Vote: is Zorin OS the best distribution for the Framework for first time Linux users?

The short version
Please help me make this critical life decision:

Is Zorin OS the best distribution for the Framework for first time Linux users?

  • Yes
  • No
  • I refuse to answer such a complex question with such simple answers

0 voters

The longer version
For the past 10 years, I’ve been using both Mac and Windows, and I’m excited to take the opportunity of getting a Framework to move to Linux. However, I am non-technical–I can use the terminal but I don’t feel comfortable at all doing it, and would rather not.

I’ve been doing a lot of research on what Linux distro I should start with. First, it looked like Ubuntu would be it, because of the extensive community and documentation–but then it became clear that Ubuntu requires a lot of command-line work; then Elementary seemed like the best, with ultra simple and accessible UI–but it seems to be greatly lacking in apps and in customizability; pop_OS! seemed perfect as both customizable and usable, but then it looked like installation on the Framework isn’t exactly smooth.

And this is how I ended up on Zorin OS. Online reviews for the latest release are glowing, and it looks like it’s very usable without relying on the command line; it’s packed with apps and app installation is very straightforward; it’s heavily customizable through the GUI; and installation on the Framework seems smooth.

So here we are: do you agree with the outcome of my research? Is Zorin OS the best distribution for the Framework for first time Linux users? Please vote above :point_up_2:

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Honestly, I believe if you are getting into using Linux you should try to become comfortable with the terminal, at least enough to do the basics. It can be a bit of a learning curve, but in the end its worth it, you may even find some tasks you prefer doing in a terminal. Its really not as scary as it seems. Ultimately, whichever distro you choose to start with is up to you, but if you need a pointer in the right direction I believe ubuntu or linux mint are generally good places to start. Though I don’t know anything about this zorin os so it may or may not be a good place to start, I don’t know. Ultimately its up to you though. Worst case scenario you try something and don’t like it, then you can just switch to something else. Explore, find out what you like : )

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Thank you @Kanshou, I appreciate the thoughtful response. I’ll keep that in mind and may dive into command line then

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There are so many Linux distributions it’s really hard to say what’s best for you. Only you know what’s best for you.

I don’t know anything about Zorin OS so I can’t tell you. I have seen reports on this forum of successful installations with Fedora 35, there’s a guide for Ubuntu 20.04 from Framework themselves, I believe Ubuntu 21.04 works but the recently released 21.10 does not.

You also want a distro where there’s lots of help available. Ubuntu and Linux Mint fit that bill. Does Zorin OS? If there’s an active forum, lots of documentation and lots of help that’s a good choice.

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I’ve been using Linux since the 90’s and I’ve never heard of Zorin before I saw it in this message board. What you DEFINITELY want in a Linux distro as a beginner is a huge community of users. Something like Ubuntu. When so many people use it, it’s likely you will find a larger pool of answers for questions you have. Don’t fear the command line! It is your friend, and is magical!

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While Linux distributions are a very personal opinion, ZorinOS is designed to mimic Windows and Mac UI for new users to feel more comfortable switching to Linux.

Personally, I would recommend getting to experience Linux as Linux, rather than trying to make it more like something else. GNOME is the most widely used desktop environment, and it’s fairly customizable with extensions, but I would suggest trying it without extensions to get a feel for the workflow.

On the Linux blog most, they mention the following distros:

We provided pre-release hardware to developers and maintainers at Fedora, elementary OS, NixOS, and Arch to make the Linux experience as smooth as possible

Having developers of these distros with actual hardware in hand will definitely help iron out any issues in them sooner rather than later. Arch and NixOS are more for advanced users, so I wouldn’t recommend them for new users. Elementary as you mentioned can be a bit limited, it’s fairly similar to Zorin in that it tries to be a stepping stone by providing a familiar user experience. I would suggest Fedora 35 (which releases in a few days), as they mention everything working out of the box:

We expect Fedora 35 to be fully functional out of the box when it launches later this year.

Ubuntu, Elementary, and Zorin would be fine choices for new users as well; however, Ubuntu (and Fedora) would have a larger community of users and documentation to help you if issues arise.

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Zorin OS like Pop OS are both based on Ubuntu. IE: if they are easy, Ubuntu is easy. Both of those have some qaulity of life improvements, etc. Pop OS is geared towards developers and gamers, and is not really intended to be a beginner distro.

Honestly I would say stick with Ubuntu. Learning on it will help you to move to any future distros.

As for the Framework, I think Fedora currently has the reigning lead on stability. I know from my own experiences, while I prefer Ubuntu, I have had quite a few bugs to deal with.

The most stable Linux, ironically, is the one running through WSL. (I’m half joking.)

Sure, it’s hard “to answer such a complex question with simple answers”. But after reading the long version of your question, I chose to answer “Yes”. In fact this is my answer to another question, it is not the “best” but it is a very reasonable good choice for first time Linux users.

I’m an advanced Linux user since a very long time, I’m a developer, I’m happy to use the command line, etc. I installed Zorin OS more than one year ago on my work laptop, to see how it works and if it could be a good choice for newbies. After this time using it, I can say I would recommend it for new users (and also a very usable choice for long time and advanced users, but that’s not the topic here).

Why?

  • It’s based on Ubuntu, so you benefit from the support, the large community and large number of available software.
  • I really like the look and feel. It’s simple and elegant. There is a nice Zoring looking layout, and if needed you can switch to a Windows or Mac OS looking layout.

Check each popular distro. Check how well the distro is maintained. Check if your hardware is supported. Check how active is the community, how software is packaged and availability. If you are happy, then use it.

I’ll add my two cents as someone who has already dabbled with ZorinOS on the Framework (and other machines) but ultimately went with a different OS. (Win11, for now.)

First, I want to say you’re probably more technical than you’re giving yourself credit for by even know about and taking the plunge into getting a Framework. Also, just knowing what terminal is, is more technical than the majority of folks in the world. As others have said, embrace the CLI and you might find you actually love it.

ZorinOS under the hood is essentially Ubuntu; just with nicer looking/more customizable carpet and drapes out of the box. It really is a nice to use OS that is very user friendly and has a nice aesthetic feel. Unfortunately, Ubuntu doesn’t fully support all Framework hardware yet which means neither does ZorinOS. You’ll be deep in forum posts and following guides to install the proper libraries to get things like the finger print reader and possibly the Wi-Fi card (if you opted for the Wi-Fi 6 card from FW) to work. (Most of this will be done in terminal btw, so be prepared for that) Since it’s not exactly Ubuntu, not all Ubuntu guides will work 100%. I was never able to get the finger print reader to work for me though I followed Fingerprint scanner compatibility with linux (ubuntu, fedora, etc), for example. Others have already mentioned, Linux is all about community support and ZorinOS doesn’t hold a candle to Ubuntu or Fedora in that aspect. Some Ubuntu guides will work but some won’t. So having said that, is it the best for a new Linux user on the Framework; probably not.

I also had issues with the Framework not really going to sleep when the lid was closed in ZorinOS which caused some heat and battery drain concerns; especially when the machine is in my laptop bag. That was the main driving factor for me to decide to go with a different OS for now. (Well, truth be told…touchpad gestures not working as well as they do in MacOS or Windows played a big part too but that’s not specifically a ZorinOS problem.)

At the end of the day, which OS you choose is a personal decision and really depends on what your needs are. If you need a daily driver for your job, don’t go with ZorinOS on a Framework as a new Linux user. You’ll spend more time learning how to use Linux and fixing little problems than doing actual job related work. If the Framework is a side piece to tinker with, by all means make the dive. Worst case, if you hate it you just install a different OS. You can always run it as live Linux off of a USB too, in order to kick the tires a bit with no commitment.

I’ll add also, if you do decide to give ZorinOS a try get the Core version. Pro doesn’t add anything significant to how the OS works.

Good luck on your decision!

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I’ll be honest, these are not the answers I was hoping for!

But thank you everyone for chiming in :heart:.

Your responses really changed the way I looked at Linux, and I’ve come to terms with embracing and learning the CLI. I installed Ubuntu on my desktop to get a better feel for it, and it felt really good and accessible (my main difficulty so far has been about removing packages, but I’ll explore a bit deeper how to best to that).

I’m mostly afraid that it will take me time to get some of the Framework hardware to work properly, but I also feel like this forum and community will make that process more accessible.

So the winner of the poll is… UBUNTU! As soon as I get my Framework, I’ll get started with Ubuntu 20.04 and based on how I feel a few months in, I’ll explore other distributions.

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I am a first time Linux user, and I am using Pop!_OS. My reasoning for that is that Ubuntu is definitely one of the easiest distros to start off with since there is lots of support for it, but the software isn’t fully open-source, and Canonical has had some privacy controversies before.
Pop!_OS is Ubuntu based, so you can pretty much just follow instructions for Ubuntu and it will work for you as well. Additionally, the OS is fully open-source, as seen here.

Additionally, Pop!_OS has an app store called the Pop!_Shop, and it’s quite good. I was able to install Zoom, Spotify, Chromium, KolourPaint, and many more with absolutely no hassle.

My only complaint is that screen tearing is quite prominent when scrolling, but this appears to be a Linux problem all around.

Overall, I’m very happy with my first Linux experience, and I hope you will be too!

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Thank you for sharing @CSab6482! Just to clarify, you installed Pop!_OS on the Framework, correct? And you didn’t experience much trouble setting up the hardware?

Yep! I’m running Pop!_OS on my Framework


The only issue I had was that I had to set up the fingerprint reader manually, but I’m pretty sure that is true for all distros except Fedora 35. @CJ_Elevated made a great video covering various distros running on the Framework.

There are a few ways to get the fingerprint sensor working. First, there is the install script that CJ made, and those instructions are
Download this install script - http://elevatedsystems.tech/media/scripts/FP_Reader_install.sh
then run
cd ./Downloads
and then
bash ./FP_Reader_install.sh
I did that one just because it was easy and I am very inexperienced in Linux. Another option is to follow @Brett_Kosinski solution found below.

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I was ready to go for Ubuntu but now I’m torn! The auto-tiling feature in itself is really strong selling point for Pop!_OS, and I see that it also supports fractional scaling :scream:

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I know no one cares about my opinion, and there are 100 people who have more time and could (and have) explain(ed) this more elegantly, but if you’re new to Linux, and must have an ‘elevator answer’ then mine is Pop!_OS and has been for about a year now.

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Just a quick update on this, following this guide with one little modification actually fixed my screen tearing issue! So the guide recommends writing

Section "Device"
    Identifier "Intel Graphics"
    Driver "i915"
    Option "TearFree"    "true"
EndSection

for the 20-intel.conf file, but having the Driver line say "intel" instead of "i915" actually fixed it for me.
Though, I originally had it set up as "intel", it didn’t work. So then I changed it to "i915", but it still didn’t work. I decided to change it back to "intel", and now it works. Lol, it’s kind of like flipping a USB-A plug twice to have it go in properly.
@Scratch also had these instructions in this post.

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@CSab6482 You are a Godsend. I have been trying to figure out the fingerprint scanner for days now. Thank you for the easy and straightforward steps!

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No worries! If you any further issues with the fingerprint scanner, check out

and

Huge thanks to @Henry_Luengas and @Devyn_Cairns for helping me get my fingerprint scanner fixed on Linux.

There are two distributions that are ‘good’ for the Framework.
Fedora and Ubuntu.

Both offer a good install experience, both have good documentation (Ubuntu’s ‘start from zero’ docs are better), and both will provide a fully functioning system immediately after install.

Those are the only ones appropriate to use if your question is ‘which Linux distribution should I start with’ or ‘which distribution is best for x’.

If you think I’m wrong then you either 1) are a fanboy of a particular distro (I’m guilty of this) or 2) know what you’re doing when it comes to trailblazing new hardware with a particular distro (also guilty of this).

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