Ubuntu 9.10 Desktop or Server??

The first thing to decide when setting up your Ubuntu system is whether to use the Server or Desktop edition.  At first this seems like a no-brainer: Server is for a computer needing your traditional “server” needs (File and Print Sharing, Web Server, Authentication etc) and Desktop is for your personal everyday machine (Web browsing, Word Processing etc).  It isn’t really that simple though.  Ubuntu isn’t like windows where server and desktop OS’s are completely separate products.  You can configure one to perform exactly the same as the other.  So how do you decide?

Here are some tips:

  1. Decide on your user interface. – Server installs with the basic Linux command line.  While this is great if you know how to work it, and you can manually install a GUI later, it can be daunting for Linux newbies.
  2. Decide what you want to do with it. – Are you looking for something to act as a Network Attached Storage (NAS) Device, or as an everyday web browser?  Do you need maximum performance or do you want to make it look as cool as possible?  Figuring this out and choosing which version has more of these features enabled by default will save you some time later.
  3. Your Level of Comfort – Almost undoubtedly as you get more proficient with Linux you will find yourself using the command line more and more.  Its one of the true strengths of the OS and once learned is often more powerful and faster than its GUI alternatives.  If you are new to Linux or just not that good with the command line yet though, installing the desktop version with its full GUI default is much easier.
  4. Hardware Support – It isn’t really that Server edition has worse support, as eventually it can be made to work.  But I have found that for many average PCs, desktop edition is easier to get initially configure to work correctly.  The utilities needed to install proprietary drivers are much easier than the command line.  (Desktop edition also natively recognized and supported my RAID-5 array while Server would not.)

All in all this, like everything else in the Linux world, is a personal choice.  Having said that it has been my experience that Desktop edition is much easier to set up for a beginner, and you can continue to add more “server-like” features as you grow you Linux knowledge.

Well that’s it for now – check back soon for tips on migrating files over to your new Ubuntu PC.