Finally, an Answer to What is The Best Linux Distro?

Finally, an attempt to answer to the age old question: Which Linux distro is the best?

This question has been asked time and time again and debated from the moment more than one distro existed – so, pretty much since day one. It has been so hotly debated that it has caused true animosity and people rage-quitting entire sites. Some people have high conviction that their distro of choice is the best distro!

Hint: It’s not.

I’ve been using Linux exclusively for more than a decade.
Many years ago, I used Unix extensively.
I have dozens of virtual machines of current distros.
My Linux ISO folder is 250 GB in size.
If you can name it, I’ve probably installed it and used it.

I think that makes me pretty darned qualified to finally put this question to bed.

So, what is the best Linux distro?

There isn’t one.

There is No Best Linux Distro:

The best Linux distro is the one that is best one for you. It’s the distro (perhaps even plural, ‘distros’) that suits your individual needs best. The best Linux distro the one where you’re most able to get your work done, because that’s what an operating system is for. An operating system is a tool to help you accomplish a computational goal.

The best distro the one that’s suited to your personal workflow. It’s the one that makes you the most happy, and the one that best lets you use the applications you need to use. Basically, it’s the one that works for you.

You can look up Linux distro benchmarks.
And can check their popularity.
Or you can test them out virtually online.

You can download the images and use VirtualBox to test them for longer periods. You can download the various .iso images and test them on bare metal by using them live – without making any changes to your currently installed operating system.

But, at the end of the day, nothing beats experience.

It May Take a While:

The reality is, it may take you some time to find the right distro for you. Maybe you’ll start with something easy to install and maintain, and maybe your final destination ends with Gentoo. Who knows? Only you. Only you know.

When someone attempts to tell you the best Linux distro, what they really mean is what is best for them. That may not be the best for you. It could very well be, but you won’t know until you try. You still might not know until you’ve tried many distros.

There are many things to consider. Do you want a stable release? Maybe you want a rolling release with the most up-to-date software? Or, perhaps you want to use Aptitude or Zypper, or maybe no package manager at all? Which desktop environment do you want? What default software do you want? Which window manager is right for you? Do you want a fancy desktop or just the bare minimum? How about something in between?

TIP: You can do some really refined searches at DistroWatch.

Do you want a distro that comes with just the basics so that you can add your own software? How about a distro that comes with the software you’re most likely to use? Maybe you want a specialist distro that comes with the tools you need, like Springdale Linux? Do you want to work with multimedia as a creator with Ubuntu Studio?

Then, what computer architecture are you using? Are you trying to keep your old 32 bit computer running? You can do that!

Do you want to use your SBC (Single-Board Computer) as your HTPC (Home Theater PC)? You can do that!

Do you want to set up your own router and firewall? You can do that!

Do you want to set up your own NAS (Network-Attached Storage)? You can do that!

There are unique Linux distros to do all of those things!

So Many Choices:

There are many, many choices. Odds are great that there’s a distro that’s just right for you. And, if you can’t find one that’s just right, you can make your own. On top of that, you can make pretty much any distro do the same thing that another distro does. So, you can start with one distro and turn it into whatever you want.

The choices are so many and so broad that you have practically limitless choices. That’s one of the things that makes Linux so great. You have a say in what your operating system does (and what it doesn’t) do. It’s your computer, you get to decide.

And that, that’s the answer to this age-old question. There is no right distro, there’s only the right distro for you.

Me? I’m old. I want stability and an environment that gets out of my way to let me get my work done with the smoothest possible workflow. The distro that does that is the distro that’s right for me. You do you and you decide what the best distro is for you.

Most of all, enjoy the wondrous journey of discovery, as  you too find the right Linux distro for you.  

Closure:

This article has been pulled over from the old site. It may look familiar to some of my readers. I cleaned it up and moved it, formatting it to match the current site. 

Thanks for reading! If you want to help, or if the site has helped you, you can donate, register to help, write an article, or buy inexpensive hosting to start your own site. If you scroll down, you can sign up for the newsletter, vote for the article, and comment.

NOTE: This article was updated on 06/19/2021.

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How To: Disable Sleep And Hibernation on Ubuntu Server

For some reason, Ubuntu Server comes with ‘power management’ enabled. This is an article that tells you how to disable sleep and hibernation in Ubuntu Server. It’ll work just fine for non-server installs, but this is aimed specifically at the Ubuntu Server release.

I recently was working on my own router. For this, I used Ubuntu Server as the base operating system. For some reason, it was shutting itself down after periods of inactivity. This isn’t acceptable behavior for a device that’s meant to be running all the time.

I checked in my logs and I found entries like this one:

Apr 3 12:18:27 server systemd[1]: Reached target Sleep.

That was entirely unacceptable. I do not know why power management was installed, nor do I know why it was active by default. I merely know that it was and that I couldn’t have that behavior with a server, a device meant to be always powered on.

So, I did what anyone would do in my shoes. I disabled sleep and hibernation entirely. It’s quick and easy – and effective! I’ll show you how!

Disable Sleep/Hiberation:

Like most articles, you’re gonna need a terminal. If it’s actually a server, you’re likely already able to connect with SSH. So, add the step of connecting to the server if you’re doing this remotely. If not, just proceed.

Once you have your terminal open, you’re to kill everything that has to do with suspend, sleep, or hybrid-sleep. It’s actually pretty easy. Start by opening said terminal, by pressing CTRL + ALT + T and then enter the following commands:

First, you mask ‘sleep.target‘:

Then mask ‘suspend.target‘:

And mask ‘hibernate.target‘:

Finally, mask ‘hybrid-sleep.target‘:

Later, should you change your mind, you can unmask them and that’ll enable them again. Just change ‘mask’ to ‘unmask’ and run the commands again. See? Pretty easy!

If you want, you can verify the efficacy. Simply use the following:

(You can change ‘sleep.target’ to one of the above services and check them individually.) 

Closure:

That’s it! I told you that it’d be pretty easy. It’s not only easy, it’s easy to undo this should you change your mind. Again, I do not know why power management is enabled by default in a server release. Nobody asked me! So, that’s how you disable sleep and hibernation with Ubuntu. (It’ll surely work with other distros.)

Thanks for reading! If you want to help, you can donate, write an article, vote for articles you like, share this article on social media, buy cheap hosting, register to help, etc… Nobody ever reads the last paragraph anyhow. Still, you can help if you want!

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‘vnStat’ A Tool For Monitoring Your Bandwidth Usage

‘vnStat’ is a wonderful tool for monitoring your bandwidth usage. This article will show you how to use vnStat effectively. For bonus points, we’ll also look at ‘vnstati’ so you can make pretty graphs to visualize your bandwidth usage. This article shouldn’t take too long!

vnStat‘ stands for ‘view network statistics’ and has been around for like 18 years at the time of this writing. It’s so common that it has its own Wikipedia page. Of course you know that already, you can see the handy link I already provided!

Anyhow, ‘vnStat’ is a tool that runs in the terminal, a console tool as it helpfully describes itself:

vnstat – a console-based network traffic monitor

It’s a pretty great tool that generates some neat information and displays it in the terminal. It looks a little something like this:

vnStat in action!
See? I’ve stopped taking screenshots with a semi-transparent terminal! I’m pretty much a pro!

That image should save me a whole bunch of time! I trust that my readers are smart enough to figure out the gist of it with just a handy screenshot. For those not fluent in the ways of vnStat, ‘rx’ means received and ‘tx’ means sent. The rest should be pretty easy to figure out.

Install vnStat:

In order to get vnStat, you have to actually have to install it. It’s available in the default repositories in the popular distros (and even the BSD family). If it isn’t, you can always build it from source. But, you can probably install it much like you’d install anything else. For example, in a distro that uses apt you’d install it with:

(We might just as well install vnstati at the same time. Also, adjust that command for your own package management system.)

You can next go ahead and enable the service and start it next. That will be:

Once it is installed, you should set up database(s) for vnStat. This is done with:

Where you have “<device_name>” you replace it with the name of your internet adapter. For example, lots of Ethernet adapters are ‘eth0’. You can find the name of your adapter(s) by using either ‘ifconfig -a’ or ‘ip addr’. You can repeat this with all the names of the internet adapters you use, if you do in fact use more than one.

Then you can verify your vnStat installation with:

Assuming that spits out a version number you should be good to go.

Using vnStat (& vnstati):

So, by now you should have vnStat installed, and its sister app vnstati should also be installed. Let’s examine how you use them.

First, you can just call the application in the terminal. There’s nothing complicated about it and it may be your choice if you have more than one network interface. To do so, it’s just:

You can also be more specific, getting the data for just a single device:

Where ‘eth0’ is, change it to the name of your device. So, for a wireless device, it may look something like:

There are a ton of other options, so be sure to check the man page. Those are the options that I use most often, so those are the only ones we’ll be concentrating on.

Now, you can also use vnstati to make a nifty graphic that will show you your bandwidth usage. It looks a little something like this:

vnstati in action
That’s the graphical outcome I prefer.

That’s the output of this command:

As you can guess, you can change the output path to anything you want (and have permissions for). I prefer that particular graphic, but there are a ton of options and you can gather all sorts of information. For example, there’s also this to show the hourly rate from the past 24 hours:

vnstati in action
This is an hourly output, which may be of value if you have limited bandwidth.

That is the output from this command:

And, again, you can modify the outputted .png to place it where you want. There are a whole lot more options and this article isn’t going to cover them all. That’s not the kind of article I write. There are tons more options in the man page, if you want to explore them.

Find what works for you and run with it. You should be able to find a format you like that has the information you’re looking for. I’m just introducing you, you decide how you use it.

Closure:

And there’s another article in the books! This one explains vnStat and vnstati. Both are pretty great tools that go well together, and they help you monitor your bandwidth usage. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to scroll down and leave a message.

Thanks for reading! If you want to contribute, you can donate, you can write an article, you can register to help, you can buy inexpensive hosting, you can rate the articles, you can scroll down to sign up for the newsletter, or you can share this site on social media. If you can think of anything else to help, jump right in and start doing it!

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Enable x11 Forwarding With SSH (Remotely Use GUI Applications)

In the last article, I explained how to enable SSH. In today’s article, we’re going to learn how to forward GUI application windows with SSH. x11 forwarding is easy and beneficial. Once you learn how, you may decide to stop using VNC or TeamViewer.

Just to quickly clear up a misconception, x11 forwarding works just fine with Wayland. Way back in the earliest days of Wayland development, it was agreed that it should retain backwards compatibility with x11 forwarding.

What is this strange thing, this x11 forwarding?

Well, when you’re connected to another computer via SSH you can use the terminal to control the computer. That’s great, but what if you want to use a GUI application? Sure, you could set up some sort of remote desktop application, such as VNC. Or, alternatively, and often more simply, you can just forward graphic applications over SSH. It’s remarkably easy!

Perhaps a picture is in order. Check this:

gedit in action
That’s GEdit running on a different computer, but forwarded to this one. Pretty neat, huh?

That’s right. That’s GEdit running on my laptop. I’ve just forwarded the GUI application to this computer. If I write something and save it, it’d be saved on the computer that I’m connected to and not the computer that I’m using.

Amusingly, I used this exact process just recently. I had to move a complex password to my laptop and I was being lazy. So, I opened GEdit remotely and pasted in my password, transferring my new password to the other device. See? It comes in handier than you might think.

Let’s Enable x11 Forwarding:

How do you do this? Well, first you need to crack open your terminal. To do that, you just press CTRL + ALT + T on your keyboard and your default terminal emulator should open.

Now, in said terminal, you need to run the following command:

Once you have that file opened with nano, you just need to remove the appropriate pound sign (“uncomment” it out) for the right line. Look for the line that says:

And change it to:

Then save the file with nano by pressing CTRL + X, then Y, and then ENTER. (You may want to learn that, as that’s how you save files in nano.)

Next up, you’ll restart the SSH service and be done with it:

And that’s it! You can now use x11 forwarding over SSH. To do so, you just need to add the -X switch. That’s not as complicated as you might think. Nothing in this article is all that difficult.

To try to make sense of that above command, if I were to remotely connect to the MSI laptop, then my command would look just like:

You can also use the IP address, instead of the hostname, just like we discussed in the previous article about SSH. To do that, it looks like this:

x11 Forwarding in Action:

Once you’re there, just go ahead and start an application. For example, open gedit by typing just that into the terminal. You may find some applications won’t work, often due to ownership and permissions issues, but you’ll find many that work just fine. If you find one that doesn’t work, you can always check any errors thrown and go from there.

Firefox forwarded over SSH
See? Note the carefully drawn arrow that shows where it was forwarded from. Tada!

That’s an example of Firefox forwarded over SSH using x11 forwarding and you may notice the washed out look. I haven’t really dug into it, but I am reasonably confident that washed out look is because of compression. I’ve never needed to dig into that and, amazingly enough, I don’t know everything.

Conclusion:

Anyhow, there you have it. One more article in the books and one more bit of knowledge plastered across the internet. Thanks for reading! If you want to help, you can donate, you can share the site on social media, you can vote to show what type of articles you enjoy, and sign up for the newsletter. You can even buy inexpensive hosting and start your own site while supporting this site or write your own article!

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Install SSH to Remotely Control Your Linux Computers

If this article’s headline looks vaguely familiar, it’s probably because I previously wrote an article that told you how to install SSH. That article was on the earlier site. This article will show you how to install SSH, so that you can remotely control your Linux computers.

The old site, while up, will redirect to this address. It’s also a bit of a misnomer. We’ll be installing ‘OpenSSH‘ and enabling SSH. SSH is the protocol, OpenSSH is the application, specifically the ‘openssh-server’.

Let’s say your computer is in another room, in another state, over in another country, or perhaps on another continent entirely. How are you going to manage it? Servers are scattered across the world and it is not even remotely economical to send a person to administer each one of them in person. You’ll need to manage these devices remotely.

One of the best tools for this job is SSH.

As a home-use note; SSH is perfectly suitable to manage my own router. It’s quick, easy, lightweight, effective, doesn’t require an attached monitor, and more. What’s not to like? I SSH into my computers all the time! In fact, right this minute I’m connected to two other computers via SSH!

SSH has been around since 1995 and it lets you issue commands on a remote computer. In fact, the man page describes it like this:

ssh — OpenSSH remote login client

Which, as you can guess, means it lets you login to remote computers so that you can control them. It’s a pretty handy tool to have in your toolbox and it’s actually simple to install.

Install SSH:

SSH is really the protocol, and you can do many things over it. OpenSSH is the application that we’ll really be installing. Once that’s installed, you can login to the computer remotely and manage it that way. I use it quite often.

My homemade router doesn’t have a keyboard attached. It doesn’t even have a monitor attached. It’s not like I can just easily walk over and deal with it. I just got a laptop that, and it’s only used to test Lubuntu. I don’t always want to have to go over to the device and physically use it to start the test.

There’s also my dedicated server in Las Vegas – and I live in Maine. It wouldn’t be practical to fly out to Vegas every few days to run updates on the server. It wouldn’t make financial sense to go out there every time the server needed to be rebooted!

Those are all situations where you can use SSH. It’s available in pretty much every default repository out there. I’m surprised more people don’t use it. To get started, you just open your terminal (press CTRL + ALT + T on your keyboard) and enter the following:

If you’re using a distro with apt:

If you’re using a distro with yum:

Simply adjust that for your distro. For example, in OpenSUSE you may have installed it during the OS installation process. If it wasn’t installed during the initial OS installation then it’s just called ‘openssh’ – if you want to install a few of the applications surrounding openssh. You can also do a ‘sudo zypper install openssh-server’ like the rest of us.

Anyhow, once you’ve installed it, you may not even need to start it. If you install it on Ubuntu, you can go right ahead and test it immediately. If your distro requires that you start it manually, you should do that.

Once you’re done, you can test it easily enough. Try this:

If that works, you’ve properly installed openssh-server and can now make use of SSH. You may also need to enable it in  your firewall. Chances are that your firewall knows what SSH is.

To connect to your device from a remote computer, you’d do:

You can use a specific username in that command, like demonstrated in the testing command just above this command. It’s not mandatory, but doing so will skip a step.

Closure:

You can expect a couple more SSH articles, as this is woefully incomplete. A lot more can be done with SSH, plus SSH should be properly secured. For most of you, behind a NATed router, you don’t really have to worry too much unless you enable port forwarding. If you’re making the port available to the world-wide-web, you’re definitely going to need to add some security. Otherwise, there are a few nifty things you can do once SSH is enabled. We’ll cover those in future articles.

You can also connect with your hostname – probably. In many instances, you’d do this (distro-dependent):

For example, to connect to my testing laptop, I use the following command:

Go ahead and play around with it. There’s a number of ways to help secure SSH and we’ll go over some of that in a future article. I’ve been maintaining the ‘article every two days’ thing for a while now. I see no reason to expect that to not continue.

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