There are a lot of Linux distributions.
No, really, I mean there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of Linux distributions out there.
Frankly, it can get a little overwhelming sometimes. But, I think about them and what they all are and what they do. I think about them because it’s my job, and because I’m always thinking about what’s coming next in the IT industry. So, what Linux installs do I think about? Funny you should ask….
I think about Android. Yeah, that’s right, the operating system that runs those Droid phones is a kind of Linux. That’s kind of amazing to me, really, but there it is. And, I think about it because Android seems to be on more and more devices these days. Everything from phones to tablets to who knows what next in the consumer market. But, I try to pay attention to Android because so many people at my office have Android based phones and they all expect me to help them figure their phones out.
I think about Fedora, which is the open source version of Red Hat, which enjoyed pretty good market penetration when they first got going. They’ve got a lot more competition today, but, still it’s in an IT professional’s best interests to be at least familiar with Fedora.
That goes for openSUSE, too. openSUSE was bought out by Novell some time ago, so there’s no telling where it’s going to end up with all the buying and selling around Novell’s bits and pieces these days, but it’s still a pretty heavily installed Linux distribution. My brief experience with it was good, though, I have to admit, that was on older hardware for a personal project, not a corporate gig.
If you’re an Oracle shop, you’ll probably know about Oracle Linux, which is basically Red Hat Linux after Oracle has made modifications to it. Oh, and jacked the price up. Still, if you work with Oracle a lot, it’s probably worth looking into.
Eweek recently ran a slidwshow about these, and several other, versions of Linux under the title 10 Linux Distros Every IT Manager Should Know. Obviously, I agree with some of their listing, but clearly not all. And, I think they left some off.
For instance, what about the live CD editions?
Two I think anyone in IT should know are Ubuntu and Knoppix. Knoppix has been around a longer, but Ubuntu has a slicker interface and, I think, is a little better at detecting hardware than Knoppix. Also, you can install Ubuntu from the live CD media, if you would like, and plenty of people do run it as a desktop. The real plus is that there’s a pretty healthy community around these two installations, especially Ubuntu. So, if you need help with either one, there are a lot of resources on the internet to answer your questions.
I use these two all the time to recover data of damaged installs of Windows. I even used one to build a PC imaging system before I started using Clonezilla, which is also, incidentally, based on Linux.
If you’re worried about security, Linux can help with that, too.
For quite some time, the National Security Agency has sponsored SELinux, which is a pretty secure, hardened version of Linux. They designed it to be reasonably secure right as a default, since an insecure default install is usually where security problems start. Of course, you may not trust the NSA. And, while this is “sponsored” by them, it’s not actually an official US Government Linux install.
For that, you have to go to the US Airforce. Their Lightweight Portable Security distro is the first official US Linux distribution. I haven’t actually tried it myself, but ZDNet has a pretty good review of it.
So, as you can see, if you haven’t looked into Linux much before, there are a lot of things to investigate. And, as a computer professional, I DO recommend that you check out at least some flavor of Linux. It’s so prevalent and so flexible and handy to have that if you haven’t bumped into it yet, you will. So before you need to know it, investigate it some on your own. You’ll be glad you did.
(And, I’m sure every seasoned IT pro has their favorite distro, like Debian, but there are too many to list them all. If you have opinions about any, please, leave comments!)
Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"When the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail."