[Wolves] advice on version of Linux to install

Andy Smith andy at strugglers.net
Tue Jan 7 05:44:32 UTC 2014

Hi Nick,

On Mon, Jan 06, 2014 at 12:29:19PM +0000, Nick Hall wrote:
> Well here is my first question about Linux. I am working towards the Linux Professional Institute Linux Essentials exam (the very basic one), and I am using Ubuntu, but was thinking is this a good version. Should I use another, a mate suggested I use Fedora? Or Red Hat. 

As you're probably aware, the LPI certifications are vendor-neutral
so are not designed around any particular Linux distribution.

The Essentials exam is a very high level overview of Linux that
doesn't require you to get very specific and so for the purposes of
passing that exam you should just be familiar with using Linux -
*any* distribution of Linux.

So if you are happy with Ubuntu and your immediate goal is to pass
the Essentials then I think you are fine to continue on with Ubuntu

If you attempt any of the more advanced certifications then you will
start to need to know a little more about administration and
advanced usage. The rest of this email is assuming you want to do
LPIC-1 and beyond.

There are two main kinds of Linux distribution: those derived from
Debian that use dpkg format packages, and those that use the Red Hat
Package manager (RPM) format packages. The more advanced LPI
certifications expect you to be familiar with package management on
*both* kinds of distribution.

(There are other Linux distributions which use other package formats
than dpkg and RPM, but they aren't anywhere near as popular and LPI
doesn't test you on these. It doesn't mean that they are bad choices
outside of your need to pass LPI exams.)

There is also the fact that Linux as a desktop environment and Linux
as a server operating system can be very different experiences, and
not all distributions are commonly used for both purposes.

Ubuntu is derived from Debian and uses dpkg-format (.deb) packages.
It is popular both on the desktop and increasingly used for servers,
especially cloud-based ones. If you already have experience of using
Ubuntu then it is a good choice to practice both desktop and server

I am not saying much about Debian, the parent distribution to
Ubuntu, because you've said that you already use Ubuntu. For a
beginner who is focusing on passing LPI tests I don't think there is
a big enough difference between them and it's down to personal

For the RPM side of things it may seem that the most natural choice
is Red Hat Enterprise Linux, however this costs money. RHEL is a
popular server OS in the corporate environment so it would be useful
to have experience with it, but this is hard to get when you can't
afford a licence.

Fortunately there is a derivative of RHEL called CentOS that is
available for free. Having a play with CentOS would provide useful
experience of a server OS that uses RPM packages, much of which
would be applicable to administering RHEL if you ever had to do

Neither RHEL nor CentOS are commonly used on the desktop. Fedora is
an example of a popular RPM-based distribution mostly aimed at
desktop users.

My advice would be to pick one distribution as a desktop and use it
as much as you can, and then pick another as a server. Choose a
dpkg-based distribution for one task and an RPM-based distribution
for the other. Run the server distribution inside virtualisation if
you don't have a spare machine to put it on.

So for example if you intend to stick with Ubuntu, use Ubuntu as a
desktop and run CentOS as a server either on another machine or
inside a virtual machine.

Or Fedora as a desktop and Debian/Ubuntu as a server.

Beyond this, Linux distribution choice is a highly personal topic,
sometimes the cause of religious wars; there is no one right answer.

If you intend to become a professional Linux sysadmin you must be
aware that companies tend to have existing deployments and will
expect you to administer those, not replace the whole lot with
whatever your favourite distribution of the month is. :)

As a result you will develop your preferences but will probably need
to keep an open mind.

Good luck!


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