Despite the joke title, I’m a little bit puzzled on my distro choice right now (and my Framework arrives today!), so I’d like some help and advise to chose the right Linux distribution. I know from the last 20 years that I don’t distro hop that often, and once a distribution is installed on a specific computer, I’m to lazy to change it and it goes until the end of life of the computer. This Framework computer will probably have around 10 years of life if all goes well, so let’s make the right choice.
My use case: I’m currently a freelance developer (Elixir) but have been switching between customer experience, product and development, and I only use one single laptop both for personal and professional life. I don’t play on the computer, but I use all the range of desktop apps. My two last distros were Ubuntu (from 2018 to 2023) and MX Linux (the past months, on a 2018 computer that was given to me by a friend once my other 2018 computer started to die). I also already used also Xubuntu (quite a lot and was in love for a while), Arch, Linux Mint Debian Edition, vanilla Debian.
What I want is:
- People that make informed choices for me about my Linux system and not spending too much time maintaining it or having to manually merge config files of system parts (hello Arch)
- I don’t care about everything being open-source on my computer and have a pragmatic view on that. Proprietary firmwares of course, and no problem of closed source apps.
- The current mainstream Linux components, not too much modified: systemd (yes), GNOME on Wayland, Pipewire for the sound, etc.
- Yeah, probably GNOME, although I like quite a lot XFCE. Haven’t yet made my mind. But I love slick interfaces, and GNOME shell looks nicer on the eye. Also, XFCE default keyboard shortcuts have been found to mess sometimes with my apps. I don’t know what’s the current state of Ubuntu desktop, but their GNOME shell modifications didn’t look great to my eye when I was using it.
- Probably a deb based system just because I’m used to it. Also, my last experience with Snap apps was disastrous: on the 18.04 version of Ubuntu, one of the only “snapped” apps was the calculator and it was so slow to launch and buggy.
- I don’t care about system parts and desktop environement being outdated and I prefer them stable. For some apps, I don’t care about them being outdated: old Libreoffice is fine, same for Gimp, etc, but for some apps I want the latest published version, especially Firefox and Chrome. I also want the distro to be friendly to install any recent app if I feel the need. I use quite a lot VS Code, Slack, Mattermost, Signal and Spotify on my daily life.
- Oh yes, not too much work to make it work correctly on my Framework and no weird patch that may not work in a few months with a system upgrade.
Ok so let’s now review solutions:
- The default and safe solution would of course be Ubuntu. It’s just I find it ugly and have bad past experiences with Snap. It’s just deriving too much away from vanilla linux distributions, but in the same time it would be the standard solution. I don’t know, I’m not in love with Ubuntu anymore, feels sluggish.
- I considered Arch for a while, but it’s too much work. Vanilla upstream and rolling distro is really appealing. But I’ve started the installation process on a virtual desktop, and I was angry with the philosophy of the distro of being anti-user. The installer starts by you being in the wrong keyboard layout and having to navigate through the system with this keyboard layout (yes…) to change it. Still pissed. And I used it briefly in the past, and it needed too much work of understanding my system parts. I’m not here anymore in my life, I don’t care.
- The “outsider” solution would be Fedora, that matches everything but… Is not deb based, and out of Arch I’ve never used a non-deb based distribution. It’s just when I’m installing software, there is always instructions or repo for Debian based distributions, and I’m not sure it’s so much the case for Fedora.
- I could stay on MX Linux, but as I said, I’m totally ok with SystemD, probably want GNOME, and MX Linux has defaults that don’t match that, so what’s the point of having MX instead of Debian? That said, it was a very friendy distribution and community, 100% would recommend. The idea of having a vanilla Debian system pointing to the official repositories but with an additional repository for having some updated software that haven’t made their way to the backports is a GREAT idea. Like…latest Firefox (120 in MX Linux, 115 in Debian, all versions). What’s wrong with Debian on this topic? Also, their package installer is great. I’d nearly install a Debian stable and add the MX repo if I wasn’t afraid it would mess with my system.
- So… Debian is a kind of default. Debian stable, don’t talk to me about testing, if I need I know how to install newer software. It’s not a dream choice, but I see nothing against Debian, it kind of tick all the boxes. The only two things that would be pullbacks are the ease of installation on Framework to solve all glitches (I’ve read the posts here about manually copying firmwares and all…) and the non-recent Firefox if you don’t want to use flatpack/snap. But that’s livable.
Ok, so long post to review options, what do you think?