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LucaSpiller
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 15, 2005 7:12 pm    Post subject: Linux Format "Ultimate Distros" Article Reply with quote

Today I picked up a copy of Linux Format (by Future Publishing, available in the UK and some newstands around the world), it was the January 2005 issue (62). It had a few interesting articles but the main one I wanted to see was how Gentoo stood up in the "Ultimate Distros" article.

Fifteen different distros were tested and Gentoo came it at 6th place, being beaten by Mandrake, Redhat, Suse, Debian and Yellow Dog - the last two being joint fourth. At the start of the article it says that they rated each distro on "how easy each distro was to install, how many configuration tools they came with, what installation system was on offer and how well the system could be configured for ease of use." I don't think Gentoo really did too badly considering what it was being tested on and the competition it was up against but some of the comments on it seemed a bit misleading.

It says that "in terms of overall increase in performance, Gentoo is unlikely to bring more than 15%". If you consider Mandrake (ranked #1) takes more than a minute to boot up (to the login manager) for me where as Gentoo takes 20 secs to get to the command line and 30 secs to the login manager, I would say that is definately more than a 15% speed increase. There are also comments about how "compiling for 386 usually creates a program that's only the tiniest amount slower than it's 686 equivalent" - I was lead to believe that Gentoo is much faster when you use the appropriate USE flags because your application is only designed to run on your CPU.

After this it comments on compilation times. Gentoo is a source based distribution so of course you are going to have to wait for it to compile but the author seems to have exagerated it a bit too much. "Even on an Athlon 65, you can expect your computer to take about 24 hours to compile the base system to get it up and running." I guess they mean X and KDE by "the base system" because it took me less than 4 hours to get to the GUI with my Athlon XP (unless they are faster than Athlon 64s?!?!??). Even so it still seems a bit exagerated, it took me around 25 hours from Stage 1 to get KDE (and all deps) compiled - from what I have read Athlon 64s are lightning fast at compiling. They also say "This means that while Gentoo users often get packages for new applications before everyone else, they're rarely the first to use them thanks to compilation time." - does this mean my update to k3b will take around 5 days to compile?

So you think it can't get any worse? Well next they have a go at our "installation procedure that hails back to the early 90s". What are they on? Just because there is no GUI (yet) doesn't mean it is bad, at least I managed to get this installed unlike Debian which couldn't even recognised my DVD drive or Ethernet port (nothing exotic). Also there is always the trusty handbook if you need help *all hail*.

They do say one thing good about Gentoo though, Portage because "it's the only package manager that can hold up a candle to APT" - apart from that they don't really say much, if you consider how much they said about APT which has many simular features to Portage it seems they definately have something against us.

They finish of with something that just makes me want to write out some death threats (lol) : "Gentoo is little more than a solution looking for a problem: 100% of all desktop machines sold today have CPU cycles to waste, which means that getting even an extra 20% out of your applications will make little difference." Most people want their computer to run as fast and as responsive as it can, no matter what they have to do.

Looking over this I am really unhappy, was this written by a member of the "I love Debian and hate Gentoo club" or something? Having a quick glance at some of the other articles I am sure it must have been, nothing seems to have had such a bad story as poor old Gentoo has. I agree that Gentoo isn't the easiest of systems to install but as a metadistro it is definately the most versatile - if you have a problem and your hardware is supported by Linux, then Gentoo will be able to solve it. Say you want a nice slimline computer that plugs into your TV and plays your media. You probably could do this with Mandrake but it would be a lot of work. If the criteria was on the amount of documentation available and support I am sure Gentoo win because of this place and the Gentoo Wiki.

Ah well, not everyone likes Gentoo but to me it is the best distro ever.

EDIT: Can someone move this to Gentoo Chat.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 15, 2005 9:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
rm subscription


A magazine should bring objective information, what you say obviously is not correct...

The fact that the speed increase by compiling everything yourself is far from as big as people seem to think is true however...

The main advantage to me is the bleeing edgeness and the extreme configurability, of course, you _could_ do everything with redhat or mandrake or debian, but then you'd get in to trouble with their package managers or their built-in configuration tools...
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 15, 2005 10:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Looking over this I am really unhappy, was this written by a member of the "I love Debian and hate Gentoo club" or something?
Debian ended up fourth, and Gentoo only one lower :)

Anyway, I think that it's really easy to be skeptical about compiling all the applications yourself. I am very happy with Gentoo as my server distro, but I am not sure if I will use Gentoo for my desktop (once I get a Linux desktop). And that could be because I don't understand which advantages Gentoo offers me in that case (assuming there is no control center or tool of the sort). Of course that doesn't explain why they got so many facts wrong...
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2005 6:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

<opinion>
I like GNU/Linux, petty put objections are just shallow closed-minded folks who believe they are always right. I like Gentoo, Debian, SuSE, Mandrake, FreeBSD, Syllable, BeOS, Menuet, and the list goes on. Some people dont want to wait through a compilation cycle to use the software, so be it. Some of us want to have ABSOLUTE CONTROL, so we use Gentoo, or LFS, or any other source based distro that requires a good amount of tweaking, (it builds character)
</opinion>
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2005 9:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hm, I haven't read the article but from what you write it seems to be very reasonable. In fact I'm surprised that gentoo was so high up on the list if you consider what they tested for.

And I also can't take exception with the points you mention. In my experience the speed gain of gentoo compared to other distributions is minor, installing everything (including X and KDE) from stage1 does take a long time and installing gentoo is very different and much harder for the average joe compared to for example mandrake.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2005 10:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ralph wrote:
Hm, I haven't read the article but from what you write it seems to be very reasonable. In fact I'm surprised that gentoo was so high up on the list if you consider what they tested for.

And I also can't take exception with the points you mention. In my experience the speed gain of gentoo compared to other distributions is minor, installing everything (including X and KDE) from stage1 does take a long time and installing gentoo is very different and much harder for the average joe compared to for example mandrake.


They are just missing the point, Gentoo is about configurability, the fact that you can tweak your c(xx)flags to squize some extra speed out of your system is just optional.
The main advantage of being able to build everything yourself is not the (minor) speed increase but the fact that you can disable options/dependencies you don't need, for example, I have a littel home Debian server running and I wanted to goof around with OpenLDAP, but this had XFree as a dependency? So I went: "WTF?"... With binary distro's lots of stuff is pulled in you don't need, or even don't want (I don't WANT X on a server)...

Another very big pro for Gentoo is the abundance of Java related packages, on other distro's (eg Ubuntu) getting java related stuff is a pain in the *** as there are no packages for it, yes you can install it by hand, but that kind of defeats the purpose of a package manager imho, a package manager is supposed to minimize headache about updates... And then we didn't even start about lack of mp3 decoders/encoders, dvd-playback, etc in most binary distro's, just because it's not legal to distribute them in binary form, doesn't take away the annoyance of having to either install them by hand or find packages of questionable legality to get them...

And last but not least: writing basic ebuilds is pretty easy, which leads us to another Gentoo advantage: the sheer amount of ebuilds available, it has't happened very often that I wanted to install something that wasn't in portage (only 4-6 times iirc)...

Oh, before I forget: the community and the documentation, the community is very varied, from newbies to guru which means that whatever you ask you'll probably get an answer, and one that's to the point at that, the documentation is up-to-date, easily readable and simply the best I've seen to date from a distribution.

The fact is that most people use Gentoo for the wrong reasons and keep on advertising Gentoo for those wrong reasons.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2005 10:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd have to say that I agree with them. As nice as Gentoo is, it's certainly not for everyone, and based on the criteria given there is no way Gentoo could have been placed higher. I'm suprised it even placed that high, actually. For that matter, I'm suprised Debian was up there too.

Realistically, installing Gentoo is hard to install (not really hard at all, but it requires actual work, unlike the point-n-click installers most other distros have), has absolutely zero graphical configuration tools unless you want to install them, can be as user friendly or as unfriendly as you like depending on what you install and how you configure it. And for most people, the benefits that Gentoo gives you aren't worth the effort required to get it running. All that stuff is really for geeks, and I don't think this comparison was specifically geared toward geeks.

Seems fair enough to me. Some people really like Gentoo, and others wouldn't get along with it unless someone else set it up for them.

As for the compiling thing... They're right. For the vast majority of programs, mucking around with cflags will get you close to nothing, and may actually make things worse. It is worth it for software that's being used so heavily that a 15% difference would actually be a big deal - the kernel, glibc, possibly X, GTK, Qt and that's about it. And maybe CPU-heavy applications, like media players.

Out of curiosity, what were the other distros they were testing?
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2005 10:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

@theBlackDragon:
I totally agree with you, but that's not what they tested for:
"how easy each distro was to install, how many configuration tools they came with, what installation system was on offer and how well the system could be configured for ease of use."

Clearly they were bound to miss the point of gentoo with these criteria, that doesn't mean however that the criteria aren't reasonable.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2005 11:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mnxAlpha wrote:

As for the compiling thing... They're right. For the vast majority of programs, mucking around with cflags will get you close to nothing, and may actually make things worse. It is worth it for software that's being used so heavily that a 15% difference would actually be a big deal - the kernel, glibc, possibly X, GTK, Qt and that's about it. And maybe CPU-heavy applications, like media players.


As a side note, the kernel build ignores the CFLAGS you set in make.conf

ralph wrote:
@theBlackDragon:
I totally agree with you, but that's not what they tested for:
"how easy each distro was to install, how many configuration tools they came with, what installation system was on offer and how well the system could be configured for ease of use."

Clearly they were bound to miss the point of gentoo with these criteria, that doesn't mean however that the criteria aren't reasonable.


Gentoo can be very well configured for ease of use, but it's not easy to use on itself. Their criteria are just plain wrong or wrongly stated, if you are talking about easy you have to precisely specify what easy is. Personally I find the constraints put on you by most distro's to make stuff everything but easy, but if they're talking about Joe User, the I don't even see why Debian and Gentoo were included, they're not for Joe User (or should I say, Joe Noob?)
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2005 11:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

theBlackDragon wrote:

ralph wrote:
@theBlackDragon:
I totally agree with you, but that's not what they tested for:
"how easy each distro was to install, how many configuration tools they came with, what installation system was on offer and how well the system could be configured for ease of use."

Clearly they were bound to miss the point of gentoo with these criteria, that doesn't mean however that the criteria aren't reasonable.


Gentoo can be very well configured for ease of use, but it's not easy to use on itself. Their criteria are just plain wrong or wrongly stated, if you are talking about easy you have to precisely specify what easy is. Personally I find the constraints put on you by most distro's to make stuff everything but easy, but if they're talking about Joe User, the I don't even see why Debian and Gentoo were included, they're not for Joe User (or should I say, Joe Noob?)

I still can't see how the criteria are wrong or wrongly stated. They make it quite clear imho that they are looking for an easy to install, easy to use in the Joe User sense of the term distro. If considering gentoo in such a setup does make much sense is debatable, you are right.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2005 12:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with you theBlackDragon that they completely missed the point about Gentoo, but I am not worried about the position Gentoo got because it faired up quite well to the competition (considering the criteria, I am supprised Knoppix came in at #9). The problem for me is what they said in the review, if people are thinking of going towards Gentoo and they read that, I am sure they would be put off.

This article is actually really confusing, if you go four pages ahead to the Mandrake bit there is a little box which compares all the package managers and says some nice things about Portage and USE flags.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2005 4:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Moved from Other Things Gentoo, per Luca's request.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2005 4:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just a side node on installation: Personally I consider gentoo installation easier than e.g. SuSE; granted, gentoo requires actual work, but I actually know exactly what each step does. Conversely, I have no idea what YaST (or any other setup tool) is up to when I click one of them pretty icons. I feel much more comfortable doing something when I know how it works, and I personally feel I can get portage to do what I want it to do much easier than any other package manager/setup tool I've ever tried (to be fair, though, if the Debian maintainers were less lethargic I probably wouldn't have tried out Gentoo).
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2005 5:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dannycool wrote:
Just a side node on installation: Personally I consider gentoo installation easier than e.g. SuSE; granted, gentoo requires actual work, but I actually know exactly what each step does. Conversely, I have no idea what YaST (or any other setup tool) is up to when I click one of them pretty icons. I feel much more comfortable doing something when I know how it works, and I personally feel I can get portage to do what I want it to do much easier than any other package manager/setup tool I've ever tried (to be fair, though, if the Debian maintainers were less lethargic I probably wouldn't have tried out Gentoo).

So damn true, that's why I have a trouble pointing a good distro for the average newb these days. Gentoo is just the best you can have, however, it wil reject a lot of newbs from ever using linux at all (I just hate rpm distro's and Ubuntu is not the grail either), my solution to this dilemma is to recommend SuSE or Mandrake anyway and when they know a thing or two about linux and got fed up with their rpm crap, I would suggest them Gentoo :D

(There maybe soon a new, a better alternative on the distro market: Arch, but that's still a little unmature as of yet, lot's of configurability, freedom to tweak whatever you want and a binary package tree! Ok, maybe not perfect for everything but hey :P)
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2005 2:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmmm... Well based what they were judging for gentoo did well, but this was supposed to be an "Ultimate Distro" competition, not an "easiest to install distro" competition, and the criteria don't really measure quality.

but what do expect, redhat and mandrake probably pay for adds in the magazine...
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2005 5:41 am    Post subject: Re: Linux Format "Ultimate Distros" Article Reply with quote

LucaSpiller wrote:
It says that "in terms of overall increase in performance, Gentoo is unlikely to bring more than 15%". If you consider Mandrake (ranked #1) takes more than a minute to boot up (to the login manager) for me where as Gentoo takes 20 secs to get to the command line and 30 secs to the login manager, I would say that is definately more than a 15% speed increase.


if you're measuring system performance based on boot times you may be 84% ridiculous. :wink:
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2005 7:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gentoo performance is significantly better than of any binary distro - not 15%, but about 150% I think. And installing packages is easy - just emerge foo - and it's all you have to do. I once tried to update kde 3.2 to 3.3 in Mandrake. It took me 2 days to download a ton of RPMs by hand and I got some weird font problems and non-working KDM.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2005 7:59 am    Post subject: Re: Linux Format "Ultimate Distros" Article Reply with quote

LucaSpiller wrote:
It says that "in terms of overall increase in performance, Gentoo is unlikely to bring more than 15%". If you consider Mandrake (ranked #1) takes more than a minute to boot up (to the login manager) for me where as Gentoo takes 20 secs to get to the command line and 30 secs to the login manager, I would say that is definately more than a 15% speed increase.


That's one isolated example, the reason Mandrake (and Fedora et al) takes longer to get to the login manager is because they usually switch into run level 5 and have a fancy boot splash prompt whereas Gentoo doesn't by default. You can switch this off in Fedora quite easily, not so sure about Mandrake because I haven't used it for a while but it's probably possible. Besides, unless you're constantly rebooting your machine I don't think a slightly longer startup time counts against a distro in the grand scheme of things.

Quote:
I was lead to believe that Gentoo is much faster when you use the appropriate USE flags because your application is only designed to run on your CPU.


Err, you seem to be confusing USE flags and CFLAGs here, they're two different things. USE flags compile in (or omit to compile in, depending on whether you enable the particular one or not) support for features like X, gtk, DVD playback etc. CFLAGS enable extra support (through gcc usually) for extra optimisations based on the processor architecture - e.g. on an Athlon XP machine you might specify "-march=athlon-xp". Personally I've used most of the distros they reviewed in the magazine (of which I have a copy) and I've not really noticed a huge difference between Gentoo and any others. There might be one somewhere, but if users don't notice then what does it matter?

Quote:
"Even on an Athlon 65, you can expect your computer to take about 24 hours to compile the base system to get it up and running." I guess they mean X and KDE by "the base system" because it took me less than 4 hours to get to the GUI with my Athlon XP (unless they are faster than Athlon 64s?!?!??).


They probably did mean X and KDE/Gnome, because that's what most other distributions ship with. Last time I tried compiling KDE from source, I gave up because it took well over 12 hours (and that was with X already installed). It can easily take 24 hours to go from stage 1 to a KDE desktop unless you have a very modern machine with plenty of RAM.

Quote:
"This means that while Gentoo users often get packages for new applications before everyone else, they're rarely the first to use them thanks to compilation time." - does this mean my update to k3b will take around 5 days to compile?


Does Gentoo get k3b 5 days before everyone else though? Probably not, unless you're using ~x86 in which case you should be comparing it to the equivalent in other distros (such as testing in Debian).

Quote:
So you think it can't get any worse? Well next they have a go at our "installation procedure that hails back to the early 90s".


They have a fair point - most users nowadays will, rightly or wrongly, expect a graphical installation. Even Debian's install procedure has a nice interface and will do things like partioning the disks for you.

Quote:
Most people want their computer to run as fast and as responsive as it can, no matter what they have to do.


No they don't, most people want their computer to work fast enough to enable to do what they want. I know several people using pre-Pentium 150 machines because they're only using them for word processing. They rarely complain about their machines being slow, because at the end of the day it can keep up with what they want it to do. I don't see any of them adding extra RAM or saying "I'm going to compile everything from scratch" in order to make things run that little bit faster.

The fact is, if you have a fast enough computer to not be irritated by the time it takes to compile things like KDE, Gnome etc. then you're probably not going to notice or benefit from the small increase in speed it might give you.

Quote:
Looking over this I am really unhappy, was this written by a member of the "I love Debian and hate Gentoo club" or something?


Had that been the case, I doubt Debian would have ranked joint 4th with Gentoo only one place behind at 6th. If Debian had been number 1/2 and Gentoo had come in near the bottom then I could see some justification for suspecting bias.

Quote:
but as a metadistro it is definately the most versatile


Your average user probably doesn't give a damn about versatility though, they're not going to go around poking with CFLAGs and so long as everything "just works" and they can get the latest version of KDE they won't care.

Quote:
if you have a problem and your hardware is supported by Linux, then Gentoo will be able to solve it.


Most of the other distros mentioned in the article would be able to solve it as well (in fact in theory all of them should be able to, seeing as Gentoo doesn't actually do anything that much different other than give you a package manager that allows you to compile from source - the kernel and the applications are pretty much the same).

I think you are taking this article a little bit too personally, as someone who reads LF (and subscribes to it) and uses Gentoo on several machines I think it was about as balanced as you can get.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2005 8:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I don't think Linux Format guys are geeks - see http://forums.gentoo.org/viewtopic.php?t=217888 and http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/awards/
Their choice is ridiculous: the nominants for "Best Desktop Software You couldn't live without" are: GIMP2, Gnome, k3b, konqueror, mplayer, Slackware (???) and SuSE (???). I didn't know suse is a desktop software... And what about ATi nominated for "Best Hardware Support" ??? Anyone tried a radeon with xorg 6.8? It seems they are just a bunch of n00bs - or they want everyone to think so.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2005 8:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't know why they've got Slackware and SUSE under 'best desktop software', I'm sure that must be a mistake on the web form - all the other options seem fairly sensible.

As for ATi being nominated for "best hardware support", it's only a nomination, doesn't mean they have the best support. Remember, ordinary readers will vote on who they think has the best support in the end and if past results are anything to go by IBM will probably win.

LF are certainly not a bunch of newbies - ok some of the people in Future Publishing (who probably give the occassional command from on high) might be but the regular writers (speaking as someone who has met several of them in person and spoken via email to others) know what they are talking about.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2005 8:58 am    Post subject: Re: Linux Format "Ultimate Distros" Article Reply with quote

pwaring wrote:
Quote:
Most people want their computer to run as fast and as responsive as it can, no matter what they have to do.


No they don't, most people want their computer to work fast enough to enable to do what they want. I know several people using pre-Pentium 150 machines because they're only using them for word processing. They rarely complain about their machines being slow, because at the end of the day it can keep up with what they want it to do. I don't see any of them adding extra RAM or saying "I'm going to compile everything from scratch" in order to make things run that little bit faster.


its funny -- i view Gentoo in exactly the opposite way -- before I was using Gentoo, my apps were fast enough. after i got Gentoo, I did perceive a speed improvement in X-based apps. as i became more enamored with Gentoo i've installed it on more computers. then the problem came -- emerges and Stage 1 on 3 system builds take long enough that even though i used to be perfectly happy with my PC collection, i now want to buy a faster computer to cut down on those compile times!

so what has gentoo done for me? i used to be perfectly happy with all of my computers. now that i'm always compiling, i feel that i need to buy a faster PC just to be a compilation server. it turns out that even though Gentoo programs run faster on my PCs than the other distros, Gentoo has me shopping for a new PC that i wouldn't have bought otherwise.

the irony is painful. :lol:
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ralph
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2005 9:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

blaster999 wrote:
Gentoo performance is significantly better than of any binary distro - not 15%, but about 150% I think.

http://funroll-loops.org/
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blaster999
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2005 9:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok, maybe I underestimated LF. No surprise, as I didn't read a single article. Anyway I don't think I could get a copy of LF magazine here in Latvia (the only type of computer-related magazines is windoze-praising all-for-Joe-user describing some 30-day shareware programs that are useless and buggy). But their "Ultimate distro" award results by LF seems very strange. I don't think Mandrake is "the one distro to rule them all", as rpms are just pain in the arse. Yes, it is easy and nice, but I do not recommend it for my friends, as simply installing new programs like aMule is a complete disaster.
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ralph
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2005 9:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

blaster999 wrote:
I don't think Mandrake is "the one distro to rule them all", as rpms are just pain in the arse. Yes, it is easy and nice, but I do not recommend it for my friends, as simply installing new programs like aMule is a complete disaster.

That just simply false. Having played around with mandrake and urpmi I have to say that installing new programs is one of the great strength of mandrake.
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Q-collective
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2005 9:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ralph wrote:
blaster999 wrote:
I don't think Mandrake is "the one distro to rule them all", as rpms are just pain in the arse. Yes, it is easy and nice, but I do not recommend it for my friends, as simply installing new programs like aMule is a complete disaster.

That just simply false. Having played around with mandrake and urpmi I have to say that installing new programs is one of the great strength of mandrake.

And how big is urpmi's repository? Most distro's only have about 2000 packages (like apt-get in Fedora), which is just nothing really
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