Now let us turn our attention to the process of selecting a distribution. I’ve been in this process for a while. Xubuntu has worn on me due to some quirks. Ubuntu has also caused me some concern as well, so I have thought about this change because I don’t want to start the distro hopping that characterized my GNU/Linux use. Here is my suggestion as to how to choose a distribution of Linux that will satisfy. Here are the steps and then I will describe what I mean and then show you how I have made my decision.
- What do you use a computer for?
- What kind of hardware do you have?
- What is your skill level with computers in general?
- What is your experience with Linux? And How much time do you have for computers?
- How do you like to interact with a computer?
- Getting new applications.
- Intangibles.Let us look at each item.
1. What do you use a computer for? — Do you use it for Business only? Do you use it for pleasure or school? Do you use it for a combination of the above? What applications that you currently use would be considered “must haves?” This alone is important. If you need certain applications, then you need to be sure that any distro you use has the ability to run these applications. This is important because if you load a distro and can’t get that app running, it then is a huge waste of time.
For me, I use my laptop for Business and Personal uses. My “must haves” are rdesktop, an internet browser, and a word processing program. One last “must have” is minecraft. Yes, I play minecraft and have played it since alpha 1.5. I also need to have Samba to connect to printers that are on windows machines.
2. What kind of hardware do you have? — Are you using a recently purchased computer, or are you using an older pc/laptop that hasn’t seen use for a while. This could be important because some distros need better hardware and some distros are designed to be used with older hardware. Since I am not a die hard gamer. My laptop is more than adequate to run any distro that I would choose.
3. What is your skill level with computers in general? — When switching, or using, Linux, a person needs to up their computer skills. You will be learning how to use computers in a new way rather than the Microsoft way. If you would classify as a person who just uses computers rather than a “computer geek” this will direct your distro search. Some distros are more for the computer geek while others are for the computer user. Knowing this will help you. Recently I tried out Manjaro. I like it on the surface, but there are some things that were beyond my current skill level. I don’t have the knowledge to get some important things working. This brings me to my next point.
4. What is your experience with Linux? And How much time do you have for computers? — If you are just getting into, or back into, Linux then maybe a distro that is more setup for you, Ubuntu, or Mint, or Linux Lite are a few examples. If you don’t have much time to spend on computer use, then Arch, Gentoo, or Linux from Scratch are not your best choice. Be realistic here. It would be a shame to spend all your precious time with your computer doing things you’d rather not do. Some distros require more tweaking and setting up and maintaining than others. Looking at this area can help you spend your time on things you want to do rather than spending time on things you don’t want to do. For me, I can do quite a bit with Linux and have some experience, but my time is limited. I don’t want to spend time with system maintenance. I want to spend time doing the things I want to do. These things are learning Java and Python and working on my bucket list of writing a computer strategy game.
5. How do you like to interact with a computer? — This has to do with computer desktop environments. Microsoft and Apple offer only one desktop paradigm. Linux offers many different desktops. Each one has a strength and weakness. Are you a keyboarder? Do you want to do everything with the mouse. Or are you a toucher? I have always wanted a minimalist desktop. I started to play with different distros and their desktops. I tried openSUSE and KDE just to see what KDE was about. I was shocked how much I liked KDE. One thing I discovered is that until I use the desktop environment, I really don’t know if I like it or not. Which also makes me appreciate some of the veteran distros like Fedora, openSUSE, and Debian. These distros allow you to load multiple desktop environments and try them out all with one install. I suggest load one of these, especially using VirtualBox and install as many desktops with that distro and see how different each desktop is with that same distro. I have done this with Fedora 18 and it really has changed my view of desktop environments.
6. Getting new applications. — In the past I used Slackware for quite a while. I liked it very much. I only switched from it when the maintainer talked of dropping Gnome and being KDE only. That was about 5 years ago or so. I turned to a Debian based environment because of the Synaptic Package Manager. I think these types of apps are very good and necessary for a distribution. A good package manager is a must for me. I won’t waste my time with a distro that does not have a package manager. While Slackware helped me with learning how to compile my own packages for use, I don’t want to go back to that. It is easier to load a package rather than compile it. Many distros have good package managers. I also want a distro that has a large repository that is very diverse and has many apps for me to choose from.
7. Intangibles. — No matter how many things you consider, there is always something that doesn’t fit a category. For me, I want a more “traditional” Linux experience. Ubuntu has been good for Linux, but Canonical is really focusing on the phone and tablet environments and I wonder how much time they are going to spend on the desktop. Since I tried KDE, I also want a distro to have a native packaging of KDE rather than a spin or a community sponsored variant like Kubuntu. I have heard that openSUSE is part of a company that has financial ties to Microsoft. I don’t want my distro to have ties to microsoft financially. I also want a distro that has been around for a while because I want something that is pretty much stable without bugs. I thought I would want a rolling release, but it seems that rolling releases are also much more apt to break things with each upgrade.
Summary – In the end, the time spent on choosing a distro will help you with your choice in the end. I have chosen Fedora as my new distro of choice. It came down to Fedora because Debian has an aversion to “free only” for stuff that gets put into their distro. I like the Open Source movement, but I am not fanatical about “free only.” openSUSE has financial ties to microsoft. Arch is just too much work for me right now. I don’t know where Ubuntu is going and the changes they are making to Linux are taking Linux in a direction that is not good for Linux in general. I wanted to wait for Fedora 19, but my Xubuntu upgrade to 13.04 was just acing badly and I just had to reinstall just to see if it was Xubuntu or my installation. Since I was going to go with Fedora 19, I just loaded 18 and am happy. Right now my Fedora 18 has Cinnamon, Mate, XFCE, and KDE installed. It still runs great. I am extremely happy with Fedora, and KDE is fantastic. I can stick with this fine.
Take some time to investigate and you might be surprised what you find and end up a happy user of Linux.