Ah the dog days of summer, kids out of school, family travel, and lots of recently released Linux Distributions! So taking advantage of all three, as my family is out of the house for the weekend, I poured on some serious geek-time and loaded pretty much every new(ish) build I could get my hands on.

The Old Standard: Ubuntu

No surprise here, I use Ubuntu daily on most of my desktops and servers. But, it’s worth a mention that this weekend I bid farewell to the goodness that has been my favorite release to date, Gutsy (7.10). It was actually not intentional, but after a few hours of wrestling to get the latest VMW Server 1.0.6 onto the box, I threw up the white flag and just rebuilt with Hardy, VMserver loaded just fine.

For anyone new to the Blog, you might not be aware of my disappointment with 8.04 LTS (see Ubuntu 8.04 – One Week in the Real World for more about this.) Despite its irritants, Hardy is working quite well on every system I’ve loaded / upgraded, and while server upgrades are always a bit more dicey than a desktop it was time for these two servers of mine to get overhauled.

BTW – 8.04.1 appears to be heading our way soon (Ubuntu 8.04.1 freeze of hardy-proposed.)  My guess is 8.04.1 is going to be the Hardy we all wanted to see from the get go.

A Venerable Veteran: Fedora

Red Hat / Fedora always will hold a soft spot in my heart as years ago it was the first distribution I used on a regular basis. Despite this affinity, I have not been a regular user of Fedora since version 6.0, this being the case it was high time to give 9.0 a try.

First, the positive – as always the Fedora artwork is beautiful! The legacy of wonderfully integrated and classy themes continues into Fedora 9, other distros take note. Also, the Live CD is a welcome new touch for Fedora (I think it was also in version 8.0, but it’s nice and new just the same.)

Sadly however, this was the shortest lived install of the weekend. After gawking at the gorgeous theme ended, I was left with a rather unimpressive desktop experience. Right off the bat I had problems connecting to Samba shares – not encouraging! A couple of lackluster hours and Fedora was off my test box and relegated back to infrequent use as a VM.

The Most Promise Yet?: OpenSUSE

Ok so maybe I’m just overly optimistic, but since I recently purchased an HP Mini-Note, which ships with SLED 10, I really want SUSE to be a great product – especially since getting Ubuntu loaded on my HP2133 is proving to be a challenge. Perhaps the new OpenSUSE 11 would have all the drivers I need?

But before I form impressions on new hardware, its only fair to give OpenSUSE a shake down on my tried and true desktop for a couple of days. Live CD, slick install, painless so far. Good (and very green) artwork, not nearly as sublime as LinuxMint, greets you – here however, the pleasantries end.

So the infernal “Slab” menu structure aside, navigation is still too difficult; finding key configuration and other applications was way to confusing. Then came the Yast updates. Slow and unresponsive as ever, and not nearly as clear about what is happening as Apt-Get. The final straw – shouldn’t installing the Nvidia driver improve monitor detection and performance? Not so much, after rebooting with the proprietary driver, my widescreen support (which had been working), failed; as did my desire to work any more with this distro.

Durable, Dependable: Debian

While I am a huge fan of the Debian package management system, I actually don’t have any production Debian systems at present. Since the last Debian box I installed was V4, I felt a little daring and gave Beta 2 of the forth coming Version 5 (Lenny) a try.

With no live CD/DVD, but a welcome GUI installer, getting started with this distro was no problem. At the point of this writing I am still working with Debian and will comment more in the coming days.

I will make this observation though, for a beta/development release I am actually surprised by how non ground breaking this major X.0 release appears to be. This is in striking contrast to the recent Ubuntu 8.04 release – chalked full of beta!

And now for Something Completely Different: GRML

So whenever you mix German engineering and Linux you are bound to get something like this Distro. A word of warning, if you think Knoppix is too geeky, read no further! While GRML has a similar pedigree with its better known sibling form the fatherland; Debian based, live cd with decompression of drivers and apps on the fly, GRML goes a step further by offering an array of UI options.

A textual menu greets you upon boot, cluttered with options for just about every light-weight GUI you have every heard of, and then some! If that is not nerdy enough for you, you can run command line applications from a circa 1983 text menu launcher with seemingly hundreds choose from. Don’t misunderstand me, I like GRML. And as a utility Linux / boot CD it’s handy in any arsenal, I just don’t plan on booting it on a daily basis.

Were did my weekend go? Guess I better pick one of these guys and get ready for Monday.