Linux is one of the leading operating system and now it is available in several different distributions, all tailored to specific needs and wants.
Some Linux distributions are light-weight which will run fine on your old laptop, some are targeted at people who just want to try out linux, along with other main operating systems for learning or similar, while other desktop distros(like Ubuntu) includes a more comprehensive collection of software applications and also support a wide variety of hardware devices.
Some of the most popular linux distributors are Ubuntu(based on Debian), Fedora, LinuxMint, openSUSE and Debian and you’ll be surprised to know that so far there are over 650 distros in the worls according to Distrowatch, a site that tracks popularity of various linux distributors.
Determining the best linux distro for your requirement thus becomes difficult, so I have here simplified it for you. I have categorized it into following sections:-
Best Distros For Beginners:
1.) Ubuntu (Desktop edition) is a great choice for Linux users who are beginners. It is based on Debian. It supports a large-variety of hardware devices, has a standard release cycle (every six months). It is the antidote to a world of uncertainty. For the wide majority of installations, it will just work.
You don’t have to worry about hardware incompatibility, software installation and the configuration. Insert the disc in the drive, answer a few easy questions and you’ll find you looking at the beautiful new design, the so-called Lucid Lynx. If you don’t have a great Internet connection, you can ask Ubuntu to ship you installation DVDs for free anywhere in the world.
Ubuntu currently has the largest share of the Linux user base. Ubuntu also includes an extensive set of open-source software to cover the needs of first-time switchers, but also includes only truly free software in its default installation, winning fans on both sides of the open-source aisle. Latest version is 10.04.
2.) Linux Mint shares much of its lineage with Ubuntu, but aims for a clean, green-themed, mostly new and better look.
Its developers have a strong focus on immediate functionality, with a large driver set included at first installation. In addition it also includes Mint Tools, a set of configuration apps and wizards that strive to make configuring and managing Linux as painless as possible.
3.) Mandriva Linux is a very comprehensive Linux distribution that can use either KDE or GNOME as its GUI, though KDE 4 is its default.
4.) OpenSUSE is another easy Linux distro that uses either KDE or GNOME.
It’s sponsored by Novell. It includes YAST, the easy-to-use configuration tool that lets you customized just about everything.
Best Distros For Experts:
5.) Fedora is a great distro suitable for varied needs – software developers and end users alike. Fedora uses GNOME by default, but KDE, Fluxbox, XFCE are provided on the installation DVD if you prefer them.
It offers many of the advantages of Ubuntu like excellent hardware support, a refined desktop and great package choice. MP3 codecs, Nvidia drivers and Adobe Flash are not easy to install, and get even less easier with each new release. Instead, you’ll want to stick with the open source options provided by Fedora.
But it never compromises. Its new version includes the fantastic, hardware accelerated, and open source, Nouveau Nvidia driver, while the new photo manager, Shotwell, is an interesting alternative to the potentially patent crippled F-Spot.
Version 14 is the latest Fedora release to tackle the growing popularity of Ubuntu, and as a result, it’s one of best looking and usable distributions around, regardless of your politics.
Best Distros For Older Hardware:
6.) Puppy Linux is a lightweight Linux distribution that focuses mainly on ease of use. Its a Live CD distribution that has a small installer and can run just fine on computers with RAM as little as 128 MB.
Puppy Linux can boot from almost all kind of media including USB flash drives, CD or a zip drive. Puppy 5 is the latest version based on woof.
7.) Xubuntu is a variant of Ubuntu is also a possibility. Xubuntu uses xfce, a desktop environment that uses less system resources than the GNOME that comes with the Ubuntu distribution.
The minimum RAM Xubuntu can be run on is 128 MB, with 256 MB of RAM strongly recommended. Xubuntu versions are also released twice a year, coinciding with Ubuntu releases.
Best Distros For Netbooks:
Netbooks are like your regular notebook computers but with small screens, consumes less power but also have less powerful hardware. Linux distros suitable for running on netbooks include Ubuntu Netbook, Moblin and Jolicloud.
8.) Ubuntu Netbook Edition, also knoen as Ubuntu Netbook remix prior to release of version 10.04. It requires an Intel Atom processor.
If you already have an Ubuntu installer, you can install the desktop version of Ubuntu on your netbook, and change the default repository to point to Ubuntu Network Editor repository and then install the relevant packages.
9.) Jolicloud is suitable for running on low-powered computers that don’t have enough storage space or memory. The interface of Jolicloud is beautiful imagery and different from all other Linux distros.
It is based on Ubuntu and so any app that works with Ubuntu will run on Jolicloud as well. You can download the ISO to install Jolicloud on a separate partition or alongside your window.
10.) MeeGo is a Linux-based open source mobile operating system project.
It is designed to act as an operating system for hardware platforms such as netbooks, entry-level desktops, nettops, tablet computers, mobile computing and communications devices,
Best Distros For Server:
11.) Arch Linux is a linux distribution aimed to be lightweight and simple. The development team focuses on simplicity without any GUI configuration tool.
But making well annotated configuration files and extensive use of shell scripts.. it is intended for advanced users who can work on command line.
12.) Red Hat Enterprise Server, SUSE Enterprise and Ubuntu Server are also possible contenders for deploying Linux on server machines.
Some factors that are responsible for its success are Red Hat are extensive security updates schedule (7 years), large number of new packages included in the distro and a strong training and certification program which is very useful for organizations that do not have in house skills.
Best Distros For Multimedia:
13.) Ubuntu Studio is explicitly geared to general multimedia production. The real-time kernel provided in it aims for intensive audio, video or graphics work.
Its main advantage is ability to achieve software processing with latencies well below the human perception threshold of 5 to 10ms.
Do you have any-other choices?
Not all of these distributions is perfect, but they will fulfill various purpose. If you have tried any of the above? Or have you tried one that is not included in this list? If so, what was your experience? Share with us.