My Favorite GNU/Linux Distros

It’s been a while since I posted anything. Sorry about that. I could have done a big deal about this blog post right here, but I have reconsidered that. I have been trying hard over the years to find my favorite distribution(s), but there are so many pros and cons for them, so I have been moving away from finding the utopic and 100% perfect distro. It’s most likely not there. I just give the ones I’m interested in a shot for a while and adapt the installation of the distros to my needs.

One thing that some might think about all the GNU/Linux distros out there is: “they are all the same”. It depends what you put into that, but I see that as more or less false, at least after learning more and more about the technologies put behind a distro and the choices that have to be made. You have to make a lot of decisions and there is a lot of work of maintaining a distro. For example what desktop environment(s) to go for, how to arrange the repositories, if you want to build your distro from scratch or if you want to base it on an existing one, if you want to ship exclusively 64-bit software or not, what installation solution you want to go for, what default software, if you want the distro to be 100% free software or not, release cycle model (rolling release or not), and the list goes on and on. You also have to keep your repositories with software up to date, at least if you run an independent distro.

So let’s get to the point of this post. What are my favorites these days (random order)?

For regular everyday use

  • Ubuntu – Two yearly releases and long term support ones (LTS). Big repositories, big userbase. You find the solution to most problems and Ubuntu LTS is solid stuff.
  • Debian – For the need of a stable distro. Solid for desktop use and solid for server use. The bad thing about it is the old software that is shipped with the stable versions. If you need newer software for the server or desktop you could go for Ubuntu, or run Debian Testing.
  • CentOS – An alternative to Debian, for the RPM and Red Hat-ish experience. It is/tries to be functionally compatible with its upstream source, Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
  • Fedora Workstation – If you want to roll with the RPM family, with the newest GNOME desktop environment and with fresh software, but not go for a rolling release distro, this is it. Maybe the best GNOME experience out there?
  • Arch Linux – The fiddling do-it-yourself distro. To get into it might take some time, and to set it up the way you want it might take some time, but that is part of the fun. Have it your way and enjoy bleeding edge software. Arch Linux is also known for its very good documentation/wiki.
  • Manjaro Linux – Based on Arch Linux, but with a more user friendly approach. Pretty solid and probably a bit more stable than Arch Linux because of certain choices made by the Manjaro team.
  • Kubuntu – The KDE version of Ubuntu. Sane defaults and it doesn’t feel like they try too hard to be super special and stand out. They give you a solid, more or less vanilla KDE Plasma experience.
  • Parabola GNU/Linux-libre – This is the free software variant of Arch Linux and I do recommend it. If you feel like going down the path of Arch Linux, but want it to be more secure and have better ethics, go for Parabola GNU/Linux-libre. Even the Linux kernel is 100% free software, obviously.
  • Trisquel GNU/Linux – Totally free software, like the one above. Based on Ubuntu. It might not ship with the freshest looking desktop, but that can be changed, don’t you worry.
  • Xubuntu – Also in the Ubuntu family. This is what I prefer if I want to have a little distro without too much clutter. To the point and nice for doing some nerdy computer work.

Linux Mint is not listed as I find it a bit too conservative on it’s choices taken on the development and that they have not been taking the security on their web servers seriously enough, which resulted in a breach on their web server. Why is the latter a problem? For me the credibility of the whole project goes a bit into the drain when they are not paying enough attention to their web servers where users have their forums accounts and where you can download the ISOs for the distro. As for the conservative part, things are moving ahead a bit too slow, they are slow on implementing new design for the distro, web site, and they are not developing real innovative features for their desktop environments (in my opinion – even though the latter isn’t that bad). The positive thing on the other hand is that they do (or help) develop some pretty good software (Cinnamon, Mate). Maybe not the most exciting stuff, but kudos for that.

openSUSE is not listed either. Why? I have spent a lot of time with openSUSE and had quite a lot of different issues. And do I need YaST? Probably not. This is based on my experiences. If you want to give it a go you can choose between a rolling release version (Tumbleweed) and a regular-release version (Leap).

For servers

  • Debian – A solid choice which is trusted and thats been around for a long time.
  • Ubuntu – For newer software than Debian.
  • CentOS – An alternative to Debian and Ubuntu. Though closer to Debian when it comes to the freshness of the software, probably.

For other uses

  • Tails – For the privacy and anonymity aware user. A live distro best ran on a USB stick or from a DVD. It sends its Internet traffic through Tor.
  • Kali Linux – The distro for the hackers and penetration testers.

I could probably have added a lot more to these lists, both distros and information, but I tried to keep it (somehow) short, and I’m tired of buggy distros. I hope this was helpful somehow.

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