Which linux distro is the best for programming?

April 25, 2011 – 3:14 am

I have an old pc Pentium 4 with Intel motherboard. I need a linux distro to be installed for programming purposes and also to learn more about system programming. It should be good for programming C, C++ & Unix. Should I get a debian, rpm, gentoo / slackware based? kde desktop would be preferable. Thanks in advance!

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  1. 8 Responses to “Which linux distro is the best for programming?”

  2. You will learn a lot about system programming with Gentoo, however in order to install it you need to recompile the kernel. In Gentoo, this is more difficult than in any other system, so unless you have years of experience including compiling custom kernels, I really don’t recommend Gentoo for this unless you also are considering Linux from Scratch

    This page describes installing Gentoo using Kanotix or Knoppix. It is very useful in breaking things down and installing it until you come to recompiling the kernel, which with any LiveCD except gentoo’s install disk, you must do the hard way and you won’t get an initrd.img:

    This page describes using the install disk to put it on. I would read both and the gentoo handbook before and/or during installation. Mr. Zoonekynd uses a gentoo package called genkernel which I also use rather than recompiling the kernel directly and if you follow his instructions EXACTLY, for which you do need an install disk, you will get a working kernel. I managed to get a kernel with genkernel and a Knoppix disk, but it wouldn’t use the initrd.img files generated so don’t even try it:

    The thing about Linux is the choice is usually based on the kind of support you’re going to get. Ubuntu, for example has an incredible amount of support but it is all for computer use. Your choices, except gentoo, all have GREAT support for development. RPM can be Fedora and derivatives, Mandriva or Suse. I generally don’t like the last two. I have issues with Fedora Core 9. Nevertheless, I have to say, the best help I got when I last experienced it was from developers and about development. You aren’t me so I won’t tell you what I don’t like. Either you will despise it (especially if you were once a satisfied user of the old Red Hat 7.x 8 and 9 back at the turn of the millenium) or you will be very satisfied with it. And ANY forum will be glad to help you with C, C++ or shell scripting.


    Debian and Slackware, both of which are currently on my computers, are both excellent choices for software development. Debian is optimized for developers and has the largest community of developers in the world. Slackware is Vanilla Linux, period. Using it will help you develop the skills you need to try gentoo or Linux from scratch, or any other distro come to think of it. Everyone tweaks and changes the packages to make things work together. Slackware makes the fewest changes. While updating it is a little more complicated (read pain) than updating other distros, it really isn’t that hard. You find the updates with a web browser, then give — I think it’s updatepkg — the url for it. Or you can just install everything from third party programs. In other words it’s got all the advantages of Gentoo and linuxfromscratch without the disadvantages.


    The joke about Debian is that you can use it or gentoo, or you can have a life. Take your pick. It’s true (I have Gentoo on a third computer– the one which most recently had Fedora Core 9 on it). The biggest bear is installation. Someone just described to me trying a "vanilla installation". It took him two weeks. Up until my most recent re-installation I just used the net-install disk. It installs Gnome by default, though, Gnome uses (requires) Mono and my computers object to Mono as much as I do. So I used the KDE live-cd (I think for Etch, actually. Then I just updated it to "testing" so I’ve been on Lenny/Sid ever since. That just takes about 4 hours.

    Also, Knoppix installs a Vanilla Debian with the KDE desktop, so if you want a fast (four hours) easy install of Debian, install Knoppix.


    For the most Unix-like OS you should try Slackware (which comes with KDE, XFCE4, fluxbox and TWM window managers but not Gnome) or Gentoo (which you should practically be a Guru before you even try). However, for development Fedora and Debian (especially) have NOTHING to be ashamed of when you are comparing them. They all have excellent developer support and tutorials.

    By jplatt39 on Apr 25, 2011

  3. I reccommend Ubuntu 8.04.
    It is the newest version of linux


    By Hoot on Apr 25, 2011

  4. A Debian or Fedora-based distro would be best (I favor Debian), especially for someone who is not intimately familar with Linux. Gentoo can take days to install, and Slackware is a mess to install software on without a package manager (which is why Debian was created in the first place).

    Just for reference, Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux kernel, uses Fedora.


    By inclusive_disjunction on Apr 25, 2011

  5. fedora or red hat

    By mercury on Apr 25, 2011

  6. Download the LiveCD for Ubuntu. That will tell you if your hardware is capable or not.

    C/C++ are difficult to understand and designed to stay that way.

    The Unix shell is available in several different flavors, but it is still Unix.

    I would opinion that the ‘buntu forums are the biggest community to get straight answers, once you get going.

    And, you should experience a 22x increase in speed doing file access and boot times using Linux.

    Just be sure and virus scan on a WIN box any work you do on the Linux so you don’t hurt the BillGatey boxes. The web and the WIN malware were and will forever be a case in symbiosis because of piracy.

    By deonejuan on Apr 25, 2011

  7. Debian, gentoo or slackware, debian are the mother of all live cd’s and many distros, like winbuntu..

    debian and gentoo are the best for hard code programers, with the most support, u must remenber that for developming, up to date linux its not required, its requiered stable to date, in this issues debian are the winner, stability overs up to date!!

    see on http://qgqlochekone.blogspot.com

    By qgqlochekone on Apr 25, 2011

  8. u have a pentium4, lasted linux are too heavy, if u plan devel on linux, up to date linux will interference in compile process and afect u’r code binary resulting programs, so its best u choose stable to date linux, like slackware, KANOTIX or debian, debian are the winner on stability and more faster than any other, velocity and performance are necessary on devel issues!

    see on http://qgqlochekone.blogspot.com for PIC’s and microschips assemblers and crosscompiling programs, also IDE’s development suite on debian linux

    By mckay_gerhard on Apr 25, 2011

  9. Ubuntu would be eye candy and good if you are using Linux for first time. For advanced users Fedora or Suse would be good.

    By raghav33 on Apr 25, 2011

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