Skip to comments.The first rule of choosing a desktop Linux distribution: User, know thyself
Posted on 08/23/2013 6:10:14 AM PDT by ShadowAce
There are literally hundreds of Linux desktop distributions. Here's how to find one that's right for you. On a regular basis I use five different Linux different distributions. Over the decades, I've used pretty every much every major Linux distribution out there... and I haven't even touched more than 10% of all available Linux distributions.
If I, who've made something of a career of tracking Linux, can't keep up with all the distros how can you?
Honestly, you can't. No one can.
So how can you find the right Linux for you? This handy, dandy guide will help.
But before I dive into the distributions, let me kill a few myths. First, Linux is not hard to use. You don't need to know how to use cryptic shell commands or be a programmer to use desktop Linux. Anyone, and I mean anyone, can use it.
There are also lots of applications and games you can run on Linux. True, you can't run all of your Windows applications. Although, as it happens, thanks to Wine and Crossover you can run some popular Windows programs on Linux.
But you may find that you don't even need those Windows apps. Linux supports many free applications that can take the place of some of your favorite commercial applications. These include LibreOffice or OpenOffice for Microsoft Office; Evolution for Outlook; and GnuCash for QuickBooks.
And, yes, there are many games for Linux as well. Some are native games and some are based on Steam. Many popular Windows games, such as Guild Wars and World of Warcraft, can also be played on Linux with the aforementioned Wine and Crossover.
That said, here is my list of the best Linux distributions based on how you plan to use it.
Let's say you do pretty much everything you want on the Web. You write with Google Docs, you use Mint for your personal finances, and Gmail for your e-mail. If that's you, then what you want to use is Google's Chrome OS.
Although almost none of its users can tell it, Chrome OS, the operating system behind the popular Chromebook, is based on Gentoo Linux. But then again, that's the point of Chrome OS. It's the operating system that's meant to be invisible.
While you can pry open a Linux shell interface on Chrome OS if you really want to, you'll never need to get to it. Chrome OS uses Google's Chrome Web browser for its interface. And everyone knows how to use a Web browser. Right? Of course, right!
If that's you, then Ubuntu is for you. Many old Linux hands don't care for Ubuntu because they find its Unity interface to be shockingly different from the old GNOME 2.x interface.
In addition, they don't like the way Unity gets in the way of directly accessing the system. Fair enough, Unity is not for the experienced Linux expert. But for someone who wants a simple-to-use interface that can quickly master (about 90% of the population), Unity is great.
How easy is Ubuntu with Unity? I got my 79-year old mother-in-law on Ubuntu and we don't even speak the same language. So much for Linux being hard to use.
Canonical, Ubuntu's parent company, also plans on moving Unity to its forthcoming smartphones and tablets. That's because Unity was designed from the start to be a universal interface for PCs and touch devices. Unlike other such attempts, Unity actually works. That's in no small part because Ubuntu has been polishing Unity for several years now.
So, if you want a Linux that a full Linux distribution with the easiest possible learning curve I highly recommend the latest version of Ubuntu.
Even the most hardcore Windows fans are finally beginning to crack and admit that Windows 8 has been a flop and while Windows 8.1 looks better, it doesn't look that much better. What's a Windows XP or 7 user to do? He or she should turn to Linux Mint. In particular, the version using the Cinnamon interface.
Unlike Chrome OS and Ubuntu Unity, Mint with Cinnamon sticks with the Windows, Icons, Menus, and Pointer (WIMP) interface you've grown to know know and love from years of traditional desktops. It's not a one-to-one match with the XP or Windows 7 Aero interface, but Windows users will find Cinnamon much more familiar than Windows 8's Metro.
Linux users who loved the GNOME 2.x style interface will also love Cinnamon. Another worthwhile alternative for people who are found of GNOME 2.x, and which is also integrated into Mint, is MATE. While Cinnamon rests on the foundation of the GNOME 3.x desktop, MATE is an outright GNOME 2.x fork.
Mint, unlike many distributions, also comes with easy access to proprietary software. Some Linux users hate such programs and hardware drivers, but I've found that in practice they make Linux easier to use.
Personally, I really like Mint with Cinnamon. It's not perfect, but it's about as close as a Linux desktop gets in my experience. While I use lots of Linux distributions, Mint is my current favorite.
I hear you. Then the distribution you want, and the first choice of Linus Torvalds and most Linux kernel developers, is Red Hat's community distribution Fedora.
Fedora is cutting edge Linux so you need to be a little careful lest you nick yourself with it. More so than any of the other distributions this one is meant for expert users. That's not to say it's hard to use, although I do confess that I dislike its default desktop, GNOME 3.8. You can, however, also use the MATE or KDE 4.10 desktops.
Fedora includes many of the newest versions of Linux and open-source programs -- for example, the latest major GCC, Ruby, and PHP releases. It also now includes the MariaDB as its default database management system (DBMS) instead of MySQL. Eventually, Red Hat is expected to move its enterprise server standard DBMS to MariaDB as well. This is one reason why so many programmers like it. Fedora is ready for serious developers.
You don't need to dream in C++ to use Fedora. It also works well for experienced Linux users. But, if you're just coming to Linux, I'd start somewhere else.
Here I think you have several good choices. These are: PCLinuxOS, Kubuntu and openSUSE. Of this trio, I prefer openSUSE, but they're all worth taking for a test drive.
While I had no fondness for the KDE 4.x interface at first, over the years its developers have improved it and I rather like it now.
In my experience, PCLinuxOS is just a good, solid independent distribution. It's backed by a passionate user community who take the time to help their users.
Kubuntu, just like the name hints at, is the official KDE on Ubuntu desktop. That sounds great, and it is good, but Canonical dropped active support for Kubuntu in early 2012. The distribution has since picked up support from a company named Blue Systems, but it's still as tightly integrated into the Ubuntu world as it once was.
OpenSUSE, like Fedora, has the backing of a major Linux company, SUSE. This is a very solid, reliable Linux distribution. If you want a top Linux you can count on, and that's not quite so much on the bleeding, leading edge as Fedora, openSUSE is an excellent choice.
Still not sure? Just download them and try them. All of them are free, all of them, except Chrome OS, can be installed from a CD, DVD, or USB-stick. What works for me may not work for you, but with these choices I'm pretty darn sure you'll find one that works well for you.
Good luck and happy computing!
I recommend Zorin for first time users that are accustomed to Windows.
I run Fedora XFCE right now on my laptop. I integrate pretty seamlessly into my work's Windows network. The only time I need my desktop Windows machine is when I have to use The one application that runs on Lotus Notes.
E-mail, Vmware, browsing, IM (tool we use to communicate between departments), everything--all runs fine on Fedora.
Heck I even run a game on Steam, and several on Wine.
I do like being able to tailor the distro to the requirement, and leave out lots of overhead.
Thanks. I recently had an XP desktop crash that I had been using as a file server (now have a drive attached to a router for a lot less power consumption) so I was looking for something to do with the hardware other than use it for an end table or printer stand. Time to install Linux.
I am set up for dual booting (choosing windows or linux operating system at startup, a good temporary solution) and find that linux is much more stable than windows.
Lotus Notes is evil-ware.
It hasn't happened yet.
I could not be more in disagreement with that statement. I could give the author five examples from friends and family that would blow up that statement.
The GUI may be a little different--things in places not normally found in Windows, etc. but the underlying methods and functionality is pretty much the same.
This crowd I am with is stuck with it. All new people who are used to outlook complain a lot. Outlook with the problems it can have is worlds behind notes. It is the only software around here that I will not guarantee in any way.
A new version of notes might as well be the newest Edsel.
Switching him to a Linux desktop from a Windows desktop would throw him into a tailspin. My wife's best friend is the same way. I call them "rock breakers".
People like this disprove the author's claim that 'anyone' can do it. I would agree with "almost anyone can do it." But that's not what he wrote.
LOL! OK. But to be fair, if he is constantly asking you questions like that, the answers are only different in regards to where the buttons are located.
It is very frustrating that microsoft became the default gamer OS. Until this is resolved Microsoft will stay right where it is at the head of the pack with very little competition for it's market share. What they will do next is release directX 12 or some other BS forcing gamers to buy Win8.
Somehow we need a new gamer OS and I think the market is ripe for it.
Fedora for me. One point the article leaves out is that in choosing a distro you’re also choosing a support community. Maybe analogous to the idea that you don’t just marry someone you marry their family :) I happen to like the Fedora community as well as the distro.
The article also leaves out Arch Linux - when I’m researching issues I find their posts to be quite insightul and they seem to be even more old school than Fedora.
There is certainly the idea that “my grandma uses it” and in some cases I’m sure it’s true but it’s really not a realistic way to look at it for most people. IMHO you *will* need to get under the hood and fiddle - which is half the fun, for me anyway.
I’ve converted from Fedora to Ubuntu for server. I used to be a die hard Fedora fan for server, but Ubuntu is just SO MUCH EASIER TO MANAGE! Fedora’s development timelines are so compressed that the latest version is obsolete in a quarter or even a month.
I was a Gnome fanboy for a while, but once I went to KDE, I was converted.
And, FWIW, Cinnamon can be installed on any Linux distro with little issue. It’s just a shell. Say what you want about Mint, I prefer a little more robust back-end.
You and I know that but in my FIL's case he tends to over think things and gets into an analysis paralysis mode. So his default is not to click here, click there and figure it out. He emails me.
This and other things have been going on for years. My first mistake was saying 'yes' when asked if I could look at so and so's computer. The money was nice as they always insist on paying for my services. But it never ends.
I want to get one of these to wear to family functions but Wifey thinks it would be rude;
Discretion, as they say, is the better part of valor.
KDE for me.. once I got used to it.. no going back... It’s more flexible than the other distros..
Sadly, the ‘high-tech’ games are going to the console (man, do I despise consoles) and are then ported to the PC... The games from 10 years ago are better than these newer ported console games..
When I switched to Linux, I lost a few games, but it was worth it. (Most of the games will run on Linux, if yo0u are using Wine and know how to set it up).
run them off a live disc first to find one you like.
MS Windows had 90% market share, that’s why they had the game market.
Linux uses less system resources than Windows, you would think games would be a natural. Once they get this game thing down, Linux is going to rock Windows world.
There was a Linux distro called “SuperGamer” you can still find it at download.com or something. It’s an 8 GB download thoough.
World of Tanks is pretty cool though
Tried em all, did it all in Linux. Best setup for 90% of normal people, IMO, is simply Ubuntu with XFCE or LXDE desktop. Simple fast and easier than windows.
True dat, and I think it's funny as hell. Our shop's Linux servers are Red Hat but I think it's a little much for a home box and so use Mint for my home Linux fix. Had a relative over last evening and she didn't even notice that she wasn't running Winders until I told her.
Thank you for the info.. just looked it up... looks interesting :)
Wine able to run it yet?
(Normally, I avoid online.. had more than my share of online cheaters, but WoW (World of Warcraft) usually catches them and bans them for life)... Any problems on World of Tanks?
I never tried.
I am not a heavy player. I do know they are coming out with XBox and PS3/4 and VITA versions.
apparently there are those who claim it works:
Hi guys i have best way to play on linux on ubuntu.
Install PlayonLinux 4.1.9 and enjoy WOT
and wot 0.8.4 installed and worked :D
May have to reinstall PlayOnLinux again.. latest Kubuntu didn’t like it too much (maybe they have updated to be better tuned by now)..
Likewise, I rarely play games too often nowadays.. but, I still have the responsibility of running a guild with about 600 members on WoW.. so I still have to go there a few times a week :p (have had this guild running for about 4 years)..
Would be nice if they could get some stuff like the older Red Alerts (C&C) running :D
(WarZone2100 is great.. but it does get old after awhile..)
I saw an old game called NetPanzer mentioned somewhere, ever tried that?
downloading PlayOnLinux now
I go back to a time when windows didn't have 90% market share and most people gamed on DOS.
downloading PlayOnLinux now
Believe it or not.. I loved DOS.. Part of the reason is because so many COULDN’T use it :D (I am so evil ;^))
PlayOnLinux has a lot of interesting stuff
Warzone 2100 drives me nuts, lol
have you tried 0AD?
The first rule of choosing a desktop Linux distribution is, nobody talks about choosing a desktop Linux distribution!
The second rule of choosing a desktop Linux distribution is, nobody talks about choosing a desktop Linux distribution!
will I need to download Internet Explorer?
Any emulator including wine is going to have issues. Add that to the required overhead and games that require absolutely top end specs aren't going to run well period.
What is needed is a suite of APIs that completes with DirectX but is easier to develop on.
Warzone, once you get into it, is a real challenge.. Can’t count how many times I’ve beat the darn thing now.. can’t get the hardest lvl though :p
When I play it (last time was probably about a year ago), I set up skirmishes anymore :p
(BTW, make sure you have the sound and vids downloaded too.. a bit low tech (I believe it was originally made in 1989, or so), but the Linux game gurus have updated it a LOT since the original).
0 A.D. .. hmm, I think I tried it out a year or 2 ago.. (Like Civilization, right?)
Will look into it again. (Sadly, between reading the news (keeping up on the destruction of morals) and work, not too much time to play anymore :/
One thing I really haven't messed with a while lot in linux beyond getting it working is sound.
A month or so ago, I loaded up Fedora 18 on my main desktop. At first I had issues getting sound working at all, and finally managed, after poking around a bit to at least get my mp3s and stuff to play. I have a harman/kardon speaker system, and the sound is really freaking muddy. It's like there is a bunch of sound processing going on behind the scenes, and the speakers are interpreting it as reverb or other surround sound stuff.
I realize there have been several evolutions of how sound is handled over the years, and would not be at all surprised if I have some artifacts of that in my .kde, .local or other user-based config directory. (could even be a system config somewhere.
To make matters somewhat worse is that I apparently have two audio controllers, and the system has been inconsistent with which it prefers. I'm assuming the "HD Audio Controller" below is the contoller on the motherboard, and the NVIDIA one is relating to the HDMI out on my video card (I just dug around and located a spare HDMI cable - I'll deal with testing that out some other time)
00:1b.0 Audio device: Intel Corporation 82801JI (ICH10 Family) HD Audio Controller
02:00.1 Audio device: NVIDIA Corporation High Definition Audio Controller (rev a1)
The KDE 'mixer' program seems to adjust the volume sometimes, but when I run VLC, it's like there is a completely different volume control that is independent of that.
It appears I'm running pulse audio
zeugmaamp 13868 1 0 Aug07 ? 00:18:28 /usr/bin/pulseaudio --start
But I've seen messages indicating some programs expect 'alsa' in addition or in place of that.
Do any of you guys have a good resource for getting this stuff cleaned up, so it will be more straightforward going forth?
The people at the forum claim it works “one click” but my computer won’t even unzip it
will I need to download Internet Explorer?
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