How To Pick a Linux Distribution
by Ujjwal Anand

I have suffered from distrohopping. Now that I have settled for the last two years, here are some tips to save your time.

  1. All distros run the same operating system at their core, Linux. They are more similar than different. Hence, the marginal cost (time) of looking for a better distro is much more than the marginal benefit of it.

  2. Say no to distributions made for specific purposes like Kali, CentOS, and OpenSuse. OpenSuse is great, but it is made for enterprise use. An everyday user won’t ever need most of its features. To maintain it would be a waste of time. The same goes for the RedHat family.

  3. Instead of trimming Suse, you better pick a distro made for everyday people, such as AntiX and SolusOS. Read their descriptions and target users on Distrowatch.

  4. Avoid technical distributions like arch, its forks, and Gentoo. They are for the programmer types. If you are not one, you will likely break it. Updates tend to be massive and very frequent. And you can’t install a new package without updating first. You don’t want to deal with this. If you want it only for AUR, just learn to compile a little bit.

  5. Say no to most desktop environments (DEs) besides LXDE and LXQT. Prefer window managers (WMs) for maximum performance. DEs can be buggy and cause distraction. They increase boot time and update size. It may be reasonable to rule out all distros that don’t come with a window manager so you don’t have to do the work post-installation. Know the rule; the less stuff you have, the fewer things you can break, the fewer problems you will face. Keep it minimal. Don’t allow the bling-bling to distract you.

  6. Try out different Init systems. Ever since systemd was adopted, Linux has started to feel like Windows, complex and out of hand. I do have it on Manjaro (but I did have to mask a couple of unneeded services to lower the boot time). A particular init system might work better on your specific hardware. Try some isos on a virtual machine.

  7. Avoid forks because they simply are not different enough. In addition, they tend to carry their parent distro’s issues on top of their own issues. Developers can do only so much about it. Independent distributions can fix issues more quickly because they can. Prefer original and independent distros.

  8. Don’t worry about software availability. Every distro hosts tools to help you install packages not present in their repos. Furthermore, package managers like Appimage and Flatpak allow you to install packages on all distros. Avoid snap. It slows down bootup and doesn’t allow you to control app updates. This may change in the future though.