machine for some R&D – I had to install something, but neither of us had any strong opinions past that. For all I know we’ll end up deploying on Solaris when the time comes – it mostly comes down to who our sysadmin is, and what arguments they make in that regard.


  3. I went with RHEL 5 myself, just for the reasons below:

    Easy to maintain (RHN sat.)
    Easy to run (familiarity)
    Enterprise stability (it just works)

    Fedora falls short IMHO in #3. While it can be quite stable, as it is bleeding edge, it is not quite what I consider enterprise stable. Personally, I suggest either SLES or RHEL. You can go to a Debian based distribution as well, but you’ll have a little bit of a learning curve (though it isn’t that bad).


    1. Fedora [version omitted to protect the guilty] has been a great server OS for me for the past [omitted to protect the guilty] years but I’ve never tried running it as a workstation and I can appreciate how it might be totally different for a day-to-day box. I’m still undecided although I am leaning more to Ubuntu. Worst-case I’ll be back in Austin in May of next year for a wedding and I could reinstall some other OS at that time if necessary. Whee, what fun!


      1. Either way, it’s good to experiment! If you’ve got a VMWare license, you can try Ubuntu in VMWare. (or if you don’t, I can create a Ubuntu VM that you can use the free VMWare Player with).


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