Is there a best distro?

Yesterday, I had a good friend ask me What is the best Linux distribution to familiarize myself with Linux? This was not someone who is unfamiliar with technology, or UNIX for that matter, but someone who is one of us, which made the question difficult to answer.

What is the best Linux distribution? Not what is the best distribution for a server or what is the best distribution for a netbook, but what is the best general distribution. This made me step back and think for a couple of seconds. All of the distributions start from the same point. The kernel is essentially the same in every distribution, so that is not a differentiator. All of the distributions contain a selection of rich applications, and many distribution contain the same selection of applications, so that is not a clear discriminator.

After thinking about it for a few minutes, I came to the conclusion that there are really only two discriminators between the distributions. Package management and initialization methodology, and neither makes one distribution better than the other.

In many ways, this discussion is like the battle of the editors. What is better, vi or Emacs? While you will get a lot of discussion, they are essentially the same. They each have their mission and their niche to fill. And similarly, when looking at a distribution to learn Linux with, there is no best for a general purpose distribution.

So here is your chance. What do you perceive as the best distribution? Based on past surveys we know that Ubuntu is one of the leading distributions, I want to know what makes one distribution better than the other. Be specific. Be polite.

______________________

David Lane, KG4GIY is a member of Linux Journal's Editorial Advisory Panel and the Control Op for Linux Journal's Virtual Ham Shack

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The problem I've had with

Anonymous's picture

The problem I've had with the Ubuntu Community is that there all newbs helping newbs. You ask a real question and all you get is a bunch of dumb little newb answers. Nothing worse than having a real issue and getting baby linux answers.

You want a knowledgeable community, try Mandriva's. No newb crap, just problems simply getting fixed. The forums seem pretty slow sometimes, but that's because the system just works, the tools to manage everything are there, and users problems are fixed promptly and accurately.

Arch

Jack's picture

I use KDE 4.3 because that's where the future is. Having tested many distros my choice is KDEmod 4.3.3 and that means Arch or Chakra.

The advantages are many - gentle with HWresources + speed and control ranks high. Boots fast.

Basicly my usage of Linux has changed with Arch. I no longer bother installing other distros. If I have to, I use Virtualbox. I always have the latest kernel, and when a new kernel arrives - there's a updated driver for Nvidia and ATI too. No problem whatsoever with my HW (Thinkpad T61).

Fresh users:
I recommend Mint (download the mononono-package) for Gnome and Mandriva ONE for KDE.

Servers:
Server means CentOS (5.4 due today) with KVM and webmin/virtmin. Runner up is Debian.

When recommending Linux to others:
Recommend something you can provide support for but always keep in mind that the installation should match their preferences - not yours. If it matches your preferences the chance is that their preferences are not met. And they blame Linux.

best distro

Anonymous's picture

For desktop use, Ubuntu but I would really appreciate it more if LVM is implemented on the fly at install. I dont think LVM will be an issue for non-geeks.

Server, if for company use, Redhat and Novell Suse. For personal, Ubuntu, Fedora or OpenSuse.

I like Ubuntu

Alfredo's picture

It has a great hardware recognition, simple package manager and a large community to help you

Desktop: Ubuntu Server:

Curt's picture

Desktop: Ubuntu
Server: Debian

It depends!!!

slack---line's picture

As highlighted the "best" distribution depends on the needs.

If you want to get a computer installed with a generic version of GNU/Linux and up and running quickly then no doubt Ubuntu will be the distro of choice. Its package management works and it supports most hardware.

Unfortunately an inexperienced user wouldn't actually learn much about how things work under the hood as there are handy GUI's to walk you through and make changing settings "simpler".

On the flipside if you want to learn something about how things work under the hood and have a highly customised installation then I can think of nothing better than Gentoo. The package management system, portage, is an absolute delight to work with, even resolving blockages on its own these days (at least in the testing branch/version of portage). You do have to get your hands dirty though (Slackware perpared me for this, but the lack of an easy way to uninstall dependencies made me look for an alternative).

But then there are other distributions that I use on embedded systems, like SlugOS on my Linksys NSLU2. I've two Linksys WRT54G's and have HyperWRT/Thibor and OpenWRT on one each. I'd tried Gentoo on the NSLU2, but found that package development and support for the ARM arch under Gentoo just wasn't as quick as for x86/amd64 so ditched it for SlugOS where packages are updated quicker.

But there never will be one BEST distribution because its uses and users are so diverse and colourful, so any answer will be a non sequitur.

Unfortunately an

Martin Marcher's picture


Unfortunately an inexperienced user wouldn't actually learn much about how things work under the hood

Why does the average user need to know about how things work under the hood. (Guess that's another kind of discussion that could end as a flamewar)

Unfortunately an

Anonymous's picture


Unfortunately an inexperienced user wouldn't actually learn much about how things work under the hood

Why does the average user need to know about how things work under the hood. (Guess that's another kind of discussion that could end as a flamewar)

Ubuntu is best

davebo's picture

I think objectively Ubuntu is currently the best for a number of reasons.

- The livecd/install process provides a very seamless way to try out the distro, followed by an install
- A lot of work has gone into making the desktop experience slick for non-linux users
- In addition to the desktop version, the server version is production-ready
- They have a rapid release cycle that means very up-to-date packages that satisfy even Linux geeks

Dave

lots of distros do that same

Anonymous's picture

lots of distros do that same thing

take mandriva for instance

1.The livecd/install process provides a very seamless way to try out the distro, followed by an install (Yep)

2.A lot of work has gone into making the desktop experience slick for non-linux users (Yep)

3.In addition to the desktop version, the server version is production-ready (Yep)

4.They have a rapid release cycle that means very up-to-date packages that satisfy even Linux geeks (Yep)

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