Which Linux Distribution is the best one for you?

It has been declared that Linux is awesome! Ok, I never said that Linux is more awesome than Windows. That would depend on the user. Because if one is a die hard fan of BattleField, then there is no way he would like Linux, no matter what it is capable of. On the other hand, if someone is a web developer, there is hardly any reason to shy away from Linux! So it depends on the user in the end. However, as the scene happens to be today, there are a lot of people who want to jump ship from the Windows to Linux ship.

One of the biggest problem or confusions with people wanting to try out Linux is to choose the distribution. There are so many Linux distributions that one can easily get mad, especially the new comers. There are ones that are hyped and there are ones which are great but have been going downhills as far as popularity is concerned. There are those who boast about efficiency and there are ones who talk about ease of use. Above all this, there are distributions which comes with VLC built-in and then new entries are coming in everyday. So what exactly do we want? The scene with Linux distributions is one of the best examples to see how having too many options is bad. 

Facebook groups, internet forums, Yahoo answers, Google groups and even real world technology talks do get people who are willing enough to try out Linux. But that is just the beginning of the problem. There are people who leave (or postpone) just when they hear about the various (and actually strange) names of Linux distributions. I mean who wouldn't get confused by all these hundreds of wierd names. Windows is just Windows, Mac is just Mac but Linux; it has got tens of names, may be even more than a few hundreds. Moreover, when it comes to versions and editions, Windows sounds more familiar and easy. This thread is dedicated to help a new Linux user solve this problem. We here demystify what goes behind the different Linux distributions (and their wierd names). We take distros one by one and tell you why one is famous and what is right for you!

  1. Ubuntu
  2. Fedora
  3. OpenSUSE
  4. Mint
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Ubuntu!

Ubuntu

Let us start with the most famous Linux distro of the world. It has been so successful, that a lot of people who did not understand that Linux is actually just the kernel, and that Ubuntu is the Linux distribution actually thought (or think) that Ubuntu is Linux. Well, there are good things about that and the best is that Linux got a little more popularity. Ubuntu brought innovations which were in darkness. Back when it launches in 2004-2005, Linux was heavily considered as a command-line OS only, although that was not true. Ubuntu was the first popular distro to have brought the concept of live CD to the masses which allowed them to test whether or not the OS is going to work on their system. It brought simplicity in form of Gnome and had a lot of innovations which slowly were brought not only into other Linux distributions, but also other OSes. 

Pros

  1. Ubuntu is popular.
  2. Ubuntu is easy to use (and a large part of that goes to Gnome).
  3. Ubuntu has a large community which means that when you fall into problems, you have got peers to help!
  4. Periodic Releases: Ubuntu community gives out a new release every six months. So you are not too far from latest and greatest software!
  5. Distribution Upgrades: The OS can be upgraded to a new version without using a DVD. Just simply download the packages from the internet and get it done. This process is automated so it is also hassle free. 
  6. Installation is simple - Ubuntu installation is one of the simplest you can get! Easy to go about!

Cons

  1. Ubuntu comes with only Gnome. If you already do not know, the looks of an OS is determined by the Desktop Environment (or DE). While in Windows and Mac, you cannot define and customize the looks beyond a limit, Linux give you the power. While many others like Fedora and openSUSE come with multiple DEs on their DVD downloads, Ubuntu would still give you only Gnome. 
  2. DVD is smaller by size. The way Ubuntu is packed, it cannot come with more than 4 GB of software on a DVD. This is not the case with other distros. 
  3. Less software, even on DVD. While many other distributions like Fedora, Sabayon and openSUSE come with more software, Ubuntu even to this date does not accompany those many. Thanks to the smaller DVD!
  4. Ubuntu installer is simple and that means you do not have much options. You cannot select which languages and what software to install. All you do is wait and watch and god save you if lights went off before the installation completeled, and Ubuntu was happily installing something you would have never used! 
  5. If you are a developer, Ubuntu does not come with many tools to help you. More since it does not have parts from KDE, it lacks a good deal of great stuff. While you can download all that stuff, it needs an internet connection and if you have none, you are at a huge loss, if you have a slow one, you are at a loss anyway! Many other distributions come with all that stuff Ubuntu does not.
  6. Lack of customizability - Ubuntu comes with Unity - an interface that sucks up your mind like nothing else does and the interface is not that much customizable. Gnome would have been a much prettier option but they have decided otheriwse!

Verdict

So is Ubuntu all bad? After all the list of downsides looks a little larger! No. Ubuntu is not at all bad. Ubuntu is perhaps the best thing that happenned to Linux in the history till now! Ubuntu is easy to use and is one of the best places to start off with! While there are downsides, it is just OK for the normal user, especially those who want to start off with Linux and do not use Windows much either. When I say ''''much'''', I do not mean the amount of time spent on the system, but the ways in which the user uses the computer! If however you have used Windows before and are pretty fine with it and use it for quite a number of things, Ubuntu can get boring because of the lack of customization options at once. While that is a good thing for some, some take it otherwise. You might just start wanting to ask for more space but then, who am I to say? Ubuntu is fine for those who want to see how Linux would look and behave and is certainly a great place unless you are a demanding type of a guy.

Who would want to use it?

  1. Someone new to computers.
  2. Someone with medium level experience with computers - browser, text editors, word processors and some multimedia!
  3. A user with simplistic approach towards things - he or she would be a user who does not want too many options to avoid confusion.

Who would NOT want to use it?

  1. If you hate command line, Ubuntu can well do most of the things from the GUI but there are chances that you will come accross the devil! There have been cases where people did not touch the command line for months but it all depends on who you are and what you want to do!
  2. If you hate over simplistic approach - Ubuntu has been deliberately trying to copy Mac UI, so has Gnome 3 project tried for that! As the fact is, MAC UI is in some ways just too simplistic making it a pain for you a number of times. Oh, and not everyone loves a HUGE touchpad either!
  3. If you want GUI tools. Ubuntu does not and perhaps will never come with GUI tools for day to day administration tasks for great things. While those tools are mostly for advanced users anyway and only they would need them, Ubuntu does not carry one of those!
  4. KDE freaks. There are reasons for KDE being a system hog. One of the biggest reasons for that is the awesomeness it provides with its software collection. If you are a KDE fan, You will not love Ubuntu at all (but you might like KUbuntu!).
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Fedora

Fedora

Fedora is one of those Linux distributions whose popularity has gone downhill, performance or awesomeness has not! Fedora is a gameplay of RedHat - the world's leading OpenSource Software company and the richest one as well. Fedora is well known to be the test ground for building their enterprise class OS which they sell (well, they sell the support) to enterprises. While some might think it's bad to make money, I would say, it is as good as anything else and it only makes Fedora better. Fedora is one of those distributions where you get the latest software much faster than in other distros (which includes Ubuntu). Thanks to RedHat, Fedora is extremely fast and stable as well!

Pros

  1. Fedora is maintained by RedHat  and they have their paid employees working on it. This makes sure that Fedora is stable!
  2. The DVD comes with a lot of software you would love! 
  3. Bootup time is real fast!
  4. Installer is simple (although not as simple as that of Ubuntu). 
  5. Installer is simple - yeah this is not a typo! Unlike Ubuntu whose installer is over simplistic and is a downside, Fedora's installer is simple enough for a newbie to install with the next-next-next-install approach and allows power-users to add and remove software and customize languages and so on!
  6. DRPMs - Fedora was the first to use them, the 'Delta RPM'. RPM is a package which contains software. Delta RPMs are smaller in size and contain changes of the software from one version to another. This means that if you have to upgrade a software to new version, you have got lesser data to download! A winning situation over Ubuntu! 

Cons

  1. Fedora has too many confusing terms to start off with - this means if you are on their site, you will get confused among spins. Although this is not a big problem, I do count them as a disadvantage. 
  2. Fedora does not come with GUI apps to install software by default unless you have the DVD package with you. This can be troubling.
  3. Any other problems would be a part of your DE!

Verdict

Really, there are no more disadvantages I could find out! Fedora is near to perfect system. But it sure is not too good for completely new users to begin with. If you have used Windows for a considerable amount of time and can do most of the things there, Fedora would be the best choice for you! However, do not look for preinstalled tools which would allow you to administer things as smoothly as Windows does with its control panel. All said and done, Fedora is one of the most perfect systems there can be with fast bootups, lower bandwidth consumptions for updates, stable as heaven (I could not write the word 'hell' for its stability) and easy enough for an average user. However, you are on your own if you do not know how to use command line. GUIs for administering things around in Fedora are limited. You get a PackageKit GUI installer and the rest of the things come from the other Open Source projects. Fedora lacks in GUI department a bit. May be this is so becuase RedHat focusses on servers and most servers do not need a GUI tools, nor do system admins!

Who would want to use it?

  1. Speed lovers. While self compiled software has it own charm, Fedora might beat even one of the self-compiled ones. It is just too fast.
  2. People with lower bandwidth - If you have a slower connection, by all means, Ubuntu (or its derivatives) are not for you. Go with Fedora (or OpenSUSE). They use DRPMs which keep it easy on you when updating! 
  3. People with a little hint about what Linux is - well, that is also the case with Ubuntu actually but Ubuntu has an edge (which is also a down-side) of an overly simplified installer. Fedora as well as Ubuntu are a little short on the GUI tools side, with Ubuntu having an edge over fedora. So you need to know about Linux a bit! 
  4. Anyone who is fond of Linux and learning how things are and work here!

Who would NOT want to use it?

  1. Complete Newbies - If you are complete newbit to the Linux world, Fedora might not be the thing for you. You will start thinking it is shit despite its speed and other features, for the single and simple lack of GUI tools!
  2. KDE freaks - Fedora comes with KDE on its DVD (unlike Ubuntu) but prefers Gnome to be used. Although it is not really a downside becuase the user decides ultimately what he wants, a person who has been working with Windows just too much, might just find that default settings he gets with a next-next-next-install approach would not be that friendly!
  3. No one else. Really. No one except the GUI tools lovers would want to shy away from Fedora - it is simply great and nearly perfect. Unless you have severe problems with the Linux console or Gnome haters, Fedora is going to be very good for you!

 

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OpenSUSE

OpenSUSE

OpenSUSE is a community program driven by Novell. It is much the same way what RedHat does with Fedora. Novel utilizes the best of Open Source community work and their employees' efforts to get the best Enterprise class Linux desktop and server OS built for them. The SLED (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop) and SLES (SUSE Linux Enterprise Server) are the two top class enterprise Linux OSes available and are used by some of the very best companies around the world. 

OpenSUSE is one step ahead of other Linux distributions in terms of GUI tools. So if you are an enthusiast who loves to tinker around with the system settings but hate using the command line, OpenSUSE is for you. It comes with GUI tools for almost anything and everything you want to control in the system. Be it the webservers, firewall, FTP and Mail servers, Hardware or anything else! In some ways, OpenSUSE is better than Ubuntu (click the link to know how). 

Pros

  1. Stability: Stability is the key to a good computing experience. If you want something which will not fail and not falter under extreme loads, OpenSUSE is for you. SLED being used by some great companies around the world for their business purposes makes a clear statement that OpenSUSE, with the help of all Novell expertise in Linux will not be a crashy system. Also, while RedHat is popular for its server deployments, Novel is much more famous in the desktop arena. Enough said, isn't it? 
  2. Updates: OpenSUSE's repos get updates for various software much faster than other Linux distributions. So be it latest wine, browsers (firefox and chromium), graphics editors or multimedia players, you would be closer to new and stable software than you would be with others, especially Ubuntu which takes much more time compared to OpenSUSE to get new software in their software repositories. 
  3. Familiarity: OpenSUSE uses KDE as its default desktop which means when you jump from Windows to OpenSUSE, you would not find yourself in a alien world. A lot of things would be familiar to you by the looks and behavior. 
  4. GUI Tools: While Fedora and Ubuntu lack in the GUI tools department, OpenSUSE does not. In fact, it is the Linux distribution which comes with the most GUI tools for almost anything that you can think of. YaST, is the setup tool which hosts most of the administrative tools and feels almost like the WIndows Control Panel. You will not feel lost or uncomfortable. 
  5. Lots of developer tools: If you are a developer and crave for more IDEs from different Desktop Environment, you will get it all on OpenSUSE. The DVD is full packed with great software and a lot of GUI tools. 
  6. Studio: Novell has this service called SUSE Studio which allows you to create your very own customized Linux distribution. It allows you to add any and all software you want into the distro of your choice. So if you are a graphics creator, you can add multimedia tools, if you are a developer, you can have your own customized distro with developer tools and download it! This service is not available with any other distro. 

Cons

  1. Highly sophisticated installer: If you are someone who loves to explore unknown things, beware - the installer is a dangerous one. OpenSUSE comes with the most sophisticated installer in the world. Although if you just go on with the next-next-next-install approach nothing would go wrong, it is not for adventurous people without a hint. It will allow you to tinker with every single little thing you can modify in the system later on and that means the newbies will get confused and afraid. Here is the tip: do not touch things you do not understand. 
  2. Software installer is sophisticated: To find the right package to install is really easy and powerful in OpenSUSE. It is just way better than anywhere else. Although it is a huge advantage, it will be a disadvantage for newcomers. 
  3. Too much control: OpenSUSE offers too much control and that directly translates into confusion for newbies. So if you are not comfortable with a control panel which looks more like an aircraft's cockpit with a lot of buttons and meters, OpenSUSE will confuse you. However, the Gnome environment (with OpenSUSE's DVD, you get both KDE and Gnome) would not intimade you that much; it is still more than other Linux distros!
  4. Slower Bootup: OpenSUSE is generally not 'blazing fast' to boot up. It takes longer than others. Although not more than 10 seconds extra, that can cause troubles to a patient of impatience.

Verdict

OpenSUSE is not for complete newbies. So if you do not have some previous experience with Linux, it has the potential to confuse you; at least an average level of experience is required with Linux. However, if you have been using Windows since quite some time and you know your way around, you might give OpenSUSE a try. Also, if you are a person who wants to experience what Linux can do for you without needing a terminal (the command console), you might want to give OpenSUSE a try. The key to this Linux distribution is simple - if you do not know what the setting means, read help. If you still dont understand, do not tinker around. It is easy for newbies if they know how to be cautious. It is great for experts if they know what OpenSUSE would throw at the screen! 

Who would want to use it?

  1. People with prior experience with Linux. If you have had experience with Ubuntu or Mint, OpenSUSE should be the next thing to try!
  2. People who are adventurous: If you do not have a lot of data or something too important to lose, by all means, please do get OpenSUSE. The number of things it will teach you, no other distro will. If feel risked about it, use a VM. 
  3. People who want to learn: OpenSUSE comes with a control center (YaST, standing for Yet another Setup Tool) which will help you on every intimidating screen with its help button. Wanting to learn about what those settings are trying to say, go get a browser, ask google and read the help. Strangely it is one place to start towards being the Linux geek!
  4. Lovers of GUI: Command prompt is not a cake everyone can eat. It tastes bitter. So if you love the smooth GUI interfaces with buttons and checkboxes, you would be at the right place with OpenSUSE. 
  5. Developers: For most other distros, they do not come with enough developer tools while OpenSUSE comes full packed with them. You will have almost everything on the DVD (if you get one!)
  6. Software crazy: OpenSUSE comes with the most sophisticated software installer in the YaST's software management section. You have a number of ways to search for what you want. 
  7. Download and install software lovers: Some people just cannot get out of the habit of downloading the software from the internet. If you are one of those, head on to opensuse website, search for software and download the 'one click install' file for it. Then double click it. It will take all the necessary steps to get the software installed. This facility is not available with any other Linux distro. Period.

Who would NOT want to use it?

  1. People who are not cautious and newbs: If you are adventurous and you do not have a hint of where you are going, OpenSUSE is the worst road you could take. Remember the mantra - do not change the setting if you do not understand it.
  2. Speed junkies: OpenSUSE with all the power it comes will perform about 5-10% slower than others like Mint, Fedora, Ubuntu etc. So if you want to get to the desktop in 10 seconds, OpenSUSE will disappoint you. It usually takes a little longer to bootup. When operating, it would feel as fast as any other distro but bootup times are on the lower side. If you are just too much into the speed statistics, you do not belong to this wonderful world!
  3. Lovers of easy distro upgrade: Ubuntu can upgrade from one version to another without a problem and without asking you a lot to do. OpenSUSE does the same but needs you to fiddle with the settings first and only then will the beast take the move. I count this as a disadvantage. However, there are advantages when compared to Ubuntu - when doing things with OpenSUSE did not misbehave and the upgrade was smooth; Ubuntu left a lot of old junk on the system and got a little slower (and it did report in the process that the cleanup was not done and I saw that Extra 10 GB comsumption was there, which I believe is the old distro left-overs), actually slower than OpenSUSE. Still, it is not too easy to upgrade from one version of OpenSUSE to another entirely over the internet. Using the upgrade method from the DVD is the recommended way! But again, the release cycle of OpenSUSE is large enough (about 8-10 months) and you would not be doing it so frequently! 
  4. People who hate the color green!
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Mint

Mint

Linux Mint was a funny Linux distribution when it first started. That was primarily because at that time, there were a lot of Ubuntu-based Linux distributions budding up. It was around the same time that Backtrack community made a shift from Slax to Ubuntu as their base and Ubuntu was getting all praise. Fast forward to today, Linux Mint is a serious competitor to Ubuntu and as such to any other Linux distribution! It is one Linux distribution without noise. Not too many people talk about it compared to Ubuntu but sure as hell everyone enjoys using it. Since Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, it also means that their repositories work with Ubuntu's and that means a lot of problems related to Linux Mint are actually problems related to Ubuntu and thus the less noise! Linux Mint is Ubunte done right!

Pros

  1. Smaller in size, less over head.
  2. Uses the MATE interface instead of Gnome 3 or Unity and is this much familiar in looks than Ubuntu. 
  3. Comes with Multimedia support. 
  4. Gets all the backup of Ubuntu community as it is based on Ubuntu. 
  5. Huge software collection. 
  6. Up to date repositories!

Cons

  1. The DVD does not come with any extra software. Just a few things here and there, especially multimedia support. Everything else is just online. 
  2. Linux mint does not come with KDE. Not even on its DVD. This limits you to a certain set of apps. If you want KDE apps or interface, download and install it. There is no way you are going to get that on an installation media. 
  3. Mint is behind Ubuntu. Being based on Ubuntu has its drawbacks - it gets its releases after Ubuntu is released. While that is not a problem, some people do not like that and can be counted as a downside. 

Verdict

Like I said, Mint is Ubuntu done right! While there are downsides and you might just run into a trouble, chances are less likely. Having the color that is scientifically proven to be the most soothing for the human eye (green) as the main interface color everywhere helps the UI look just so elegant. Its DVDs come with VLC media player bundled (and by that I hereby demand that anyone who cries for multimedia support please shut their mouth) and most other software you would use. This one thing is a HUGE benefit as it adds the ease of software installation and support of Ubuntu and Multimedia features of Windows (yeah, VLC is the most used media player on Windows) into one Linux box. However Mint does not come with KDE UI or Apps, or Fancy themes, or anything extra. If you want server tools, development tools, graphics software like Pinta or Krita, Mint ain't for you. 

Who would want to use it?

  1. Anyone who plays music while doing work (and means a majority). 
  2. Simple users with simple needs - browser, email client, music, video, a word processor, a spreadsheet and their world ends - they would love this one!
  3. A regular Windows user - Windows means one thing - you do not get anything pre-installed except the basics. Mint is much the same. Windows users will love it!
  4. Those who hate Ubuntu for the Unity interface!

Who would not want to use it?

  1. Anyone who wants to utilize the real power of Linux - as such Mint is not deficient of any. However, the DVD does not come packed with all great tools people want with Linux. 
  2. KDE lover - With Ubuntu you have a KUbuntu. There is no such thing with Mint. If you want KDE and Mint, you are on a wrong road. Anyways, KDE lovers get Fedora or OpenSUSE as those distros are much better there!
  3. Developers and Admins (wannbes included) - Mint on its DVD comes with no server software and thus is not suitable for someone who wants to learn how to program or maintain a server would find it beneficial. Yes, it is all available on the internet. But if you do not have a fast one, Mint is the bad choice. 
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