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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A Few Ways to Determine Which Distro and Version You’re Using

This article will show you a few ways to determine which distro and version you’re using. There are many ways to learn this, but these are three easy ways to tell.

There are any number of reasons why you might not know this information off the top of your head. Perhaps you’re working in a multi-platform job? You might have many devices. It’s possible that you may have a bunch of virtual machines, each different. One can’t always tell by just looking at the desktop, especially if you’ve done any customizing.

Additionally, you may have upgraded and not know things like the point release. You may have different versions across your network, each for its own purpose. You might just be forgetful and so you’ll need to determine the distro you’re using, as well as which version of that distro you’re using. You might be in a position where you need support, and being able to share this information is essential.

No worries, there are a few easy ways to determine which distro you’re using. All of them are pretty easy.

Determine Which Distro (and Version):

All of these methods will rely on the terminal. So, before you begin, you can open your default terminal emulator by using your keyboard and pressing CTRL + ALT + T.

Once you have that open, you can try any combination of the following:

Method #1

The first method will involve a program known as ‘neofetch‘. Many distros actually provide this by default. If not, it’s probably in your default repositories and you can install it pretty easily. For example, with a Debian-based, or APT-using distro, the command to install it would be:

Once installed, you can simply run it with the name of the application. No modifiers are required. You simply run:

You’ll get an output similar to:

neofetch in action
This should be entirely self-explanatory. You can do more with neofetch, by the way.

See? Nice and easy. The information to determine which distro you’re using is right there in the output and on the top-most line.

Method #2

The following two methods need no additional software. You simply need to run the command in the terminal. 

The first of these two methods is:

Which will give you an output similar to:

Again, this is self-explanatory. The top-most is the major name, the second is the version, then the release number, and then the codename. With this information, you can determine which distro you’re using.

Method #3

Your distro may not have any LSB data and may not contain that information. That’s okay, there’s still one more command for you to try. Again, you don’t need to install anything, it just works out of the box.

This time, the command you’ll be running will be ‘cat’ and you’re looking for release data in the /etc directory. The command looks like this:

Your output should look similar to this:

As you can see, that contains a ton of information, including where to go for support and where to file bugs. 

Closure:

One of those is bound to work for you. I checked across a number of virtual machines and was able to determine which distro each was using. In many cases, all three of them will work for you.

At the end of the day, you can probably just pick your favorite (or the one that works) and commit it to memory. Personally, I try the ‘lsb_release -a’ first, as that one is firmly locked in my memory.

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