Łukasz Piłatowski

IT passionate with a head full of ideas

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Category : personal

How to choose the best linux distro?

As always - it depends. People have a different needs, different roles, different amount of time they want to spend with the system configuration etc.

I started to use Linux as a primary system 3 years ago. Up to that moment, I ran many different distributions as either dual-boots or virtutal machines, and I kept asking myself

Which linux distro is the best choice? How are they different from each other?

Now, after 3 years of my adventure with sole Linux, I know two things

  • I wouldn’t change Linux to any other operating system
  • I’m still not attached to any distro

Why?

First, Linux gives me the full control over the system. I can access with ease every aspect and every module, I know exactly when and why certain action happened. There are very little to none GUI-based installers - instead of remembering the clicks sequences you remember (or alias) most common commands.

Second, when I started to use Linux, it was all new - and it should be. I used Windows for a decade, so it’s not surprising that I felt odd for first couple of weeks. But then, from my perspective, as you migrate between linux distributions, there is no much difference - you just learn how to replace one commands to another ones and one tool to another.

My first operating system was Ubuntu with Unity, then I migrated to Ubuntu with GNOME, then used Debian with XFCE, and now I finished off with Manjaro with GNOME.


My opinions


Linux bases

  • Ubuntu is a good system to start - due to it’s huge community and company behind it. If a software you know from Windows happen to have a Linux port, it’s most probable it will be compatible with this distro.

    The bad side - it’s a very buggy system. Many thing were just not working as I used it, very complex and magical solutions used in it made issue solving a very difficult task.

  • Debian is a less-buggy version of Ubuntu - in fact, Ubuntu is based on Debian, so if you’re familiar with the former one, you’ll have no trouble with the latter one.

    The bad side - some of the packages I used in Ubuntu were not available for Debian since Ubuntu has some specific PPA (Personal Package Archive) that are not Debian compatible.

  • Arch is a very mature and very well documented system with very few bugs. I use it now and I have no trouble with both configuration, since it’s well documented. Specifically, I use Manjaro, which is based on Arch, but basically it’s just a preconfigured arch so that I don’t need to configure it by myself.

    The bad side - you need to be patient and learn to read documentation and search for issues on the web. The documentation is big, and sometimes you may read about some topic that in the end is not needed - but if you are keen to learn, this should not be an issue for you

Desktop environments

  • GNOME is the most popular desktop environment. Therefore, you can use it if you want to have a huge community support. However, for me, it’s a no-go system, especially because of memory leaks in the gnome-shell. I usually don’t turn off my laptop, only hibernate, and after couple of days of constant work, the GNOME itself can eat up to 4 GB of RAM.

  • KDE Plasma - I only used it for a while. It looks and behaves similar to Windows desktop, there are many animations and dedicated software - all-in-all there are lots of fancy things there and it’s not my kind of DE I’d like to use

  • XFCE - the opposite of the previous one - fast, lightweight, a bit raw. Consumes little ram and was very good for me. What I missed in it are some of the apps I used to use in GNOME.

  • i3 - console freak heaven. It is not recommended for beginners, but as you become more familiar with terminal itself, and you start to enjoy it, it’s definitely worth trying. It contain many keyboard shortcuts, a nice way to orchestrate your workspace and is very fast.

Summary

For me, a way to go is Manjaro with XFCE or i3 - I enjoy Arch and AUR, also I’d like to keep the RAM free for development purposes, not for my system to consume.

If I would recommend a system for a beginner, I would say - try them all, and if you still can’t make up your mind, just go for Ubuntu and remember that it’s cons.


What are your favourite Linux distros? Which ones have you used? Leave the answer in the comments so we can discuss!

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