Linux and The Distribution of Choice

I’ve been using Linux for a long long long time. My first kernel was 0.9 something in 1992. During that time I’ve switched distributions based on eye candy, support, stability, etc. For the last few years I’ve settled on Gentoo. I like the control, I like (for the most part) the upgrade path. I like the ease of use in getting things running. True, it took about a week to finally get all the tools necessary to get my laptop running nicely, but when it ran, it was sweet.

When I finally screwed up my laptop install (trying to get Windows Mobile 5.0 to sync), I figured I’d look for something else. I ended up installing Sabayon, a Gentoo based install. I had a perfectly working laptop (very stable) with great eye candy in about 1/2 hour. Very Schweet.

In all, I have 4 boxes that run Gentoo or a Gentoo based distro. On that I have a Gentoo based VMWare session for my email/web/etc server. I also have a CarPC that I just converted to Windows XP, just because it was easier.

So, where is all this going? I guess right back to the distro of choice. There are so many people out there that bash an OS based on who makes it. They bash a distro because it’s not what they want. But really, who cares? My opinion is that the distro should be picked based on what you need it to do. For my car I needed a distro that had great GPS software and a good music program. For a long while, I used Gentoo with software I wrote myself, and a separate Garmin GPS. Now I use a new ‘distro’, Windows XP. The GPS is integrated with the music software, and it just works.

I’ve wanted a really good web based email/calendaring program for a long time. For the last year I’ve been using eGroupware, which worked very well. For a while I used Outlook and egwosync to sync my calendars/contacts/todo’s with the web based system. When I moved the laptop to Linux, I lost that. Interestingly enough, eGroupware syncs better with Outlook than with any Linux based app I’ve seen. Now for the main reason for this little rant. I’ve been looking at Zimbra and Scalix for my web based solution to replace eGroupware. Mainly because the eGroupware email reader does not handle filters on email. Filters move email from one folder to another based on who its from, or part of the title, or… whatever. eGroupware relied on some separate perl scripts to do it’s filter/moving. Ugh. And then there was spamassassin, which I used for spam catching. After training it on thousands (yes, that many, I still have emails from 2000), it still let spam through. It never took good email and marked it as spam, but I still had about 20-30 spam I had to handle manually every day. It caught about 80% of my spam. I just wasn’t happy with the overall solution.

After doing some research, I decided to try Zimbra. The problem was that it wouldn’t run under Gentoo. Damn. Oh well, it did run under RedHat, Debian, Ubuntu, and one other if I recall. I started a new VMWare session and installed Ubuntu Server. It installed clean and ran great. I gave it a 25 GB HDD and 320 MB of RAM. Once Ubuntu was installed, I downloaded the Zimbra Community Edition and installed that. Another clean install. Now, after two days of running Ubuntu and Zimbra, I’ve completely moved over to it for all my email and calendaring needs. I use to use Thunderbird to access my email, but honestly I haven’t fired it up in days. Zimbras WEB/AJAX based interface is so sweet, that I don’t miss it. It accepts all the standard keystrokes, does drag and drop, has great filtering. I just can’t say enough about it. It catches 95% of my spam with no false positives yet. It also does virus scanning. And Ubuntu Server is great. Will I switch to Ubuntu for my other systems? I don’t think so. I still like my Gentoo. Still, Ubuntu did the job it was supposed to, and did it well.

The summary of this is: Why the wars on distro’s or OS’s? Just use the one that does the job for you. It should do the job cleanly and efficiently with the least amount of hassle. I can honestly say that all my choices do exactly that.

Now if only I could get Windows Mobile 5 to sync.

Here’s a list of my current systems:
1. AMD 64 3400+ (1GB RAM, 1 TB HDD, Gentoo)
– main MythTV Back End
– VMware Server System
   – Blog and Web Server (256 MB RAM, 17 GB HDD, Gentoo)
   – Email (320 MB RAM, 25 GB HDD, Ubuntu)

2. Celeron 2GHz (512 MB RAM, 200 GB HDD, Gentoo)
– MythTV Slave Backend
– MythTV Frontend (living room)

3. Pentium 4 3GHz (2 GB RAM, 250 GB HDD, Gentoo)
– Temporary MythTV Frontend (bedroom)

4. Athlon XP 1800+ (256 MB RAM, 40 GB HDD, Gentoo)
– MythTV Frontend (basement)

5. Via 533 MHz miniITX (256 MB RAM, 250 GB HDD, Windows XP)
– RoadRunner CarPC Frontend

6. Pentium M 1.7 GHz (2 GB RAM, 100 GB HDD, Sabayon)
– my main machine/laptop

7. Athlon XP 1800+ (512 MB RAM, 250 HDD, NO OS)
– unassigned unused box. Used to be my CarPC.

3 thoughts on “Linux and The Distribution of Choice”

  1. Interesting observations. I run Ubuntu Edgy (GNOME) on my laptop, and dual-boot PCLinuxOS on my desktop. I just recently learned of Sabayon and will try it. Nonetheless, I find Ubuntu’s uncluttered simplicity to be ideal for my laptop use, while PCLinuxOS (KDE) is preferred for my desktop, where I need a bit more flexibility. Anyway, what brought me to your blog was your comments on eGroupWare, which Im considering for installation on the server for a local free clinic, where I volunteer. After reading what you had to to say about eGroupWare and Zimbra, I may give Zimbra a try instead. Thanks for your observations.

  2. I used and enjoyed eGroupware for over a year. It’s and excellent solution. Still, Zimbra is awesome!

  3. Hi !

    I found your page when googling for eGroupware.
    If you’re willing and eager to help mi, please email me, so i can hit you with questions about configuration and installation.

    Tnx in advance !!!

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