Linux

DIY: Best Linux distros based on type of user

Jack Wallen gives a high-level overview of which major Linux distribution is best for specific types of users.

TechRepublic reader Dave Battestella sent me this interesting Linux question.

Q: I just read your TR post on the multimedia drawback with your FLAVOR of Linux! [Multimedia: A Linux Achilles' heel] I had never heard "BODHI" or "MINT" Linux! 10 yrs ago my first experience with Linux was the "MANDRAKE" flavor. I used/(more like played) with it for a while but most of my apps that I used were windows based so Linux fell by the way side. Currently I have d/led Ubuntu and most recently Zorin(32bit~64bit). My question is which flavor do I use? I'm not a heavy gamer or do much graphics work. So, what are the MANY different Flavors tailored to? (pros~cons) A: This is a fairly complex question, but it can be boiled down for simplicity. Let's look at only the major Linux distributions and their intended (or unintended) purposes.
  • Ubuntu: Ubuntu was at one time the de facto standard Linux distribution for new users, but thanks to Ubuntu Unity, that title has been stripped away. This doesn't mean Ubuntu is useless. In the next year or so, Ubuntu will come out with the first straight-up Linux tablet, and Unity's true purpose will shine through. Ubuntu is still a good distribution for new users.
  • Linux Mint: This is the de facto standard for new users. Linux Mint took everything that was great and user friendly about Ubuntu and added its own take on GNOME 3. This combination made for an incredible environment for first time (and old time) users of Linux.
  • Fedora: If you want a more bleeding edge Linux, Fedora is the distribution for you. Also, if you want a more pure take on GNOME 3, you want Fedora. Since Fedora is cutting edge, you can expect to do a bit of tweaking here and there.
  • Debian: If you're looking for a good development environment, you want Debian. It's the distribution Ubuntu was found upon and is a rock solid flavor of Linux. And with the apt package management system, it's fairly easy to manage.
  • Puppy Linux: Puppy is that tiny Linux distribution you use when you have a low-powered machine or need a machine for a specific purpose (such as running VirtualBox virtual machines, network scanning, or hard disk rescue). Although Puppy Linux can be used as a desktop distribution, you might find it frustrating to get exactly how you need to do the work you want to do.
  • openSUSE: Get KDE here. Get a solid package management and system admin tool here. New users need not necessarily apply. As for a specific user group to associate with openSUSE, that's a tough one, but I think anyone needing multi-lingual support and something other than a variation on GNOME should try it.
  • CentOS: If you want the serious power of enterprise Linux without having to pay for Red Hat Linux, you want CentOS. Mail servers, Web servers, DNS, DHCP... you name it, and Cent OS can do it. And, unlike Red Hat, there is no price associated with CentOS.
  • Red Hat Linux: This is the Mac Daddy of Linux distributions. Not only is Red Hat the distribution for enterprise and corporate environments, it is also the first Linux company to make a serious profit. With Red Hat Linux (and its fairly steep price), you will get plenty of support and some proprietary software to make the management of that server/network/environment so much easier.

This is not an exhaustive list, and it leaves out plenty of fan-favorite Linux flavors, but it does identify which major Linux distribution is best for what type of user.

Ask Jack: If you have a DIY question, email it to me, and I'll do my best to answer it. (Read guidelines about submitting DIY questions.)

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

10 comments
CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I was going to link to it in this discussion, but my bookmark kicked back a 404. Does anyone else have working link to it? For those who don't know, the Distro Chooser was a quiz. You answered a dozen or so general questions, and received a list of recommended distributions that would fit your profile.

zefficace
zefficace

No sir, Bleeding edge is Arch or Gentoo, period. Mainly because Fedora is NOT a rolling release, and packages get old during a release, by a few months that is.

chrisbedford
chrisbedford

...now please explain about Gnome / KDE? I think I read somewhere that one is "more like" Windows and the other closer to MacOS but I'm not sure if you can take that too seriously. What are the pros/cons of the two major desktops and are there any other worthwhile contenders?

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

http://www.linux-chooser.com/ http://www.zegeniestudios.net/ldc/ http://desktoplinuxathome.com/distro.html They all use essentially the same method to find a distro: find out what you know about tech, what you know about Linux, whether you're willing to pay, what you're going to install it on, and what you want to use it for. The Zegenie Studios LDC is the most involved, walking you through a series of questions. The desktop at home page is five list boxes and a Submit button. And searching Google for 'linux distro chooser' returns about 76k hits.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Not sure what happened to it. Col

Slayer_
Slayer_

HAL's description is accurate, but both can be customized. Mint even in the previous edition of Gnome was more Windows like than KDE.