Installing CentOS 5 "Debian Style"

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Package SetsPackage SetsIf one knows of the hype about Ubuntu, and it is almost unavoidable, one is led to believe that it is the most popular Linux distribution for desktop users. I have yet to see hard data that shows evidence of that claim so that will remain unresolved for now. One of the reasons touted for Ubuntu's popularity is that it comes on a single CD. Debian, upon which Ubuntu is based, also has fans because it too has a very light-weight install option (among other reasons) which will install the base system and allow one to install all the desired software post-install by downloading only what is needed. While Debian is huge, 27 CDs for the full distro or 3 DVDs (not counting the source CDs), virtually no one downloads all of the .iso images.

Since I'm a Red Hat fan (which includes Fedora Core and CentOS), I'm aware of the complaints people have about "having to download multiple CDs" before they can start installing. In fact, the recently released CentOS 5 is 6 CDs (i386, or 7 CDs for x86_64). To counter those complaints, I thought I'd try a single CD install of the recently released CentOS 5 "Debian style" and then add everything in post-install. Join me if you will...

Insert CD 1 and boot

The goal of this exercise is to do a minimal install using CD 1 only, and then post-install, install a fairly full desktop system including GNOME, KDE, graphical Internet applications, text Internet applications, utilities, development tools... you name it. This is not a HOWTO so I WILL NOT be going through every single step. The install process of Red Hat based distros is so easy now, a chicken could almost do it by pecking the enter key on the keyboard.

The default package selection for CentOS 5 is basically a GNOME based desktop environment with and several common graphical Internet applications... and this default install actually requires CDs 1-5. If you don't want the default install, you have to manually select "Customize now" at the bottom of the installation type screen... which will take you to a package selection screen. While previous releases had options for "Install everything" and "Minimal install" at the bottom of the package list, the package selection screen has been completely redesigned. With the addition of Virtualization, Clustering, and Cluster Storage options, the "Install everything" option no longer makes much sense... but it is unfortunate that the "Minimal install" option isn't there anymore. With this release they have also added the option to include additional, network-based package repositories if desired.

So, without a "Minimal install" option, just how does one accomplish a minimal install? It isn't too difficult. You just have to select each package group on the left side of the screen and make sure to remove all checkmarks in the sub-groups on the right. This means you have to do a bit of clicking... by working through each section and removing all checkmarks. When I say remove all check marks, I mean it... with the exception of "Base" in the "Base System" group... although for an even lighter-weight install, you can even remove that checkmark too.

All about the dependencies

Package GroupsPackage GroupsAfter making your package selections, or in this case, de-selections, clicking Next will produce a pop that says, "Checking dependencies in packages selected for installation...". If you were successful at unchecking every package group and sub-group, you will be rewarded by the installer not even telling you how many CDs are needed.

A typical minimal install takes 5 minutes or so... with more time spent entering information on the various screens rather than in package installation. If you left "Base" checked, it equals 340 rpms taking up 881MB of disk space. If you didn't leave "Base" checked, it equals 144 rpms taking up 616MB of disk space.

Post-install party

Ok, the install is done and system rebooted. The grub menu comes up, the kernel boots, and shortly thereafter you are presented with the console login screen. You login and the command prompt blinks at you with anticipation. What do you do now? Remember, the goal of this experiment was to end up with a GUI desktop with everything... GNOME, KDE, GUI apps, Development tools, etc.

yum stands for Yellowdog Updater Modified... and it is the higher-level package management tool offered by most Red Hat based distros these days. By higher-level I mean that when you want to install something, yum figures out all of the dependencies and downloads everything for you. In contrast to yum is the venerable rpm command. Debian and/or Ubuntu users can relate as follows... rpm is to yum as dpkg is to apt-get.

yum is typically used to install one or more packages by name... but it has lesser used package group functionality as well. Want to know what groups are available? Then try:

yum grouplist

From a minimal install you should get something like:

Installed Groups:
System Tools
Dialup Networking Support
Network Servers
Mail Server
Available Groups:
Engineering and Scientific
MySQL Database
Development Libraries
GNOME Software Development
Text-based Internet
X Software Development
Legacy Network Server
DNS Name Server
GNOME Desktop Environment
Authoring and Publishing
FTP Server
Games and Entertainment
Legacy Software Development
Java Development
Legacy Software Support
X Window System
Web Server
Windows File Server
Printing Support
KDE Software Development
KDE (K Desktop Environment)
Server Configuration Tools
Sound and Video
PostgreSQL Database
Administration Tools
News Server
Development Tools
Yum Utilities
FreeNX and NX
Graphical Internet

Notice that the vast majority of group names are multiple words with spaces included. As a result, you have to put them in double quotes so the spaces in their names won't be interpreted as separators.

Ok, let's install all of the stuff I want with the following yum commandline:

yum groupinstall \
"Office/Productivity" "Development Libraries" Editors \
"GNOME Software Development" "Text-based Internet" \
"X Software Development" "GNOME Desktop Environment" \
"Games and Entertainment" "Legacy Software Development" \
Java "Java Development" Emacs "Legacy Software Support" \
"X Window System" Graphics Ruby "Printing Support" \
"KDE Software Development" "KDE (K Desktop Environment)" \
"Sound and Video" "Administration Tools" "Development Tools" \
"Graphical Internet"

Please note that is really one line but the \ has been used to separate it across multiple lines for readability. \ in shell syntax means continued on next line.

After doing that, yum spewed out a lot of text, figured out all of the dependencies and gave me a transaction summary that said it was going to install 688 packages, update 4 packages and remove 0 packages with a total download size of 904MB. Depending on updates and whether or not you had "Base" selected in the initial install (I did), the exact figures may vary but you get the point. Luckily I setup my own package repositories so downloading all of this stuff over the LAN was probably faster than having all of the physical CDs or the DVD. This article isn't intended to be a HOWTO so install what you want rather than what I've specified above.

It will take a while but after it is all said and done, everything will be there all happy like.

Why would you want to do it this way?

As time goes on, there are going to be more and more package updates. Installing this way lets you do a minimal install which will require a minimal amount of updates AND all of the packages you install post-install should check updates so it won't install anything that needs updating.

Having local repositories on the LAN really made it fast but I'm not sure I'd like to have to download 904MB of packages over the greater Internet... although in most cases it shouldn't be a problem... although on the same day or week of a new distro release it might be problematic.

I guess I'm just old fashioned. I like to download the whole distro and pick all of the stuff I want to install during the install. Sure that means a lot of updates but RHEL/CentOS do release updated install media (aka respins) as minor versions of the distro and as long as you have the most recent install media, you shouldn't have too terribly many packages to update... knock on wood. Even with Fedora, that has the rapid 6 month development cycle, there is a group that produces respins every so often to cut down on the number of updates needed after a fresh install.

Draw backs to the minimal install method

If you do a default install or add packages beyond the default install, you'll have a GUI system to begin with... and that includes the firstboot wizard that runs when you boot for the first time after installation. firstboot does things for you like configuring X, adding a user account, setting up a firewall, configuring your sound card, etc. With a minimal install you don't get that firstboot experience so you'll have a little work ahead of you after everything is installed. Luckily there are packages that will do everything firstboot does... just with each function as a separate program you have to run. For configuring X there is system-configure-display. There are several different apps you can use to add a user account. For your sound card there is system-configure-soundcard. While many users aren't familiar with these utilities it doesn't hurt to get to know them. Do you know how to change your default runlevel? If not, you should.

A difference of culture

Maybe it is just me... having used Linux since 1995... but I like downloading multiple CDs (or a large DVD image) and getting the opportunity to pick what I want during the install. To me, a single install CD like Ubuntu is so "cookie cutter" in that it makes all of the choices for you. With a minimal Debian style install, I have a working base from which I can choose anything... and it doesn't try to figure out what desktop I should use or what GUI applications I want. In my experiment, I lost a little package choice granularity by selecting package groups but I could have just as easily installed fewer groups and more individual packages if desired.

Oddly enough, with the upcoming Fedora 7, the Fedora developers seem to have bought into the whole Ubuntu single CD design. They are producing a default single CD for a basic GNOME desktop and another single CD for a basic KDE desktop. It is my understanding though that Fedora still plans on releasing a DVD with everything. What I don't quite understand though is with Fedora 7 they are merging Core with Extras and Extras alone is more than a DVD worth of packages. Just how are they merging Core and Extras and still keeping with a single DVD? I guess the final release candidate and final release will answer those questions.

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Thanks (even after all these years!)

Hi Scott,

I actualy am one of those "let's move from windows to linux the hard way by installing Ubuntu via USB stick" guys...

Recently I was forced to work with CentOS (or RH5 if you like) and I realy could not be bothered to download and burn 6 CDs.

Your blog helped me a great deal and you are right: sometimes it is better to know what you are doing (or at least start to learn)!

Big Thank You!


Scott Dowdle's picture

DVD images?


I'm glad someone found it useful. I think for RHEL 5 they didn't have a DVD image with the first few releases but eventually they added it. I just checked and indeed in RHN there is a single binary DVD for 5.8 but I didn't check any of the previous releases. The clone makers have had DVD images available for longer than RH has I think.

Even with the CDs, if you do a minimal install you can probably get away with just the first CD but it doesn't hurt to have the disc 2 ready just in case.

With RHEL 6 of course they offer 2 DVD images and I think they dropped the CDs completely.

I don't recall if I previously mentioned any of that in my post/comments because I didn't bother to re-read them. :)

Thanks for the comment. I almost missed it... and it took me a while to notice and moderate it to active. I must have somehow turned off new comment notification.


Hi. I discovered this article sometime last year when stuck with no Interwebs and only d1 of the CentOS-5 set. It really saved my bacon then, and I just yesterday revisited it for the 'yum grouplist' information. I wanted to say thank you for sharing your experience with the rest of us.

For a good time (and it goes along w/ system building =), maybe check out Cobbler, It's a solid way to build out a base for provisioning machines and can be integrated with other tools (like Puppet, ) to make an administrator's life much easier...

Thanks again,

Scott Dowdle's picture

Cobbler and Puppet

Thanks for the comment. I've heard of Cobbler and Puppet but I haven't gotten around to actually trying to use them yet. I did get to meet the author of Puppet at LWCE earlier this month and I was impressed.


It's actually system-config-display, not system-configure-display. Also, you can run firstboot by hand at any time, or force it to run at boot time by supplying reconfig as an argument to the boot.

In current versions of Centos 5.1, there's a dependency bug from upstream for GNOME that you'll encounter doing an install this way. Info is at:

Scott Dowdle's picture

Thanks for the correction and info

You are absolutely correct about the spelling of the program. It is indeed system-config-display. I use tab completion so I usually get it right. :)

Regarding the dep issue... you are correct there also. It just so happens that I wrote the article before the problem existed. I have done the process a few times since then and have indeed run into it. Thanks for pointing it out. There is a work around... but they really should get that fixed.

RPM :) Revolutions Per Minute????

Scott count how many times you said "..i didn't say so... i didn't say that...."
just erase your article really didn't say anything ...
Ubuntu rules

:) :) :)

With All Due Respect

First off, I don't want this to be a rant or rave or rip on, I am merely stating what I see.

Many of your complaints are already solved by the BSD community. There are only really 4 (possibly 5 if you count PC-BSD) real distros out there.


Each one is working in a completely different direction, yet sharing the source with the others. None are really overlapping or shooting for the same goal.

FreeBSD - Fast, Easy, Secure, Desktop/Server OS
OpenBSD - Most Secure Server OS, tries to be 100% secure with every piece of software.
NetBSD - Super Compatibility and Flexibility
DragonflyBSD - Designed for Server clusters, both local and distributed (keep an eye on this one)

These are usually ftp installs for anyone who has any experience other than windows, and DesktopBSD is a pre-configued FreeBSD using 100% FreeBSD source and programs, just with pre-installed KDE and and a few other tools, that are part of the ports system. All on 1 CD (or DVD if you want a live DVD and have all the tools)

Which brings me to the ports. This is where I see the BSDs, particularly FreeBSD, blows the Linux community out of the water. Installing from source or packages in FBSD is super easy and is pretty much guaranteed to work. You NEVER are looking for dependencies, or conflicts, it does all this for you. Plus from my experience, building everything from source makes everything MUCH faster, especially when you set the make file to tune it for your processor.

Another key point is stability, take a look at the Netcraft TOP 50, what do you see? FreeBSD, BSD/OS (usually OpenBSD or the like) and IRIX (a BSD like UNIX) and a few server 2003, and 1 server 2000 I think, yet, BSDs definitely have a minority share in the market.

Right now the biggest draw back to *BSD is hardware compatibility and closed source software (such as flash). Much of this is due to the lack of publicity of *BSD so the closed source developers don't care about it. And any closed source software that is available for Linux? BSD can use it thanks to the Linux binary compatibility! Have 5 BSD servers at my work, and 2 CentOS 5 servers (for VMware of some of the BSD servers, because BSD isn't a supported host yet) And I have another 4 FreeBSD servers at home. I swear by it, and I have tried all of the distros, and they feel so "sticky" I guess with out of the box installs. When I installed SUSE, it was preloading 5 instances of Firefox, etc, etc,etc.... Why would I want this? It didn't seem to make it run any faster either... That is a waste of memory I think.

Personally, I invite you all to at least take a run at FreeBSD, or any BSD for that matter, and visit for any support questions. You just might be surprised.

Uptime stats at Netcraft

I have a lot of respect for BSD and look to learn more about it. However, the uptime stats should not be something that is used in comparing it to Linux. When you look at the Netcraft FAQ you find this.

"Additionally HP-UX, Linux, NetApp NetCache, Solaris and recent releases of FreeBSD cycle back to zero after 497 days, exactly as if the machine had been rebooted at that precise point. Thus it is not possible to see a HP-UX, Linux or Solaris system with an uptime measurement above 497 days. "

Thomas's picture


Actually, with all due respect, there must be 5. You missed OS X.


Scott Dowdle's picture

Thanks for the advocacy of the BSDs

Opps, I let your comment sit in the approval que for a while... by accident. I do appreciate you taking the time to comment.

I have installed FreeBSD a couple of times on desktop machines...and I have to admit that I was impressed. I did everything the source way (rather than their optional binary install) and it worked rather well... however, recompiling everything all the time isn't something I prefer. I certainly don't begrudge those that want to do that.

You are certainly familiar with Gentoo... which is kind of the Linux distro with the most BSD flavor... although there are a number of source based distros these days. I'd really like to give Linux From Scratch a try sometime myself because I know it will be a great learning experience.

Why aren't the BSDs doing better (market share wise) than they are? I believe this gets back to what you see as their strength... and that is that you enjoy it the most when you compile everything yourself... and there is only a certain segment of folks who are interested in that.

So far as the BSD ports collection goes, while it is rather massive, several Linux distros have massive package sets that would rival or surpass... but we all know it is basically the same software in all of them... with a few exceptions.

I do want to encourage diversity... and yes, many of the Linux distros are bloated... but then again there are a number of stripped down Linux distros as well.

There is also a lot of cross pollenation from distro to distro and even from FreeBSD to/from Linux although I know there is quite a bit of discussion going on now about relicensing of code and the incompatibilities between the GPL and the BSD license... but to me, it's all good.

Regarding using VMware to run virtualized BSD machines... try FreeBSD Jails... which is a form of OS Virtualization. I haven't used FreeBSD Jails myself but I have used OpenVZ and Linux-VServer and in the many instances where they appropriate, they work very well and are much more efficient (higher density and scalability) than Machine (or hardware) Virtualization types like VMware.

Thomas's picture

Why aren't the BSDs doing better?

Let us not forget that Apple is Unix/BSD under the hood. Can it be both? Not sure what part of the "market share" Mac has these days, but it's growing fast. I think that Apple's one of the few successful hardware vendors that offer Linux/Unix/BSD\Microsoft products.

BTW: I just installed Debian on my home machine last night! One DVD from .iso. I'm not sure I follow some of your 27 disk talk? The timing of this thread is crazed, I've been goofing around with BSD this week too. ;)


MacOS X is not BSD

>Let us not forget that Apple is Unix/BSD under the hood.

This is a popular myth. Apple's OS contains code that came from the BSD source tree,
but it isn't even close internally to what passes for BSD today, or indeed any
version of BSD from the past. For example the kernel code came from Mach.

Note that Darwin isn't Mach either ! The Mach code was forked by Next in 1986.

This book makes interesting reading if:

Thomas's picture

Whatever Dave re: MacOS X is not BSD

Go argue with Steve Jobs.


Scott Dowdle's picture

Fact vs. Fiction

I'd trust a Wikipedia page or a book over Steve Jobs almost anytime. :)

Thomas's picture

re: Fact vs. Fiction

How about the FreeBSD website Scott?

"Apple's Mac OS X is based in part on FreeBSD and includes a rich UNIX® foundation in addition to the proprietary Apple user interface."

Did you guys even read the wikipedia article your referring to?
"Darwin is an open source UNIX computer operating system released by Apple Inc. in 2000. Darwin is composed of code developed by Apple along with code derived from NEXTSTEP, as well as from FreeBSD and other free software projects."


Flame on

Been a while since I was involved in a flame fest...

So you said that Apple's OS "IS" Unix/BSD under the hood.

I said it isn't. Rather it's Apple's own OS that they've
been developing for 20 years (back through NeXt), that contains
some BSD code.

And then you argued with me, citing a bunch of articles that
in fact say the same thing that I said : that the apple OS
is its own thing, but it contains BSD code.

To me, if it "IS" BSD, then I should be able to do things like :

1. Download the source for some BSD release, build it, and have
the OS binaries that Apple ships on their machines. I can't do that,
because Apple's kernel (and a bunch of other stuff) is different code.

2. Take a binary that someone built on some version of BSD and run
that binary unchanged on Apple's OS. As far as I know this is not possible.

You may not even have been propagating the popular myth that I mentioned,
which is that Apple runs their own userland and windowing environment
on top of a BSD OS. I hear this all the time, and it's not true.

FWIW I ordered my first Mac at the weekend, it'll arrive on Thursday.
iPhone development can only be done on a Mac, and so I'm going to
get a chance to consume the Kool-aid myself :)

Thomas's picture

what's in a name?

I apologize David. I think you know much more about BSD than I do.

I drank the Kool_Aid about 8 months ago, and it wore off fast.

Mac's claim to Unix is what brought me to Linux. A friend pointed out that it's also based on BSD. In his mind that makes it Linux. I'm by no means an authority, but this issue seams to be convoluted at best. Thank the Almighty that I'm not a Patent Attorney.

I use Debian about 80% of the time now!

Sorry to get off on the wrong foot, you seam to be very knowledgeable.


When you get your mac, check this out! MacPorts

Scott Dowdle's picture

I took a better look at the book

Starting at page 91 of the book... it talks about the beginnings of NeXT and NEXTSTEP... and that it was clearly based on the Mach kernel... with a 4.3BSD environment. I'm assuming that "environment" means the userland stuff. The main programming language used on the Mac is a flavor of GNU Objective-C.

Scott Dowdle's picture

Other flavors of Unix on the Mac

Before Steve Jobs returned to Apple, Apple actually had a Unix port that ran on the Mac. There was also the MkLinux project that had Linux running on top of the Mach micro kernel.

Why did Apple choose NEXTSTEP? I'm guessing it was an insider thing considering Jobs was able to get Apple to buy his old company for more than it was probably worth given the marketshare it had and its failure in the hardware market. I'm wondering what the Mac would be running if Linus Torvalds had agreed to work for Apple. My guess is that by that time NEXTSTEP had already been chosen and they wanted Linus to just abandon Linux... but I'm guess guessing because I'm not sure where everything falls in the timeline.

Scott Dowdle's picture

Combination of many things

All of the articles I've seen mention the Mach micro kernel as well as BSD. They don't say what was borrowed from what. I'm not sure what you think I am/we are disagreeing with.

They could include a userland tool from FreeBSD and say that it is based on it... because that would be true. It also borrows some tools from the FSF/GNU Project... and the KDE project. Oddly, you don't see much mention of the later two on the Apple website.

I'm guessing the most authoritative work on the subject, other than the source code itself, would be the book that David linked to. Have I looked at that? Some time ago when it first came out.

The idea that Mac OS X (pronounced ten and not echks) is a wholesale repacking of FreeBSD is not true. I'm not saying you said that... but it is obvious that Apple wants to do as much name dropping as they can in their marketing information. It is strange how Apple refers to both UNIX and BSD. The two are not the same... and there was a long lawsuit (that many say gave Linux the upper hand) and BSD was purged of all UNIX code. It is kinda like saying you are both a McDonald's and a Buger King francise. :) I guess if they follow the licensing requirements of both and they don't technically conflict, Mac OS X could be McBurgerKingDonalds. David tries to point out that the "kernel" part does not have a BSD design. :)

I do remember the quip in Linus' book (entitled JUST FOR FUN with David Diamond) where he mentioned that he had a meeting with Steve Jobs... where Mr. Jobs tried to talk Linus into joining the Apple team to combat Microsoft. Linus wasn't interested at all.

Scott Dowdle's picture

How many optical disks?


When I wrote that, there were indeed 27 CDs or 3 DVDs that made up Debian. Their installer is such that you only download what you want to install initially and then you can obviously install whatever you want to after that. So many people like downloading the first CD or the netinstall CD and doing a very minimal install from the optical media... and then installing everything else from the network.

Here's a link to a list of CDs... from a few sub-releases since:

Here's the link for the DVDs:

Flame war?

I've been using desktop Debian for a couple years now.... before that it was Ubuntu warty Warthog!

No to be honest I am now using 7.04 Fawn on my notebook (KDE) and I love it just as much as Debian....possibly even more because I'm not noticing the collision of errors, bugs and panics, the only difference between the two are just the apt-repository and a kernel recompile. (+ spiffy install disk)

To say Ubuntu is a hype is rediculous. I knew it was golden when it was the first Linux I ever used (after failed Debian attempts).

I also liked RedHat 9 , use CentOS for all my work servers and is it just me or is Fedora feel bloated as usual?

Medialess, remote GUI install over VNC...

That's once I haven't tried! Got any links to more info on it?


RE: What's changed

Quick update on the issue installing from CD #1...

I recalled that when I initially went through the package selection process the installer indicated that CD's 1 and 2 were required, so I hit the "Back" button and went back through the package selection and found that I had in fact left one package checked. However, when I unchecked it and proceeded with the installation, I was again told that CD's 1 and 2 were needed. I double checked the package selections again and there wasn't anything checked. At this point, I restarted the installation process from the beginning and made sure I de-selected every package and was able to install off of only the first CD. Has this happened to anyone else here?

Scott Dowdle's picture

Nothing is perfect

I have noticed two situations that cause more than CD 1 to be required... if you are using software RAID, the mdadm package seems to cause a chain of package deps that kicks in more than CD 1. So if you are using software RAID, CD 1 will not be enough. Hey, use the DVD.

I have also noticed that if you go foward without deselecting everything and then go back and fix it... it still is confused and wants more than one CD 1.

Other than those two conditions, it works as advertised.

What's changed with CentOS 5.0 CD #1

I recently downloaded the CentOS 5.0 CD #1 image and tried installing from it. I de-selected _every single item_ in the packages selection and the installer tells me that both CD's #1 and #2 are required. Did something change recently, or am I overlooking something?

Worzie's picture

Felt your pain

I believe if you had selected packages before going through the calculation of dependencies, then went back to un-check packages... it is less forgiving. After only having disk one, I found it suggested I needed 1-5. I went back and double checked and continued for sake of trying but it still asked for disk 2. I had to bail at that point but my second run I un-selected all packages this time and it didn't even stop at the page saying what disks it would require; assuming you had the one disk required already.

So... possibly a little installer bug.

Scott Dowdle's picture

Installer bugs

Yes, I've noticed that too. It's one of those bugs that no one wants to fix... but maybe in the next version.

boot only images

I like boot only images. They make for short initial downloads and minimal installs are quick. Keeping only boot images saves diskspace, but then addng packages is a little network intense. Then after that, you can totally customize your package choice.

BTW: configuring X and adding users can be done with Kickstart or Preseed.

Excellent Article

Thanks for the excellent article.

Distrowatch clicks are one method for measuring popularity. Another is to look at Website traffic. Both are flawed, but both also have merit.

There are at least 2 ways that one can publically measure website traffic ratings (I sure there are others I do not know about). The 2 are and

Here are the rankings:

Debian - 1,963
Ubuntu - 2,912
RedHat/Fedora - 3,439
Novell / SuSE - 5,347
Gentoo - 5,355
openSUSE - 6,485
CentOS - 9,233
Mandriva - 16,369
DamnSmall - 45,194
PCLinuxOS - 46,676
Knoppix - 61,622
Slackware - 63,074
PuppyLinux - 122,455
LinuxMint - 124,344

Novell / SUSE - 604
Gentoo - 774
Red Hat - 1,287 (seperate here, same domain as Fedora on alexa)
Debian - 1,665
Ubuntu - 2,131
Fedora - 2,646 (seperate here, same domain as Red Hat on alexa)
CentOS - 4,920
Knoppix - 4,978
openSUSE - 5,815
Slackware - 5,931
Mandriva - 7,776
DamnSmall - 7,978
PCLinuxOS - 16,994
PuppyLinux - 42,810
LinuxMint - 106,087

DistroWatch (6 Month Avg):
Ubuntu 2,912
openSUSE 2,065
PCLinuxOS 1,522
Fedora 1,497
Debian 1,107
Mandriva 995
DamnSmall 801
LinuxMint 752
Knoppix 631
Slackware 589
Gentoo 576
CentOS 476
PuppyLinux 444
RedHat 288
Novell 145

What does this really mean ... Not much, except that there are different ways to measure popularity.

Debian has netinstall

Debian has netinstall option. Just download the netinstall ISO. You don't need all 27 CDs just to get you started.

Scott Dowdle's picture

Uh... yeah

Like... that's why I mentioned it in the first part of the article and used the phrase "Debian Style" to begin with... but thanks for your comment.

Hello, Montana!I'm a six

Hello, Montana!

I'm a six years duration SUSE Linux user, from BC, Canada. A long-time Linux Weekly News reader too { ;-) .

For some time now, I've been giving other distros a chance. Although I can see the point of Debian and Ubuntu, they are not quite for me.

I have CentOS 5 running, and think it makes a good server. The YUM package management is excellent, for that.

In terms of a home desktop, I'd suggest that people try Mandriva Free 2007 Spring. That seems to offer many of the advantages of the other distributions, and uses GNOME 2.18, the same as Ubuntu Feisty Fawn.

This is a friendly distro, that feels faster than SUSE, on my older hardware. Of course there is Xubuntu - the specialist team did an impressive job with that!

One fine feature of Mandriva, is the inital package group selection, in the installer. I think that rocks, and the GNOME desktop is as good-looking as Ubuntu's. (I haven't tried KDE on it, but that was the default with Mandriva, and SUSE / openSUSE, traditionally.)



About Ubuntu's hype

I have seen a lot of comments from various places about Ubuntu being a hype.

I have to disagree on that one.

Ubuntu came to the Linux community a couple years back and it was quickly gain acceptance because of it has successfully made getting a Debian-based desktop easier for the novice.

Take a look around at some of the packages made available from software vendors. Many of them have started to made binary packages available for Ubuntu along with the other veteran distros like SUSE, Red Hat. An example is the VirtualBox with packages available for Dapper & Edgy editions of Ubuntu. It speaks volume of the success of Ubuntu.

So to me it's not a hype.

Ubuntu is by no stretch of imagination a perfect distro. There are things about it that I don't prefer. But I would recommend it to anyone thinking of testing the Linux water. Because they can have a Linux desktop with most the basic tools ready to go in a fraction of the time it take to get the same tools set up under Windows. Plus no virus. No spyware. No worm or trojan.

OK. I'll stop now. My 2-cent opinion is up.

Have a great week-end!


PS: Want to know what a perfect distro for me really is? It's the one that works for me. And I have more than one! How could that be? Only in a world of Linux. :) :)

FTP install?

I've installed Fedora via FTP. perhaps CentOS has this?

I cut my teeth on Red Hat in '99, but jumped ship when Fedora was released. Now I'm Debian/Ubuntu after a Slackware period. Ubuntu doesn't have a net installer like Debian, oh well.

I'm extremely entertained by CentOS and am planning on discovering it.

Thanks for the article.

Ubuntu doesn't have a net

Ubuntu doesn't have a net installer like Debian, oh well.

Have you checked the Ubuntu Installation Guide on this topic?

Scott Dowdle's picture

CentOS is RHEL is Fedora?

Fedora is everything Red Hat Linux used to be and more... except with the rapid development cycle and massive amounts of updates... because of the change in policy to update versions rather than backport fixes.

Since Fedora is a test-bed for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, RHEL is a sub-set of Fedora... just frozen on certain versions of things... with fixes backported. The installs are basically identical... as long as you match up the version pairs:

Red Hat Linux 7.2 = RHEL 2.1
Fedora Core 1 = RHEL 3
Fedora Core 3 = RHEL 4
Fedora Core 6 = RHEL 5

CentOS is built from the source packages of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and tries its best to maintain perfect binary compatibility with RHEL... so the install is exactly alike.

Going on a tanget... I want to mention that CentOS is good for Red Hat because RHEL is aimed at businesses with deep pockets and CentOS fills the needs of those without deep pockets. CentOS helps keep people in the Red Hat folk when they probably would be going elsewhere without it.

I think Red Hat would have lost less users if CentOS would have been around at the end of Red Hat Linux and the start of Fedora Core... but unfortunately it wasn't.

bodhi.zazen's picture


LOL Nice flame war you have there !

Hey, no need to distro bash, they are all nice if you ask me. Other then personal preference or some specialized need it is hard to say any one is clearly superior to the others.

IMO the reason Ubuntu is popular is the Ubuntu community makes an effort to welcome new users, and, again, IMO, new users migrating from other OS are looking for a little morale support.

If it's not broken tweak it ... but remember if you break it you get to keep both pieces ;)

Thomas's picture

no need to distro bash!

I totally agree with Bodhi.zazen here! I say try them all! Or what ever distros can support your hardware architecture. Maybe it would be more productive to start a desk-top environment war! I support GNOME, skrew KDE! hehe Any strict command line interface ppl? ;)


Scott Dowdle's picture

Pluses and minuses


Thanks for the comment.

I hope it wasn't me you thought was distro bashing. Hey, people have been calling Red Hat, "the Microsoft of Linux" for years... and said it too was overhyped. While I don't agree with the former, there has probably been more hype than was necessary... and that's the only semi-negative thing I was saying about Ubuntu. I didn't make any negative comments about its technical side. It is a fine distro.

DVD install

I prefer the single DVD install. I don't mind letting bittorrent churn away till I get a 4.?GB image file. I can get almost all of the necessary packages this way, and the time it takes to have a fully functioning system is greatly reduced (compared with internet install). I run linux on a laptop, and so from time to time, I like to try out new distros, or test out beta versions of my favourite distros. I prefer not to multiboot, and so reinstall OS's a lot. If I had to download the packages every time I reinstalled, I'd go mental!

The pro to single CD versions is you can make copies for friends and family a lot faster than with DVDs because they are smaller, rip faster (created iso), and burn faster. No body I know has internet any faster than about 5mbps, so internet install isn't always the best option. The single CD alows newbies to install gnu/linux fast, easy, and (somewhat) trouble free.

The internet install is indeed good for experienced users. They know exactly what to install, and what to leave out. They can benefit from this because they don't need to download packages they know they will *never* use. They probably don't want to try out a bunch of different distros, and so they choose one (Debian, CentOS......) get what they want set-it-and-forget-it.

All of the options are good, just depends on what you want to do and how fast you want to do it. Skill, too, will have a part in the decision making.


stewwalker's picture

Where is the Centos 5 GUI after dvd install

Installed Centos 5 from the dvd several times.. First I installed everyting. Second just the server gui.. Install process worked ok. Just need to figure out how to get Gnome or the GUI to work.. After the re-boot in both cases I just get a login prompt.. After logging in and trying gnome-session command generates a X11 error message.

Scott Dowdle's picture

Where oh where is the GUI?

If you installed any desktop anything, Xorg is installed... and as part of the "firstboot" service, which runs the first boot after installation, Xorg should be configured and the default runlevel is set to 5 (graphical login).

It is possible that it doesn't like your combination of hardware and just couldn't come up with a suitable Xorg config. I have seen that in the past in rare occations... GUI login is default unless you did a very minimalistic install.

If X isn't configured, you can manually configure it from the command line by running:


That will run the GUI config application and do as much probing for automatic values as possible.

In any event, you shouldn't have to reinstall over and over. If you have something missing because it wasn't installed during the install, use yum from the command line to install whatever you like. Of course if you don't know how to use yum that would slow you down.

To see what the default runlevel is, check the first uncommented line in /etc/inittab.

stewwalker's picture

Missing GUI

This is a new HP DL360

Video card is a ATI Technologies Inc ES1000

Monitor Type defaults to autoconfigured..
Setting defaults to 800x600

Only two options configuring the monitor
Generic CRT Display
Generic LCD Display

Monitor and LCD are the only options with 1024x768 to 800x600

No monitor vendor list.. So I can't select my HP 1720 Flat panel from a list.

I did yum using your above list. I can do the vnc thing now from a remote box.

more /etc/inittab


so it must be a hardware issue

This is a messy way about

This is a messy way about doing a fix, but I had to do this to get my dell 20" monitor to show up correctly in Gentoo (it uses the 16:10 aspect ratio at 1680x1050).

You need to edit the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file with your favorite editor (vi,emacs,nano, etc). I recommend doing a backup of this file before editing it: cp /etc/X11/xorg.conf /etc/X11/xorg.conf.backup

Look for the section in the config that looks like this:

Section "Screen"
    Identifier     "Screen 1"
    Device         "GeForce"
    Monitor        "Dell"
    DefaultDepth    24
    SubSection     "Display"
        Viewport    0 0
        Depth       8
        Modes      "1680x1050" "1280x1024" "1024x768" "800x600" "640x480"
    SubSection     "Display"
        Viewport    0 0
        Depth       16
        Modes      "1680x1050" "1280x1024" "1024x768" "800x600" "640x480"
    SubSection     "Display"
        Viewport    0 0
        Depth       24
        Modes      "1680x1050" "1280x1024" "1024x768" "800x600" "640x480"

Just add your own resolution to this file AT THE FRONT of the Modes line under your selected color depth. If this doesn't work you can always undo it by copying your backup over it.

P.S. Scott, a "pre" tag would be nice for code listings ;)

[editor's note: The "code" tag was available but since it doesn't honor all of the whitespace like a "pre" tag does, I added pre and plopped them in where you wanted them.]

Scott Dowdle's picture

ATI ES1000

I did an install on two DL380 G5's yesterday and both include the ATI ES1000 video chipset... so I know that isn't the problem. It may not like your display. How problematic would it be to try a different display?

I don't have any HP displays... but I have a ton of Dell CRT and flat panels and I haven't had any problems getting max resolutions out of them.

Felipe, you missed a big

Felipe, you missed a big pro. A single CD is also good for servers that don't have DVD rom drives.

Scott Dowdle's picture

Great comments

Thanks felipe. I agree with everything you said.

I too do a lot of installs... although luckily I have access to enough machines that it doesn't interfer with my day to day, main workstation.

Well, DistroWatch is a good

Well, DistroWatch is a good place to start if you want hard data. So I suppose we could call that "resolved" (some evidence beats no evidence?). But is that really an issue? Ubuntu *works* for me, which is why I use it (particularly the package management, is great, something I personally never found from the RedHat derivatives). If CentOS works for you above what I get from Ubuntu, I'd love to know what I am missing out on?

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