[SciPy-user] Suggested Linux Distribution?

Cournapeau David cournape at atr.jp
Mon Jan 16 20:24:32 CST 2006

On Mon, 2006-01-16 at 10:46 -0500, mfmorss at aep.com wrote:
> >With any distribution you can build a custom kernel; as a matter of fact,
> >you should. That's where you get the fine-tuning of your installation.
> It is, of course, not only the kernel but all the packages that one runs,
> e.g. gcc itself, Python, R, netCDF, whatever, that is locally compiled when
> running a compiled distribution.  In each such case, therefore, there is
> significantly greater exploitation of any given machine's computational
> power.  This may not matter much to most people, but the question was about
> building a system for scientific applications.  If you want things to run
> fast, compile them from source, optimized for your own machine.  The
> compiled distributions greatly facilitate this.
I've read thoses informations many times, but I think they are far from
accurate. Honestly, compiling for i386 or i585 won't give you many
differences, I would even think it is not measurable. Plus, you can
recompile your own packages with Red Hat based and debian based (which
includes Ubuntu), not only gentoo. Compiling your own kernel is also
useless in most cases: it will definitely not give you any speed
improvements (except if the kernel is a difference version of course),
and you will not be in sync with the package manager anymore for the
drivers (at least in the debian and fedora core based distributions).

Compiling from source is something to avoid as much as possible if you
are a beginner, it is the best way to screw things up if you do not know
what you are doing (library path problems, bad installation path,
overwriting base components).

My experience is that linux does not just work, it is not really the
point. There will be some painful adaptations, but once it is done,
going back to something else will be even more painful :)

My advice is simple: Just take one of  the big distributions to easily
find support on the internet, and post your problems on the relevant
forums. The distribution does not matter that much; from my experience,
ubuntu has a good installer and a fixed release cycle (every 6 months),
gentoo is more configurable, debian is rock solid, fedora core is widely
used and contains a lot of packages, etc... 


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