How I chose my first Linux distro

Debian, Ubuntu, RHEL, CentOS, Fedora ... where to start!?

by Pete
Published: Updated: 10 minutes read

Before I divulge my chosen distro, it’s essential to grasp the landscape of Ubuntu and its various releases. Rest assured, this isn’t a mere endorsement of Ubuntu but rather an insight into the life cycle of a distro, with Ubuntu serving as a quintessential model known for its stability and robust community.

Canonical Ltd., a UK-based software company offering open-source software with paid support, is the custodian of Ubuntu, a Debian-based distribution. Ubuntu is known for its versatility, boasting multiple desktop environments supported by Canonical or maintained by the community.

Ubuntu flavours can be found here: https://ubuntu.com/desktop/flavors

As the title suggests, my inaugural Linux distribution was Kubuntu, adorned with the KDE desktop. My rationale for choosing KDE will be expounded elsewhere, but for now, let’s delve into Kubuntu.

LTS vs Rolling Releases

In the realm of distros, LTS (long-term support) releases guarantee secure, stable, and dependable platforms, benefiting from extended software support and a standard support duration, typically spanning five years. These LTS releases follow a meticulous timeline to ensure stability, albeit at the expense of immediate access to the latest features. In contrast, Ubuntu introduces major upgrades every two years.

Rolling releases, conversely, target users seeking swift software updates but endure shorter support lifecycles, usually six months. While they grant faster access to major releases, they may compromise stability and reliability.

This distinction, albeit specific to Ubuntu, encapsulates the general concept.

Lifted from the Ubuntu website
Lifted from the Ubuntu website

Other distros may vary slightly, but you get the idea.

For me: as I use my daily for work as well as pleasure, I want it as stable as possible so I chose LTS.

Ubuntu is my choice of base distro

In my perspective, Linux distributions share similarities with automobiles. I drive two Toyotas for their reliability and build quality. My foray into Linux in the mid-90s involved an encounter with a Red Hat distribution, although it wasn’t quite primed for mainstream adoption. Subsequently, Red Hat transitioned into a commercial entity, fading from my radar. While CentOS was explored, it predominantly catered to enterprises.

Ubuntu emerged as a promising option, endorsed by colleagues and recognized for its popularity. Since then, I’ve been immersed in the Ubuntu and Debian ecosystems for 15 years.

To be unequivocal, this isn’t an advertisement for Ubuntu or Debian; rather, it’s a personal trajectory. To be clear, this is not an advert for Ubuntu or Debian, just my journey.

Ubuntu bears several merits:

  1. Vibrant Community: The extensive Ubuntu community ensures that queries find answers, and resources are readily available.
  2. Open Source: Ubuntu adheres to open-source principles.
  3. Diverse Desktop Environments: It offers a wide array of stable desktop environments.
  4. Stability and Reliability: The LTS version aligns with my preference for a stable system.
  5. Wide Hardware Support: It caters to an array of major 64-bit architectures, including ARM.
  6. Enterprise-Certified: Ubuntu serves as a certified guest on AWS, Azure, IBM hyperscalers, which suits my enterprise needs.
  7. Ubiquity: Ubuntu accounts for a significant portion of the Linux market, enhancing accessibility to help and software.
  8. Abundant Software Packages: Over 60,000 software packages are available for Ubuntu-based systems.
  9. Efficient Package Managers: apt, apt-get, and aptitude offer user-friendly package management.

In pursuit of an ideal distro, I sought:

  1. LTS Version: Prioritizing long-term support for stability.
  2. Versatile Desktop Environments: A distro offering stable choices for experimentation.
  3. Accessible Packages and Applications: Easy access to software.
  4. Ample Community Support: A wealth of resources and comprehensive documentation.
  5. User-Friendly Experience: Suitable for novices and advanced users.
  6. Privacy and Security: A commitment to safeguarding data.
  7. Legacy Hardware Support: Compatibility with older hardware until market prices stabilize, particularly in the GPU sector.

Embracing Kubuntu: My Final Choice

Coming from a Windows background, I yearned for a desktop environment akin to Windows. While GNOME seemed tailored for Mac users, KDE mirrored Windows-like workflows, making it an apt choice for newcomers. Thus, I merged Ubuntu and KDE, giving birth to Kubuntu.

Kubuntu is officially recognized as an Ubuntu flavor. While Canonical withdrew its support for Kubuntu in 2021, the torch was passed to Blue Systems, a German IT company with KDE developers on its roster. It adopts the KDE Plasma Desktop and adheres to Ubuntu’s release cycle.

The main differences between Ubuntu and Kubuntu

Component

Ubuntu LTS


Kubuntu LTS
Kernel / CoreLinux Kernel / Ubuntu CoreLinux Kernel / Ubuntu Core
Display ServerWayland; X11 for NVIDIA GPUsX11
Sound DriverPulseAudioPulseAudio
Window ManagerMutterKwin
Graphical TooklitGTK3Qt5
Desktop EnvironmentGNOME 42KDE Plasma 5.24 (5.25 available via PPA)
Default BrowserFirefoxFirefox
Default Office SuiteLibreOfficeLibreOffice
Default EmailThunderbirdKmail

Why Not Fedora Workstation, KDE Neon, or Linux Mint?

Fedora Workstation, another stellar Linux distribution supported by Red Hat, boasts GNOME, offering a superior touch experience on my Lenovo Tablet. Despite GNOME’s stark contrast with KDE Plasma, I explored Fedora. Nevertheless, my Ubuntu familiarity retained me within the Ubuntu realm.

KDE Neon, an excellent distro, also warranted a try. However, concerns over its shorter release cycle potentially leading to instability, as well as the perceived complexity of its CLI package management, led me to remain on the path of least resistance with pkcon and apt.

While Linux Mint appears outstanding, I felt somewhat constricted during my interactions with it. Mint’s blend of Cinnamon intrigued me, but my KDE exploration preceded any significant Mint encounters.

An Abundance of Stellar Linux Distributions

Certainly, other commendable Linux distributions deserve mention. Notable options include Manjaro, Arch Linux, Debian, OpenSUSE, CentOS, Red Hat, FreeBSD (technically Unix-like), Slackware, and Gentoo Linux. Of course, numerous niche distributions populate the landscape. For Linux neophytes, I recommend initiating your journey with the major players before venturing into the realm of specialized distros.

Pros and Cons: The Distinctive Quirks of Each Distro

Perfection is elusive within the world of distributions, as each harbors unique attributes and sacrifices others. The beauty of Linux resides in its capacity for customization to cater to individual preferences. What might be advantageous to one may present drawbacks to another. In the realm of Linux, diversity thrives, with each distro offering a distinct charm.

Concluding Thoughts: A Myriad of Choices

In the world of Linux, no distro stands as the unrivaled victor. Each caters to diverse preferences, ensuring the liberty to customize and personalize the operating environment. The Linux journey is an odyssey, with users continually seeking the perfect distro that aligns with their unique needs and inclinations.