Russ Creech04 March 2009, 8:00 PM
What's the best Linux distribution? It's one of the most commonly asked questions from people who are new to Linux. The answer? Well, there isn't really a simple answer.
Many people swear by only one distribution (or distro) while others may recommend you try them all, but the best answer is probably somewhere in the middle of those.
Here are a few of the resources you can use to find out which distribution is best for you.
Linux Distribution Chooser – There are several websites that are designed to help you choose the best distribution. You just answer a few questions and then several distributions are recommended to you. Tuxs.org, Desktop Linux At Home, and Zegenie Studios all have helpful distributions choosers. These are some of the best starting points if you know nothing about Linux or if you just need some help narrowing down the list of possibilities.
The Linux Community – If you know what you are looking for in Linux, ask some Linux veterans what they think would work best for you. Community sites offer both advice from experienced users and thoughts from inexperienced users. Search through sites like LinuxForums and see what others think about different distros. Also, if you run into any problems with Linux the community sites are usually going to be the fastest, most reliable resource available to you in resolving the problems. The Ubuntu Forum Community, for example, contains more than six-million posts in more than one-million threads.
Live CDs – Many Linux Distributions have a Live CD version. You can use these to give Linux a test run before installing it permanently on your computer. So if you try, say, Fedora and decide you don't like it, you can just reboot and try another, like openSUSE or Ubuntu. Websites such as livecdlist.com are useful too, especially if you are looking for a specific function for using Linux, such as development or home entertainment. You can even use MobaLiveCD, a freeware program, to boot a Live CD in Windows without even burning a disc.
DistroWatch – If you are looking for the latest information about the most popular (and many of the less popular) distributions, check DistroWatch.com. The site has popularity rankings, package information, links to more information and the latest news for several hundred distros. Be sure to read the Major Distributions page. It has great descriptions of the top ten distributions along with the pros and cons of each.
Make Your Own – There are also a few options for making your own custom distro. Definitely one of the easiest is the Custom NimbleX Live CD Generator. It walks you through the process step-by-step, letting you choose what software to install as necessary. Then a customized Live CD .iso file is created to your specifications! If you want to take it a step further, the truly hardcore might want to check out Linux From Scratch, a project that will help you in building and compiling your very own version of Linux from the source code.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should help get you started. Feel free to post in the forums if you have any questions about a specific distro or need some more advice on where to start.
I asked Russ to introduce himself to readers, as he has just joined the APC writing team. - Dan Warne.
Who is Russ Creech?
Well, I'm sitting here on my couch and in the background I can hear shots being fired, people screaming, and vehicles whizzing past. To my side, a man is being stabbed.
To most people, this would be a stressful situation, but it is just another day here. Nothing out of the ordinary. I don't live in a compound in Afghanistan -- just in a small, quiet town on the east coast of the United States. The sounds are just from my wife playing Battlefield 2142 and the man being stabbed is just a character in Watchmen.
My life is not nearly as exciting as you may have thought at first, but at least I have your attention now. A little bit about myself.
My name is Russ Creech, and I am a computer geek. Tinkering with computer hardware is one of my most enjoyable activities, as is learning about software. I also enjoy keeping up with the latest in science and technology.
If I am not busy with any of those, then you will probably find me talking about technology or possibly reading a book. Most of the time, though, I am on a computer using all sorts of software.
Linux and open-source software in general have always been of interest to me. The community is a very close-knit and inviting one, which is part of the reason I started using Linux. The other main reason is the amount of control Linux allows to users. The operating system can be completely customized to suit one's needs. On top of that, it is free and its documentation is quite extensive.
Unlike some of the more “Hardcore” Linux enthusiasts, though, I still use Windows on a regular basis. I do some freelance tech support work on the side, and having a great understanding of Windows makes the job much easier. And no matter what people say, it is still much easier to accomplish certain tasks in Windows than in any other operating system.
This bring me to why I am writing for APC. Every day new versions of Linux are being developed, while Microsoft tries to improve its sole operating system. It's an adventure for sure, and I will be posting the latest news on both fronts so you can follow along.
If you have any suggestions or questions along the way, stop by the forums and let me know.