Note: If you don't like this discussion, you can jump to the end for some The Sandman related humor. After all, a topic visited as much as this one should be... colored a bit, don't you think so?
A few days ago a friend, being new to Linux, asked me about different distributions and that led to a long talk about their merits and failings. So, being new to blog-sphere, I decided to play it safe and write about best desktop distributions. But I also thought that I could do this a little differently. Best as in best for the Linux Desktop. First let us find some criteria for choosing distributions:
- Considering an usual desktop user uses around 1000-2000 package, the distribution must have over 10000 packages. Let's just say over 9000.
- It must not be a cosmetic derivative, or a derivative of a derivative of a derivative of a...
- It must be up-to-date. My criteria for this is two important packages: linux (* > 3.0.6) and libreoffice (* > 3.3). This packages manage to give a good sense of up-to-dateness for the desktop.
- It must have an active community.
- It must support both KDE and Gnome 3.
- It must not be a testing variant.
If I have to defend my criteria a bit (which I should), I must say that a distribution aimed for desktop users must always stay on the top of the Linux discussions and must not sacrifice stability. If people everywhere are eating their keyboards talking about Gnome 3, a desktop distribution must offer it for use. LibreOffice must be up-to-date as it is probably one of the most important applications for the desktop. And it must have relative stability within its own definition, meaning stability as Debian understands stability and stability as Arch understands stability. Lastly, this list is aimed to the somewhat new users who knows about Linux a bit (maybe having used Ubuntu for a six-month-spin) and wants to go exploring. And it is written mainly because I enjoyed the discussion I referred in the first sentence and thought that I would also enjoy summarizing it (I did).
If you think that this six points cannot offer an objective perceptive, we can discuss it. Leave a comment. After all, this is just my opinion.
Depending on the criteria, these are distributions we end up with (sorted by the time I clicked their Wikipedia page) : Linux Mint Debian Edition, Sabayon, Gentoo, Arch, Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE. Only seven. Seems very few but if we are talking about the best desktop distributions, we must not show clemency. Moreover; isn't seven a good, nice, prime number? They must fulfill all six criteria I offered or they are not among the best.
Now a little deeper look into the six distributions. I think that distributions must be further classified by how they are released.
These are the distributions that are released by six-month intervals. Ubuntu family of distributions and Fedora belong here. This release format offers very good balance between stability and being up-to-date. But it might sometimes sacrifice stability. Fedora is known to be particularly unstable sometimes. Their short-term usage might also be annoying. As a last comment, their stability is more or less hit-or-miss; mostly hit with Ubuntu, but not so with Fedora.
These are, as the name suggest, follows a release circle but one that is longer than six months. openSUSE fits here. It is stable and up-to-date. Actually, only reason I don't recommend it is my own bad experiences with their repositories and;
These are my personal favorites. Arch, Sabayon and Gentoo fits here. The main attractions of rolling release are that they always stay up-to-date and once configured, you may forget about configuration. There are no six or eight monthly re-installs or big updates. Not having used Gentoo and Sabayon, I can't talk about their stability (maybe you might want to leave a comment about this if you used them); but Arch is stable. A very new user may not find it so, but for an experienced user there is not much of a problem. All-in-all, rolling releases offer good desktop experiences for the long-term use. Still, for the sake of objectivity, I must say here that openSUSE is probably more stable than these. Be warned: Gentoo is a source distribution.
These stands between rolling and fixed releases. Linux Mint Debian Edition fits here. It is rolling, but it stops to roll for a while when it nears the stable releases of Debian Stable. I know that I said the distribution must not be a testing variant but LMDE is a special case. They have created a curious mix between Debian Testing and Ubuntu and they have their own tools. They also release updates in bundles so stability is not a big problem even if it is based on a testing branch.
Now, for some humor:
As we have only seven distributions in our hands, I can't stop thinking about something else that is numbered seven. And if you don't know what The Endless family is, you can stop reading here.
Seven distributions, seven Endless. Let's match them:
Destiny is the Linux Mint Debian Edition. Because it is, well... Debian. A solid argument by itself, isn't it =)
Death is Ubuntu. Because everyone must encounter it someday. Maybe on your own computer, maybe on a virtual machine, maybe supporting someone else. It is the distribution you might know much about without actually even using it yourself.
Dream is Arch. Not because it does not want to change (although it also does not really wants to change) but you can shape it into almost everything Linux can be.
Destruction is openSUSE. Because it is somewhat of a rogue element. With next to nothing derivatives or anything.
Desire/Despair is Sabayon/Gentoo. Because you despair while compiling with Gentoo and desire Sabayon's binaries and then despair for customization of Gentoo and then despa...
Delirium is Fedora. Because it is Fedora. Cutting edge delight turning into delirium.
Thanks for reading all way to the here. See you later!