What is each distribution best for?

What do you think each Linux distribution is "best for"? You can only pick one selection for each distribution (which, by the way, we know is going to be difficult). We'll compile results and share them in an upcoming article. Make sure your voice is heard!



Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

some choices missing...

Anonymous's picture

I missed some choices for:

[] Tightwad, anally-retentive Old guys compiling everything from Source on a 486

[] Command-Line Kings who hate desktop widgets/wallpaper

[] People who just want something for free

[] People with Neckbeards/Chinstrap beards

[] People who wear sandals and Khaki shorts year-round

[] People who define themselves by what they don't like

That last radio-button would be the distro of choice for a lot of the commenter's here.

The results are likely to be skewed

mayuresh's picture

How many respondents would have tried a good no of distros?

The results of the survey are likely to be skewed by usage statistics of the distros themselves.


Strange survey

zygmunt's picture

Can't see how this survey can reveal anything relevant. The choice list and single select condemns the survey. Must have been designed by a political byte manipulator.


Anonymous's picture

I see you consumed (read) this FREE content that didn't "reveal anything relevant". Go buy the magazine, Freeloader. Moan somewhere else.

Archer, Gentooer and BSD fan

rescbr's picture

As for the ease of administration, Arch is the best. None of those init.d scripts. Just simple BSD style configuration files.

Gentoo: The best package management. Choose what you want. Simple as that. Have an embedded device and don't want the hassle of dependency hell? My choice is Gentoo. And Gentoo is the best source for documentation and software patches.

For development I guess Gentoo and Arch are excellent.

RPM-based distros? Nah.
Debian ones? Yep, ok. Usable.

Gentoo and Arch? The best ones.


Anonymous's picture

What about adding a development field to the survey?

Slackware: The Best Distro for Back Office Services

William Meloney's picture

Slackware offers stock stable standard service applications. (Sorry about the alliteration.) Being console based and simple text-file configured adds to its ease of deployment. Note: Slackware is not for the faint of heart. System Admins and die-hard Slackers are the only folks likely to get warm&fuzzies from Slackware. If you want pretty pictures of exotic animals you will have to go elsewhere. If you want rock solid infrastructure services then Slackware is a very good choice.

Remember, once you Slack you never go back.

Slack is really not *that* difficult

mwallette's picture

I'll second the kudos to Slack, but I really have to wonder why everyone says it is such a difficult distro. Slack 7.1 was my intro to Linux (with essentially NO *Nix experience beforehand), and it really wasn't that difficult to learn. I wasn't a sys admin when I started using it (although I am now), but I was willing to spend some time reading everything I could find about configuring services on *Nix machines. While Slack won't hold your hand through the install process, and there is a lot of configuration you need to do to make it really sing, I actually thought Slack's minimalist philosophy made it simpler to understand. Compare Slack's init scripts to Gentoo's or Ubuntu's to see what I mean. Gentoo has some slick tools to manage the init scripts (don't even get me started on RHEL or Ubuntu's init scripts...sigh), but I really like the simplicity of Slack's /etc/rc.d/rc.* files. I have yet to find another distro that had start-up scripts that were as easy to understand and modify as Slack's.

Having sung Slack's praises, I have to admit...Gentoo is my favorite distro now :) However, I will probably always have a soft spot in my heart for Slackware.

What makes Slackware any more

bolt's picture

What makes Slackware any more stable than any other distribution running the same versions of the same software?

"Die-hard slackers" are just like fanatics of any other Linux distribution. You can get a console-based environment out of anything. Add ratpoison wm to the mix, and you even get the benefits of an X environment while looking like you're really hardcore on the console.

Just to annoy you, and to add to my own argument, here's an image of Slackware running fancy candy Beryl:
Doesn't look that console based to me.

What makes Slackware any more

Anonymous's picture

I think you misunderstood what Mr Meloney stated... read it again and stay with the subject this time.

I think you misunderstood

bolt's picture

I think you misunderstood what I stated... read it again and you'll see I'm perfectly on subject.

I think you misunderstood

Anonymous's picture

Mr Meloney - " If you want rock solid infrastructure services then Slackware is a very good choice. "
Bolt - " What makes Slackware any more stable than any other distribution running the same versions of the same software? "

He did not say that Slackware was any more stable than any other distribution... he said... rock solid infrastructure services.

Pay attention kid...

Right.. go back, read it one

bolt's picture

Right.. go back, read it one more time, especially the first sentence. Focus on that sentence. You put my reply next to an unrelated sentence.

To clarify: He said "Slackware offers stock stable standard service applications", and I was asking what makes these applications so much more stable than the ones that come with other distro's (so that it's worth pointing out Slackware does this).

Now would you give it a rest, "kid"?

Just testing

H Simpson's picture

How many replies can be nested before there is only one letter per line, at the right?

re: just testing

głest's picture

at least one more

lol, congrats! You've found

Webmistress's picture

lol, congrats! You've found the limit.

Katherine Druckman is webmistress at LinuxJournal.com. You might find her on Twitter or at the Southwest Drupal Summit


Anonymous's picture



Ewen's picture

I think 'Documentation' would have also been a good option as that means a lot to me in a distro. e.g don't personally use Gentoo but very often refer to their documentation.

It will be interesting to see the results but in the end I didn't submit my answers as I felt I couldn't really express my true feelings about the distros with the answers available.

What about Kubuntu?

Antonio's picture

What about Kubuntu? You know, the authors are not the same as Ubuntu, nor the programs, nor the experience,...

Debian best all-around

Anonymous's picture

Debian best all-around distro- server mostly. Then Ubuntu for newbs and desktop. Then CentOS for research workstation.


bolt's picture


OMG, radiobuttons?

Jonas's picture

OMG, radiobuttons? really?
Cant a distro be good at more than one point? place a checkbox and THEN you aggregate the more frequent...


Yes, radio buttons.

Carlie Fairchild's picture

We're tabulating results of all readers and will present the top three selections in each category to you. We purposely chose to use radio buttons so that readers would have to put a lot of thought in to what *one* feature stood out in their distro above the rest. Otherwise I imagined a bunch of Gentoo folks selecting every single feature under their distro. ;) (Oh I love Gentoo too, I'm just pointing out that every time we do a distro survey, the Gentoo folks seem to take over... gotta love the passion!)

Carlie Fairchild is the publisher of Linux Journal.

Gentoo... what?

Anonymous's picture

...hard to concentrate with picture of beautiful lady passionate about Linux. NOTHING HOTTER.

Speaking as one of those "Gentoo folks"

mwallette's picture

"Otherwise I imagined a bunch of Gentoo folks selecting every single feature under their distro. ;)"

You say that like it's a *bad* thing!

Who has tried all these?

bolt's picture

I've hardly tried half these distributions, and from working with different Linux distro's for years, it boils down to this:

There's hardly a "best" distro out there. For any purpose. People say X is more secure than Y, but X is equally insecure if you have no idea what you're doing, just as Y is. People will also tell you Z is the best distro because it comes with program "foo". Well, chances are quite large "foo" is available in the repositories for X and Y too, if you just have a look.

They're pretty much all the same. One slight difference is the package system, and where files and scripts are generally located. Also the default desktop environment and wallpaper (woo!). Anything Debian based is fine by me.

Myself, I use Debian for everything. I use a base install, and I grab everything else I feel like. I can install a ratpoison "desktop", XFCE, KDE, Gnome, anything I want. As can you, on Ubuntu, Mint, Gentoo, Mandriva... It doesn't matter. In fact, the only real reason why I use Debian is because the steep learning curve of starting out from a Debian base install is what appealed to me and got me to learn to use Linux in the first place, from back in the Potato days.

Also, even though Debian is my favorite distro, I still recommend Ubuntu to new users. This is because I can generally help them when it breaks, and everyone and their dog can generally use their default install to a certain degree. Still, whatever they install, I can get it on my Debian box and check it out if they need help.

I'm also a control freak. Anything I don't choose to install on my box shouldn't be there by default.

Survey Layout

Ryan Rix's picture

I must say that this survey would have been more accurate with checkboxes rather than radiobuttons.

No Sabayon?

Anonymous's picture

This survey includes every disto in the DistroWatch top ten except Sabayon. What gives?

Also, the format is poor. Gentoo is the best distro for the last 4 items but I can only pick one.

What, exactly, makes Gentoo

bolt's picture

What, exactly, makes Gentoo better than the others? You can compile your entire repository from source with any distro.

What, exactly, makes Gentoo better ?

Jerry McBride's picture

The beauty of Gentoo is you have nearly complete control over how your system is put together. Plus, you have nearly complete control over package dependencies... For instance, you want a small foot print server without PAM support, no problem... Don't want TCPWRAPPER, no problem... try that with your everyday RPM based distribution... Holy crap Batman! Dependency hell...

---- Jerry McBride

Well, that's right, but you

John Doe's picture

Well, that's right, but you can do the same with Arch. With Arch you get a base install and can built upon it what ever you desire and you have nearly complete control over the system, too. So well, please tell me what else is so outstanding on Gentoo.

Gentoo's package management

ron1n's picture

Gentoo's package management is one distinguishing factor of many. How many other distros have such a hands on installation? or such a tightly knit relationship with its documentation? (You can't get anywhere without at least reading through the quickstart guide.)

I myself use Slackware, but in the past I have used Gentoo. Installing Gentoo was one of the learning experiences that got me to appreciate the design of a modern unix system.

While Gentoo is certainly an

bolt's picture

While Gentoo is certainly an interesting experience, I don't really see any pro's with the unusual package management.

And while the experience may be rewarding in several ways, I certainly wouldn't consider it for my servers, as the OP suggests, nor would I tick the "security" box, as I would imagine more than a few people who have to set up "that much" stuff on their own would screw up at some point or another, leaving the system potentially vulnerable. If Gentoo was to "win" the security portion of this survey, you will no doubt have a lot of mediocre sysadmins attempt to use it on their next server.

I also dispute the claim that this process somehow makes it better for real-time apps. Again, you can compile a small, optimized kernel and other requirements in almost any distro.

But still, I have nothing against Gentoo. I even have it on a box right here. It definately has its merits.