My first Linux distribution was Slackware installed from 40 floppy disks running the 0.99 Linux kernel. Back then a distribution was just a starting point to get a system up and running. The concept of upgrading to the next release of the distribution was foreign, if you wanted a newer kernel or a security patch you downloaded the source and built it. Distributions were a very personal thing because they became your own the more they diverged from the initial install. It would have been heresy to do a full re-install or official upgrade once you’d tweaked it to your liking.
That’s all changed now and we generally stick with our distributions and rely on them to provide security patches and new releases so that we can more easily stay current. Still your choice of distribution greatly reflects on your personal style. Are you a:
1. Gentoo type who likes availability of the bleeding edge, building from source, processor optimization, etc…
2. Fedora type who likes to stay pretty current and doesn’t mind a full OS upgrade every 6 months or so
3. RedHat type who needs vendor or commercial support and doesn’t mind being a bit behind the curve
4. Debian type who likes 2-3 year release cycles so you can just apply
security patches as they come out and only worry about a full OS
upgrade every 2-3 years.
During and after college I was definitely the Gentoo type, I wanted my binaries optimized for my CPU, I always had the latest kernel, and I was happy spending a lot of time keeping my install current. In my 20’s and early 30’s I mostly ran RedHat with detours to FreeBSD and OpenBSD. More recently I switched to Fedora (once RedHat was no longer free), however, I’ve grown tired of having to do a full upgrade or reinstall every 6 months and come to realize that deep down I’m a dapper dan Debian man!
Before switching my server to Debian though I hit Netcraft and started looking at what other sites and bloggers whom I respected were running. Based on my limited survey the top 3 non Windows OS’s used for webservers are Fedora, Debian, and FreeBSD. I knew I wanted Linux because we run FreeBSD at work and I like variety to keep my skill set current. I also knew I wanted a break from Fedora because I’m tired of doing a full OS upgrade on my server every 6 months. So Debian Sarge it is and since it was just released in July 2005 I’m hopeful I can run this install for at least 2 years on security updates before it becomes unsupported and requires a full upgrade.
Lastly, the Debian install was a breeze and I’m really liking Debian. I’ve found it very easy and intuitive to learn and use! For my installation I used this HOWTO to get up and running: The Perfect Setup – Debian Sarge (3.1). In the process I also switched from Sendmail to Postfix as my MTA and now that I’ve seen how much easier Postfix is, I
can’t believe I put up with Sendmail so long!