Actually good distro recommendations for beginners June 25, 2023 source/commit

#Why write this in the first place?

The Linux ecosystem is confusing and to an outsider the number of choices is overwhelming. Thankfully there is Google and hundreds of “Top 10 Linux Distros” articles that were probably created by an LLM or someone who underwent lobotomy. I have yet to see an article that actually contains useful information instead of throwing buzzwords around. This is my attempt at writing something that may actually help someone and not just confuse them further.

#Ignore gimmick distros

Forget about cool looking screenshots you saw online. The graphical interface does not depend on the distribution and can be replicated on any distro and most software works on any Linux system.

#The big distros and their forks

The important ones are Debian, Fedora and Arch Linux. Majority of the others are based on these three.

A tree diagram showing timeline of several Linux distributions and their forks.
0. timeline of some popular Linux distributions

“Based on” means taking the OS and adding customizations, installing or writing additional software for it or otherwise changing the defaults to fit the needs of your particular distro.

If there is a guide or a tutorial for a certain distro, and you are running something derived from it there is a good chance it will still be applicable.

For example Ubuntu is derived from Debian and Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu1. To be clear, I am not telling anyone new to Linux to install Arch2, I am just trying to illustrate how most articles with distro recommendations are stupid.

The thing that distinguishes the three distros I mentioned the most is package management (the way applications get installed). You don’t have to worry about that tho, since most distros support graphical package managers similar to app stores on phones or the Microsoft Store on Windows. Unlike the Microsoft Store they are not garbage and actually useful.

#Point vs rolling release

The type of release describes the way your distro gets updates. Rolling releases update software as soon as a new version is available and point/fixed releases only introduce changes according to some sort of schedule.

Example of a rolling distro is Arch and its forks. They get the latest drivers and up-to-date software quickly, but it can be burdensome to keep track of all the updates or to download a new version of a program for it to change suddenly without a warning.

The direct opposite is Debian, which only has a new version every 2 years. You will still get updates, but they will mostly include bug fixes, and you won’t have to worry about your applications changing drastically. If there is some specific application which you always want on the latest version you may still install it for example by using Flatpak or Snap.

#What should you actually use then?

My general recommendation for new users is just: Use something popular, based on one of the distributions I mentioned and most importantly something you like. There are better and worse distributions, but regardless of what you install if something bad happens it is probably going to be your fault anyway :3, so it’s good to choose something with a community and/or lots of tutorials and forums.

With that in mind I will list some distros, that I personally think are worth considering and some reasons why you may want to use them.

For people, that don’t know about this, you can try out operating systems without actually installing them either using a VM such as VirtualBox, a Live USB or a service that lets you try distros online such as DistroSea. Please bear in mind if you use a VM or something like DistroSea it will obviously not reflect real world performance.

#Anti recommendations

There are a few distributions that I see recommended even tho they (in my opinion) don’t deserve it, so I wish to offset that by some negativity.

#Update (2023-06-27):

link to commit with changes

#Update (2023-06-26):

link to commit with changes

  1. There is also Linux Mint Debian Edition and there have been considerations to make it the default, but I don’t think that will happen unless Ubuntu fucks up really badly. ↩︎

  2. Arch Linux is a distribution infamous for being difficult to install. ↩︎

  3. Most notable is probably an online search feature that sent searches to and recommended items from Amazon in the application menu (similar to Windows opening Edge because you mistyped). ↩︎

  4. You may consider this good or bad, but most people will probably want this, especially Nvidia users since the official Nvidia GPU drivers are not open source. ↩︎

  5. Kali Linux is a Debian-derived distribution designed for digital forensics and penetration testing. ↩︎

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