Operating systems and Linux distributions

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Operating Systems


GNU/Linux aims to be a free and open-source unix (or unix-like) operating system that will run on most types of computer hardware and uses an X11 graphical user interface. Various distributions of GNU/Linux exist that have different package management systems and other features. Most of these are ideal platforms for X-ray crystallography and other scientific computational requirements.

Linux Distributions

These differ greatly in the time they support their releases:

  • OpenSuse: 2 years
  • Fedora: 18 months
  • Ubuntu: 18 months
  • Ubuntu LTS: Server 5 years, Desktop 3 years
  • CentOS: 7 years
  • Gentoo: less relevant; "rolling releases"
  • Debian: 1 year after a new release; thus usually 2.5 - 3.5 yrs

Useful Links

Mac OS X

Mac OS X is a proprietary BSD-unix-derived operating system that runs on Apple's computers. The BSD-subsystem, called Darwin, attempts to be open-source. Unlike most other flavors of unix, OS X is not based on an X11 windowing system, but instead uses a proprietary Aqua graphical user interface. For crystallographers and others who need the conventional X11 windowing system, an Xserver for OS X is available, and installs by default on the most current version of OS X.


Irix (SGI)

By all accounts, SGIs are now obsolete. They are more expensive and perhaps offer higher productivity, but it is not worth the money when $500 Linux box takes 1/2 hour to calculate a simulated annealing omit map. There are some examples of software (such as GRASP) that you can only run on SGIs, not Linux. O is also wicked fast on SGIs.

Irix is a flavor of UNIX and is still supported by SGI.