Choosing the Best Linux Distro for “you”

Best Linux Distro

Searching for the best Linux distro (distribution)? This article will probably only be useful to those who don’t know what /etc/fstab is used for. Second, this post does not cover Linux server distributions but instead covers desktop Linux. What better way to increase your familiarity with Linux servers, than running Linux on your laptop and/or workstation.

Best Linux distro

Ok, the first rule to remember, there’s no “best” Linux distro. No seriously, there isn’t! But there IS a best Linux distro for “me” and a best linux distro for “you”. In addition, what you consider to be the best Linux distro for you, will often change over time to match your experience level.

With that in mind, lets begin by breaking down the search for your best Linux distro into 3 categories… Easy, Satisfying and Challenging.

Easy Linux Distros

For users who want quick access to Linux and a large array of software/apps without having to use the command line. Or, maybe you simply seek an easy way to give Linux a try. For those users I would recommend…

Ubuntu – a complete desktop Linux operating system, freely available with the largest community support of any Distro. The Ubuntu community is built on the ideas enshrined in the Ubuntu Manifesto: that software should be available free of charge, that software tools should be usable by people in their local language and that people should have the freedom to customize and alter their software in whatever way they see fit.

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Linux Mint – a Ubuntu-based distribution whose goal is to provide a more complete out-of-the-box experience by including browser plugins, media codecs, support for DVD playback, Java and other components. It also adds custom desktop options and menus, several unique configuration tools and a web-based package installation interface. Linux Mint is compatible with Ubuntu software repositories.

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Satisfying Linux Distros

The following distros are very similar to those above, the first lacks the large community – it’s growing fast – and the second does not include as much cool’ bloat. In both cases this will result in a bit more work and research. It shouldn’t be difficult, but satisfying!

Mageia – a fork of Mandriva Linux formed in September 2010 by former employees and contributors to the popular French Linux distribution. Unlike Mandriva, which is a commercial entity, the Mageia project is a community project and a non-profit organisation whose goal is to develop a free Linux-based operating system.

Debian – Of course, the common thing that people want is application software. Debian gives you easy access to these without pre-installing them. Debian comes with over 20,000 packages (pre-compiled software that is bundled up in a nice format for easy installation on your machine) – all of it free.

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Challenging Linux Distros

The following distributions focus on being lightweight, simple and yet far more flexible than most. Right from the install process you’ll notice that these distros will only install what you explicitly command them to.

Arch Linux – an independently developed, i686- and x86_64-optimised Linux distribution targeted at competent Linux users. It uses ‘pacman’, its home-grown package manager, to provide updates to the latest software applications with full dependency tracking. Operating on a rolling release system, Arch can be installed from a CD image or via an FTP server. The default install provides a solid base that enables users to create a custom installation. In addition, the Arch Build System (ABS) provides a way to easily build new packages, modify the configuration of stock packages, and share these packages with other users via the Arch Linux user repository.

Slackware – an advanced Linux operating system, designed with the twin goals of ease of use and stability as top priorities. Including the latest popular software while retaining a sense of tradition, providing simplicity and ease of use alongside flexibility and power, Slackware brings the best of all worlds to the table. Originally developed in 1991, the UNIX-like Linux operating system now benefits from the contributions of millions of users and developers around the world. Slackware Linux provides new and experienced users alike with a fully-featured system, equipped to serve in any capacity from desktop workstation to machine-room server. Web, ftp, and email servers are ready to go out of the box, as are a wide selection of popular desktop environments. A full range of development tools, editors, and current libraries is included for users who wish to develop or compile additional software.

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Also check out Gentoo.

I truly hope this quick guide for beginners proves helpful. I got most of the distro descriptions from Distrowatch, a very useful website which you can use in your research. What’s your pick for the best linux distro? Feel free to add below.