[kwlug-disc] What's the best desktop distribution?

john at netdirect.ca john at netdirect.ca
Mon Feb 1 16:38:43 EST 2010

kwlug-disc-bounces at kwlug.org wrote on 02/01/2010 01:57:10 PM:
> It's 2010.  You're starting fresh, with no preconceptions, and picking a 

> distro for your home or office desktop.
> What distro would you pick? 
> I'm using Mandriva, but I do so because my ISP Mandrake on my webserver 
> back 10+ years ago and I've stuck with it ever since.  But I keep 
> hearing about all these other distros.

Last I saw the stats, Debian was the most used distribution when one 
looked at all the derivatives (Ubuntu is a Debian derivative.) I think the 
Red Hat and derivatives (Mandriva is a derivative) were next.

It sounds like for many it's a comfort factor. I'm comfortable with Fedora 
because I started using Red Hat 15 year ago. I also like that it has 
fairly newer packages (OpenOffice, Firefox mainly) than Red Hat and 
CentOS. I don't use OpenSuse because I think the admin tools are really 
just too convoluted (although better in some ways.) And I can find a 
decent assortment of packages pre-built for Fedora.

I also install and support a lot of Linux servers, most of which are Red 
Hat or derivatives, so keeping skills sharp in Fedora help with Red Hat. 
Wanting to stick with the same distro on server and client limits one to a 
very short list. In my experience Red Hat and Suse have the highest level 
of hardware and application support so we focus on them. Canonical is 
shouldering most of the support for Ubuntu instead of the actual vendors 
so business may see it as less supported.

If you are looking to abandon your preference, and you don't need to stay 
lock-step with your server distro I'd say you want to choose your distro 
based on the environment it's going into:

Can you use older programs (OpenOffice, Firefox, etc.) like what a 
"stable" distro might have, or do you need newer programs for 
compatibility (e.g. for DOCX files)

Do you need good package management with automatic updates or does a 
roll-your-own distro work.

Do you need application vendor support? You might be stuck with a specific 
distro because of that sole reason.

Do you need PXE boot, thin clients or other special situations?

Do you need to clone a large number of desktops? A scripted install might 
be handy.

Do you want a distro where non-free packages are readily available (Java, 
codecs, etc.)?

Do you prefer a specific environment (KDE, GNOME) or do you just want the 
lightest and fastest thing going?

Are you planning one desktop, a few or a lot? If the answer is a few or 
more then you might consider staying with ones that require the least 
effort to update and keep identical.

How long do you want updates for? Is 9 months enough or do you want 
long-term support?

There is a lot to consider and it's not a straightforward answer. Each 
will weight the various feature differently.

John Van Ostrand
Net Direct Inc.
564 Weber St. N. Unit 12
Waterloo, ON N2L 5C6
john at netdirect.ca
Ph: 866-883-1172
Linux Solutions / IBM Hardware
Fx: 519-883-8533

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