What Linux Distribution Fits Your Lifestyle?

Since you are reading this, I assume you know what Linux is in a general scope. Maybe you are looking for an alternative to Windows, maybe you already use Linux and would like to change distributions after becoming more knowlegable in the subject and figuring out that you want something new or you made a bad beginning choice, or maybe you would just like to learn more about the options that there are avaliable. So, here is a short guide to distributions.

First, we need to figure out what kind of user you are. Are you one that loves to toy with bleeding-edge programs with the latest and greatest features even with their bugs? Maybe you are an office user who just would like everything to stick together and work. Maybe a combination of the two. Are you a gamer? We have things for that, too. Are you a tweaker? Same thing. Maybe you’re just bored, have no idea what you are doing, and would like to learn something.

As for the gamer, tweaker, bleeding edge person, and the guy who knows a fair amount about computers, I recommend Gentoo. Gentoo is a little different from Linux From Scratch (LFS) in that there is software avaliable to make your job a bit easier.

With Linux From Scratch, you must build everything yourself. No help at all. I haven’t tried it personally and don’t plan to unless I become bored. You even have to “./configure”, “make”, and “make install” all by yourself. Of course, they provide a rather hefty manual to help you along. It’s the ultimate way to gain speed on your system — if you know what you’re doing.

On with Gentoo, you have a very nice application called Portage. Portage assists you in installing packages. While it’s very customizable and you get pretty much the same results as a LFS install would give you, you do not gain the same amount of knowlege as fast as you would installing an LFS system. As previously mentioned, Portage helps by cutting out the need to command every last thing yourself. It uses ebuilds, which are not incrediably complex to make yourself. You simply type “emerge x” and it will emerge “x” (x being a variable). Still, you can set your CFLAGS, which help a great deal in optimization and set it apart from distributions like Fedora and SuSE. Did I mention that Portage doesn’t have many binary packages in the system? Yep. Also to note is you begin your Gentoo system off of a terminal livecd and with a manual to guide you along.

Luckily, for those who don’t have time to compile every single package or those with incrediably slow computers, there is Debian. Personally, I haven’t tried it, as my CDs were corrupt and I didn’t feel like downloading again. I have, however, run it on my GameCube enough to get a good opinion of it.

The installer is a bit more advanced and harder to use than most (compared to Gentoo, which doesn’t have an installer at all), especially compared to Mandrake and Fedora. It also has quite a few more CDs to download than normal distributions. If I remember correctly, the number neared 7 or 8. Debian has a nice system called Apt (apt-get), similar to Gentoo’s Portage, but it has more binary packages, while still keeping a vast selection of source packages. That said, I am not sure about the more advanced features, how well it works, and how often new packages are added (Gentoo is quite fast in the area). Again, from what I can tell, the system runs nicely and is compatiable with many architectures.

Mandrake, Fedora, and SuSE are almost identical in that they are user friendly, have good control panels, and are easy to setup. Fedora has a beautiful interface and boot screen. On the more useful side, I hear that Fedora has the easiest and most pain-free wireless detection of the three, with Mandrake coming in second, and SuSE in last. These three distributions are geared up for the most pleasent and easiest experience for the end-user. Personally, I use either Fedora or Mandrake. If I remember correctly, Mandrake handles gaming better, while Fedora looks better by default.

In the end, the choice is up to you. That’s just what Linux is all about. For the ones who have too much time on their hands, Linux From Scratch suits well. As for those who have some time on their hands, but not way too much, either Gentoo or Debian, depending on whether or not you want binary packages and an installer. For the end-user or person who has almost no time, just wants things to work (perfect for a work enviorment), I recommend Fedora. As previously mentioned, Fedora, Mandrake, and SuSE are almost identical. For the gamer with no time (how does that happen? I realize there are few games for Linux, as well), I recommend Mandrake. If you want to try an alternative workstation or gaming system with ease, use SuSE.

11 Responses to “What Linux Distribution Fits Your Lifestyle?”

  1. Heuristic Blog Says:

    Happy Slacker
    Today mostly consisted of basking in front of my CRT monitor. This is at least an efficient way of getting a tan waiting for the sun that’s scheduled to come out again around April time. (I’m serious; the sun totally disappears in the U.K. during win…

  2. Stomfi Says:

    The distro with the most drivers, whether OSS or binary.

  3. Joe Ferrare Says:

    Slackware? You left out the other big distro out there, which is too bad. Slackware holds the middle ground between the automatic distros like Suse, etc., and the complete DIY distros like Gentoo. It gives you just enough hand-holding to make it easy to install (really), without encumbering the system with things that slow it down. So for most computers running most programs, it seems as fast as something like Gentoo while not requiring you to compile a thing. On the other hand, if you can answer some basic questions about your system and desires, it’s not really any harder to install than something like Suse. You just can’t be scared by text instead of pretty graphics. I’ve got Slackware on my desktop and Gentoo on my laptop (AMD64) and have tried a ton of others. Slackware hits the sweet spot for someone who wants to actually control what goes on with their computer without having to know enough to compile everything, pick a system logger, etc.

  4. Cypress Says:

    Hey, what about Slackware? One of the fastest distros out there.

  5. Clete R. Blackwell 2 Says:

    Sorry, I haven’t actually tried Slackware before. Thanks for filling me in on that. (of course, I have heard of it, just have not tried it)

    On your point of being scared by text, I am sure that many people who are new to computers would. Granted, not many of them are attempting to install Linux, but maybe some were referred by a friend and challenged to it.

    As for Slackware, I am downloading the ISOs right now so that I can test it out on VMWare or on this “awesome” 233MHz laptop, which has been so abused, I am surprised it works (minus a bunch of things wrong and the screen has a lot of lines going down it on the right).

    If you say that, after answering some questions about your system, Slackware runs greater than others. I would have said that for Debian, as it has specialized packages for the architectures.

    Another distribution that I forgot to mention was College Linux, which is (or was, not sure if it still is) a 1CD distribution geared at college students. Simple installer with not too many options to fool around with (this isn’t neccesarily a bad thing, but it has probably changed). Gets the job done.

  6. desipenguin Says:

    SimplyMepis 2004.4

  7. James Dixon Says:

    College Linux is a derivative of Slackware, as is VectorLinux. Mepis is a Debian derivative, and is great for those that would like to try Debian but can’t handle their installer. Personally, I use Slackware.

  8. Gino Says:

    For the desktop Mandrake, Mandrake, Mandrake. I have tried so many distros DESPERATELY trying to get away from Windows and I could never do it… But for almost half a year I have been using an OS that makes windows look difficult. Mandrakes urpmi (autoupdate) along with its commitment to open source make it a clear winner for me. If you use it you HAVE to configure your urpmi through http://easyurpmi.zarb.org/.

    Again I tried so hard to switch to linux with other distros and could never do it…. Suse was slooow, Red Hat had no default package manager that was usefull, Slack, Debian great for servers but come on… Mandrake won me over I am so gratefull that I get to go home and no longer boot into windows.

    Also cedega for gaming is amazing

  9. jon Says:

    I downloaded and installed Simply-MEPIS the last night and so far I am very happy with it. I replaced a Fedora Core 3 install on my main home PC.

    FC3 was ok but I was having ongoing problems with nvidia driver, xorg, and my video card. I also am getting tired of upgrading FC every few months. I tend to customize it to the point that I have to wipe and reinstall instead of upgrading in place.

    The MEPIS install was very smooth. They include qparted so I was able to easily adjust partitions on my two hard disks without loosing my save partition or my Win2000 partition. The 2004.06 rev of Simply-MEPIS is also synced with debian unstable except for the kernel. This means that after the install all you have to do is apt-get synaptic and then go to town installing from the deb repositories. There are thousands of software packages available. The first things I installed were FireFox and Thunderbird. They installed without a hitch. It is essentially an extremely easy way to install Debian. (Much, much easier then Debian itself.) The MEPIS folks also do a very good job of configuring your hardware and your multimedia programs. They also seem to have spent some of time polishing things up as the desktop, fonts, etc all look pretty good and sound and accelerated graphics worked with no fooling around.

  10. Paul Says:

    I headed up development for College Linux for a bit, but as of a month ago have since left to pursue other projects. The development of the distro has changed greatly allowing for the community to be in control of distro based decisions. Development version 2.6 is nearing an end and you should see a public 2.7 release in about a month or so.

    My personal project is a cross between slackware and gentoo. If you took the stability of slackware, slack package management, added some more BSD-like configs and also made it source based by option, you have Marcus Linux. Couple this new system with an easy and intuitive graphical installer, and I think it’d be a winning combination.

  11. dan Says:

    simply mepis 04:04
    have run mepis for a year or more
    I run this because it’s easy,quick, does what I need it to do & I am no GURU, just a normal user, not into games. I run no M$ @ all

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