I was recently invited to comment on the question "I would like to know if anyone has an opinion regarding the BESTEST linux distro for computer scientists..." posed by one of the computer science lecturers. This was my reply.

Which is the BESTEST distro for computer scientists?

Choice of distro only really matters to the person admining and maintaining the box, not the end-user.

Overview of systems I have experience with:

Best distro?

The best distro to use depends on what it's going to be used for and how it's going to be set up.

For a LAN setup, a Gentoo, Debian or SuSE system would probably be best. Standardise on one set of tools, but allow students to use whatever they're most comfortable with. NFS-mounted home directories, NIS/YP logins, etc. are obviously a requirement.

For home use, Ubuntu (with the compiler packages, etc.) is probably best for a dedicated linux or dual-boot system, although almost any distro will do the job. Any student with a Linux background probably has a favourite distro already.

A custom [KG]noppix system should be put together (I am available to assist with such a project, I've done it before) to allow students who don't want to install a full system at home to play with on their own time. This will also prevent the "but I don't run Linux at home and the LAN was full" excuse for not finishing homework. The [KG]noppix CD should obviously have the same standard packages as the LAN system (if there is one).

For a "How Linux works" type course, installing a Linux From Scratch (LFS) system or doing a base Gentoo install provides quite a lot of insight into what the system does and how.