Confessions: Choosing a Linux Distribution

Okay, confession time: I don’t run Linux (of any type or flavor) on my laptop. I know – here I am in the open source world and I don’t run Linux. I count Linux Kernel developers and contributors amongst my colleagues and I don’t run Linux. So, when my WFH officemate (aka my son) asked me to recommend a Linux OS for his laptop, I had no immediate retort. But, I did have an idea: ask my co-workers!

Sidebar: let’s define a distribution. According to Wikipedia (a form of open source), Linux distribution (often abbreviated as distro) is an operating system made from a software collection that is based on the Linux kernel and, often, a package management system. Linux users usually obtain their operating system by downloading one of the Linux distributions, which are available for a wide variety of systems ranging from embedded devices and personal computers to powerful supercomputers. Today, there are more than 600 distributions of Linux. And more arriving every year (see

Which Distro & Why?

Now, back to the question at hand: What Linux distribution do you use and why? I posted that question on an internal Slack channel and it lit up in mere seconds. Of course it did. Here are some of the responses:

Colleague #1

Debian, Fedora, Red Hat and Ubuntu. My choice is often determined by the killer app, which means I run several in VMs or containers in order to meet the impossible dependency matrix we created by refusing to create an actual platform at the Desktop. </rant> For general purpose desktop and development and with no external dependencies, Debian. If running user oriented software with dependencies, usually Ubuntu, because that’s the most popular. For commercial software dependencies, Red Hat, because that’s the only thing they support (and nothing else works). For corporate use, I use what is tested to work: Fedora.

Colleague #2

Fedora’s my default for anything I consider “fast moving” or needing to be updated. CentOS for anything I want a longevity of stability (though now they don’t really have in-place upgrades, which makes a lot of things kind of awkward), Debian because lots of software is hard written in Debian/ubuntu (and I just don’t feel like fighting that fight) and Ubuntu because some deveopers believe that’s the only OS and refuse to support anything but. 

Colleague #3

In order of current usage frequency:

  • Ubuntu: because too many things use and require it because it’s all they’ve tested/documented
  • Fedora: have been using this lineage since 1995 when someone said, “Hey, you should check out this Red Hat thing. They have these things called RPMS that makes life easier.”
  • Alpine: to understand miscellaneous things IT does(n’t)
  • Photonos: to understand miscellaneous things IT does(n’t)
  • Clear Linux: because I helped make it
  • CoreOS: to understand miscellaneous things IT does(n’t)

So, It Depends…Go Figure!

In the end, there’s no clear winner. It all depends – on who you are, what you’re doing and on what. And it’s more than likely you’ll use more than one distribution

How did the debate end? With yet another debate. We’ve had tabs vs. spaces and now the distro debate. Have I missed the editor wars? Perhaps I should brace for impact. You throw the first stone in that one!


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