Recommendations for Linux distro

Hi All,

I could be opening a can of worms but what is a good distro for web development on linux?

In the past I have used ubuntu but for the last year or so, I have been developing on vista. Unfortunately the HP pavilion hardware did not run ubuntu very well (noisy fan was the biggest problem, which is kind of lame but I couldn’t handle the noise, nor did I realize that I could buy a third party fan controller)

Anyway this is for a new build, this should be a very capable machine but with emphasis placed on reliability, ability to upgrade and it should be very quiet and energy efficient.

Brief hardware

Intel I3 2100

Asus P8Z68 Deluxe motherboard

8 gig ram

60gb ssd (6gb/s)

2 1TB HDD (6gb/s)configured as raid1 (linux software raid, not mobo ‘fake’ raid)

DVD read/writer

Fancy case with massive fans and built in fan controller.

I will be installing two graphics cards because I want two monitors. Cards that I have ordered are low end but I won’t be gaming on this machine. (GTX 220)

Anyway, I like ubuntu and I am willing to take on unity interface, previously I used gnome.

OpenSUSE looks pretty good

A lot of people swear by linux mint

Of course Ubuntu has great support and the largest community.

I considered going with a mac, but too much proprietary hardware, plug configurations software etc.

I figure the SSD should give me good performance and reliability and I have read a bit about how to configure the SSD using linux, no access time etc.

Any thoughts? what’s your favourite distro and why. Any advice on raid setup would be appreciated, I like the idea of being able to swap out a defective drive and not loose any data.

I will also have to bite the bullet and learn GIMP or setup fireworks using wine. Any thoughts on this?

Just curious if anyone can offer some guidance, at this point I am leaning toward Ubuntu and timing wise I should be able to get the production version of ubuntu 11.10 within days of having the build complete.

thoughts anyone?


In the end it’s all about preferences :D

I personally use openSuse 11.4 64bit, I like it for it’s very simple software manager (zypper, yast)

As you will have 8GB of ram any distro you choose be sure to get the 64bit version so that you can use that memory

Wine works for some applications, for some other not depending on app requirements… but if that is the case you can install windows in a virtualbox

For the raid… if you have 2 HDD setup a mirror… if you have them 3 you can set the RAID 5

Ubuntu isn’t that good as a server OS. You should rather stick to Debian or CentOS. Or try to use *BSD.

Oh, hold on. I didn’t read your post correctly. i thought you were planning to build a server only, not a development environment :rolleyes:

I personally prefer CentOS on servers and Fedora on my desktops. That’s mostly because I’ve been with RedHat since RH Linux v6.0 (note: That’s not Fedora Core or RHEL 6!). Fedora is providing almost bleeding edge packages while preserving sane quality standards.

At work, I’m “forced” to use Ubuntu for development and Debian as server OS. I can work with it but cannot find it that exciting. Although, some maintenance scripts such as a2enable are quite nice.

In general, you should pick a distribution that’s close to your server environment. Ubunutu/Debian and Fedora/CentOS work quite well for me.

@mdomba - one vote for openSUSE ::)

@Da:Sourcerer - my VPS is using CentOS but I would require a desktop environment, I assume it will run gnome or kde? Also I thought that ubuntu was based on debian, is this assumption incorrect?

FWIW in the past ubuntu worked quite well as a development server once I got it configured.

Thanks for your suggestions so far


OK thanks, this is the kind of feedback I was looking for.


Well, you can run CentOS on a desktop as well if you want :lol: And yes, it’ll feature KDE as well as Gnome. And Openbox, Blackbox, Enlightenment and whatnot ;)

No, it’s absolutely correct. Ubuntu is an off-spin of Debian.

I didn’t say it weren’t possible. Ubuntu just isn’t intended for server use B)

@Da:Sourcerer - thanks, that’s awesome feedback



It really depends on what you’re after. :)

If you want bleeding edge - like latest versions of PHP, Apache, MySQL, whatever, then go for a distribution like Aptosid (Debian Sid) or Arch Linux.

I am using the latter, and I really like it.

If stability is Alpha and Omega to you, choose Open SuSe, Debian, etc.

I would stay clear of Ubuntu, but that’s because I don’t like that particular flavor of Debian. It is not very stable IMO, slow and unresponsive too.

But each to his own of course.

One thing that makes Arch Linux stand out is the excellent documentation - because Arch is a tinkerers Linux distribution, it has supreme docs on how to set up your own LAMP system.

That’s a very good reason to go for Arch. :)


It seems arch has a slightly different philosophy with rolling updates rather than ‘releases’.

Maybe you could answer a few simple questions for me.

Does it run a recent version of chrome? firefox? netbeans?, these are the things that would be top priority.

And what gui are you using? I’m leaning toward KDE, but I was very happy with GNOME on ubuntu.



Firefox 6.0.2, NetBeans 7.0.1, PHP 5.3.8, MySQL 5.5.6 (AFAIK), Apache 2.2.21-1, Chromium 14.0.835, …

KDE 4.7.1.

Aptosid is what I used until I was forced to try other alternatives due to my nVidia card falling out of favor with Debian.

It’s at least as cutting edge as Arch.

It depends…

If you want a more distribution-like experience, go for Aptosid.

I like Arch because I can tailor it myself, I only install exactly what I need.

Perhaps Aptosid (Debian Sid) is slightly more cutting edge? Also meaning that it breaks more often.

@jacmoe - thanks a lot, aptosid looks really interesting, arch looks like the installation might be a little daunting.


Is that packaged? I’ve heard Chrome/Chromium were problematic to package…

I use Ubuntu on a VPS as my development server. No problems what so ever.

Just to add my 2 cents. Go with what you like and use virtual machines for anything else. If you have the resources available before you commit, try a couple of distributions as virtual machines.

I’m currently running Ubuntu on a dual core box that I’m replacing with a new quad core build. I went with three 2 TB drives in a raid 5 configuration. You spend 50% more going from 2 drives to 3, but you gain 100% additional storage. Of course if you’re already using a SATA DVD drive and an SSD, adding an additional drive will put you at 5 SATA devices. My motherboard only supported 4 internal devices.

Booting from the SSD will give you nice load times on your OS, with raid storage on the traditional drives. It is also a simpler install. The only disadvantage is that your SSD won’t be protected by raid. You can always re-install the OS which I assume is your plan, but it will take time to reconfigure everything. Maybe periodic backups to your raid array?

I’ve used Centos in the past (mostly for Oracle compatibility) and I keep a Centos virtual machine around, but as a general desktop, I like Ubuntu better. Having said that, I’m not the biggest fan of the unity interface, but it works.

Thanks people for all of the excellent input.

I’ll update this thread when the machine is up and running. I don’t want to test drive too many distros, it sounds like nobody had any real warning flags to wave.

FWIW in my previous ubuntu install, I started with 8.04 and by the time I was at 10.04 things were getting a little unstable and I lost my 3d graphics (card no longer supported @jacmoe - sound familiar?)

On the plus side, it only had a 40g hard drive and I never ran out of space.

Off topic comment, but I thought you might get a kick out of this when people complain that linux is confusing or difficult.

I recently set up xp on some salvaged hardware and I used a 3g hdd, I figured that would be enough since I just wanted some midi software loaded.

Out of the box install consumed 1g of the disc for the os and in a stroke of brilliance xp decided that 2g should be swap space. I disable disk swap since I had 1.5g of ram installed. The first thing I did was go to microsoft website to try to download the service packs. Using ie6(hee hee) the microsoft site reported that my browser was not compatible with their website. I finally got sp2 installed (service pack 1 would not install, could find the server??) and when I checked that operation consumed another 1.5g. After deleting the uninstall files I now had a system that required 1.5g for the os.



Scientific Linux if you want a server-grade distro.

It’s a RHEL clone like CentOS but it’s better than CentOS (mainly because of faster updates).

For Fedora is here a guide how to setup Apache, mySQL and other server things. Fedora is IMHO a pretty stable distro, even though it uses pretty new packages. It is also one of the most innovative distros (first with systemD, Gnome 3 and LUKS based encryption during install) and is easy to install and maintain. It’s possible to use Fedora like a rolling release distro, but it’s not officially supported nor recommended.

Some people like Gnome 3, others hate it. First days I liked it, but now I prefer to use XFCE instead. I didn’t try KDE much since KDE 4.0 was released. When there was still KDE 3.5, I liked gnome a bit more.

Not so good points about Fedora:

  • a release is supported only 1 year

  • a bit less many packages than Debian distros or Arch Linux (with AUR packages included)

  • bit less stable than Red Hat (and it’s derivates CentOS, Scientific Linux) or Debian

  • mulitimedia codecs and proprietary driver from third party repo (rpmfusion)

Ubuntu is good if you just getting in Linux world, but personally I prefer Debian. It is probably the most stable Linux distribution. It takes a bit more time to start with it, then with Ubuntu. And it use Gnome.

I was windows user, and used XP for development, and after I disappointed with Windows 7, I decided to use Linux for development, and since then I think my development cycle is shorter.

Hey Thanks everyone for your comments and suggestions.

I decided to go with OpenSuse, I’m definitely on a learning curve and I’ve had a few problems along the way.

Installation was not a problem but I still can’t get my old parallel port printer working. I am using a pci parallel port card because newer boards don’t come with them anymore. The only reason I am hung up on the printer is because I bought about ten printer cartridges for $2cdn a piece at a liquidation clearance shop.

Too cheap for my own good. :lol:

I had a lot of problems getting the two monitors to work the way I wanted until I figured out that both monitors need to be plugged into the same card. Now I have an extra card that will go in my ‘Franken Box’ at home that I use for music programming. Oh well the cards were $50 each but with a $30 rebate! Not a huge financial loss.

I chose the KDE desktop and the box hums along at 1.5% - 6% for most of the tasks that I throw at it, not bad considering the I3 2100 is the slowest processor that I could get for this board. So far the highest that I have seen is about 60% processor load and that’s loading an application and very brief.

Lots of future proofing here, which is great because it is a total PIA to migrate to a new computer. :rolleyes:

One really cool part of this new box and OS is that I have Fireworks 8.0 running in wine, no problems, looks great and any fonts that I add to the system are automatically available in Fireworks.

Using net beans editor but I had to drop back to 6.8 from 6.9 in Vista. Super cool that I can SSH into my server or open up a file browser and browse the server files just like the local disk.

OpenSuse 12.1 is going to be released in 15 days so I will probably upgrade shortly after that is available.

So nice to have a case sensitive OS again! Once I spend some time setting up rsync, I will definitely be seeing some productivity increases.

Happy as a clam in Linux land! :D