Best Linux Distros
The web is teeming with Linux distros ( distros short for distributions ) and with such a wide array of potential candidates; it is easy to understand why those who would want to change are somewhat intimidated. All of these distributions (distros) were run on the same system with the same setup to get the best comparative results.
Also, all of them were reviewed using the same standards and all of the same features were analyzed for the best results. I did not test any of them from the Linux user point of view, but rather from the point of view of someone looking to change from Windows or Mac OS to a Linux distribution. All of the articles have links to their respective pages and contain a wide variety of screenshots to cover all the basics.
My other big concern is related to productivity and efficiency. The goal was to see if I could write an article, listen to music, talk to friends using instant messaging services and do my job with ease when using any of these platforms. Of course there is a lot more to Linux, but from where I was standing, I just wanted to see if I could get my job done in a quick and efficient manner.
Note that the Linux platform is not for those who play a ton of games and although there are games supported on Linux, that is not the goal of the platform. So if you spend more than 30 per cent of the time playing games, just stick to Windows.
In order to find the best Linux distribution for you, do this small quiz and see what your top results are. If you wish to find them based on the above mentioned standards, check out the articles below featuring some of the best Linux distributions!
openSUSE – Linux Just Got Green
And I am back like a bad case of hiccups, this time around taking a quick look at openSUSE, the first Linux distribution that I ran on my computer way back. It is not the first distro I worked around with since I did use Red Hat way back when Windows XP was still “in”, but it is the first one I ran for a few weeks at home. It remained one of my all-time favorites, but I wanted to see how it stacks up these days.
With many other groups joining into the Linux distro scene, I wondered how openSUSE is stacking up against the competition. I knew that this build is safe and quick but I wanted to see if the all green Linux distro lost some of its edge in the years that I spent away from it. Without any further ado, let us dive into openSUSE!
This was one of the reasons I chose openSUSE so many years ago in the first place. Out of all the Linux distributions I used, l loved that openSUSE still maintained that speediness to itself. The boot time was low and once booted up the system did not have any issues loading up applications with ease. I did not experience any of the lag or delays I experienced with Fedora, so that was a great bonus point.
Even when opening up several applications, taking screenshots and generally being a pest to the OS, I experienced no lag or choppiness in the operation. I would not exactly mark openSUSE as low on the resource consumption front, however, it is a lot easier on the hardware then some other distros. The only issue I found in this regard was that setting up a couple of customization features did choke up the system at times, but I never experienced any massive lag or freezes.
In terms of the interface that greets you as soon as you get into openSUSE, if you ever used any other Linux distro you will feel right at home. But then again, my whole point is that you migrate to one of these from Windows or Mac OS, so in that regard you will not have any issues either.
Right off the bat, the interface looks simple and easy to use. You have your entire setup easy to access and everything is in its usual position. I spent some time looking at all the features you stumble as soon as you install the operating system, but there is nothing out of the ordinary really.
As you can see in the screenshots, the menus are simple and intuitive and you do not need to spend hours upon end trying to figure out where everything goes. Once you get started, I think that in the first few minutes you will already be running everything with ease.
In regards to the applications that come installed on openSUSE, you will find all the normal elements. There is nothing out of the ordinary and you find everything you need as soon as you start up the setup. You get your usual browsers, but personally I used Mozilla Firefox simply because I was used to it. Once that was taken care of I started looking for audio players and text as well as graphic editors.
GIMP is present as your main source of graphics editing software, Open Office is here to take care of your text editing and Amarok is the default audio player. You might know by now that I like to complain about Amarok, but that is a simply personal issue. Again, I would like to see either Clementine or Banshee in the mix, but you can quickly get those.
Operation is simple and openSUSE offers a large array of applications for download as well. My sole concern is that you do not have MP3 support right off the bat with Amarok, so if your music library consists mostly of those (seeing as most digital music stores offer usually MP3s – FiXT does at least) you might want to get the codecs for it. But that you can do as soon as Amarok boots up the first time.
Ease of use
As I said in the previous sections, you will not have to spend too much time getting used to openSUSE. Everything is simple and intuitive as it is with most Linux distros I went over. There are tons of cool features hiding underneath it all, but once you go over those, you should be just fine.
The interface is simple and clean, there are many customization options and you do not need to spend that much time looking for something. Applications are nicely packed together and with proper support for multiple workspaces, openSUSE is on top of it all again.
My only issues lie with those who are first time users of any Linux OS, however if that is the case with you, I recommend you try a Live build before going for the full swap. This should allow you to test the features out yourself and see how you like it overall.
I knew that my gut feeling of going for openSUSE did not disappoint me. The distribution maintains its ease of use, its simple and clean look and its support for a wide variety of applications. First time users will have a slight learning curve, but that can be said for any other Linux based distros.
Performance wise, there are quicker distros out there, so if you have a slower machine I recommend you try either Debian or Linux Mint. However, this issue is not as big as it was with Fedora or Mandriva. A PC with medium specifications will run it without any hitches and even an older machine will not struggle.
Unlike Debian or Mint thought, this will chew a little bit on your resources. Once you go over that however, you should be well on your way and you will not have to worry about anything. So what else are you waiting for? Go for a taste of openSUSE!
Mandriva – Customization With Style
It took me literally hours to figure out which Linux distributions I would want to download and test. The choices are so varied and there are so many features each distro offers that it was difficult just choosing. In this little article I will try to go over some of the basic features of one of my favorites, Mandriva.
Unlike the competition in this sector, Mandriva offers an incredible array of features and cool little tidbits. The sheer amount of applications the platform comes with out of the box is incredible and anyone out there looking to start their career in Linux will have a field day with Mandriva. With a plethora of awesome features and awesome looks, this could be one of the best Linux distributions out on the market.
You might think that with so many features out of the box, Mandriva will be heavy on the resource front. If you thought that, then you are correct. After Fedora I think Mandriva is one of the “heaviest” Linux distros out there in terms of sheer system requirements. Although my machine is fairly new and powerful enough, I had the feeling that there were times when it did have to break a sweat.
However, once everything is nice and loaded up, you will be amazed by the fluidity and speed of the platform as a whole. It really shifts this thing and I was profoundly impressed by how well and quick everything went despite the initial feeling that my computer might just crash during boot. Note that in this regard, there are better alternatives for those with older machines.
The overall interface is very easy and intuitive and you get access to loads of customization features with a single click. Within just a few seconds after the system booted up I managed to sync up my music files stored on Dropbox, start listening to those, check my email, write up some text, log into my Instant Messaging applications and start work.
Although I just changed from Windows 7 I had no issues in adjusting to Mandriva within the first few minutes. Sure that my experience with Linux might have a small effect on this, but apart from a few weeks running a couple of builds, I am as green as they get.
This is where Mandriva really shines as the offer for applications is incredible. There is literally no stone left unturned and although I took several screenshots of the applications this comes with, there are tons more for you to access. The good part is that we are not just dealing with bloatware like on some Windows machine, but with actually useful applications.
These range from a wide variety of web related applications and all the way to graphic editing, text editing and multimedia players. There is literally no stone left unturned with Mandriva and if you look for great features as soon as you install your operating system, this is the one to go for.
As browsers you can choose between Firefox and Konqueror, you have Kopete for IM, KTorrent as a torrent client (doh!) and Mozilla Thunderbird as an email client.
The office pack is provided by Libre Office and you will find everything you need there as well. In terms of tools you have a plethora at your disposal yet again. Mandriva did not skimp on these either and you can quickly start configuring your computer, your desktop, manage your printers, monitor the system, access the Konsole in one quick click. Everything is again at your fingertips as soon as the system boots up.
Not to mention that behind all of this, I found one of my old favorites in terms of audio players, Clementine. This has out of the box MP3 support, a great and simple interface and at the same time it can provide the user with any sort of information they might look for in their music library.
Ease of use
Despite the wide array of applications at your disposal, Mandriva never seems overwhelming. You never get the feeling that you might break something or that you are overcome by the sheer amount of features it throws at you. There are some bad sides in this regard as well for those who do not know a few of the applications this ships with, but overall, Mandriva has something for everyone and it features it in a nice and pleasant manner.
If you think that it might be too overwhelming to change within just a few minutes, then try out a live build.
Note that those tend to be a lot slower than their full counterparts and some features might be missing. If you get over that little inconvenient, you should be in a fine shape and you should be able to run all your usual stuff easily.
Mandriva just became one of my new favorites in terms of Linux distributions. It features a plethora of awesome applications as soon as you finish installing the operating system and it feels excellently put together. Applications load quickly and easily, you can access a wide array of file formats and content within just a few minutes after installing it and you have massive amounts of control over everything.
Not to mention that all of this in an interface very similar to what you might see on a Windows or Mac OS machine. The benefit of it all however lies in the fact that Mandriva (like any Linux distro for that matter) will offer you a huge amount of customization options. Setting up multiple desktops, arranging applications to fit your needs and work style, everything is done with absolute control.
The only real reason I would see for which you would not run Mandriva (or again, any other Linux distro) is their support for games. But if you do not game that often or maybe only an hour or two a day, you can even try using with a Windows emulator. Getting a dual-boot setup would be another way of achieving this as well. So what are you waiting for? Go on and get it!
Kubuntu – Looks And Speed In One Package
Once I decided to start browsing through some of the most popular and easy to use Linux distros, I started my search like anyone else, with the help of Google. Kubuntu is one of the most downloaded Linux distribution out on the market and I was intrigued about what it had to offer. Why is Kubuntu this popular and what are the reasons behind this popularity.
I talked around with some friends who use Linux on a day-to-day basis and their words were not as encouraging in this regard. However, I decided to dive into this one open minded and see for myself what lies within this distribution. So without any further ado, I present to you, Kubuntu!
Right off the bat, I would like to note that Kubuntu is pretty easy on the hardware. I am not exactly putting it on the same level as Linux Mint or even as Debian, but the distro knows how to shift its weight. It loads up moderately quickly and once you are at your desktop, you should find that the system is ready to go.
Unlike other distributions, I did not notice any of that power hungry feel Fedora gave me. Even with multiple applications running, several tabs open in the browser, Kubuntu stayed calm and docile. I would not exactly install this on a single core machine, but you will not require some space age setup either to run it fluidly.
This is where Kubuntu manages to win me over. Although you are greeted by the same interface as on other KDE based Linux distros, it all has a smoother feel to it. The window transitions are nice and smooth and the overall feel is that you are looking at a very polished platform. When it comes to customization, everything is in its ordinary place and you can access anything with ease.
The desktop was obviously designed with a high resolution display in mind, but apart from that, content looked nice and well-spaced out even on my 1080p monitor. What I liked overall is the general feel everything had about it. Starting with the windows, the panels, icons and widgets, everything looked good and it never felt like it would kill your machine resource wise.
In this regard Kubuntu is very similar to other Linux distributions. The web browser employed is Rekonq and it is one of my favorites. It looks very clean and it loads pages up quickly. Even with multiple tabs open I never felt that it would be hogging too much of my resources.
Kopete is here as an IM app, Amarok is the audio player (you again!) while office tasks are taken care of by the Libre Office pack. In short, you will have everything you require from the beginning and I did not have to spend time working around too many applications as everything worked straight out of the box.
My only beef would again be Amarok and Kopete as well. I personally preferred Banshee as an audio player and Pidgeon as an IM application. Libre Office is work as usual, so if you are migrating from Windows or Mac OS you should have no issues whatsoever to adjust to the entire setup with ease.
There are the obvious issues that come with the installed applications and those are that Rekonq does not have Flash support out of the box and that Amarok needs codecs to play MP3s as it doesn’t support them right of the bat. Luckily, I use both an album in MP3 and one in FLAC when doing my testing so no worries there.
Ease of use
As a new Linux user myself with only limited experience in the past with this operating system, I had no issues adjusting to Kubuntu. Everything is intuitive and easy to use and with plenty of out of the box functionalities, you are not force from the first 5 minutes to start adjusting settings.
This allows you to really explore around a bit while at the same time remaining productive. As in all my other tests I had no issues synchronizing up a couple of files via Dropbox (which offers tremendously better control on Linux than on Windows), listening to music, writing an article and posting it.
Image editing, text editing, browsing and whatever else you might think of, worked without any issues. The setup of the interface might look strange the first few times to get to see it but as soon as the initial change wears off, you should be up and running.
As one of the best-looking Linux distributions out there, I understand the appeal Kubuntu has especially to new users. With a large array of applications straight from the beginning, you do not need a lot of time to adjust it to your needs. However, once you figure out these little differences you should be well on your way to start using the true power of Linux based systems.
The best point I would have to make in Kubuntu’s favor is the fact that it does not feel intimidating at all. There are plenty of distros out there which do make you take a step or two back and scratch your head. For beginners or anyone new to the Linux platform, Kubuntu is a great alternative offering plenty of solutions from the very first boot.
It is a great place to start your work in Linux and if you were ever curious about the OS, then this should do it easily. You have everything you would need and using it does not require a PhD in quantum physics. My vote, if you are new and want to give it a try, go for it!
Fedora – Linux For The Security Obsessed
When I first came up with the idea for these articles, I had a ton of issues trying to determine how to review these Linux distributions. On the one hand, trying to give an operating system a review could fill up some pages, but trying to put too much information into one article can also drive potential users away. With that in mind, I decided to simplify things, although Fedora does not wish to be simplified.
Fedora is one of the most secure Linux distros out there, but despite that increased level, you will not have to struggle trying to get it to work. That was basically the whole concept behind all of this, namely ensure that a transition to a Linux distro would go smooth. Now the question is, will it go smooth with this one?
Before you read any further, you should know that Fedora is one hungry OS. Unlike Debian for example, Fedora constantly felt slow and sluggish. Despite operating in the exact same conditions, the system took long to boot up and as soon as more applications started up, there was a noticeable drop in responsiveness.
I had a constant feeling that the system was moving slowly or that it was lagging at times when I had several applications open. Even when I had multiple tabs opened up in Konqueror I felt that the system moved less than usable and opening up any documents on Google Docs or even trying to synchronize a couple of folders seemed slow.
In terms of the interface, Fedora will display mostly the same features as other Linux distros running on KDE. You have a wide array of options for your desktop, you can add panels, you can modify basically any feature you would enjoy.
No stone is left unturned and if you read any of my other Linux distro reviews, you should know by now what to expect. Personally I browsed around a bit and everything was where I expected it to be and in terms of usability, any Windows or Mac OS user should have no issues in transitioning to this operating system based solely on the interface.
Fedora comes packing any application you could require from the very start. To kick it off, you have your web browser, email client, IRC client, multimedia apps, graphics editing and the list keeps on going. I found some good apps in the bunch, but there were also a couple that I did not particularly liked.
For starters, I do not like Konqueror that much as a web browser. In order to get the full functionality out of it you will have to spend some time configuring it. I know that this is one of the big pluses any Linux operating system offers, however in this series of small reviews I focused on out of the box features. I wanted to see how well these distros work when you do not spend any time configuring them and what they offer in the end.
My issues continue with the audio player, which is Amarok in this case. It is not that I have some personal beefs with the player since a lot of other Linux distros offer it, it simply is the fact that you need to start working on it as well. For example it does not come with MP3 support out of the box. The interface is not as intuitive as I would like it to be and overall it felt sluggish as well.
That might be connected to the way the OS worked as a whole and not the apps fault, but alas, it came up here as well. Now when it comes to text editing, Fedora ships with KWord. Although a little bit unusual for me, I quickly started figuring my way through the app and I had no issues afterwards.
Ease of use
Fedora is not the easiest to use Linux distribution available. With some configuration work and some customizing it might become that, however, until you do that, you might lose the taste for Linux altogether. There are plenty of reasons to recommend it, but if you are new to Linux I would point your attention to some of the competitors in this category.
There are far easier to use Linux distros and this one is not amongst the easy ones. Despite that, if you go over the initial issues of running it and if your machine can handle it, then you are in for a surprise. Until that happens, you will be browsing forums with questions to tons of issues.
In case you are new to Linux, which you should be if you are reading through this article, then Fedora should not be your first stop. Although the system feels rock solid if you spend some time on it, my first concern when writing these lines comes from the perspective of someone looking to change their OS of choice. If you are part of that group of new contestants in this field, Fedora might not be the thing for you.
With rather high system requirements, I also think that this is not recommended for the average, run-of-the-mill user either. You will need some horsepower to really get into it and if you have those at your disposal chances are that you play a lot of games as well.
If that is the scenario, then I would point you towards Windows, since gaming is not the strong point of Linux. In case you are a little bit more experience and are willing to overlook some of the issues that the OS presents on the first look, Fedora might become your new “go-to” platform.
Debian – The Linux Distribution That Flies
Congratulations on your decision to give at least Linux a second look. After being the owner of a PC for over a decade, I decided that it would be high time to see the direction Linux is heading towards. I did use openSUSE for a while a few years ago, but a number of reasons stopped me from making the switch completely. Today however, I am taking a look at Debian, one of the quickest Linux distros out!
Debian was on my little top 5 list a few years ago when I first started browsing around for distros, but back then I decided to go for openSUSE out of a few reasons that made sense. Back then at least, in my absence though, Debian took huge leaps and I honestly feel like I am playing around with one of the fastest Linux distributions on the market.
We are now getting down and dirty with this one folks. Debian ran on the exact same platform as the rest of the Linux distros that went through my little testing. However, up to this point, it feels very quick and responsive. There are some cuts though that helped it in this direction, but nothing that you would miss too much.
If anything, this thing was moving quicker on my machine than any other OS I ever used. Menus and windows popped up quickly and throughout using it I felt that even my older machine could easily run it. Not to mention that boot times felt almost inexistent and no, I do not use an SSD. It simply is that quick.
The point of these articles is by no means to convince some Linux user to switch distributions, but to make Linux available to the masses in a sense. If you always had worries about making the switch, you should not, since Debian is as simple as it gets. As always, this is focused only on a surface view and by no means an in-depth analysis of the whole setup.
Overall, the entire interface seems very simple and straightforward. You can access anything very quickly and you can obviously customize it to your hearts contempt. Even if you are migrating from Windows or Mac OS, you should have no issues in figuring out how this setup works. Also, the ability to set up four different desktop arrangements helps out immensely in terms of work efficiency and work-flow.
Debian ships with plenty of applications to tailor itself to anyone’s needs. You have graphic editing applications in the form of GNU, internet browser, text editor, audio and video players and the list goes on.
There were a few issues with Konqueror though, the web browser, since this had issues at times with Flash content and would get errors even when just passing through some page with the smallest amount of Flash on it. Getting that fixed is easy, but it was a little bothersome. Also, Gmail might not work properly the first time around and you will have your inbox set to the HTML version of the mail client.
My other beef is with the text editor and namely the fact that Debian comes with Open Office. Personally, I learned to like Libre Office a little bit more, but that is just a personal preference. If you wish to have quick text editing on the go, then this will serve its purpose just right. There is support for plenty of audio and video formats when coming to the multimedia aspect and everything is rather intuitive.
In this regard, I do recommend you experiment around a little and see for yourself what you like and do not like and always keep in mind that you can find additional applications easily.
Ease of Use
After using Debian for a while I realized that even if you are completely new to Linux, this should not worry you. If you used Windows or Mac OS, the transition will be a little bit weird at first, but you will quickly learn to enjoy it. Everything is roughly similar to what the other two platforms offer with some major differences.
The differences are hidden most of the time, but relate to security, usability and customization. Not only that, but all of this comes for free. Starting with instant messaging applications, to text editing, video and graphic editing, all is intuitive and easy. Although the transition to Linux will require a little bit of adjustment, you will start noticing all the reasons for which this is a great platform.
Debian is a great example in itself and I could not be happier with it, my main focus being that it will run with ease even on older systems and you do not need to fear that you will get bottlenecked at any time.
Although not as great out of the box as Linux Mint or openSUSE, Debian is a great distribution. It feels very solid in its operation and best of all, it is one of the fastest out there. Even if you are reading this from some older dual-core or even single core system, I recommend you give it a try.
It offers a plethora of applications out of the box, it is free, it moves like crazy and it looks hella good. Not to mention the fact that in terms of customization, you can really set your desktop up to your personal needs with great ease.
So what else are you waiting for, go on and get Debian and give it a shot!