Is there a best distro?

by David Lane

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.

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