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Two Linux Distros I Like

I haven’t talked about Linux in a while, but the last couple of days have been really hot around here so I’ve spent more time indoors/online looking at Distrowatch to see what’s new in the world of GNU/Linux. Which leads me to a distro that’s been around for a while called Zenwalk, and a newer one I’d never heard of called PinguyOS (Yes, it’s an odd name, but bear with me, folks).

Zenwalk is a Slackware based distro. Now I’m not real familiar with Slackware, but it’s one of the oldest GNU/Linux operating systems around, and it seems to be the preferred distro of the hard-core/geekier Linux crowd. Which always made me shy away from investigating it much. I’m totally into non-geek operating systems lately. I just don’t have an interest or time to learn more about digging into the command line when it comes to using my computers. I just want an OS that does what I want it to do without a lot of fussing around. Which is what I think most computer users are looking for. Which is probably why Macs are growing in popularity despite a fairly hefty price tag (and, of course, the ipod effect).

Many Linux distros I’ve seen lately use a slogan like “It Just Works”, which is great, but invariably something is going to go wrong, or get broken on certain kinds of hardware by an update or user error, and despite all the wonderfully helpful Linux forums it can sometimes be a pain in the neck to diagnose and fix problems. If Linux can get to the point where things do work without much technical knowledge by the user, and there was a concerted effort to advertise what Linux really is to the masses,  I think Free and Open Source Software and operating systems will become much more popular among the average Windows-indoctrinated public.  That’s what Canonical is trying to do with Ubuntu, and even without mainstream advertising, interest in Ubuntu has grown tremendously in the last two or three years.

But, I’m really digressing from what I set out to discuss: Zenwalk 6.4, which though it is based on Slackware seems to be more user-friendly to us non-geeks. I’ve checked it out a little in the past, and while it was lightweight and easy to use, I still thought it seemed a little crude and old-fashioned compared to my beloved Linux Mint (an off-shoot of Ubuntu).  So I downloaded this new version, burned it to CD and booted my upstairs computer with it. And was pleasantly surprised. Even running from a CD, on my 6-year-old HP computer,  Zenwalk is really quick. Everything worked without problems; wi-fi, monitor resolution, mounted USB drives. I did have a problem with sound at first, but that was easily fixed by going to the sound preferences. It just had a nice feeling about it, and the standard Xfce desktop was the best I’ve seen. And it was really fast! If it were installed on the hard drive it would be amazing. I would definitely consider installing it to really get the feel of it, and for some experience using a Slackware-based distro.

But then the next day I stumbled upon a blog article about another new Ubuntu-based distro called PinguyOS. It’s another in a growing line of Ubuntu-based distros, but after trying it out on the previously mentioned computer, I was impressed. PinguyOS is basic Ubuntu with everything an average user would want (and a bit more) pre-installed. It also comes with Docky, Conky and Compiz, plus all kinds of other programs and everything you need to view web content, play music and multimedia. It uses MintMenu instead of the standard Gnome Menus and MintUpdate, which I like better than Ubuntu’s. It also has quite an OS-X eye candy look to it. And surprisingly, on my older HP box everything was very quick and smooth, even running from a DVD (it’s too big to fit on CD). There are other distros that are similar, like Ultimate Edition, but Pinguy just looks really polished and doesn’t come with quite as much bloat as that. It’s a very nicely done tricked-out Ubuntu. And I wouldn’t mind installing this one, either.

So if you are a Linux beginner, PinguyOS would definitely be worth trying out (check out the website for further info). For more experienced Linux users, especially Slackware users, Zenwalk is a solid alternative.

For me, my Linux Mint 9 is running perfectly on this computer, so I really have no reason to install anything else. Everything just works! But I’m still tempted to experiment with PinguyOS or Zenwalk (I just love that name; Zenwalk). Isn’t that what third or fourth computers are for?

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