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openSUSE, Fedora, and Ubuntu Compared

Even this short a list is a lot to consider. With no further ado, let's dig into details for each Linux: openSUSE, Fedora, and Ubuntu! I have ranked each of these according to my testing and usage criteria. New Linux versions, anything, could mix up these results. These are my recommendations only; individual users may find that their personal criteria make my results invalid. Remember: Linux is all about choice and enabling people's ability to choose.

#3: Fedora 16

Table 1: Fedora's Results

Criteria

Ratings (Low/Medium/High)

Easy-to-use and reliable administrative interfaces

M

Fast and easy operating system installation

H

Good application and OS upgrade management

L

Efficient with virtualized resources

M

Good documentation, including several third-party books and articles

H

Eye candy

M

Reasonable Security and Easy-to-Understand Configurations

M

I've enjoyed Red Hat and Fedora for many years. I'm not sure exactly why it is less suitable than the other two products. Overall, the administrative tools seem a bit limited, with only partial support for the many settings we need made.

The installation runs well and seems fast enough once the installation process kicks off. Overall, the OS just seems to load slowly. The eye candy seems limited and just begs you to download more elements.

Fedora is a great tool for servers, but seems to lag for workstation use, at least in my opinion. RedHat offers great support and configurations options, but these seem less needful when creating workstation configurations. Yes, as much as I enjoy Red Hat, it seems geared more for server installations. Next week? Testing done by others? The next upgrade?

Who knows? You may prefer Fedora more than I do.

#2: openSUSE 12.1

Table 2: openSUSE Results

Criteria

Ratings (Low/Medium/High)

Easy-to-use and reliable administrative interfaces

M

Fast and easy operating system installation

H

Good application and OS upgrade management

M

Efficient with virtualized resources

H

Good documentation, including several third-party books and articles

M

Eye candy

H

Reasonable Security and Easy-to-Understand Configurations

H

I like SUSE and have enjoyed it for many years. I think YaST is the premier administration tool. SUSE performance was acceptable, and the eye candy was nice.

The installation process seemed a bit complex. Additionally, although I love YaST, others might find the suite of options a bit confusing and daunting. Operating system loading seemed a bit slow, but further tweaking may fix that problem.

Meanwhile, this version is very responsive to the hardware provided, configuring your system for the optimal screen resolution, for example. Display effects are nice. This is great eye candy.

The download is the DVD for an installation, and it allows you to select many great tools at initial installation. Still not enough to recommend a serious look at openSUSE? This Linux has Novell ownership, guaranteeing a highly configurable and industrial-grade Linux, with excellent support. This is beyond this article's stated need, but bears mentioning.

If your user target is a bit geekier than most, rocket openSUSE to the top.

#1: Ubuntu 11.10

Table 3: Ubuntu's Results

Criteria

Ratings (Low/Medium/High)

Easy-to-use and reliable administrative interfaces

H

Fast and easy operating system installation

H

Good application and OS upgrade management

H

Efficient with virtualized resources

H

Good documentation, including several third-party books and articles

H

Eye candy

H

Reasonable security and easy-to-understand configurations

H

Ubuntu—it just works. It seems as effortless an installation as Windows or Mac OS X. Additionally, many of its interfaces seem similar to Mac OS X widgets. Once the OS is installed, it seemed to quickly call out needed upgrades and patches, resolving security problems more quickly. In fact, during the installation, you can download the updates and apply them. This is not something every OS provides.

It has plenty of eye candy backgrounds by default. Your users will feel at home with this operating system at first glance. It loads quickly. It even allows you to enforce no login process (grrrr!). But hey, Linux is about choices, and some home users feel this login process is unnecessary.

Each and every prompt seems laid out to logically and patiently guide the user through each set of choices. The load time is fast—fast enough for the least patient user. The installation process doesn't rail at you with too many unneeded and troubling questions—no, this is a simple installation.

Final Thoughts

So far, a lot of small things make this a great Linux to recommend trying. But Linux has always been a moving target. Now supported commercially, I imagine Red Hat and Novell both are watching the trends towards a viable Linux workstation version. After years of false starts, organizations feel that tools like Libre Office are ready for most needs. Once you consider an alternate office tool suite, an alternate operating system isn't lagging far behind, especially with the availability of commercial support, improved Linux management interfaces, etc.

Will Linux become the operating system we all increasingly use? Will it be Mac OS X? Too little is known. What is known is this: Running Linux doesn't start any farther than your home. Reprovision an old, dated laptop with Ubuntu or Linux Mint. Give it to someone without an IT background. See what happens.

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