What is Linux, well Linux actually is not an operating system (OS), when we talk about the Linux word. A Linux operating system can be Ubuntu, OpenSUSE, Debian and other so called Linux Distributions. Linux itself is just a kernel that combine with other usually free and opensource software, can create complete packages.
Practically you can take the Linux Kernel and build around it your personal operating system, by adding the software or packages you need and by adding a GUI (Graphical User Interface) like Gnome, KDE or others. Read more about Linux Kernel and Windows Kernel here.
If you want to install Linux, you will have to choose from a big list of pre-built Linux Distributions, short called Linux Distros.
Related: Most Beautiful Linux Distros in 2015
I will try to help you to choose the best Linux Distro that are available today. Will make a list of the most popular Linux Distributions Compare. I think that we will start with of course Ubuntu which is one of the most popular.
Ubuntu is the most well-know Linux Distribution. Ubuntu is based on Debian and it has its own software repositories, some of them are synced from Debian repositories. To understand, repository is a collection of software for a Linux distribution on a server. You cam find the information through a software about the soft you want to install using Software Center app from Ubuntu or via command apt-get, and download the software directly from the server on your Ubuntu. In the end you save time by searching the software on Google, all compatible software you can find on the repository.
Ubuntu is not a self build desktop. Ubuntu is build by using Gnome environment and Unity menu, other versions of Ubuntu like Kubuntu uses KDE environment, other like Xubuntu uses XFCE desktop environment.
Ubuntu is simple modern and has positive experience with drivers, so it will detect your computer drivers automatically and will install them. Today Ubuntu is available also on smartphones and tablets.
Linux Mint Distribution is considered on of the most beautiful Linux distributions. Linux Mint is built on the top of Ubuntu, actually is the same Ubuntu but with an improved user experience and with tasty design. Mint still uses Ubuntu’s repositories, so everything is compatible between Linux Mint and Ubuntu.
Linux Mint has a Cinnamon or MATE desktop, a solid design and will not automatically install critical updates, will let users to choose what to do. Linux Mint is simple and you can install it also through a Windows Installer.
Debian is an old Linux distribution that was created only of free and open-source software. The Debian is one of the most used distros to be the base of other distros like Ubuntu. Debian was born in 1993 and through today it is still one of the best Linux Distros and still one of the most used and stable distributions.
Debian was always considered very stable because it ships with older, but thoroughly tested stable packages. Also all new packages are first introduced in Unstable Debian version and then after are moved into Testing stage. After bug fixing the packages can be used in by Debian stable version.
That’s why Ubuntu proffered Debian as its foundation. Debian is also considered on of the best Linux Distros for servers, and now it is available with all popular desktop envienronments like GNOME, KDE, Mate, XFCE and others. The most recent releases have also introduced a simpler installer.
Users love Debian because it is very flexible and can be configured as anything, like a web server, mail server or a file server. Debian is also know for its contributions, one of the most popular is the dpkg manager, which now is used by Ubuntu and Mint.
Debian comes with no proprietary drivers or codecs, but as one of the oldest Linux distros has many advantages, one of them is that almost every software vendor provides pre-packaged binaries for Debian.
Debian delivers a very stable system, which is the best for servers. However, the only disadvantage is that the Debian uses older software than other distros.
openSUSE / SUSE Linux Enterprise
openSUSE is a community-created Linux distribution sponsored by Novell. Novell purchased SuSE Linux in 2003, they also have an enterprise Linux project known as SUSE Linux Enterprise. Where Red Hat has the Fedora project that feeds into Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Novell has the openSUSE project that feeds into SUSE Linux Enterprise.
SUSE is ne of the most popular RPM-based distros. openSUSE uses Gnome environment desktop, however openSUSE used to wear KDE and contributed a lot for developing KDE.
openSUSE is also know for its all-in one management tool YaST (Yet another Setup Tool) that can install software, do the system configurations and administration. With YaST you can configure every thing in your system from the appearance to the hardware.
openSUSE also is good know for its advanced options to install and configure a printer, and they were doing this when other Linux Distros were far back.
On of the most popular feature is the possibility to take a snapshot of your changes into the system, and when something was wrong you could just go back to the snapshot you took. Snapper tool allows you to compare the changes and revert to the previous snapshot.
openSUSE was always the balance between stability and easy to configure environment. It is a friendly environment for new users experience.
You might also want to read: How to Buy a Laptop for Linux
Fedora is also one of the oldest Linux distros. Fedora project have its origins back to the 1990s and Red Hat Linux. Fedora came from the Red Hat, when it decided to split from Red Hat and created a new distribution called Fedora Project in 2003.
Fedora is sponsored by Red Hat and is the foundation for the commercial Red Hat Enterprise Linux project.
Fedora distro provides completely free software system and it is considered as an RPM alternative for the Ubuntu which is based on Debian.
The distro is known for providing decent software management tools. They tried to provide some alternatives, for example for the popular Synaptic Package Manager, but decided to keep with the Gnome Software tool which seems to be much better in this case.
A new release appears approximately every 6 months. Also Fedora started to offer three variations like: Cloud, Server and Workstations.
Fedora is a very capable Linux Distro, and it requires an advanced level user.
Korora was initially based on Gentoo but now uses Fedora as its base. Korora comes with separate editions for GNOME, Cinnamon, Mate, KDE and XFCE, and offers each for 32-bit and 64-bit architectures.
As Korora is based on Fedora, it is shipped in some weeks after the latest Fedora release. Basically the guys take the freshly released Fedora, erase everything they don’t need and add the things they need for Korora. Korora include a wide list of useful applications for a large number of users.
Apart from the included software, you can install packages from various software repositories, like third-party repositories, such as RPMFusion, Google Chrome and VirtualBox which all are configured by default. The latest distro also includes the Steam client, which is awesome for gamers.
The software management for Korora is Apper and YUM-extender, so you can choose the one that fits for you better.
Also Korora has its own custom tools, like Pharlap Package Manager is a utility designed to help users easily install third-party drivers.
Well, Korora seems to be a more friendly and easy Fedora edition.
You might also want to read: How to Check Computer Specifications in Linux
Gentoo is a well know Linux distribution that has a good group of users. Gentoo is simple and pleasant for new users. Everything is user friend from installing Gentoo to installing a software or a package.
With Gentoo, user can have all the control, even by building the system from the ground. Gentoo is a distro with the most available configurations and tweaks.
The distro comes with an awesome package management. Gentoo can be installed and used as a portable system on a DVD Disk or on a USB Flash Drive.
Because of its unlimited configurations and your needs, your Gentoo installation can take hours and even days, so make sure not to add too many useless things that you will not need.
Gentoo is a very customisable distro which give to users all the control, at the same time it is very easy to use.
CentOS / Red Hat Enterprise Linux
CentOS a it is the free open-source project from the Red Hat Enterprise Linux which is a commercial Linux distribution intended for servers and workstations. As we said it earlier it is a relative of the open-source Fedora project, a very stable Linux distro.
CentOS is another community project from Red Hat. You can see CentOS to be very recommended for servers. CentOS has all the Red Hat’s trademarks removed and it uis available for free use and distribution.
CentOS is a stable platform, mostly used for big projects and on servers, it is the distro that it cannot fail.
Arch Linux is more like an old school version of Linux distribution. It is minimal, lightweight and flexible. Anyway Arch provides a lot of tools like graphical utilities and automatic configuration scripts to help you set up your system.
Using Arch Linux you can configure your system as you wish and install any software you like. It provides clean configuration files than can be edited easy.
Arch uses a “rolling release” model, which means any installation image is a snapshot of the current software. Every bit of software will be updated without you needing to upgrade to a new “release” of Arch, so it is continuously updating everything.
The distro is designed for users who know how their systems work and who want to learn more about them. Arch uses binary packages that it means it’s quick to install software on Arch as you don’t have to spend CPU cycles and time waiting for software to compile. So simple.
Mageia is a root of Mandriva Linux that was created in 2011. Mandriva earlier was known as Mandrake and it was at a time the most popular Linux distribution. It gave to user a very friendly user experience, a lot of software and tools to configure the system.
Compared to others Mageia and Mandriva was not for free like Fedora, Ubuntu, openSUSE and others. For now Mandriva SA did not create any version for Dektop PC’s. Mandriva for a while was based on they business like Linux servers that are based on Mageia code.
Unfortunately Mageia decided to step away and to concentrate on business, but in the meanwhile they decided to release a version for Desktop too. See the video with the latest Mageia 5 and if you tested it tell us what you think.
You might be interested: Why Linux is Better than Windows?
Slackware is another big project which was founded in 1993. It is also one of the oldest Linux distribution and still it has new releases.
Just like Arch Linux, Slackware is keeping it simple, with no unnecessary graphical tools and configurations. Another thing is that Slackware doesn’t have a graphical installation program. The installation have to be done by the command-line, choosing the disk manually and running the setup.
Slackware is not very updated, but still considered stable and used on some servers.
Related: Windows Servers vs. Linux Server
Today there are many Linux distributions for everyone. It is easy to select some Distros based on our recommendations.
You can choose from the most simple Linux distros to the ones which are based on comfort and design. You can also check the Wikipedia’s information about Linux Distros and their evolution.
Talking about the distros we compared, openSUSE, Mageia and Ubuntu are the best for a nice, no stress user experience. Debian, CentOS are most suited for servers, they are stable and trust worthy.
Also now we have the Korora Linux Distro which is to replace the Fedora as the perfect RPM-based desktop distro.
Most experienced users are free to use Arch Linux and Gentoo as their inspiration where all the skills are needed.
What is your opinion, which one is right for you?