Economist on Linux distributions

I would not have thought that the Economist would be looking at and testing various Linux distributions but they do in this article.

The aim of the article is to come up with a Linux distribution that could be used by schoolchildren on hand-me-down computer gear (at least 2-3 years old).

They test the usual suspect and interestingly come down in favor of gOS.

I have to admit that I like Ubuntu on the desktop and CentOS on the server, but I am currently downloading the gOS live disc to try out.


7 Responses to Economist on Linux distributions

  1. noel says:

    “For families with only dial-up connections to the internet, or none at all, our re-incarnated computers will be revitalised with a less web-centric form of Linux. Rather than openSUSE, we opted instead for the popular Ubuntu because of its better support and easier updating.”

    I’m surprised he didn’t mention xubuntu since he mentioned kubuntu. I’ve been runing the xfce flavor of ubu on my pentium 3 notebook for years now, and I really enjoy it. I’ve also heard a lot of hype about simply mepis, a kde based ubuntu variant that is supposed to be better than kubu. I’m not sure how much I like the idea of a google centric OS. We all know how much they love to store everything about what you do — anonymously of course (of course).

    Anyway if you’re running older hardware, you’re going to want a lean OS. In my opinion that disqualifies KDE and Gnome isn’t much better. Xubuntu is really a winner in the lean environment — assuming you don’t want to go over the top and install Damn Small Linux. You could also try ubu with IceWM or Fluxbox instead of xfce. I hear those window managers are lightening fast, but you might have a less user friendly GUI experience. 10 year olds adapt fast though. I say give them a terminal and teach them about manpages…

  2. noel says:

    I’ve just installed the gos desktop on my xubuntu vmware guest by adding the repos to sources list. It’s cute and pleasant, but I don’t find it any more intuitive than any of the other major desktop players. It has animated icons and round corners and drop shadows. All things that feel cozy but don’t really improve ease of use.

    When did people become such suckers for eye candy anyway?

    Enlightenment is running at about 38M, not counting applets. I guess that is pretty lean considering the look and feel. But the file manager is a joke. I’m better off using the term or xfce’s Thunar. If you tack on the cost of running X, on a machine with 128M of ram, you’re devoting nearly half your RAM to the desktop. But the gOS tweaks to enlightenment are pretty impressive if you install the default enlightenment theme. What an ugly piece of crap that is.

  3. I am not sure that putting a 10 year old in front of a terminal and man pages is the best approach, we need to distinguish between using a computer as a tool and learning about computing.

    I did not know about xubuntu so I will check that out. I am just curious what people come up with in terms of UI. From what I can tell, they are all pretty similar, even when you look at Windows or MacOS X. I mean, just how much can you mess with a window, a dialog box or a file navigator.

    I think this crop of desktop linux distribution is a good thing, linux has been (rightly) ribbed for not having a strong desktop presence, so it is good to see various efforts rising to the challenge.

    As for eye candy, I think that using good graphics and good animations really help a user interface by conveying purpose and intent. Just look how far we have come since the days of the first version of Windows, Mac OS, and other things such as GEM, Motif and OpenView. That being said there is such as thing as going too far, for example the flexible windows in Ubuntu are cute for about 30 minutes and then just get annoying.

  4. noel says:


    You need to try beryl or compiz on your linux box sometime.

    Talk about going too far…

  5. noel says:

    OH and let me just clarify my statement about putting a 10 year old in front of a term. I didn’t literally mean put them on a tty, but expose them to the CLI and what underlies the GUI because it’s good to be exposed to such things. One of the beauties of Linux is how open it is. There is productivity that only a CLI can offer and the stigma that it is inferior to a GUI should be reversed. Trying to hide the complexity isn’t the answer for the up and coming generations. They will understand and grasp this stuff better than any generation before them if properly exposed.

  6. Beryl looks interesting, lots o eye candy I agree and most of the stuff there looks ripped-off from MacOS X Leopard.

  7. noel says:

    I believe it can do a lot more than OS X…

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