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Other Linux vendors

By JULES ALLEN

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 3, 2000


Linux penguin

The Linux challenge
Long an operating system for technophiles, Linux is getting a new face and marketing push for the home user from softwaremaker Corel.

Linux? Not for AOL users
Corel says people who use computers for basic functions such as surfing the Web, word processing and spreadsheets are candidates to try its Linux operating system. But it's not for America Online subscribers.

It often surprises Windows and Mac users that Linux is available from many companies. An interesting analogy comes from Bob Young, former chief executive of Red Hat software, who suggests that people think of the operating system like ketchup. It's all tomatoes, sugar, salt and water, but each tastes a little different.

  • Corel is just one of the companies offering a version. Here are other major ones:
  • Red Hat: If you're a stock watcher, you'll recall that this well-known Linux company was one of the hot IPOs last year, nearly quadrupling in its first day of trading from $14 to $52.06. Its stock price has fallen back to Earth, trading most recently in the low $40s.. But Red Hat has made significant progress in making its Linux version easier to install and use. In addition to producing a solid product, Red Hat as a company has a healthy sense of humor: When you install its software, it offers "Redneck" as a language option.
  • SuSE: Germany's SuSE is the Swiss army knife of Linux and the current version (6.3) comes on six CD-ROMs. Of course, you don't have to install all of the software. But if you're a modem user, it's a good one to have since most of the software you might need is on CD. Before I ran Corel's Linux, this was my version of choice.
  • Debian: This version could share New Hampshire's motto of "Live Free or Die." It has no company directly marketing or sponsoring it, which is reflected by the lack of commercial software bundled with the core distribution. But this is the version Corel chose to base its version on. It's becoming more user-friendly, but in my opinion it's still for the hard-core, technical elite.
  • Caldera: Caldera was initially funded by some ex-Novell bigwigs, and its slant since Day One has been toward business. Although I've never used this one, reports on the installation and administration tools are very good. Considering its funding, it claims to integrate with Novell extremely well.
  • Mandrake: Bought a McMillan Publishing book on Linux? Then you probably own a copy of Mandrake Linux that's packaged with it. Although it receives little coverage, it's one of the most widely distributed versions of this operating system. It's based on Red Hat Linux. An interesting feature is that it's compiled to optimize the Pentium processor and claims up to a 30 percent speed increase.
  • Turbo Linux: This version is the most popular in Asia and features extensive optimizations for the Japanese and Chinese. I found the installation confusing and gave up after several attempts.

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