Bytes: While all Linux operating systems are the same at their core, there are also things which separate them somewhat. For example, package managers differ between each variation, as do other things. One large point of difference that many people will face is the way you actually get such a system onto your computer.
Though many Linux operating systems these days are easy to install, if not even easier than Windows, there are some which buck this trend. They usually trade ease of use for flexibility and power out of the box. This might not be good for everyone, but for those who like it can be very, very appealing.
What Makes an Installation Hard?
In general, the more choice you get out of the box, the harder it is to set up.
The amount of documentation there is about a specific Linux operating system can also make such installations easier or harder. In general, having little information on how to install something can mean two things. Either it’s intuitive enough to not need it, or you’re in for a bit of a challenge. Having extensive information on hand can also mean that much more to read and digest.
It shows the beginning of a trend followed by other Linux operating systems: that of giving more and more control to the user. They begin to assume a certain level of knowledge from you before proceeding. For example, in Debian’s setup, you’re expected to supply an appropriate hostname for your installation (granted, one is supplied by default).
This continues throughout the entire setup process. You’re given a choice to have a graphical installation process, or an entirely keyboard driven one. You must decide which desktop environment you want to have, if any, rather than be given one by default. You’re even given a choice to configure your package manager somewhat!
Like Debian (and unlike easier Linux operating systems like Mint), you’re given plenty of choices during the installation process. Not only can you choose what groups of software packages you want to have by default, but also exclude entries that you don’t need as well.
As a result of this however, you may also need to know what each package does, and why they’re important. While it’s tempting to exclude as much as you can, it also increases the chance of making an unusable system.
All this being said, it’s a gentle slope up from Debian. You’re basically given multiple command-line tools to set up Slackware, rather than the single, graphical one that Debian provides. And compared to the Linux operating systems below, it’s by much easier to install.
Unlike Arch, you’re still given some form of graphical interaction in its installer, similar to Slackware. However, it does a little less in comparison, which may be difficult for some to handle. If you want to install a desktop environment, you’ll need to know how to use its package manager, after the basic installation process.
It’s the price to pay for an even higher level of choice. You’re given just the basics to get yourself started, which, with the right knowledge, you can build upon. NuTyX expects you to know how its package manager works, along with other terminal tools.
This comes with the benefit of a lot of power in your hands. Gentoo is about as far as you can get to choosing exactly the kind of Linux operating system you want, without actually making your own. It’s partially why Google’s Chrome OS is based on it.
That being said, Gentoo’s documentation is quite excellent, so while you’re on quite the thorny path, you won’t be alone. It’s very detailed, stepping you through the entire installation process. However, it’s quite dense, and difficult to wade through. That’s the result of focusing on choice and flexibility — there’s no default options, so you decide them yourself.
It’s the sort of Linux operating system that’s both hard, but fairly open to others. If you do put in the time to learn about Gentoo, you’ll find it easy enough to use, what with the large amount of information online about it. Plus, their community can be quite helpful in a pinch — Gentoo’s users will likely be quite versed in Linux compared to other places.
Not only is its documentation quite scarce, but you’ll be relying on multiple external tools to get your system set up. Think what Slackware and NuTyX do, but for multiple parts during the installation. This is because there’s no hard and fast way to get it working — for the most part, you’re on your own.
For example, where the previous Linux operating systems would do things such as mount your partitions automatically, Exherbo expects you to do this yourself. There isn’t really an official installation disc either — the best they recommend is to boot into a live USB environment and start from there.
Compared to even Gentoo, which at least has an extensive handbook, Exherbo is quite light on user information. Put all these factors together, and you’ve got a recipe for a Linux operating system that’s hard to install. That being said, Exherbo was never designed for end users in the first place.
What About Linux From Scratch (LFS)?
As such, it’s very educational, as well as very difficult to install. You’d need to learn about many new Linux concepts along the way, along with compile a great deal of programs. However, it can’t really be considered a Linux operating system, as it’s merely documentation on how to make one.
The End Result Is the Same