Choosing your next Linux distribution: “just works” or community?

Linux users can be finicky, so what compels them to choose a particular distro?

Image: Pegasu Studio/Shutterstock

It’s 2022, so of course it’s the Year of the Linux Desktop™. I mean, we lived that year (or on its precipice for what seems like decades. Well, maybe you to have. I tried it when I was part of Novell’s Linux Business Office, and again as COO of Canonical, but it never really impressed me. For many others, however, they have been using Linux on their personal computer for years, but not always the same.

This is why the developer The question from Scott Williams struck me as so interesting: “Old distribution hoppers, what made you stop jumping and settle in one, and which one?”

For people who really like running Linux on their personal machines, switching between Ubuntu and Arch and Fedora and [insert name of your favorite distribution here] is part of the appeal, always looking for a better way to truly own the experience. So why do some Linux lovers, inclined to try new distros, end up settling in a long-term relationship?

You got me at “Wi-Fi is working”

For some people, like Islam Abdullah, they would “jump” forever, but for the cost associated with updating settings and data when switching to a new distro. Of course, a virtual machine can make it a bit trivial stick with the Linux you love while flirting with another that might turn out to be better, but many want a permanent place to call Linux home.

TO SEE: 40+ open source and Linux terms you need to know (TechRepublic Premium)

For Rich Bowen of Red Hat, he came to settle on Fedora because it “made sense to me, so I stopped chasing”. This “meaning” is partly Fedora and partly Bowen (as well as other respondents to Williams’ tweet). That is, at a certain point, users stop wanting to “solve[e] puzzles whenever I wanted to do something. Admittedly, most early rotary knobs (and Wi-Fi or audio only works sporadicallyin my experience) in Linux desktop operating systems is a thing of the past but, as Bowen wrote, “in the 90s it was all a Rube Goldberg puzzle every time.”

In fact, while early Linux distros (like Ubuntu) may have distinguished themselves by being more user-friendly, Linux distros of recent years have mostly taken care of all that. So much so, in fact, that Gio Van Bonner is probably correct to say, “[T]there’s little difference in experience when… using distros casually. I find the most differentiating factor is what DE [desktop environment]/WM [windows manager] you use. There’s nothing you can do on Arch that you can’t do on Fedora.

And yet… Fedora. It’s far from scientific, and maybe Williams proponents tend to skew Fedora for some reason, but several people called Fedora the distro that made them stop shopping. as a commentator stress“I was blown away by how modern, easy to use and easy to maintain everything was. [in Fedora]. All of my Steam games run perfectly and in some cases run faster than Windows.

Corporate influence on the Linux community

Not everyone is happy with Fedora or the company (Red Hat) behind it. For example, the founder of Amotan chris gos indicated that he avoids certain Linux distributions due to their supply chain dependencies: “Choice/freedom is now an illusion in Linux. All distros are highly dependent on the house [Red Hat] basic components of user space. Easier to use Fedora/RHEL now and be done with it. I use BSD whenever possible to avoid dependence on American giants.

He talks about components like systemd, which most distributions include (although some do clumsy exercises to pretend they don’t depend on it). And yet, these same tools arguably solve real problems in a multi-core world. Yet in a community that values ​​independence and freedom so much, it can be hard to feel beholden to a company, even when that company (Red Hat, in this case) has done so much good for free and open source software. source.

Which raises a possibly uncomfortable point. It seems that some of the most widely used Linux distros are also the ones with a company behind them. No, it is not a requirement (for example, Matthew of Detrich uses community developed Arch/Manjaro because “AUR is a godsend when it comes to updating packages/libraries (in combination with the rolling release model) due to how easy/easily the community can create/maintain AUR packages”), but this East useful to have a stable base of developers contributing to a project. Trace the history of GNOME, for example, and it has always been true that the majority of contributors have been paid to do so.

This is not a bug. It’s a feature.

For some people, as Christian Rebischke (which settled on Arch), the community is the reason they adopt a distro. But for others, pragmatism seems to win out. For them, having strong corporate support, whether they recognize this factor or not, helps to ensure that Linux “just works”, and that’s really what they expect from their operating system. Office.

Disclosure: I work for MongoDB but the opinions expressed here are my own.

Sam D. Gomez