Notes on choosing a Linux distro (for Linux geeks only)
I’ve ditched Windows on my desktop machine. Similarly, I can’t keep using macOS on my laptop. I decided to put Linux on it (and dual-boot). I thought it would be a good idea to use a different distro. But which?
I thought I would do my deliberations publicly. So here goes.
If I haven’t exactly mastered Ubuntu with Gnome, why not keep working on it? But flavors of Linux are so similar that if you use one, it’s not hard to figure out another. So I think it’s a good idea for learning purposes to install a different one.
After a fair bit of hunting about, the following caught my eye enough to do some research and take some notes—your mileage may vary, obviously, as our needs and ability levels vary widely. I’ll put these in order of how quickly I rejected them (from fastest rejection to slowest).
- Arch. Nah, that’s for advanced users, and I’m not an advanced Linux user (yet).
- Kali. More privacy-oriented, but not beginner-friendly because it is actually aimed at security experts. I’ll have to pass on that.
- Pop!. The thing that has me considering the new Pop! distro is that it is specially adapted from Ubuntu by System76 (which sells Linux computers) for developers. Its landing page is very persuasive, but after I looked at some videos about it, it just has too much Ubuntu to be a suitably different system. I guess I’ll pass on the Ubuntu-based systems; I want to try something different.
- Debian. One source bills this as especially good for programming; but it is also not really for beginners, and besides, Ubuntu is based on Debian. So…
- Mint and Deepin. If I’m rejecting Ubuntu-based distros out of hand, these must go; they’re Ubuntu-based.
- Manjaro and Antergos. These Arch-based distros are supposedly easier to install, and might be a good introduction to a more powerful Linux experience.
- openSUSE Leap. This is a very old distro, and is very polished, well-documented, and stable (at least the Leap distro; Tumbleweed follows a rolling release model and so should be expected to be less stable). One source says it is targeted at developers and has “stringent” security protocols, whatever that means exactly. It’s praised for its customizability, and I like the idea that one can pick and choose packages to include on installation.
So, I’m down to Manjaro, Antergos, and openSUSE Leap. I still haven’t made up my mind. So maybe you can help me decide, given my basic requirements:
- Sufficiently different from Ubuntu with Gnome to give me a usefully different Linux experience.
- Especially excellent for programmers.
- Stable, established, well-documented.
- Not advanced. Needn’t be very easy-to-use.
- I place a premium on security.
- Looks nice. I don’t actually enjoy ugly, clunky stuff.
- Likes: keyboard shortcuts, snapping windows, reasonably easy customizability, cool, well-designed workspace functionality, etc.
- I don’t really want a rolling release distro, assuming that they’re rather more open to disruptive problems. I’m too busy to squash trivial bugs others will eventually squash for me.
- Works on MacBook Pro machine without too much trouble (it’s OK if I have to install a driver, I guess).