So, you are thinking about switching to Linux?
Please read this: http://www.shaunakhub.com/linux1/
Are we on the same page now? Good!
Now, before you jump to the Linux bandwagon there are a few things you need to consider.
Installing or using Linux is not difficult as a lot naysayers will try to tell you. It is as easy as Windows or Mac and once you get habituated with it for a few months, you will find that you can get more work done in less time in Linux. Ohh and you can live your entire life in Linux without ever going to the command prompt (Terminal). But it is advisable to learn basics of the command prompt (Terminal) in your free time.
The best thing about Linux is most of them can be used in a Live environment. A live environment is where you boot up the entire OS from your USB drive and try the OS to make yourself comfortable before you kick that proprietary OS out of your PC. However – do not that by default you can not save any data in the live environment, i.e. if you restart all the data you saved will be lost. There is a way to overcome that but that is a bit technical, its called persistent boot.
Another thing for those of you coming to Linux community need to understand is please be respectful when asking for help. Please don’t say someting like ‘Linux sucks’ or ‘Ubuntu sucks’ or ‘OpenSUES sucks’. Please understand that unlike Windows or Mac OS, Linux is not a product. You did not purchase it. For something you have paid for, you have every right to vent your anger. But Linux is a community and not a product, so when you say something like that – there are a lot of people who will take it personally 😊.
Now that out of the way lets proceed.
If you go to distrowatch.com – you will see there are hundreds of Linux distributions available to you. So which one is right for you?
First understand what is distribution in respect to Linux. Well the core of Linux (called the Linux Kernel) is same on all the operating systems (excluding some version number differences). So the differences is mostly on the list available software in them and how to install them (in Linux terms, it is called package managers) as well as some visual polish / theming. If you play with Linux for a year – you will see they are all more or less the same, except a few very specialised Linux distributions like Slackware / Kali Linux.
So, how do you decide? Well there has been 25 million videos and articles on internet that tells you what Linux distribution is best for you and what not. So, here comes the 25+1st article.
Well basically Linux distributions can be divided into 3 categories:
1. Rolling Release: This is the cutting edge of technology, as soon as any update to software is released, it will be made available to you for update. So, we are getting the latest and greatest of all the software great, I should jump to the rolling release! Wait a minute – being on the cutting edge means you can get injured, if you know what I mean. Update might break a software (a patch may soon arrive to fix it BTW) – are you ready to live with it, or are you technical enough to search the web for a solution and roll back to previous version if required? It mght seem something not a big deal to you right now, but just imagine that you are a writer and your word processor breaks!
2. Static Release: This is a stable release (as far as I know, only Ubuntu and Fedora has such releases) which gets released say once a year or 9 months after the core components and software are thoroughly tested. Any normal software get updated after thorough testing as well but they don’t wait for release of the next version of the distribution.
3. LTS Release: These are rock solid versions and supported for a long time. They are released after thorough testing. But their core components and kernel are always quite old when compared to the current version. But as long as it supports your hardware – you are good to go. But if it does not, you need to either use a static release or rolling release.
We are habituated with the same ‘desktop’ whether it is Windows or Mac OS. May be we can change a bit of color here or a bit of transparency there. That’s it. But when it comes to Linux – you can decide how your desktop looks and functions. And they are quite different from one another.
The most popular ones are:
1. GNOME (Image1)
2. KDE (Plasma) (Image 3)
3. XFCE (Image 2)
For someone coming from Windows or Mac – I would suggest you to give GNOME a pass as I personally find its functioning a bit odd, slow and resource hungry.
XFCE and KDE are very similar to each other but there are a few differences. XFCE is built on GNOME but it is very light weight and works nice with that low end system gathering dust under your table. Of course it also runs on new hardware too. Where as KDE is a powerful and feature rich Desktop Environment which you can configure and tinker to your heart’s content (Although, I would strongly advise against it for the first 6 months at least).
Another thing to note that these are desktop environments and not a single program. What I mean by that there is a plethora of software that comes bundled with them. And if you try to install software of one environment in another – they don’t always play nice (Gnome & XFCE play nice since XFCE is based on GNOME). However the best thing is when you try to install a software – it normally tells you whether it is built for GNOME of KDE. For example the email client (Outlook replacement) for GNOME is called Evolution but that for KDE is called Kmail. I am mentioning mail clients here because those are the software which cause problem when you try to use one Desktop Environment’s client on another due to authentication token issues. This authentication token is an advanced topic. But for now, keep in mind that ideally except mail clients or any other software that requires authentication from some web service will not work properly if you install it on any other environment than the one for which it was built.
Now we have distribution type and Desktop Environments out of the way, what distribution to chose?
Following are the top 10 distributions on Distrowatch (for 2020):
- MX Linux Hits: 3397 Based On: Debian
- Manjaro Hits: 2354 Based On: Arch
- Mint Hits: 2060 Based On: Ubuntu/ Debian
- Pop!_OS Hits: 2023 Based On: Ubuntu/ Debian
- Ubuntu Hits: 1366 Based On: Debian
- Debian Hits: 1249 Based On: N/A
- Elementary Hits: 1124 Based On: Ubuntu/ Debian
- EndeavourOS Hits: 1026 Based On: Arch
- Fedora Hits: 955 Based On: N/A / RedHat
- Solus Hits: 783 Based On: N/A
- KDE neon Hits: 774 Based On: Ubuntu/ Debian
- Ubuntu Kylin Hits: 759 Based On: Debian
- openSUSE Hits: 751 Based On: Red Hat
- Deepin Hits: 697 Based On: Debian
- Zorin Hits: 688 Based On: Ubuntu/ Debian
- Linuxfx Hits: 651 Based On: Debian
- Arch Hits: 627 Based On: N/A
- antiX Hits: 557 Based On: Mepis/ Debian
- Puppy Hits: 549 Based On: Ubuntu/ Debian
- CentOS Hits: 516 Based On: Red Hat
But do take this with a pinch of salt – but it simply records number of hits the respective pages got.
Out of the list Deepin is developed and maintained in China – thought you should know 😊.
Now out of these distributions they are either based on Debian/ Ubuntu, Fedora/ Red Hat or Arch.
Puppy Linux/Antix is a great distribution if you have a pre-historic laptop / desktop with 1 GB RAM. It will work fine (don’t expect Youtube to play though if you have a system with 1 GB RAM…).
Ubuntu Kylin is Chinese Ubuntu, so you can also discard it most probably – unless you are Chinese.
CentOS is mostly targetted towards Organizations/ Offices – however its future directions seem uncertain.
Arch Linux is for advanced users, so you can give it a pass.
Solus, ArcoLinux and Manjaro are rolling release distributions – so use it if you are brave enough. Personally I have found Manjaro to be more aesthetically pleasing when compared to ArcoLinux. Out of them Solus is not based on other bigwigs like Debian/ Fedora/ Ubuntu/ Arch so there may be a problem with availability of software it.
OpenSUSE and Ubuntu both have a static release (Which needs to be updated every 18 months or 9 months, respectively). Apart from that Ubuntu also have an LTS (Long Term Support Release) – which you need to update every 5 years.
Basically you are good to go with Any of the distribution – deep down they are the same, except Arch Linux.
In Next part we will look at if you CAN switch to Linux.
Please free to comment if you need further discussion on any of the terms you did not understand in this article.
P.S.: Your local hardware guy will probably discourage you from using Linux because he will lose future revenues….