Wednesday, 20 March 2013

My current favourite distros

Here are my current top 4

This is the nicest cleanest implementation of Gnome that you can find currently.  The 1.x branch uses Gnome 3.2 with a debian base and its as smooth as.  Memory overhead is very low: never much above 150Mb: until I decided to put Compiz and Emerald on top.  The upcoming 2.x series will abandon Gnome 3 for their own desktop metaphor (based on Gnome 4 but with a more Gnome 3 look) and will also abandon apt for package management which may be challenging: but I will certainly be looking at this in the longer term.  I did have some fun and games getting Synapse working initially: the distro uses debian stable as its repositories so although Solus have their own repositories for common apps: some things you may be looking for may not be totally up to date.  You can get round this by using the other debian reps if required: but I put my repositories back to what they were originally after I had finished installing things like Synapse.

Reading some linux forums you get a strong sense of "pure" Arch enthusiasts saying this is just a lazy way of getting Arch.  There is some truth to this: but ultimately what is wrong with that?  If you want an up to date and personalised experience from your linux machine: Arch is the way to go.  Manjaro just make the process as painless as they can: and their changes don't get in the way: in fact they make your life a lot easier.  Manjaro are under heavy development so their packages are always improving with time.  They have a good and friendly community behind them.  I usually go for the XFCE edition: which runs a treat on older laptops: but I also tried out the Openbox edition (not the newest one: the one that comes with Synapse as its launcher) and this is very nice too.

Like many people I started out with Ubuntu very much as my go to distro.  I actually started with Suse: but for many years I was happy to use Ubuntu as a base : and just play around from there.  These days I don't feel as if Ubuntu are as community based as before (perhaps invevitably: I don't blame Canonical for many of the changes and its good to get a wide ecosystem: its just not the way I want to go personally) so I'm moving away from ubuntu as a base.  The next best thing is Mint: who seem to look after what I really liked about Ubuntu but in a way which has changed taking its queues from its users first and foremost.  The result is a great desktop for anyone starting up in Linux: stable and secure.  I do like Cinnamon and I used to run it as my main desktop but I admit I got a bit bored with it.  I find the XFCE edition is very smooth and polished: and if you want more bling: just put compiz on top.

If you want a really fast desktop (perhaps you have limited hardware) then you can't go wrong with Openbox as a desktop.  Of all the openbox implementations I have seen: Crunchbang is by far my favourite. On some sites its easy to see some screenshots and think that it has a rather austere look: but its very easy to customize and the longer you use it the more elegant it feels.  The installer is particularly good and the whole experience is very polished.  Again: a very good community.

Honorable Mentions:
AntiX : super fast distro for running in quite old hardware.  This uses IceWM as its desktop and its super nice considering how quickly it runs.  Mine only ever took around 60Mb of memory.
Fog: I always used this at work for desktop imaging: does what it says on the tin and does it very well.

Update for 2016

Looking back,  I think the selections I made in 2013 were pretty good.  I was gutted with SolusOS gave up the ghost,  although it now has a successor in the form of  Solus.  I like the look of the new desktop,  budgie but for me its once bitten,  twice shy for the time being. 

I still love Manjaro and I'm using it on my main desktop machine currently. 

For machines that I have to support I tend to use MX-15 these days,  it has a very stable debian base but includes newer key packages from their own repos and is very well presented and configured.  MX-15 is a development from Antix but it uses XFCE as its desktop.  The forums are very friendly and helpful if you run into any problems. 

Since Crunchbang gave up the ghost I've been running its successor BunsenLabs instead and its been great.  I have an old spare laptop and this really makes the most of whatever power it can still muster.  Openbox is still magic and great fun if  you are into that sort of thing!

I still have a copy of mint running,  too.  I use it as a server these days,  it hosts my music library and my photos.  I love the Cinnamon desktop still after being an early adopter "back in the day".  I'm just hoping there will be a way of updating 17.3 to 18 without a full reinstall as that would be a bit of a roadblock for me. 


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