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August 16, 2006

Can SUSE Linux solve *YOUR* problems?

by @ 9:17 am. Filed under General Linux, General SUSE, My Opinion, SUSE Tips & Tricks

Approximately five thousand six hundred forty-six and a half times a day, I hear the phrase: What is the best application for __________ ? What is the best program for email? For serving HTTP requests? What’s the best media player? What is the best program for keeping track of when I need to get my manicure, get my hair done, or replace my toilet paper?

Just like most of life, there is generally no perfect, clear-cut, concise answer to these questions. There is generally no absolutely correct answer for everything, all the time, in every single situation. That said, the phrase “What’s the best scripting language?” is not quantized at all. Instead of that, once you say, “What’s the best scripting language for my current situation?” you can then start working with criteria to determine the answer.

The reason why it is helpful to do this is because situations are like fingerprints, no two are exactly identical. Thus, your requirements for the best tool for the job at hand will have a tendency to vary. Because of this, the best solution today at work may not be the best solution tomorrow at school, or the next day at home. How do we then determine what is the best fit for a given situation?

If you ask yourself a few questions, you will almost always arrive at an answer that will fit just right. These questions are as follows:

Is the potential solution designed to do what you are trying to do with it? I used to be an expert with Macromedia Director, a multimedia application similar to Flash. I made it do things you couldn’t believe. Because I knew it so well, I could make it do things it was not designed to do. Quite often, I had a tendency to want to use it as the development platform for projects that it was not a good fit for. Be careful with this one. Don’t use a technology just because you are comfortable with it. If it wasn’t designed for what you are trying to use it for, it is not the best solution.

Are you competent as a user or administrator of the technology? Put bluntly, if you don’t know what you are doing, you will almost certainly not be able to tap the real power of a given solution. Knowledge is power, as we all know. If you don’t know what you are doing, you won’t be able to accomplish the task. You may also look at how long it would take you to become savvy with the technology. If the learning curve will be small, that would be a good thing to consider.

Is the technology resource-efficient? For example, what are the resource requirements involved with implementing this solution? What are the cost requirements? How long will it take to get the solution implemented? What are the hardware requirements of the technology? If you know nothing about the technology, how long will it take to learn everything about it? If something costs many thousands of dollars more than alternative solutions, you may not want to consider it. If it has excessive hardware requirements, this will take money out of your pocket. You will be spending many more thousands of dollars on the latest hardware when you could be using older systems with more resource-efficient solutions. If you spend a year learning how to administrate the technology, that is a huge loss of time and money.

Another question I usually factor in when considering a solution for a given problem is: What is the industry-wide user base of this solution? I do this because in my experience, the number of installations of a given solution is directly proportional to the amount of online help I can get for it, should I get stuck on a problem.

Many people seem to pick a solution that fits the first three questions above, but have no regard for the last question. They have a tendency to choose something that works the best for them, personally. This is not always the solution that is the most widely-used in the industry. Depending on the situation, this can be great, or it can cause heartache later on.

For example, let’s say I’m looking at Linux distributions, and I pick one that is not being used in the industry very much, and is not in that high of a demand in an enterprise setting. When I apply for a Linux administration job, even though I know Linux, it may not be the distribution that that company is using. Thus, I have kind of shot myself in the foot.

Thus, for the last question, you have to kind of weigh whether you want to go with something more mainstream that more people are using or whether you want to go with something that you totally love, that you don’t care who else is using. If you do the former, there may be more demand for it in the job market, and there may be more online support available. If you do the latter, you will have the exact solution that you want and really like, but you better know a lot about it because you are going to be on your own for support.

For me, SUSE Linux answers the first three questions with flying colors. It is super versatile, and so far, has been able to handle whatever I have thrown at it. I am comfortable as an admin with it, and am only learning more with each passing day. As far as resource-efficient, it is free, takes 30 minutes to install, and can run on the oldest of machines.

It’s the last question to which SUSE both answers “yes” and “no”. It is not mainstream, as Windows is the mainstream desktop. That said, SUSE is an incredibly mainstream distribution of Linux.

Evidently, the CIOs of the industry are finding that Linux does much more than cut costs, as well. Spread the word, baby.

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