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Flavors Of Linux

Linux is available in many flavors (read distributions) with each flavor having its own pluses and minuses. Which distribution is right for your enterprise needs; one that would support multitude of server apps and at the same time offer scalability, stability and low TCO.

Here's a brief overview of the main features these mainstream Linux distributions offer. Of course, each of them is a complete Linux system in its own right, with each offering more or less similar functionality. However, each distribution is tweaked to perform a particular task or set of tasks more efficiently than others.

Caldera OpenLinux
Installing Caldera is simple--just boot the CD and you're in business. A graphical install guides you through the setup process, including formatting and partition creation. You also get a choice of pre-packaged installs, including workstation, business, development workstation, custom and more.

OpenLinux is Caldera's "distribution" or package of Linux and is bundled with utilities, graphical interfaces, installation procedures, third party applications, and much more. OpenLinux is ideal for small, medium, and large companies who must optimize their investment in existing systems, hardware & training.

Caldera also offers Caldera eServer (check the Network Magazine CD for the latest version of Caldera eServer)-a distribution fine-tuned for Web and e-commerce applications in addition to the normal server functionality that it provides.

If you're new to Linux and want a system that is easy to set up and use, Caldera could be a good choice.

Debian Linux
Debian Linux has one of the most complex installation procedures of all the Linux versions mentioned here. It assumes you known what you are doing; novices will most likely get frustrated with this approach.

Debian's installation process is completely text-based not very intuitive but it offers flexibility. More experienced users will appreciate the setup options you wouldn't normally see in other Linux distributions.

Also Debian supports x86 Intel machines, as well as Alpha, ARM, Motorola 68K, PowerPC and SPARC systems. Overall, this is a very complete system, but possibly not a good starting point for an average Windows user.

Red Hat Linux
Red Hat Linux is the most popular commercial Linux distributions on this side of the universe. It is the largest selling Linux distribution and also acts as the base for many other popular Linux distributions. The improved graphical installer works flawlessly on most PCs/ Servers. Red Hat is one distribution that is suitable for both desktop PCs as well as high-end servers.

Red Hat supports most graphical interface cards available, a problem that can turn out to be a nightmare for many Linux users especially those who prefer using X Windows as a functional interface. Red Hat also has a wide range of other products like the High Availability Server, Secure Web Server, Red Hat Enterprise optimized for Oracle, and Red Hat Embedded Software Development kit. Apart from support for the Intel platform, Red Hat is also available for Alpha & Sparc.

Linux Mandrake
Linux Mandrake has gained popularity primarily because it's easy to install. With a full graphical install, you shouldn't have too much trouble getting your system up and running.

One of the biggest problems most users have with installing Linux is to partition your hard disk for the real Linux experience. Mandrake makes this easy by giving you a unique, graphical view of your hard drive and its partitions. You can click on a section of the drive to see how it is partitioned, and then change the sizing of the partitions to suit your needs. Mandrake also helps you set up the security level--something not often seen in a Linux distribution.

SuSE Linux
SuSE is the leading European Linux distribution. If you want a distribution that comes with everything, this is definitely the one for you. SuSE comes with six CDs, (and a DVD) all packed full of just about every application you could ask for.

SuSE is famous for its own system administration tool, called YAST. Not only does this program install the SuSE distribution for you, it comes in handy to configure your system. The installation process is painless,even somewhat trivial, compared to other Linux distributions.

Slackware Linux
Slackware Linux, once the earliest Linux distribution, is still very much available, and is being actively developed. The installation is simple, text-based, but it's not for newbies. If you are already familiar with Linux or Unix, this could be your distribution of choice.

Unlike a lot of the newer distributions with flashy graphical interfaces, installation is accomplished by carefully reading the on-screen instructions and selecting or entering proper information.

The LinuxPro installation is similar to Red Hat's and allows PC Card support as part of the basic package. There's lot of prompting, but this allows better control of what's loaded. X Window is automatically configured if the video card is properly identified. There are only few applications included with the package, so other than the installation process, there's not much to crow about.

TurboLinux is designed for networked corporations. The installation procedure is among the best available for Linux and adds a new fdisk variant called cfdisk.

TurboLinux is pre-configured for number of standards setups, and installation of X Windows is automatic. A good set of applications is included. For experienced users who want to deploy a network on the fly, TurboLinux is a great choice.

Available in English, Japanese and Chinese, TurboLinux offers Linux solutions geared towards corporate needs as well as the home desktop.

TurboLinux also offers a unique clustering solution that allows for the construction of highly available and scalable networks based on low-cost commodity components. TurboLinux currently offers the choice of Gnome, KDE or the TurboDesk GUI.

Corel Linux
Corel Linux gets you up and running fast with its simple four-step installation program, uncomplicated configuration and familiar point-and-click interface. With a full-featured file manager, easy system updates, a Web browser, e-mail, and a friendly graphical desktop environment, Corel Linux combines Linux power with intelligent simplicity.

There are number of factors you need to consider while selecting a Linux distribution including scalability, stability and low TCO

Mahesh Rathod can be reached at rathodmp@hotmail.com

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