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I need recommendations on distro to pick for Linux workstations that will be used as point-of-sale stations.

Requirements / wish list:

  • Stable with regular, robust updates that rarely if ever break things
  • Secure and quick to release critical security updates
  • A good packet manager that reliably resolves dependencies, etc. and that can install updates without user intervention
  • Good support for peripherals, recent drivers, etc.
  • A large user base
  • A smooth upgrade path to new major releases without re-install in the future would be nice.

The planned usage / configuration is to set each station up in a locked-down kiosk-type mode (and a hardened OS).

The boot sequence will be something along these lines:

  1. Boots into graphical mode and logs in automatically
  2. Automatically RDPs into a terminal server (using rdesktop), to run the
    point-of-sale application
  3. The moment they disconnect from the RDP session, the machine shuts down

We currently use CentOS 5.x, but have a problem with USB drivers & touch screen support. Even though I like CentOS and know it fairly well, they are just a bit too conservative for my needs.

Two distros that come to mind are Ubuntu and Debian (and CentOS 6, but I might be painting myself into a corner again with it).

Recommendations (preferably backed by experience) to help me pick a distro would be very welcome!

Thanks.

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closed as not constructive by Sven, Shane Madden, squillman, Steven Monday, EEAA Oct 5 '11 at 1:19

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I would just use whatever the maker of the POS software recommends. Well, no, I wouldn't, but I would if I didn't know as much as I do about Linux. –  Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Oct 4 '11 at 23:55
    
I agree with @Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams. There are a couple other red flags in your question that make me think this is the wrong approach. I've done PoS architecture before and having each one handle their own packages or lack the ability to do nearly instant reinstalls will leave you in a world of hurt. –  polynomial Oct 5 '11 at 1:04

1 Answer 1

Both Ubuntu and Debian has

  • Stable with regular, robust updates that rarely if ever break things
  • Secure and quick to release critical security updates
  • A good packet manager that reliably resolves dependencies, etc. and that can install updates without user intervention
  • A large user base

Ubuntu advantages:

  • It has better hardware support, especially for devices with proprietary drivers. For example, if you have NVidia videocard or Wi-Fi card that requires proprietary firmware, everything will be installed in one-click. In Debian you may have problems with this.
  • Built-in and working out-of-the-box AppArmor support(if you need additional security)
  • User base is larger, though many of this users are not very experienced.
  • Fixed release cycle, with LTS releases.

Ubuntu drawback:

  • Due to fixed development cycle, releases are sometimes "unripe", and you should wait one or two month before upgrading, while bugs are being fixed.
  • Upgrades between releases sometimes may break the system. You can avoid this problem by using only LTS-releases. Debian traditionally has no problems with upgrading to new releases. But whatever you will use, before upgrading to release on production you should do it on test machine

My choice is Ubuntu for home machine and Debian for production servers.

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Debian's big advantage is snapshot.debian.org because you can use this to continue managing POS machines after a version is considered obsolete. You might think that Ubuntu LTS releases would be better, but that still forces you to upgrade your OS every couple of years when the next LTS version comes out. –  Michael Dillon Oct 14 '11 at 5:06

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