Oct 262011
 
Distributions

Chapter 4.Over the years I have tested and used a lot of distributions. For the “Switching to Linux” article series I wanted to pick the distribution that suited my needs best. Usability was the primary concern. A close second was looks, I have always been a sucker for eye candy. Things like installation and configuration where less important.

I consider myself (fairly) experienced in Linux, having setup a good number of servers and desktops. I have been using Linux as a secondary desktop for a number of years now. So I did not expect much problems in the distribution step towards my ultimate goal: a perfect Linux desktop, suitable for everyday use both professional and private.

The demands

I wanted an up-to-date, easy to use and easy to maintain system. The window manager needed to be practical, yet easily customizable and fast.

  • No endless configuration and tweaking after the installation
  • The interface works out-of-the box or post-installation
  • Updates are simple and don’t require hours of searching for dependencies and solving conflicts
  • Essential hardware is detected during setup or at least hinted at post-installation. No searching for kernel modules and obscure third party drivers
  • No tons of extra software. If there is extra software, it is easily removable
  • Sufficient software is available to replace the windows programs (installable, downloadable). Compiling is the last resort and not the rule

The candidates

I made my selecion of distributions based on my own experiences and also looked at the top 6 at distrowatch. Before you look at the list and say “but BSD is not Linux”, I included FreeBSD as an outside possibility (mostly out of curiosity) and I know it’s Unix-based.
Also note that the Window Manager mentioned is the one the distributor suggests. Most of them also have downloads available for other window managers.

Arch Linux

ArchSitearchlinux.org
Release Type: rolling distribution
Window Manager: none, chose one after installation
Version:  2011.08.19

Debian

DebianSitedebian.org
Release Type: When it’s ready. Stable, testing and experimental branches
Window Manager: Gnome 2
Version: 6 (“squeeze”, stable), wheezy (testing), sid (experimental)

Fedora

FedoraSitefedoraproject.org
Release Type: when it’s ready
Window Manager: Gnome 3
Version: 15

Linux Mint Debian

MintSitelinuxmint.com
Release Type: rolling distribution
Window Manager: Gnome 2 or Xfce (separate downloads)
Version: 201109

OpenSUSE

OpenSUSESiteopensuse.org
Release Type: when it’s ready
Window Manager: Gnome 2
Version: 11.4

Ubuntu

UbuntuSiteubuntu.com
Release Type: 6 month cycle
Window Manager: Unity
Version: 11.10

Xubuntu

XubuntuSitexubuntu.org
Release Type: 6 month cycle
Window Manager: Xfce 4
Version: 11.10

FreeBSD

FreeBSDSitefreebsd.org
Release Type: When it’s ready
Window Manager: chose one
Version:  8.2

Switching to Linux series:

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