Which Linux Version Is Right For Me?
I understand there are many variations on the Linux theme. I want to try Linux as a free alternative to Windows, but I feel like I'm in a diner with too many options on the menu. Can you give me a quick guide to selecting a Linux that meets my needs?
Choosing a Linux Version
Give a free, open-source operating system to thousands of geeks who love to tinker, and you end up with more versions of that operating system than there are brands of toothpaste. There is a Linux distribution package, for every kind of computer user. Here are some popular Linux "distros" in each class:
Linux for Joe or Jane Sixpack
The typical home user who's comfortable with Windows will probaly fare best with a Linux that looks familiar and speaks plain English, or at least Microsoft-ese. If you want a free drop-in replacement for Windows that looks and acts the same, you're out of luck. But if you just want a friendly non-Microsoft graphical interface to your programs, and you're willing to explore a bit, there are several good Linux options.
Ubuntu Linux is highly recommended for Linux beginners with Windows experience. Linux Mint is an Ubuntu spinoff with Windows-like user interface, even has a "Start" button in the lower left corner of the screen to get you going. Xandros Linux is likewise Windows-like, and it comes in desktop and server editions for consumer and business users. Most importantly, all of these distros have large communities of users and developers to help you and make free applications for you.
Linux for Pete The Programmer
Programmer types often go for Debian Linux. Its developers and support community assume you know geek and want more geek, not "family entertainment". The main Debian distro comes with over 25,000 "packages" of pre-compiled software, what non-Linux geeks call applications. Debian's support community is very large and speaks many languages; you'll find a Debian distro in your native tongue, most likely.
Another option, Gentoo is often used by developers of Perl and PHP web applications. It can be tweaked to your taste, like an ergonomic chair.
Linux for Older Computers
Slimmed-down Linux distros turn obsolete, low-powered computers into lightfooted dancing partners again. There are dozens of such "lite Linux" packages, and they're so small it's easy and fast to download several, try them all, and find one that suits you. The One Laptop Per Child Project maintains a list of links to lite Linux sources.
DeLi Linux is a good example of how lite it can get. DeLi is intended for old Intel CPUs, from 80486 to Pentium III. Its entire installation package takes only 750 MB of hard disk space; megabytes, not gigabytes! The test platform used to develop DeLi improvements has only 64 MB of RAM! Yet it comes with an email client; a graphical Web browser; an office productivity suite including word processor and spreadsheet, and many other applications. Be advised, however, that DeLi aims for speed and utility, not fancy user interface. PuppyLinux and Damn Small Linux are other popular choices in the Linux Lite arena.
Some people collect stamps or minerals; others collect Linux distros, of which there are at least as many varieties and variations on each variety. "Try distros until you find one you like" is the usual advice to beginners. Here are a couple of places to find lots of distros to try:
- Distrowatch.com - an online community buzzing with news of new distros, new versions of popular distros, help, etc.
- Linux-watch.com - by the publishers of eWeek, DesktopLinux.com, LinuxDevices.com, mainly for software developers, geek spoken here.
If you want to read more about Linux history, Linux programming, or running Linux on a Mac or Windows computer, see the list of related articles below. And feel free to post a comment, if you want to recommend your favorite version of Linux to others here...
Posted by Bob Rankin on 5 Oct 2009
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Which Linux Version Is Right For Me? (Posted: 5 Oct 2009)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved