When it comes to our InternetServer, there will be some unavoidable discussion on choice of distro, even if we avoid a prolonged debate. This page gives that discussion a home.


Let's start by registering our own preferences on distribution, as well as our experience level with any distro (preferred or otherwise). If you have any "I refuse to have anything to do with" opinions, note those too.

Avoid explaining why at this point; let's just survey the field. Comments about why will be moved to ServerDistroDebate.

  • BenScott - Prefer a RHEL clone like CentOS. Most experienced with Red Hat Linux, Fedora, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux clones. I've tried SuSE, Mandrake, and Debian in the past. I'm willing to work with just about anything.
  • BruceDawson - Suggest either RHEL (maybe we can get a company in Westford to donate a copy). I also have experience running Ubuntu servers. I do not recommend a plain Debian server installation ...
  • BillMcGonigle - If we can get a RHEL license, great (make sure that includes support ... If not, CentOS ... Fedora Core might be worth looking at ... My server is currently RH9 ... I run FC2-4 at several client sites ...
  • ToddWarfield - Suggest RHEL or RHEL clone (CentOS) as that is what I am most familiar with...
  • DrewVanZandt - Suggest Debian. I currently admin an FC4 server and three Debian servers. ... Experience: 3 years RH admin, 2 FC(2-4), 5 Debian. ... I prefer not to use FC4 or RHEL.
  • ColeTuininga - Another vote for Debian. ...
  • MikeLedoux - Prefer RHEL or RHEL clone. Too much experience with those, Fedora and Debian. HATE SuSE.
  • TedRoche - 3 years administering several low-volume RH8/RH9/Fedora servers. "I refuse to have anything to do with" Windows 2003 or Vista. Here to learn and to help.


See also: ServerSecurity

The following items outline some of the requirements of the distribution. These exist in light of this system being managed by a (probably) disjoint set of people. For the sake of sanity, let's try to avoid arguing how or why a particular distro fits these criteria at this point. :)

Our situation

For the following, it helps to keep our situation in mind:

  • No money
  • Staff made up entirely of volunteers
    • ... with limited time
    • ... with different opinions on things
    • ... who are strong *nix and FOSS enthusiasts
  • We're looking for a server platform to run various services


We cannot live without these, for reasons outside of our control.

  • No capital acquisition cost (free as in beer)
    • Why: We have no money
  • Support for our ServerHardware
    • Why: If it doesn't run, there isn't much point
  • Experience within our community of sysadmin volunteers
    • Why: We cannot afford the time to retrain volunteers or money to pay experts
  • Automatic updates (with yum, apt-get, up2date, etc.)
    • Why: We will not have a staff of pros for caretaking
  • Must be kept current with security fixes
    • Why: We will depend on the distro for fixes, as we do not have time to install fixes ourselves, security holes are usually time-critical, and this server will be connected directly to the internet.


These are things we want -- perhaps really want -- but which are ultimate generated internally, rather then externally.

  • Free/Open Source Software (free as in speech)
    • Why: The "Live free or die!" spirit of NH aligns perfectly with FOSS
  • Long lifecycle
    • Why: We want to avoid frequent major upheaval
    • Problem: This contradicts the "reasonably current" preference
      • Not contradicts but conflicts with: Requirements are all about identifying and optimizing conflicting needs. These two, in particular form a dynamic tension that's a good thing. -- TedRoche
        • Conflicts and contradicts = synonymous. That said, you make a good point about the dynamic tension. "Good thing"? Well, unavoidable, and thus best identified and incorporated. I'd prefer to have my cake and eat it too, though; too bad that's impossible. ;-)
  • Reasonably current
    • Why: The older something is, the less useful it will be as a platform for a Linux group
    • Problem: This contradicts the "long lifecycle" preference
  • A good selection of server packages we are likely to be interested in
    • Why: The less we have to "build ourselves", the less time it costs us
  • Reasonably good quality
    • Why: Bugs cost time
    • Problem: Quality tends to be very subjective
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Topic revision: r22 - 2006-02-15 - BenScott

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