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Dreaming a Little Dream of the Ideal Linux Distro

Dreaming a Little Dream of the Ideal Linux Distro

"It is hard to say what an ideal distro looks like because there are many important niches," noted Slashdot blogger Chris Travers. "What I need as a software developer for my laptop is very different than what I'd want to deploy my software to." For his development laptop, he prefers Fedora. "On the server, though, I would prefer to deploy to a more conservative distro, like Debian Stable or Scientific Linux."

By Katherine Noyes LinuxInsider ECT News Network
08/02/12 5:00 AM PT

Here in the world of Linux, with hundreds of distributions to choose from, it seems safe to say that there's something for just about everyone.

Of course, that doesn't mean we can't all dream a little. While Linux is famous for its virtually infinite customizability, sometimes we may wish our favorite distro were a little bit different, even if just in some minor way.

What does the ideal Linux distribution look like? That, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, but it's also the topic of a recent Open Ballot over on TuxRadar.

"We want to know if you were king for a day, what combination of components would you pluck out of which distributions to recombine into your perfect operating system?" the TuxRadar team asked.

'SolusOS Is King'

More than 50 comments appeared on the topic in short order, as Linux geeks far and wide hastened to describe the distros of their fondest dreams.

"ArchBang, but with a weekly rolling release and Fedora's anaconda installer," offered CJH, for example.

"A stable base of Ubuntu LTS with the Ubuntu software centre, remastersys, multimedia codecs, DVD support & Wine preinstalled," suggested Petescan321, on the other hand. "The closest thing to this is Zorin OS."

Then again: "It was Linux Mint 10 with Gnome but now SolusOS is King," opined Ray Penguin Woods. "It just works!"

Down at the blogosphere's Punchy Penguin Saloon -- whose frosty air conditioning has earned it a particularly loyal clientele during these long summer months -- bloggers had opinions of their own.

'KDE for the Desktop'

"My ideal distribution looks a lot like Ubuntu, but with less unnecessary dependencies and thus less bloat," Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza told Linux Girl.

"There is, for example, no need for mono whatsoever; alternatives exist for anything Mono-based in Ubuntu," Espinoza added. "One of the things that drew me to Linux to begin with was choice, and even on Ubuntu you still have many choices to make."

Google+ blogger Kevin O'Brien had a different view.

"KDE for the desktop, apt for the package management, Debian stability, and the $%#%^&* sound working properly for once," O'Brien said.

'Debian Is About Ideal'

"Something like Debian that ships natively with XFCE interface and Wicd wireless manager," consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack opined.

"I'm finally at the point where I don't feel like I need to be on the bleeding edge to have a nice desktop experience, so it doesn't need to update as often," Mack added.

"My favorite distro is Debian GNU/Linux," blogger Robert Pogson told Linux Girl, citing a variety of reasons:

  • "a huge repository of client and server applications available in seconds";
  • "a wonderful package manager, APT";
  • "several flavors from the newest software to stuff tested for years";
  • "a social contract which really states where Debian stands";
  • "great developers/package maintainers all over the world"; and
  • "widely distributed and fast mirrors."

In short, "Debian is about ideal," Pogson concluded. "The main concern is assembling great software to do what we need done with IT."

'There Isn't Just One'

In fact, "it is hard to say what an ideal distro looks like because there are many important niches," noted Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project.

"What I need as a software developer for my laptop is very different than what I'd want to deploy my software to," Travers explained.

"On my development laptop I need flexibility, cutting-edge packages I can test for problems early, and the like," he pointed out. "Fedora is a great distro for me in this regard.

"On the server, though, I would prefer to deploy to a more conservative distro, like Debian Stable or Scientific Linux," Travers noted. "The considerations in these two environments are just not compatible and so there isn't just one ideal distribution."

'The Fragmentation Trend Will Continue'

Travers likes to think of the question in terms of ecology, he told Linux Girl.

"We have an ecosystem here, with different niches, and individual distros have evolved to meet their niche markets, so I think there is room for a lot of specialization, and this will become more pronounced as Linux continues to grow," he explained. "Already we have seen distros like Linux Mint split off specifically in order to meet the needs of users who were not well met by other distros. The fragmentation trend will continue, and this is a good thing."

Travers' own ideal distro "is something like Arch or Fedora, but my customers' ideal distro is more like Debian Stable or Scientific Linux," he concluded. "The combination provides a richness that the components cannot individually provide."

'I Never Stay in One Place Very Long'

Indeed, "one of my favorite things about Linux is its versatility," Google+ blogger Linux Rants agreed.

"I never stay in one place very long," Linux Rants told Linux Girl. "I like the DEB architecture, and Ubuntu's repository system works out well. I would love it if I could switch desktop environments on the fly without closing my applications.

"If I want to move from Cinnamon to Gnome3, I don't want to have to close out my apps," he added. "I roll around between Chrome, Firefox, and Epiphany for web browsing tasks, depending on what I'm doing at the time. I'd like to have LibreOffice and multiple web servers and DBs that I can toggle between easily."

In short, "I want a distribution that I can change at the drop of a hat," Linux Rants concluded.

'Made for Users by Users'

The best strategy is to "choose a distro that treats its users like a community, with respect for their needs," Google+ blogger Alessandro Ebersol advised. "Some distros treat their users without care, and forget their roots. They forget that, without a community, they are nothing."

So, "choose a distro that hears you, that you can connect with, that you can interact with the administrators, send feedback, be important," he added. "Don't expect to have everything fixed by others, but help and help fix things too.

"This is my ideal Linux distro: The one made for its users by its users," Ebersol concluded.


Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+.


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