Forum OpenACS Q&A: Which Linux version to use?

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Posted by James Harris on
I've been following these forums for a while and playing around with
OpenACS on my own Red Hat system, but I haven't seen a discussion
about which is the prefered distribution of Linux to use with
OpenACS.  I'm about to start working on a production system and I'm
wondering which distribution I should install.

It seems that most discussions have been based around Red Hat, so
would I be right in saying that would be the prefered environment for
a production system?  If so, 6.2 or 7.1?  If not, which one?

Posted by Roberto Mello on
For OpenACS it doesn't matter much, unless you want to use the RPMs. If you do, then I think our RPMs won't work on SuSE, so you'd be stuck with Red Hat or Mandrake.

I am working with Brent Fulgham, the maintainer of the OpenACS and AOLserver Debian packages, to update them. They are very outdated right now.

If you are willing to install "by hand" then any decent distribution where PostgreSQL runs and AOLserver compiles should be fine. I run production OpenACS installations on Debian just fine.

Now if you were talking Oracle, then I'd probably go for Red Hat, but I'd still try Debian first :-)

Posted by Jamie Ross on
I would agree with Roberto.. I usually tell Linux novices to start with RH 6.2.. 7.0 was not a good release.  I actually run Slackware 7 with kernal upgraded to 2.4.3 and it supports PostgreSQL 7.1 and Oracle 8.1.6 (at the same time even...)

If you run a non-RH distribution, there may be a couple commands in differnt locations (Slackware has free and something else.. which are in /usr/bin instead of /bin.. but other than that, you can go with whatever works for you

Posted by Stan Kaufman on
IMHO, Debian offers huge advantages through its package updating mechanisms and its amazingly helpful community (active lists with searchable archives; nice folks who will often answer questions within minutes).

People often suggest other distros for Linux newbies, but my experience is just the opposite. If you can put up with some rather arcane user interfaces (and most people who choose to use Linux at all have already decided they can), I think you're better off with Debian.

Just my $0.02 -- in a topic where everyone has dollars worth of opinions!

Posted by Adam Farkas on
I'm usally not passionate about distros, since they each have their own hang-ups and problems. OpenACS will work with just about all of them.

However, I installed Mandrake 8.0 yesterday, and much to my surprise it configured all of my hardware properly without so much as me touching a single config file. Everything just worked.

It even figured out that my video card was unsupported, and set up a frame-buffer X display to get me started. [something which RH 7.1 on this same machine refused to do, leaving me with a broken X out of the box. A move which would be death for newbies.]

Thus, i'd probably recommend Mandrake 8 for anyone who is new to linux. You get the benefits of RH, but it's a bit more gentle and the setup just flat out works better.

If you are running Classic ACS, stick with RH 6.2. Getting oracle to run on anything else can be a baffling ordeal.

Posted by Edmund Lian on
Many people start with one of the easier-to-install distributions like Redhat or Mandrake. Debian is definitely harder to get going with, mostly because of the somewhat unfriendly front-end to the package manager (dselect, which you can do without).

However, the payoff with Debian is definitely easier maintenance, upgrades, and much better regression testing. The latter tends to mean that you might have to wait a few more months for the latest and greatest to make it through testing. But if you're running a production system, you care about stability, not being a beta-tester.

Note that there is nothing to stop you from installing RPMs on a Debian system using the "alien" tool, but since RPMs don't have to observer Debian policies, you can end up with files in places a normal Debian person would not put them.

Posted by Gregory McMullan on
Roberto, are you running your servers on Debian potato stable machines? I'm trying to install OpenACS 4 from scratch on my 2.2r2 (granted, with a touch of Progeny) box, and having troubles getting nsxml to compile. It seems that libxml2 needs to be version 2.3.5 or greater, and the current version in stable is 2.2.2. I'll grant you that the libxml2 in "testing" is 2.3.5, but I am trying to avoid installing anything more advanced than "stable" on this particular box. is a WimpyPoint presentation where I am trying to document everything as I go along. Comments and suggestions are always welcome!

Posted by Vinod Kurup on
It seems that libxml2 needs to be version 2.3.5 or greater, and the current version in stable is 2.2.2. I'll grant you that the libxml2 in "testing" is 2.3.5, but I am trying to avoid installing anything more advanced than "stable" on this particular box.

I remember running into this issue and I ended up upgrading to testing (my box is for dev only). In your WimpyPoint, you mention that you might wait until version 2.3.5 gets into stable, but I don't think that'll happen. Debian's stable version will only get security updates (I think). One option would be to get the libxml2 2.3.5 source from testing and build it from source using 'apt-get source'. You'll need to add a deb-src URL to your /etc/apt/sources.list file. I haven't done this too much, so you'll want to check out the apt-get man page for more info on that approach. is a WimpyPoint presentation where I am trying to document everything as I go along. Comments and suggestions are always welcome!

Looks great! You might want to change the link to my brief install guide. Right now, it links to the current version, but when I upload a new version (like I just did to fix the nsxml link), it'll still link to the old version. Instead, link to the file.

9: SuSE's worth a look (response to 1)
Posted by Daryl Biberdorf on
The Professional version of SuSE includes a logical volume manager (nice for managing larger databases). 7.1 Professional is my first SuSE experience, and it has been the easiest Linux install for me ever (I've been working with Linux since early '96). They've also support ReiserFS out of the box, and the 7.2 release (slated for June 15) will support encrypted filesystems.
Posted by Tom Jackson on

I was completely unable to install a working version of SuSE 7.? I tried on two machines: one brand new, the other a P133 Aptiva that had Red Hat 6.0. SuSE failed to detect my video setup on both machines. Red Hat 7.0 installed without problems on both. Also, Red Hat 7.1 is a huge downer compared to 7.0. It requires both CD's, plus an extra 500 megs of space. In the end I was unable to install RH7.1 because of a non-essential, corrupted RPM, something like x-useless-widget. At least with 7.0 they created a single CD that installed without the need to call for support.

11: In praise of Debian (response to 1)
Posted by Stephen van Egmond on
Geez, anything but Red Hat. Every release has either had broken compilers or broken security. Maybe they'll get it right with 8.0...

For the love of ghod, try Debian. You can import .rpm files with the "alien" command.

Especially if this is for a production system. Automatic upgrades to security-hardened packages (such as happens on Debian's 'stable' branch) are key to minimizing security exposure. Just ask the Apache, PHP, and Sourceforge people who were owned because of an unupgraded OpenSSL library.

Debian won't make your toast for you. You still have to do "apt-get upgrade" routinely on your machines. But geez, at least it's possible to stay current without too much pain.

If SuSE can do this too, more power to them. But until Red Hat figures it out, stay the hell away from them.

Posted by Talli Somekh on
Has anyone tried SuSE's webmail suite? It seems quite complete. Unfortunately, it doesn't work on any other system other than SuSE, at least that's what the web docs say on the SuSE site. It seems like a nice solution. It's not free, though. $299 from SuSE. I think we'll try it and let everyone know how it goes. Probably no time soon, though.


Posted by James Harris on

It's great to hear everyone's point of view with regard to Linux distributions. My own experience has only been with various Red Hat releases but I may try experimenting with a couple of others now.

As far as our project goes, we have decided to almost certainly use a hosting company rather than running our server, so if and when we get funding, we will either be looking at or They are the only two companies I am aware of that offer OpenACS hosting. I believe Furfly use Red Hat and Hub use FreeBSD.

If anyone knows of any other hosting companies that offer OpenACS, I'd be interested in hearing about them.

Posted by Talli Somekh on
Check out They are a high end managed application host. Real good. OpenACS luminary Ben Adida heads it up.


There's a heated discussion on the suse-oracle mailing list. People
there are biased (of course ;). But here's what an Oracle employee
posted to the list:

FWIW, bet it's a personal preference. Until a while ago I thought that
Redhat was better, but after doing a few SuSE installs with 8.1.6,
8.1.7 and
iAS, I must say, SuSE is a super optimized platform, my choice now for
installing and using Oracle. Oh, that's the 7.0 version, the 7.1 and 7.2
(which is being mentioned here) I haven't had the chane to use yet.

<p> Here's what Michael Hasenstein posted. He works for Suse and is
the techie for the Oracle stuff.

<p>Because of recent developments at Oracle I have a very easy time
convincing people to use SuSE. I can drop any attempts based on
technical merrits, which is kind of tiring after a while, and instead

<p>You guys don't have an alternative!

<p>SuSE Linux is the porting platform for 9i. RedHat pulled out at Oracle
and don't have anyone doing any certifications beginning of this year.
So far RedHat 6.0 got all certs automatically as 8i porting platform,
but a) this is very, very old anb b) it's lost now that we have that
advantage and c) not even redhat sold that version any more so thay
never gained anything from it except for the marketing value.

<p>Larry Ellison will showcase 9i this month in the US and in Europe, and
he'll have just one operating system (besides the machine and 9i) with
him. Guess which one...

<p>So, I've stopped trying to convince people to try SuSE. I'm quite happy
when they use RedHat. As soon as they want to go production and call
Oracle they'll find out. For 8i that's not yet much of a problem because
except for Apps 11i, where we're the only certified ones, and iAS 9i,
where it's going to be us and Turbo (so far only RH 6.0 is certified as
porting platform), RedHat is still certified.
And even if they should come back to Oracle, we've got a big edge now.
We've been at Oracle with onsite engineering help a) as the first ones,
and b) as the ONLY ones with no interruptions. Actually, apart from
Turbo there's never been anyone else with a continuous presence there
from the Linux guys anyway.

<p>I don't think the above falls under any NDA and should be a secret. I
believe it's not SuSE's fault the others don't show that much of an
Oracle commitment, and more important, users have a RIGHT to know in
order to make their choice.

Well, take it with a grain of salt.

Posted by Jamie Ross on
Just a note to those chosing RedHat.  Because of its popularity it is vulnerable to security exploits so BE SUREto get all patches from RedHat , especially for RH6.2.    I just launched a OpenACS intranet site was broken into by crackers from Romania . installed Adore etc.. I hadnt had to time install all the security patches and ran RH out of the box..    NOT a good move.

Whatever you use, check the security issues and patch stuff.. cuz they are out there.. (interestingly enough, mypersonal slackware systems seem more secure)

Posted by Louis Gabriel on

Question is, how secure is a site running on  RH 6.2 **with** all the patches?  My impression is RH 6.2 is still the distro the  OpenACS community "generally recommends"; esp. for new users.

BTW, when might the community want to change to a newer/better/more recent/secure distro?  I'm no security expert.  But I have heard the firewall shipping with RH 7.1 is better than that bundled with RH 6.2.

With security retaining, if not increasing its importance, the general level of out of the box security seems an important criteria for what the community targets/test to/"certifies" OpenACS on.  Your thoughts?