Deciding on a Linux Distro

person Billy Brawnerfolder_openOpinionsaccess_time May 30, 2016

Before I begin my examination of various distros, I’d like to retrace my steps and discuss some of my past experiences with the few distros that I’ve tried. When I first got into Linux and started using it, I went with Ubuntu 14.04 LTS. All of my Google searches pointed to it being the most popular distro with the largest selection of software available and the largest active community. I’ve also seen it called the “most noob friendly” distro on several occasions. Since then, however, I’ve tried out multiple other distros and desktop environments, in search of the perfect distro/desktop environment combination for me. Ubuntu was fine but after trying out a few other desktops environments (hereon referred to as DEs), I discovered that I’m not a huge fan of Unity. I’ll get to that in a minute though, I want to touch on distros first. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus my attention on what I consider to be the three largest players in the Linux world: Ubuntu, Fedora, and openSUSE.

Ubuntu at its core is really rather nice for a user who doesn’t want to spend all day configuring their system. I got started there, and I frequently find myself returning. There’s a fantastic community behind it that’s really willing and able to help at all times. And as I stated before, if the software you’re looking for even exists on Linux, I can almost guarantee you that it’s going to be available for Ubuntu. While I like Ubuntu, my curiosity always gets the best of me and I have to branch out and try new things. At first, I started small, trying out only other flavors of Ubuntu. I couldn’t stand Kubuntu visually, nor Lubuntu, Xubuntu was alright, and I wasn’t a huge fan of Ubuntu GNOME either. Xubuntu was the one I gave the most of a chance to, and after customizing it to my liking, I was actually quite fond of it. Still, I had to satisfy my curiosity, so I moved on to try out other distros. Also, there are a couple of things that concern me a little bit. First off, unlike the other two distros on trial here (as far as I know), Ubuntu is based on another distro (Debian). Both Fedora and openSUSE create their own packages, and don’t rely on another distribution to provide them. I see this as a problem because what happens if Debian falls apart? I don’t foresee it happening anytime in the near future, but you never know. Also, all three distros are backed by a company: Fedora is backed by Red Hat, openSUSE by SUSE, and Ubuntu by Canonical, yet Canonical is the only of the three that is not profitable. What happens when Canonical disappears or decides to stop supporting Ubuntu? While these may be no more than paranoid complaints, I’d still feel much better about using a distro that had a more stable base and a better guarantee of future success.

I “tried” Fedora 23, though on my MacBook Pro, I couldn’t really get it to work. Installation failed a couple of times, the WiFi didn’t work when I finally did get it installed correctly, and I really didn’t like GNOME all that much. I maybe tried Fedora for a day or two before giving up and moving on. Looking back, I really didn’t give Fedora a fighting chance. But to be honest, I’m not all that interested in it. Compared to Ubuntu, the only thing it has better that I can come up with is the future stability from my point of view. Seeing as Fedora is the base that Red Hat Enterprise Linux builds off of, I don’t have to worry about upstream package managers deciding not to carry on their work or disbanding their distro. Also, Red Hat is the most profitable of the three business named in this article, at least from what I can tell. Aside from that, I don’t really think there’s any benefit to using Fedora over Ubuntu.

openSUSE is a little bit of a different story for me. First, there’s Tumbleweed. I used Arch for a bit and I think the thing I found most appealing about it was the rolling-release update style. I’m not too keen on the idea of having to wipe my computer clean every 2-3 years and do a fresh installation to catch up on the latest software. I’d much rather just install an operating system and go with it until I have to change my computer. And I don’t tend to change my computer until I see that the hardware can’t keep up with my work load. Of course, for those who do like the scheduled release system, there’s always openSUSE Leap. Next up, there’s the default DE. Granted, each distro has various different options to choose from when it comes to DEs, but the primary one will always receive the most attention. openSUSE Tumbleweed uses KDE, and all I can say is wow. I was completely blown away by just how nice and modern the latest version of KDE looks. Little goodies like KMail and Konversation that come with it are just icing on the cake. Lastly, there’s the fact that openSUSE<, much like Fedora, is used as the base from which the enterprise version builds off of. So again, I don’t have to worry about issues upstream.

To wrap things up, I’m quite a fan of openSUSE. I think it’s got everything I need to keep me happy, and then some. But, this article is clearly purely subjective. So feel free to comment what your favorite distro is and why. There’s nothing wrong with a difference of opinion!

 

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