Best Linux releases of 2008

The second half of 2008 proved to be an exciting time for Linux fans as most of the popular Linux distributions pushed out a pre-Christmas release. We take a look at a few that caught out attention.

Ubuntu 8.10

This is at the top of the list because it is one of the most popular Linux distributions. Ubuntu’s October release was a little bit of a disappointment. Not because it was bad but because there very few sparks. Previous releases of Ubuntu brought with them lots of new features and a sense of excitement. This time around there was very little of the old excitement about the release. Perhaps it is a testament to the stability and maturity of Linux that now it feels as if each new release is just adding a little bit more polish to what went before. Or perhaps it is the long-promised desktop overhaul that is making Ubuntu feel a little dated.

Whatever it is, Ubuntu 8.10 is a solid release with a number of good features, notable among them the much-improved 3G capabilities. In many senses, ironically, Ubuntu has become a little boring; everything just works and with each new release things get incrementally better. On the other hand, that’s good for work productivity, which is a good thing.

For beginner Linux users, Ubuntu is probably the best choice. Linux really doesn’t come much easier.

Fedora 10

This is probably the most impressive of the Linux releases for the second-half of 2008. Fedora usually gets shoved out of the limelight by Ubuntu, but the Fedora developers have turned out a stunning new desktop that has the best and newest software on offer without becoming unstable.

Highlights of Fedora 10 include the built-in kernel-based virtual machine which is  a step up over most other Linux distributions, and the much better network manager tool. In particular the ability to create ad-hoc networks between local machines without needing an entire network setup stands out as being incredibly useful.

Fedora still labours under the RPM package management system although the most recent release of RPM, included in Fedora 10, has a number of new features to automatically resolve dependencies and future versions promise to be even better.

OpenSuse 11.1

OpenSuse 11.1 will likely be the last big release of 2008, especially as Debian looks increasingly unlikely to release its new version before the year closes. As one of the major Linux distributions OpenSuse releases as always a big occasion.

As the testing ground for much of will become Suse Enterprise Linux, OpenSuse tends to include the most recent of software available. And this time around it is true to form. On the desktop OpenSuse includes KDE4 applications only using version 4.1.3 and by default there will be no KDE3 applications which may make the release a little less user-friendly than Fedora or Ubuntu.

Also, OpenSuse 11.1 will include KOffice 2.0 betas in the install as well as OpenOffice.org 3.0. Which makes it a strong contender for the desktop for those users looking for the leading edge of development as opposed to Ubuntu 8.10 which decided against including OpenOffice.org 3.0 in its default install.

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Best Linux releases of 2008