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Analysis of the top 10 Linux operating systems
Everyday Linux User ^ | 10 February 2014 | Gary Newell

Posted on 02/11/2014 4:52:32 AM PST by ShadowAce


The “Everyday Linux User” website is dedicated to the average, ordinary, everyday, computer user who has a basic working knowledge of computers and who uses their computer for common tasks such as listening to music, playing games, watching videos, writing documents and editing photos and video clips.

Quite a common question asked at sites such as Reddit and Yahoo answers is “Which distro should I use?” and it is usually followed up by a brief set of requirements and the names of distributions that the user has heard of.

Users are confused when they first come to Linux about which distribution they should be using and I have heard people say “I was thinking of Ubuntu or Arch” or “I was thinking about Gentoo and how hard is it to use Linux From Scratch”.

Quite often these same users are sent off to Distrowatch to check out the distributions listed on that site and I’m sure many of those users then look at the rankings down the right hand side.
The truth is though that out of the top 10 only a handful are really going to be useful for a beginner or everyday user.

This article lists the top 10 distributions according to Distrowatch for 2013 and gives a brief outline of the purpose of those distributions and whether they are the sort of operating systems a new user or average computer user should be using as their first port of call.

Linux Mint

Linux Mint is clearly one of the distributions that the readers of this blog should be checking out.
The order of the day for Linux Mint is evolution over revolution and if you are looking for a traditional desktop  oriented operating system with taskbars, system trays and menus then Linux Mint is definitely worth a go.

Linux Mint is a  “straight out of the box” operating system and as soon as you install it you can easily do the sort of tasks you would normally do without having to install any extra software.
Setting up the internet is a breeze as is installing peripherals.

There are a number of different desktop environments available for Linux Mint including Cinnamon, MATE, XFCE and even KDE. Use the Cinnamon or KDE desktop environments on newer hardware and MATE, XFCE environments on older hardware.

Linux is really good at sticking to a theme and so it doesn’t matter which desktop environment you choose the general look and feel and behaviour of the operating system is the same.

Click here for a full review of Linux Mint


Ubuntu is the distribution that most people have heard of and consequently it is the first Linux based operating system that they try.
The fact that Ubuntu is number 2 in the rankings might actually be down to the fact that because most people have heard of Ubuntu they go straight to the downloads page rather than to Distrowatch. This is of course opinion and not necessarily fact.

I believe that Ubuntu is delivering everything that Microsoft wanted Windows 8 to achieve. The Unity desktop once you get used to it is a slick desktop environment and it is easy to see how it could work on desktops, laptops, tablets and phones.

Ubuntu isn’t for everyone though.  

The fine line between integration and intrusion is encroached upon by Ubuntu and if you aren’t comfortable with seeing adverts for products within your desktop experience then you might want to move on to another distribution or one of the other buntus such as Kubuntu, Lubuntu or Xubuntu.

Unlike Linux Mint the emphasis is about testing the boundaries. The desktop, although clearly not to some peoples tastes, is forward thinking and modern.
Add to the mix the integration of Steam for gaming and you have a really good operating system.

Ubuntu is definitely a Linux based operating system for the everyday user.

Click here for a review of Ubuntu


Debian has been around for what feels like forever and it provides the base for hundreds of other distributions including Ubuntu and Linux Mint.
Debian contains a set of repositories with an incredibly large number of applications available for users to install.

The versions of Debian available on their site only install free software and there are no third party or proprietary products included by default.

For new users, setting up Debian can be somewhat of a challenge compared to Ubuntu or Linux Mint.

The choice of which version of Debian to run is also quite tricky and depends on the person who will be using it. If you want the latest stuff today then you can install the unstable branch which has all the latest products but they may or may not work for you. At the other end of the scale you can choose the stable branch which has older versions of software that are pretty much guaranteed to work.

Debian is like Linux Lego. It is great for people who want to start from a base installation and build something from the ground up. It may not be suitable for people who have limited computer skills and it requires more of a learning curve than Linux Mint or Ubuntu.

I would suggest that Debian would be “The Next Step” when it comes to trying out Linux.

Click here for a review of Debian


10 years ago the Linux landscape looked a lot different to how it looks today. Ubuntu was still in development.
At that time there were other Linux operating systems leading the way including Mandrake (Mandriva), openSUSE and PCLinuxOS. Mageia was originally a fork of the Mandriva codebase and it is a community driven distribution targeting the same sort of users as Ubuntu and Mint.

Mageia in theory is another operating system that new users to Linux should try out. 

Mageia is released for all the major desktop environments including Gnome, KDE, XFCE and LXDE. 

My advice is to definitely give it a try because there are people out there who swear by this operating system and think it is the best there is. What I would say though is that if you don’t like it, don’t dismiss Linux based on your experience with Mageia.

Click here for a full review of Mageia


At the beginning of the article I mentioned that people often mention distributions that they have heard of whilst asking for advice on which one to use. Fedora’s name quite often comes up.
Fedora is cutting edge. There is less reliance on stability and more reliance on trying out new things. If you want the latest stuff now then Fedora is definitely the way to go.

For new users though the installer itself is a bit of a tricky customer and you may find the odd issue as you go along.

You should also be aware that Fedora, along with Debian, only ships with free software and you have to jump through a couple of extra hoops to install proprietary software and drivers.

As with Debian, I would say that Fedora is “The Next Step”.

Click here for a review of Fedora


openSUSE is a community distribution with big backing.

As with Mageia and Mint there are a number of desktop environments to choose from including Gnome, KDE, XFCE and LXDE.
openSUSE should definitely be tried by new users and users looking for an alternative to Mint, Mageia and Ubuntu.
The operating system is stable and it is relatively easy to set up and use.
openSUSE has been around for a long time as well so there is little danger of it disappearing in the near to medium term future.

Click here for a review of openSUSE


A definite must try for new users to Linux. It always surprises me that PCLinuxOS languishes lower down in the top 10 rather than sitting up in 2nd or 3rd.
For new and inexperienced users, PCLinuxOS provides the closest experience to what they are probably used to than any of the aforementioned distributions (with the possible exception of Linux Mint).

There is great support and a great monthly magazine and the community is very friendly and supportive.

PCLinuxOS has the KDE, MATE and LXDE desktop environments available and therefore it caters to modern and older computers.

PCLinuxOS has a rolling release model which means that once you install it you will never have to upgrade.

Click here for a review of PCLinuxOS


The rise of Manjaro has been nothing short of amazing. Based on Arch Linux, Manjaro provides an instant entry point into the world of Arch Linux.
The setup of Manjaro is fairly straight forward and it performances very well on older and modern hardware.

The learning curve for Manjaro is potentially a little bit steeper than the likes of Mint, Ubuntu and PCLinuxOS.

This is not necessarily therefore a distribution that should be considered a first choice for the average computer user.

Click here for a review of Manjaro


It scares me the number of people who have never tried Linux before that ask the question “Should I try Ubuntu or Arch first?”
If you are new to Linux and your computer skills are limited then Arch is definitely not your first port of call.

Even if you are an experienced Linux user, Arch may not be your next port of call.

There is no doubt that Arch will provide you a great base to build and tailor your operating system the way you want it to be but to get there you have to want to invest time and you have to be willing to learn on your feet (sounds like a job specification, must be a self-starter).

If you can read and follow instructions and think about what you are doing as you are doing it then there is definitely merit in trying Arch out. Ultimately if you succeed then you will feel great satisfaction knowing that you have a stable, secure, reliable and highly responsive operating system.

The documentation for Arch is excellent. The support from the forums can be a little bit hit and miss depending on whether the questions you ask show that you have put in the effort to try and solve your issues first. For instance saying that you can’t do basic things without having followed the beginners guide will be answered in the standard way. Read the manual.

If you are an average user then Arch may not be for you.

Click here for a look at Arch


Puppy is designed to run from a USB pen drive or from DVD. It is not designed to be installed to the hard drive although it can be.
The approach taken by Puppy is about minimalism where functionality trumps pretty graphics.

All the usual favourites can be installed including FireFox and VLC but there are a host of lightweight alternatives installed by default.

Puppy isn’t really an operating system therefore that I would advise inexperienced users to use as their main operating system but I can’t stress enough that you should give it a go by running it from a USB drive.

You can have great fun playing around with Puppy Linux and if you always carry a USB drive with you then you have a bootable version of Linux available wherever you go.

Click here for a series of reviews about different versions of Puppy


Hopefully this guide has shed some light on the operating systems currently occupying the top slots at Distrowatch.
You should now be able to choose from the distributions that are most relevant to your situation.

For the everyday Linux user I recommend one of Linux Mint, Ubuntu, Mageia, openSUSE and PCLinuxOS with the addition of Puppy on a pen drive.

TOPICS: Computers/Internet
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1 posted on 02/11/2014 4:52:33 AM PST by ShadowAce
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To: rdb3; Calvinist_Dark_Lord; Salo; JosephW; Only1choice____Freedom; amigatec; Still Thinking; ...

2 posted on 02/11/2014 4:53:01 AM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: ShadowAce

thanks for posting

3 posted on 02/11/2014 4:58:06 AM PST by driftdiver (I could eat it raw, but why do that when I have a fire.)
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To: ShadowAce
I'll throw in my $0.02. I'm writing this on a system running Linux Mint 16 with KDE. I left ubuntu a couple of years ago after they switched to the unity interface. It just doesn't work for me. I've also used PCLinuxOS mentioned above. Very good basic OS. I don't really remember why I switched from that to ubuntu.

This distro or that, this window manager or that (gnome, unity, xfce, KDE...) they all have their strengths and weaknesses, their own quirks. The nice thing is, with an 4GB thumb drive, a broadband internet connection, and an afternoon, you can try out several and see which strikes your fancy.

4 posted on 02/11/2014 5:01:25 AM PST by ThunderSleeps (Stop obarma now! Stop the hussein - insane agenda!)
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To: ShadowAce

Thanks for the post.

Have been using some form of Linux since 1994-1995.

Started with UMSDOS version of slackware.

Migrated to Mandrake and used Redhat for a number of years. But I became unhappy with the software bloat under Gnome & Unity. Then I discovered XFCE and applied that on RedHat 8.0

WOW what a difference.

My last install was Xubuntu, which has XFCE as the native Window Manager. I like it, but am always interested in something better. I got caught in an upgrade problem and will in the future re-install the OS on this computer. Do you have any advice for an improved OS that uses a light Window Manager like XFCE?

5 posted on 02/11/2014 5:03:34 AM PST by Texas Fossil (Texas is not where you were born, but a Free State of Heart, Mind & Attitude!)
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To: ShadowAce

Excellent timing. I need a new distro. The Ubuntu I’m running now on my secondary machine is a pain and my main machine is running Win7 and is ready for retirement - and I AIN’T going to Win8. I’ve used SUSE in the past and found it wanting though their current graphic looks interesting ;-)...

6 posted on 02/11/2014 5:03:56 AM PST by InABunkerUnderSF (Explain again, why don't you need to fill out form 4473 to buy a pressure cooker?)
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To: ShadowAce

Ping for later

7 posted on 02/11/2014 5:10:19 AM PST by pgobrien (Independence Day.....not 4th of July!)
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To: ThunderSleeps

When Ubuntu switched to Unity, I too moved away.

Using Mint now and couldn’t be happier.

8 posted on 02/11/2014 5:11:14 AM PST by FLAMING DEATH (I'm not racist - I hate Biden too!)
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To: InABunkerUnderSF
Try Mint. My first distro was slackware on 5.25" floppies, so I've tried most all of them, including ARM variants.

Mint was fast and easy to set up, complete, and my 6 y.o. grandson, who had never used linux before had absolutely no problems hitting the ground running with Mint.


9 posted on 02/11/2014 5:12:10 AM PST by JRandomFreeper (Gone Galt)
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To: Texas Fossil
I've been running xfce on Fedora for several years now. I really like it, though I will admit it is not for everyone.

With your stated experience, it should be no problem for you.

10 posted on 02/11/2014 5:13:52 AM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: ThunderSleeps

I’m also writing this on Mint but with the Cinnamon desktop. I have several installations of Mint at home including Mint 13 which has support until 2017. I also use Ubuntu (what I started with) but I don’t really like the Unity desktop. I also run Debian for more limited purposes. I am not that proficient yet.

11 posted on 02/11/2014 5:16:48 AM PST by NewHampshireDuo
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To: ShadowAce

Thanks for posting.

12 posted on 02/11/2014 5:24:20 AM PST by wally_bert (There are no winners in a game of losers. I'm Tommy Joyce, welcome to the Oriental Lounge.)
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To: ShadowAce

No, I am sure I could easily load Fedora. I have thought about it, but the issue is more than just using XFCE. The bloat problems comes from what I think is a unclean marriage of underlying components that add to the complexity and suck performance.

I love good clean design and efficiency. Simple works. I am pretty simple. hee hee hee

13 posted on 02/11/2014 5:28:16 AM PST by Texas Fossil (Texas is not where you were born, but a Free State of Heart, Mind & Attitude!)
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To: ShadowAce


14 posted on 02/11/2014 5:50:31 AM PST by PoloSec ( Believe the Gospel: how that Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again)
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To: NewHampshireDuo

.. so, for the op system challenged, if the old box is running Vista and only has 1 Meg of memory, ... how do you change systems???? Do you open a DOS prompt and somehow down load Mint? Do I open Vista and then download Mint and then how does one “switch” to the other operating system?

tia for any process steps anyone can share with the IT challenged crowd!


15 posted on 02/11/2014 5:50:33 AM PST by ElectionInspector (Molon Labe...)
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To: InABunkerUnderSF

There’s a lot to like about openSUSE these days. The package selection is very good thanks to the Open Build Service, the development approach is middle-of-the-road so that you don’t get stuff that’s too old (Debian) or too new (Fedora/Arch), and anybody with a modicum of Linux skills can build their own custom version of OpenSUSE with SUSE Studio.

A lot of distributions like to claim that they’re good for everyone to use. OpenSUSE really nails that: it’s easy enough for beginners but includes features for power users as well, mainly through their YaST control panel.

I, too, switched away from Ubuntu after Unity, and KDE on SUSE has been my home ever since.

16 posted on 02/11/2014 6:02:00 AM PST by Cato in PA (Smile, you're on NSA camera!)
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To: ElectionInspector

The Mint site has pretty good instructions on how to do the install. Basically, you download the iso file. From this you burn a disk (DVD). You have two options, one is to try it out in Live mode, the other is to install it.

Pop the disk into your drive and boot from the disk (you may have to enter your BIOS to alter your boot priority). Mint will then run and you can get a feel for it.

If you want to install it beside your Vista, just click Install Mint on the desktop. The install is very easy, just follow a few instructions (language, etc.) It should give you the proper defaults.

After it’s installed, when you start up your computer you will see a screen asking you which OS you want to run.

For your small memory, you may want to either add some more or use one of the lighter weight desktops.

If you don’t want to mess with burning a disk, you can get Linux distros from companies like They cost about $6 plus postage.

Try it, you’ll love it.

17 posted on 02/11/2014 6:04:24 AM PST by NewHampshireDuo
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To: ElectionInspector

You would download a copy of your Linux distribution of choice, burn it to a CD (or DVD, if it’s too big to fit on a CD), and then boot directly from the CD.

Exactly how to boot from a CD can vary from computer to computer. Some computers are set up to boot from a CD automatically if a bootable CD is inserted; on other computers, you need to press a certain key right after starting up your computer so that you can select which device to boot from (I.E. a hard disk versus a CD). On my laptop, that key is F12.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to have Windows OR Linux on your computer - you can have both! Linux can be installed side-by-side with Windows. This is called “dual booting.” If you do that, every time your computer boots up, a graphical menu will appear that you can use to select whether you want to load Windows or Linux.

If dual booting sounds difficult, it isn’t. The Linux installer will handle that for you if that’s what you want.

18 posted on 02/11/2014 6:07:34 AM PST by Cato in PA (Smile, you're on NSA camera!)
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To: InABunkerUnderSF

I recently bought a new PC. Linux 8.1.

I love the new OS. However I also installed Linux on a spare hard drive, and that’s what I use.


Don’t toss out the new Windows however.

Best I’ve seen.

19 posted on 02/11/2014 6:09:44 AM PST by Cringing Negativism Network (
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To: Cringing Negativism Network


Sorry, Microsoft 8.1.

With Linux.

20 posted on 02/11/2014 6:14:55 AM PST by Cringing Negativism Network (
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