Physics 210


Operating Systems

Most Linux distributions appear in new versions at least once a year, sometimes twice. They are all freely available for download, and the download speed via the UBC wireless network is about the same as for a local mirror site. We have therefore stopped storing CD or DVD images (.iso files) locally and are just providing links to the sites that distribute them:


- the same OS used in the Linux servers and workstations in Henn 205, Ubuntu (originally based on the Debian distro) is very easy to install and is quite popular among students. It normally has a gnome graphical user interface (GUI) but (as Kubuntu) is also available with kde.


- a bootable CD from Germany with a compact version of Linux (also based on the Debian distro), KNOPPIX includes most essential applications, but is used mainly as a "universal Rescue Disk".
(KNOPPIX runs off the CD without affecting your HD, but is therefore slow....)


- a more comprehensive Linux distribution from France (originally based on the American Red Hat distro), Mandriva also comes in several versions:

Mandriva One is another bootable CD with a compact version of Mandriva Linux and most essential applications. (Like the others, it runs off the CD without affecting your HD, and is therefore slow.... But it does include a Live Install option if you decide you want to dual-boot.)

Mandriva Free - a full installation DVD of the latest Mandriva Linux distribution

There is also a Mandriva Power-Pack version including lots of not-quite-so-free applications, but you have to pay almost $100 for it.


is a free version of Red Hat Linux, although you'd never know it from their website. Fedora was spun off to appease purists who objected to the evolution of once-free Red Hat Linux into the costly (and proprietary?) Red Hat "Enterprise" Linux. True Open Software fanatics don't use Red Hat any more. I don't even use Fedora.

Another spinoff from Red Hat is Scientific Linux, developed by a consortium of scientists at Fermilab, CERN and various other labs and universities around the world. As they say on their wedsite, "Its primary purpose is to reduce duplicated effort of the labs, and to have a common install base for the various experimenters." Scientific Linux is used on most computers at TRIUMF.

This is far from a complete list. You might have heard wonderful things about GenToo or OpenSuSE or whatever. I just stopped because my fingers were tired. If you Google "linux distro chooser" you will see that the offering of advice about, "Which Linux distro is right for you?" has become a veritable industry. In Henn 205 we currently use Ubuntu. The PHYS 210 Website runs Mandriva. In my offices I am using OpenSuSE. I have used numerous versions of at least 8 or 9 different distros, and most of them are pretty good, so I won't get into the business of "selling" free software. Use whatever you like.
NOTE: When you dowload a .iso image, be sure to also download the short .iso.md5 file that goes with it, and use the md5sum program to check the .iso file's integrity before you burn the image onto a CD or DVD. (There are also other types of checksum files and programs.)
Jess H. Brewer
Last modified: Mon Sep 6 15:09:19 PDT 2010