[Beowulf] best linux distribution

Tony Travis ajt at rri.sari.ac.uk
Mon Oct 8 09:40:21 PDT 2007

Tim Cutts wrote:
> [...]
> You are lighting the blue touchpaper.  Basically anything will work.  
> There's much less difference between Linux distributions than people 
> think.  They basically differ in the way you install packages, and in 
> some cases in the locations of configuration files.  But that's about 
> it.  Go with whatever distribution you or your admins are already 
> familiar with.

Hello, Tim.

I agree with you in principle, but in practice many binary packages only 
work properly under the target release of the target Linux distribution 
because of their dependencies on particular shared libraries etc. At the 
source level, of course, none of this matters. However, what many people 
want (me included) is a team of dedicated volunteers doing the hard work 
of making sure a collection of binary packages all work well together.

> Personally, I prefer Debian-derived distributions to Red Hat workalikes, 
> but that's just me.  Some people like the Gentoo build-it-all-yourself 
> approach.  Some like the Rocks do-all-the-clustering-for-me approach.  
> But they can all do the job.  It depends to a certain extent on how much 
> you want (or need) to get your own hands dirty.

I also prefer Debian-based distro's and still run the openMosix kernel 
under an Ubuntu 6.06.1 LTS server installation on our Beowulf cluster.

What I like about APT (the Debian package manager) is the dependency 
checking and conflict resolution capabilities of "aptitude", which is 
more robust than the older "apt-get". I previously ran Red Hat 5.3->9 
and I've used both "up2date" and "yum". Neither of these is as capable 
of resolving package conflicts and dependencies as APT. I used APT for 
RPM when I ran RH9 for exactly this reason.

In my opinion, the package management system is a very important factor 
to take into account when choosing a distribution, as well as the range 
of tried and tested binary packages that are available. In that respect, 
Debian/Ubuntu has a lot to recommend it.

Dr. A.J.Travis,                     |  mailto:ajt at rri.sari.ac.uk
Rowett Research Institute,          |    http://www.rri.sari.ac.uk/~ajt
Greenburn Road, Bucksburn,          |   phone:+44 (0)1224 712751
Aberdeen AB21 9SB, Scotland, UK.    |     fax:+44 (0)1224 716687

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