R-beta: Choice of Linux for R and other things

Paul Gilbert pgilbert at bank-banque-canada.ca
Mon Jul 6 16:34:10 CEST 1998


In part this choice may depend on your background, the type of configuration(s)
you are going to support, and when you are going to do the installation.

If you have some Unix administration experience you may like Slackware, as it is
fairly traditional (but BSDish not System V). If you don't have Unix
administration experience then Red Hat offers more Windows like installation and
maintenance utilities. However, if you are supporting multiple computers and
would like to just duplicate your installation from one machine to another, then
these utilities seem to have duplicated the complexity of Windows rather than
the simplicity of Unix for this task. Also, if you have a network, then RH4.2
was a real disaster. I've heard more recent releases have improved a lot, but
haven't tried them yet.

The reason I say "when" is that Linux is a moving target. In general, you don't
have to upgrade unless there is something you really want in a newer release,
but you might as well start with something fairly recent as upgrades are not
always totally trivial. (The OS upgrade may be ok, but getting all the
applications working again may not be.) There are currently at least two changes
happening in Linux which are worth knowing about, as they have implications for
applications like R. (Plus the switch to elf which is almost universal complete,
but just be aware not to install a non-elf distribution.) The first is a switch
from libc to glibc, which I believe has now been incorporated in some
distributions but not all. The second is the release of Linux 2.2, possibly in
the fall. If you are not going to do the installation until then, you might want
to look for a distribution that has made the change. (But I would not delay for
this alone).

If anyone can give a comparison of recent Debian and RH distributions I would
appreciate hearing too.

Paul Gilbert

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