29 votes

What is the difference between Linux distros? Why do you use the one you use?

I still mainly use Windows, although I've dual-booted Linux a few times and I have Linux Mint on an old laptop right now. One thing I've never understood about Linux is all the different distributions - their different reputations and why they have them. What is the mechanical difference between using one distribution of Linux and another? Or are the differences usually not mechanical?

For example, Ubuntu and Debian seem to be large families, meaning that a lot of other distributions are based on them (using packages built for them in their package managers at least) as well as being popular distros on their own. But what's different between the two of them, and between each and the other distros based on them? (and what's similar? I gather they all use the Linux kernel at least!)

I also know that people are quite opinionated on their choice of distro, I wondered what reasons people had for their choice. What things are easier or harder for you in your distro of choice? Is it mainly day-to-day tasks that are important or more how the OS works underneath? How much difference does your preferred distro make?

For myself, I've only used Kubuntu (though not much) and Linux Mint, which was mainly for UI reasons, and particularly for the latter, ease of use for someone used to Windows (at least that was what I found years ago when I first looked into it).

Though I doubt I'll ever fully move away from Windows I would like / need to have access to a Linux OS, so maybe this will help me to know what is important to look for. But I also hope it'll be a useful and interesting discussion topic. Also, there are some previous discussions on the latter question so I'd be more interested in learning about the main topic.

also, please do add more tags

31 comments

  1. [11]
    whbboyd
    (edited )
    Link
    To understand Linux distros, you have to go waaay back to look at the history of Linux and how it was first used and distributed. (It may be instructive to look further back than that, to the...
    • Exemplary

    To understand Linux distros, you have to go waaay back to look at the history of Linux and how it was first used and distributed.

    (It may be instructive to look further back than that, to the origins of the Free Software movement itself, but I'm not going to go that far.)

    So before there were Linux distros, there was Linux. Linux is just a kernel—the software you need to run other software on your computer, but it does not, itself, directly do anything useful. So, if you want to "use" Linux in any meaningful way, you need other software installed on your computer. (The reasons you'd want to use Linux instead of just plunking DOS or something on your 386 are somewhat involved; the Free Software history linked above goes into it a bit more.) At the very beginning, people compiled the other software they wanted to use with Linux by hand, but this is extraordinarily cumbersome, and so people started packaging that other useful software up with the Linux kernel and "distributing" it all together—hence the phrase "Linux distribution", generally shortened to "distro".

    Now, a single distro is a unified entity—all the software is packaged up together and intended to work together (though at this point it's essentially unheard of for a given install to include all the software packaged in a distribution—Debian, for instance, has more than fifty thousand packages, only a small fraction of which are typically installed). Different distros likely share many software components (in particular, the Linux kernel itself); however, they may distribute different versions of those components; configure them differently; etc. Differentiating features of distros include:

    • The release cycle: for instance, Debian makes stable releases roughly every two years, which are then maintained with packages at the released version until the next stable release; while Arch releases new versions of packages constantly as they become available from the upstream developers (this is called a "rolling" release model, as it never "stops").
    • The package manager used to manage installation of distributed packages. Debian and Ubuntu use apt/dpkg; Red Hat and Fedora use rpm; Arch uses pacman; etc. Package manager is often the most obvious difference in the administration of different distros.
    • Customization made to the distributed software. Distros generally apply patches on top of the upstream releases of the software they distribute, for reasons from adhering to distro policies to better integration with other distro components to backporting bug and security fixes to versions maintained in the distro but no longer upstream. The most visible example of this is usually the visual theme in the default graphical environment, which most distros customize. For example, compare Ubuntu to Debian (both with the GNOME desktop environment).
    • The governance model of the distribution developers. This is generally less apparent to end-users, but has follow-on effects on all the other aspects of the distro. For example, Red Hat and Ubuntu are operated by corporations (Red Hat and Canonical, respectively), which have final say in their distro's operation; Debian is community-led, with all developers taking part in the distro's governance.

    People choose distros on the basis of the differentiating features they care about. I use Debian exclusively; my reasons for this are primarily the release cycle, giving me long windows of stability in which I don't have to worry about my OS breaking under me, followed by aspects of their packaging policy I like and approve of (and their willingness to patch upstreams that do not conform), followed by the very wide selection of packages. In terms of day-to-day use, nothing about my setup is specific to Debian; I could make a near-identical system on Ubuntu, or Arch, or even FreeBSD if I decided I really wanted to.

    36 votes
    1. [5]
      SunSpotter
      Link Parent
      As someone interested in computer history (and who actually owns some stuff from the 286-486 era), would you mind going into some of the reasons a person would choose Linux over DOS back in the day?

      As someone interested in computer history (and who actually owns some stuff from the 286-486 era), would you mind going into some of the reasons a person would choose Linux over DOS back in the day?

      6 votes
      1. Akir
        Link Parent
        Unix was pretty dramatically advanced compared to DOS through much of their shared lifespans. Unix is a multi-user operating system with multitasking built in. That being said, I don't think that...

        Unix was pretty dramatically advanced compared to DOS through much of their shared lifespans. Unix is a multi-user operating system with multitasking built in.

        That being said, I don't think that there was much of a reason for the average person to want to use Linux at the time. All the software people wanted to use was written for DOS, and when it came to more advanced applications (and games specifically), they would often completely ignore the operating system functions and manipulate your hardware directly.

        Unix - and Linux by extension - was niche. Unix was better used for big servers where the multi-user, multitasking, and networking features were not only useful, but necessary (and the hardware was better equipped with resources to handle them). Linux on home PCs was largely in the realm of computer nerds seeing what they could accomplish. The most 'useful' feature of Linux was being able to run POSIX-compatable software, which students might have otherwise lost access to after graduation. Imagine Linux then as being something like Plan9 today - a really advanced specialized operating system that most people don't have a reason to bother with.

        Of course, as more and more people began to experiment with it, and more software kept being built for Unix and even specifically for Linux, there was more and more reasons for people to run it. By the late 90s there were even commercial Linux distributions that came bundled with software to make it useful for average people.

        15 votes
      2. [2]
        whbboyd
        Link Parent
        @Akir pretty much has it. DOS is very, very limited. If you're just a business user in the early '90s trying to keep track of accounts or whatever, this doesn't really matter; everything you're...

        @Akir pretty much has it. DOS is very, very limited. If you're just a business user in the early '90s trying to keep track of accounts or whatever, this doesn't really matter; everything you're doing will be in one or maybe two applications, and the limitations of the OS never really affect your life. However, if you're an aspiring young hacker—perhaps one who has access to a powerful mainframe running Unix at university, to know what they're missing—it's extremely constraining. Linux was not, strictly speaking, the first ever Unix-like for PC (Minix was first released in 1987, and I won't pretend to know the history well enough to claim there weren't earlier ones), but it was very early, and for a variety of reasons (also a deep topic to delve into!), caught on.

        8 votes
        1. Akir
          Link Parent
          I never thought of it before, but early Unix computers at universities (as well as other multiuser timesharing systems of the day) must have been extremely exciting for people of the time. By the...

          I never thought of it before, but early Unix computers at universities (as well as other multiuser timesharing systems of the day) must have been extremely exciting for people of the time. By the 80s there were lots of social functions being built into these computers like mail, who, and finger; they were basically BBSes before BBSes were a thing.

          6 votes
      3. lionirdeadman
        Link Parent
        I also think a lot of people who were interested back in the day were also people who adhered to Free Software ideals. As much as people have memed it, GNU software (and by extension the GNU...

        I also think a lot of people who were interested back in the day were also people who adhered to Free Software ideals.

        As much as people have memed it, GNU software (and by extension the GNU Project and Free Software Foundation) was a really important part of Linux in the early days.

        4 votes
    2. lionirdeadman
      Link Parent
      Well, small addition, dnf/rpm would be more accurate because using rpm by itself is generally not something you should do. (although the point remains the same)

      Red Hat and Fedora use rpm

      Well, small addition, dnf/rpm would be more accurate because using rpm by itself is generally not something you should do. (although the point remains the same)

      4 votes
    3. [3]
      nobody
      Link Parent
      Could you elaborate on that?

      In terms of day-to-day use, nothing about my setup is specific to Debian

      Could you elaborate on that?

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        petrichor
        Link Parent
        Linux distributions don't have a lot of exclusive pieces of software. For example, the entire Elementary OS application and desktop suite is available in the Arch Linux repositories. If I...

        Linux distributions don't have a lot of exclusive pieces of software. For example, the entire Elementary OS application and desktop suite is available in the Arch Linux repositories. If I installed those and copied over some default settings (which are almost always in ~/.config/), I would have a functionally identical setup to Elementary OS. Same goes for Debian.

        What does vary and are typically exclusive are the more fundamental pieces of a full operating system - mostly the package manager (mentioned above) and the process manager (mentioned elsewhere; systemd, openrc, runit). Neither of these affect day-to-day usage - the former only ever needs to be interacted with when installing new software or updating your system, and the latter is designed to operate entirely autonomously in the background.

        7 votes
        1. nobody
          Link Parent
          Thank you for the explanation. Sometimes system-wide config files' paths differ among distros, but that's the minority, as most of the time we deal with user config, which typically follows the...

          Thank you for the explanation.

          Sometimes system-wide config files' paths differ among distros, but that's the minority, as most of the time we deal with user config, which typically follows the XDG standard.

          4 votes
    4. Cycloneblaze
      Link Parent
      Late, but thank you for this reply. The key insight really is that, if I understand right, a distro is just a bunch of software compiled for the Linux kernel that is distributed together....

      Late, but thank you for this reply. The key insight really is that, if I understand right, a distro is just a bunch of software compiled for the Linux kernel that is distributed together. Different groups of people distributed different batches of pre-compiled binaries for others to use with Linux, and so we got distros. And now they're large enough that this fact is kind of obscured. Reading that all the packages in, say, Debian's package manager that are made available to install on your machine are, because of that, part of the distribution was also very illuminating. Neat!

      1 vote
  2. [7]
    knocklessmonster
    (edited )
    Link
    The package manager and packaging policy are usually the defining features of a distro. Init systems have become another point of definition, but it's more ideological users stumbling into a...

    What is the mechanical difference between using one distribution of Linux and another

    The package manager and packaging policy are usually the defining features of a distro. Init systems have become another point of definition, but it's more ideological users stumbling into a distro than a distro being particularly ideological about it.

    Or are the differences usually not mechanical?

    The differences are both mechanical, and not mechanical.

    Debian packages according to a loose schedule of "it's ready when it's ready" which has translated to roughly releasing every 2 years, on odd years, recently. This leads to them being "out of date" in terms of package versions, but unchanging through a given release support period. They also have to backport security fixes, often by hacking directly on the in-repo version of the package.

    I dual-boot on all my machines and use Windows most of the time. My preferred distro is Arch. I used Mint for a bit recently, but really don't like using Ubuntu. I don't mind the Debian-ness of it, as Debian is my second favorite distro, I just don't like a lot of their smaller decisions like replacing DEB packages with snaps.

    What things are easier or harder for you in your distro of choice?

    Easier: System maintenance. I can modify pacman hooks all day no problem. I can kick an Arch system many different ways without accidentally breaking one of many automated tools that exist in Debian, for example. It all works exactly as specified by upstream, with little to no distro-specific modification. There are things like mkinitcpio that are Arch-specific, but they're frankly few and far between. Debian requires you to understand Debian, whereas Arch requires you to understand your packages.

    Is it mainly day-to-day tasks that are important or more how the OS works underneath?

    A distro is an operating system. An operating system is a tool. Therefore, a distro is a tool. Honestly, it's down to how useful a particular distro is to you.

    I'm interested in a wide range of software beyond what is typically packaged, and use Arch to explore this. I use Arch because it provides the best tools for software compilation and an exceptionally simple packaging system anybody can use if they know shell scripting. Void takes this a step further by their entire package system being these scripts parsed by a CI system to compile their packages automatically for them across architectures.

    How much difference does your preferred distro make?

    Very little, but it's where these differences exist that matters. Arch uses the latest libraries, which tend to be backward-compatible. If I can't build a program on Debian because my library is out of date, and it's not in backports yet, I'm boned. In Arch, I can also go directly to upstream for software issues, as I'm using a current, generally unmodified version of the software, but you'll typically still report the issue to the maintainer who goes upstream.

    A huge example for a difference Arch has made is Pipewire. It's going to take a while to hit Ubuntu LTS next year, but should be useful in Debian Bullseye (I intend to roll it out on my laptops soon, actually). When I use Debian I tend to suffer from Shiny New Stuff Syndrome, so the balance I've found is Arch on my desktop, which I use every day, and Debian on my less-frequently-used laptops. With a good version of pipewire in Debian now, plus XFCE 4.16 in Bullseye, I can actually, more or less, make both distros identical.

    10 votes
    1. [6]
      Don_Camillo
      Link Parent
      why is pipewire important to you? i've heard it's still quite experimental

      why is pipewire important to you? i've heard it's still quite experimental

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        knocklessmonster
        Link Parent
        More out of curiosity than anything, but I like that it's a fully functional, drop-in replacement for Jack and Pulseaudio. It's a bit of a fiddly fight getting those two protocols working...

        More out of curiosity than anything, but I like that it's a fully functional, drop-in replacement for Jack and Pulseaudio. It's a bit of a fiddly fight getting those two protocols working together, with installing extra modules for Pulse, configuring Pulse client outputs to switch to the JACK sink when it's active, etc. Pipewire actually manages to fix all of that, not by patching the two together, but by removing the need for them in the first place. With it, I can even route them as if they were all JACK applications, and I think there's better audio latency.

        7 votes
        1. Don_Camillo
          Link Parent
          I just finnished my first jack setup and it was quite a ride. but it was more about understanding what it actually is and does then the process itself. It works really nice for me together with...

          I just finnished my first jack setup and it was quite a ride. but it was more about understanding what it actually is and does then the process itself.
          It works really nice for me together with pulseaudio as I only want the "pro" audio programs talk to jack directly.
          but i will follow pipewire closely and try it as soon as i need to set up something like this again.

          5 votes
      2. [3]
        lionirdeadman
        Link Parent
        Personally, it's the security aspects. For example, PulseAudio will load any modules you throw at it which might be fun and cool but can also be malware. Do I think this actually gets used by...

        why is pipewire important to you? i've heard it's still quite experimental

        Personally, it's the security aspects. For example, PulseAudio will load any modules you throw at it which might be fun and cool but can also be malware. Do I think this actually gets used by malware? Not really but I like that it's there.

        Also, Pipewire has much better bluetooth audio support from my understanding. It can also offer permissions for audio/video so we could finally easily allow/disallow camera access for example.

        4 votes
        1. [2]
          Don_Camillo
          Link Parent
          how so? bluethoot is !!still!! a PITA, but never haf any problems on the pulseaudio side of it :-)

          Also, Pipewire has much better bluetooth audio support from my understanding.

          how so? bluethoot is !!still!! a PITA, but never haf any problems on the pulseaudio side of it :-)

          4 votes
          1. lionirdeadman
            Link Parent
            From : https://gitlab.freedesktop.org/pipewire/pipewire/-/wikis/FAQ It's my understanding this would allow for more codecs to be supported which would result in better sound quality or lower...

            From : https://gitlab.freedesktop.org/pipewire/pipewire/-/wikis/FAQ

            Arbitrary formats can be negotiated between nodes. This allows us to handle video as well as compressed formats. This is important for sending compressed formats to the device (AC3 over HDMI or AAC over bluetooth, for example).

            It's my understanding this would allow for more codecs to be supported which would result in better sound quality or lower latency. Although, I'm not entirely sure if this is a JACK problem or PulseAudio problem.

            It won't help with connectivity anyways if that's what you were hoping for.

            2 votes
  3. Akir
    Link
    Everyone put in really detailed answers already, but I wanted to provide a simpler more succinct answer. You already know that a distro is just a collection of software and default configurations....

    Everyone put in really detailed answers already, but I wanted to provide a simpler more succinct answer.

    You already know that a distro is just a collection of software and default configurations. The reason why there are so many of them are because each of them are built with different purposes in mind.

    Ubuntu, for instance, is designed to be the easiest and most stress-free operating system. That means that there is a lot of effort making sure that it works on just about every kind of hardware, and the choice of default software is going to be chosen based on how easy and uncomplicated they are. And that's why you see so many alternative distrobutions based on Ubuntu today; They want to keep the hardware support and system structure that Ubuntu has already built, but they don't like some of the other decisions The most common changes are simply the choice of default desktop environment - which is why there are popular spin-off distros like Kubuntu.

    That being said, Linux is a very flexable piece of software, and there are many other use cases and environments someone might want to run it on. Take CentOS for example; it's designed for you to build your server around, so it's focused on being secure and doesn't include any default software that might be extraneous, including a GUI. There are even distrobutions like Yocto that focus on being small enough to fit in embedded hardware (things like smartphones and credit card terminals).

    8 votes
  4. soks_n_sandals
    Link
    I use Ubuntu as my daily driver and keep Windows for BIOS and firmware updates. I picked Ubuntu because the support for beginners is very robust and there was a great installation guide on how to...

    I use Ubuntu as my daily driver and keep Windows for BIOS and firmware updates. I picked Ubuntu because the support for beginners is very robust and there was a great installation guide on how to shrink my windows partition, then how to set up a file system for Linux.

    I continue to use Ubuntu because I have it dialed in exactly as I want. Despite still having a spinning HDD, it's super responsive and nice to use. I get to work on software at work, which fulfills the part of me that likes to be on the cutting edge. So at home, I want stability and ease of use. That's what the long term release of Ubuntu gives me. So I won't have to upgrade my OS for 5ish more years, and my laptop will be 9 years old at that point, which is a great run.

    6 votes
  5. [6]
    xvnz
    (edited )
    Link
    You could look at the choice of distributions as being similar to buying a car: they all have four wheels, they all travel at highway speeds, they all have a steering wheel. What does the brand or...

    What is the mechanical difference between using one distribution of Linux and another? Or are the differences usually not mechanical?

    You could look at the choice of distributions as being similar to buying a car: they all have four wheels, they all travel at highway speeds, they all have a steering wheel. What does the brand or model matter? For some people, it doesn't. Others look at reliability and fuel consumption, or harder-to-define characteristics like driving experience or environmental impact. (I'm ignoring price as it isn't relevant to the analogy.) So it goes with distributions: a distribution is the Linux kernel and a toolkit combined for a given purpose. Sometimes the differences are mechanical, sometimes the differences are philosophical, and sometimes they're both.

    A mechanical difference might be, as other commenters have pointed out, the choice of package management tools: some people like apt, others prefer rpm, and yet others recommend pacman. The functionality has a lot of overlap, but the commands are different. Ultimately, though, once you've learned the concepts you can switch between them relatively seamlessly.

    A non-mechanical difference might be in purpose: a firewall distribution might ship locked down, with all security subsystems enabled by default, whereas a distribution targeted at beginners might include the same family of subsystems, but only enable a few of them to avoid confusing first-timers.

    As for the 'both' category, consider distribution philosophy. For example, a distribution whose philosophy is that centralization is good will favor a tool like systemd, which unifies control of many subsystems. Another might subscribe to the philosophy of keeping tools separate and small, in which case it will avoid systemd entirely. This is also a mechanical difference, however, as the philosophy informs the toolkit: are you using systemd to start, stop, and configure every subsystem, or are you instead relying on the family of tools shipped with each one?

    [W]hat's different between [Ubuntu and Debian], and between each and the other distros based on them? (and what's similar? I gather they all use the Linux kernel at least!)

    You might choose Debian because you think it's stable and reliable. You might choose Ubuntu instead, because while you like Debian's stability, you also want the versions of included applications to be more up to date. You might choose neither and go with CentOS, which descends from Red Hat Linux, because you prefer rpm. Or you might decide that package management systems are anathema and that you want to install Gentoo Linux, where absolutely everything has to be compiled from source code. Either way you'll get the Linux kernel and the tools you want (or acceptable substitutes).

    I wondered what reasons people had for their choice. What things are easier or harder for you in your distro of choice? Is it mainly day-to-day tasks that are important or more how the OS works underneath? How much difference does your preferred distro make?

    I've run a number of different distributions, with the occasional side trip into BSD. Sometimes choices were esthetic, such Linux Mint, which was Ubuntu-based but I felt had a nicer GUI, or Fedora MATE Compiz which, well, came with Compiz out of the box. (I'm going to date myself outrageously and admit that I've always been fond of the Rotating Cube effect for switching workspaces.) Other choices were professional, such as choosing Fedora because my employer was a Red Hat shop. Still other choices were dictated by available hardware: the system I learned Linux on was Alpha-based, so it was Red Hat or nothing; my first laptop was a PowerPC system from Apple, which meant LinuxPPC or MkLinux, and I found a LinuxPPC disc before I found an MkLinux one; and I've run Xubuntu several times on older hardware as its use of the Xfce desktop environment makes it less taxing on older hardware.

    I'm typing this on Pop! OS, an Ubuntu-based distribution, because it was offered as a choice when I purchased my current machine. I could also have chosen vanilla Ubuntu, but wanted to take Pop! for a test drive. (I also have the option of wiping the machine and installing something else entirely.) I like that Pop! ships with all the drivers for the hardware (SD card readers have been problematic for me in the past), and also that it offers a built-in toolkit for toggling between the dedicated Nvidia GPU and the integrated Intel one (a thorn in my side on my previous machine). I didn't like the default Gnome, so I installed MATE. I'm on the fence about installing applications using flatpak versus the distribution's package manager. As for the rest of it, my usual tools are available, so as long as the distribution doesn't get in my way I'm happy.

    5 votes
    1. [5]
      soks_n_sandals
      Link Parent
      I really like Pop. I think it's an amazing option for laptop users. It's not my daily driver, but I installed it two machines to dual boot with Win10. Both machines were Dell Inspiron laptops that...

      I really like Pop. I think it's an amazing option for laptop users. It's not my daily driver, but I installed it two machines to dual boot with Win10. Both machines were Dell Inspiron laptops that suuuuuck with Win10. I'm talking basically unusable. Constantly at 100% disk usage (HDD, not SSD), neither have a GPU, and both have 8 gigs of RAM. So, not amazing laptops, but certainly not bad.

      I put Pop on both to help bring them back to life. One machine was for a family member, and this family member did recently get a banging new laptop, and so sidelined the Pop machine, but lamented that Win10 doesn't have in-built window tiling since it's so useful when you have just one screen. I know Windows can snap windows around the screen, but that's not what I mean here.

      The other machine went from a sluggish machine that idled at 4-5 GB of RAM usage to idling around 1.5-2 GB. Performance is much improved in speed and responsiveness.

      I think Pop should ship with Gnome Tweaks installed and with minimize/maximize buttons on by default. I think it should also ship with a dash or a dock, since it's not immediately obvious to a new user how to get to the programs. But, all in all

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        DrTacoMD
        Link Parent
        Just out of curiosity, would Microsoft's FancyZones PowerToy scratch that itch? I can't vouch for it specifically since I'm not a big window tiler myself (and I'm mostly on macOS these days...

        [...] but lamented that Win10 doesn't have in-built window tiling since it's so useful when you have just one screen [...]

        Just out of curiosity, would Microsoft's FancyZones PowerToy scratch that itch? I can't vouch for it specifically since I'm not a big window tiler myself (and I'm mostly on macOS these days anyway) but I wanted to share just in case it helps!

        3 votes
      2. [2]
        lionirdeadman
        Link Parent
        This is a concern that GNOME devs want to fix both with the welcome app and the new GNOME 40 designs : Source : https://blogs.gnome.org/shell-dev/2021/01/07/a-shell-ux-update/ How does that look?...

        I think it should also ship with a dash or a dock, since it's not immediately obvious to a new user how to get to the programs. But, all in all

        This is a concern that GNOME devs want to fix both with the welcome app and the new GNOME 40 designs :

        The boot experience is something that we’ve struggled with throughout GNOME 3, and with the new design we think we’ve cracked it. Instead of being greeted by a blank desktop (and then, a blank overview), when you boot into the new design, you’ll be presented with the overview and your favourite apps that you can launch. Overall, it’s a more welcoming experience, and is less work to use.

        Source : https://blogs.gnome.org/shell-dev/2021/01/07/a-shell-ux-update/

        How does that look? In the video of the blog post, around 0:50 shows that state would look like. There's many posts exploring the new designs and I think they're worth a read.

        2 votes
        1. soks_n_sandals
          Link Parent
          I think as described it would be a welcome improvement. I know people have strong opinions about GNOME, but I do like it and look forward to their updates.

          I think as described it would be a welcome improvement. I know people have strong opinions about GNOME, but I do like it and look forward to their updates.

          1 vote
  6. [2]
    RNG
    Link
    Pop!_OS This is the OS I use on my laptop and my primary desktop. I never truly loved Linux till I used Pop!_OS. Everything. Just. Works. It is an Ubuntu-based distro that is so much better than...

    Pop!_OS

    This is the OS I use on my laptop and my primary desktop. I never truly loved Linux till I used Pop!_OS. Everything. Just. Works. It is an Ubuntu-based distro that is so much better than any other system I've used to date.

    For Casual Users:

    The single biggest reason I recommend Pop!_OS is it just works. The Pop!_Shop is your one-stop-shop for all the software you need, and has far more software in its repos than your typical Ubuntu app store may have, as well as providing the option to install Flatpaks rather than .DEBs (of course you can always add your favorite repos or use apt if you feel so inclined.) Pop!_Shop also automatically finds drivers and firmware updates for your device! This experience beats Windows in my book. For gamers, Steam + Proton just works. Lutris just works. I can get over 90% of my games to work as good or better than on Windows.


    For Coders and Power Users:

    Built-In. Bulletproof. Toggleable. Tiling. Manager. Honestly, if you have never used a tiling manager, this will change your life. It never breaks on me, ever. I can set gaps for aesthetic purposes if I feel like a r/unixporn set up. Having your code editor and a couple of terminal windows all perfectly aligned looks amazing. Dragging the boundaries to resize is smooth. You can turn it on/off with a toggle at the menu bar whenever you like, but you won't want to.

    Also, the Pop!_Shop has everything from Android Studio to Eclipse, all Flatpaked and ready for install and updates. Also, writing software on a proper Linux machine, regardless of distro, will likely be the most optimal experience for you, depending on what it's for.

    4 votes
    1. psi
      Link Parent
      I'd been meaning to try out Pop!_OS's tiling window manager, so thanks for the reminder; and having used it for about half a day now, I can confirm that it indeed works quite nicely. Of course,...

      I'd been meaning to try out Pop!_OS's tiling window manager, so thanks for the reminder; and having used it for about half a day now, I can confirm that it indeed works quite nicely. Of course, since it's just implemented through a Gnome shell extension [1], it can be used on basically any distro (Arch for me).


      [1] https://github.com/pop-os/shell

      2 votes
  7. lionirdeadman
    Link
    I think people have already explained the reasons why there are different distributions so I'll instead talk more precisely about why I chose my distribution : Fedora Silverblue. Some of the...

    One thing I've never understood about Linux is all the different distributions - their different reputations and why they have them.

    I think people have already explained the reasons why there are different distributions so I'll instead talk more precisely about why I chose my distribution : Fedora Silverblue.

    I also know that people are quite opinionated on their choice of distro, I wondered what reasons people had for their choice.

    Some of the reasons are that Fedora is not scared to experiment with things, they were one of the first to ship Wayland (a new way to display things which replaces the very old and insecure X11 protocol), they also plan to ship Pipewire (a new way to do audio which tries to handle security and multiple types of audio systems).

    They ship GNOME without any modifications by default which is my favourite desktop environment, I like the workflow and how it looks and how the project has evolved.

    They don't ship proprietary software at all, that's important to me because I believe that Free Software is good for people.

    The governance of the project is good too, they're elected by people and I think that makes sense to handle a community.

    What things are easier or harder for you in your distro of choice?

    Rollback and upgrades are trivial. Everyone gets basically the same thing and the differences can easily be tracked so it makes certain kinds of problem solving much easier.

    In SB (Silverblue), there are three main ways to install software. This might sound convoluted but it makes a lot of sense.

    First, there's rpm-ostree, it's essentially just used for the core system and you generally don't touch it, it just takes care of that.

    The second is toolbox, this creates a mini distro so you can just develop and not be worried about destroying everything, you can just reinstall if you mess up anything.

    The third is flatpak, Flatpak is this cool new way to make desktop applications work on any distro which is something I really like because I believe that this kind of distribution makes it easier for developers to support people. It also sandboxes the application so it can only access what it realistically needs and people can give it further access or less access if they want, I think that's good.

    Is it mainly day-to-day tasks that are important or more how the OS works underneath? How much difference does your preferred distro make?

    I could probably adapt to any other distro but I really like how it works underneath. Maybe I'd get frustrated with choices that I don't like if it were another distro of the changes they make to software, I'm not entirely sure because I've not gone away from Fedora in the last few years now, I guess?

    3 votes
  8. Pistos
    Link
    For me, the main differences between distro are: package manager (how easy it is to use, whether from CLI or GUI) release cadence / maintenance cadence -- and whether rolling release or "full"...

    For me, the main differences between distro are:

    • package manager (how easy it is to use, whether from CLI or GUI)
    • release cadence / maintenance cadence -- and whether rolling release or "full" release -- and how up-to-date at least popular packages are, or whether certain less popular packages are even in the distro's package tree or not.
    • packages pre-built and distributed, or build-locally (from source code)

    For new users, I would recommend going with a distro purely based on popularity (e.g. Ubuntu or Mint), so as to have the best chance of finding tech support when they need it.

    Me, I have been using Gentoo for a long time, and I have not used Windows as a daily driver in probably over 15 years. The primary reason I like Gentoo is because it gives you a lot of control over which parts or features of a given package will be built and installed. Like, if you never use part X of a software package, you can choose not to build it in, and it doesn't take up disk space, doesn't pull in other dependencies, etc. Also, because almost everything is built from source, the resultant binaries are custom tuned for your specific computer (CPU, video card, etc.), giving a slight boost in performance (and a nice psychological effect, too, whether placebo or not).

    That said, I would not recommend Gentoo to Linux beginners, unless they are really keen on learning how to manage Linux intracies beyond the basics. Certainly, anyone who feels intimidated by the command line interface (shell, terminal) should not try Gentoo yet.

    3 votes
  9. stu2b50
    Link
    I think yall have convinced me to try PopOS. Right now I'm running just base 20.04 Ubuntu on my non-macs and, uh, definitely have some driver issues, especially on suspend. Like I have pulseaudio...

    I think yall have convinced me to try PopOS. Right now I'm running just base 20.04 Ubuntu on my non-macs and, uh, definitely have some driver issues, especially on suspend. Like I have pulseaudio -k bound to a hotkey because it would break after suspend like 20% of the time. I'm also going to give Gnome a try, KDE is nice for some things but half of my widgets on my taskbar just die randomly.

    2 votes