As both operating systems get easier and easier for the desktop user which is the best for the less experienced Linux user and why? I will be taking a quick look at both operating systems to find out which is easiest for the following:

Getting a copy.
Installation.
Configuring.
General day to day use.
Distributions website.

For many years Red Hat Linux has been the market leader for many reasons but it is only recently that Red Hat has put more work into the desktop side of its operating system, compared to its work put into its server side. Getting a copy of Red Hat is very easy, you can either downloaded the ISO images off RedHat.com or purchase the personnel edition off sites such as Amazon.co.uk for around ?31. The advantage of purchasing the box set rather then downloading it are that you get the manual that can be good for unexperienced users.

SuSE has never been as popular compared to Red Hat however in recent years SuSE has spent a lot of time and money developing its desktop side of the operating system. Getting a copy of SuSE is slightly harder then Red Hat because SuSE does not do any ISO images for its operating system, however you can do a FTP install or purchase the personnel edition from Amazon.co.uk for ?25:99. Once again the box set comes with CDs a DVD and a manual.

Here Red Hat 8 shines through over SuSE as many more people can get it by downloading ISO images off the website.

Installation of Red Hat was fairly painless, the installer takes you through a number of screens each asking you what you want to do and providing a bit of simple help on the left hand side. In total I spent about 45minutes installing Red Hat 8 compared to around 35mins for SuSE 8.1 however this depends on how much you install and the speed of your computer. Installing SuSE 8.1 was even easier then Red Hat 8, as I had a large Fat 32 partition the installer was able to split this and create the necessary partitions needed for SuSE. Of course I checked it wasn't doing anything stupid through worry that it might delete half my hard drive however it pretty much did what I was would have done. The SuSE installer is different to that of Red Hat because it assumes a lot of things such as what to do with your partitions and what to install, it displays all of this on the screen for you to either accept or modify as you need.

On installation SuSE is easier because of the way it assumes what the user will want but still allows the user to change things if necessary without having to go through many different screens. I could quite easily see an unexperienced user getting stuck on the partitions page if he/she did not know what they were doing in Red Hat.

Next there was configuring the distribution after installation, Red Hat does this straight after installation and gives you options such as network and xfree86 configuration. Red Hat failed to pick up my monitor so it took me a while playing around in the console and xfree86config to set the right settings for my monitor, while this would be easy for an experienced user I doubt an inexperienced user would have got this far and would probably have booted back to Windows by now.

Configuration in SuSE I found easier because of SuSE's configuration program - YaST, this cut out a lot of the playing around in the console that an unexperienced user may have found daunting and displayed an easy way of configuring hardware. While half the fun for many people is using the console to solve problems some less tech based people may find it unusual compared to Windows.

For configuration SuSE has to be the winner because of YaST, this is because it not only makes things a lot easier for the unexperienced it also can save time and effort for the more experienced user. However neither distributions could properly configure my Conexant ADSL modem, SuSE did detect the modem yet could not configure it while Red Hat could not detect it at all. (In the end I had to set the modem up on a Windows 2000 machine then access the Internet through the network)

Red Hat has good support for both KDE and Gnome which is good because like many people I like using KDE but also like to use programs for Gnome such as Evolution and Gimp. SuSEs support for Gnome is not as good and Evolution crashed when I was trying to install it. I noticed that both distributions had poor font support, sometimes I could be using Mozilla and I would have to squint to read the text. This seemed slightly worse in SuSE especially when web browsing and word processing.

After a quick download from Nvidia I had Unreal Tournament 2003 playing nicely in both SuSE 8.1 and Red Hat 8 ? hopefully more games in the future will come with Linux installers. It was hard to pick a winner for day to day use because both distributions did pretty much the same however Red Hat 8 just won because of the better Gnome support.

One of the important parts of the distributions package I think is the off hand support and help you can find on the the distributions website. Redhat.com has an extensive support library covering all features from installation to configuring to troubleshooting. SuSE.com has a much smaller support area and I was more disappointed by what the site what had to offer, however this may be because of the way SuSE is distributed compared to Red Hat.

Overall I think SuSE 8.1 is slightly better for the unexperienced because of its simple installation, stylish graphics and simplicity of configuration. SuSE seems more geared to the desktop market rather then Red Hat at the moment however both distributions are making it a lot easier for people to convert from Windows to Linux.