There is a huge number of different Linux distributions and I was asked which one do I prefer. Well let me try to answer that question.
First I am very fond of Linux and enjoy using it immensely. My primary use of Linux currently is for programming and getting things done.
To try and be as unbiased as possible I ran through this Linux Chooser. This website asks questions and determines what is the best Linux distribution for you. Here are my results:
Linux Mint 100%
This is more or less what I was expecting. No matter what answers are given Ubuntu, Fedora, Mandriva, and Debian are going to come up because they are built for general consumer use (note that Kubuntu and Linux Mint are built off of Ubuntu and are just different flavors). These distributions are very graphical and made to be used by anybody from a newbie to the l33t users.
Gentoo and Slackware on the other hand are not for everybody. These distributions require an understanding of operating systems, advanced technical skills, and a desire to run a light weight operating system.
These operating systems require installing in a text-based setup and the kernal has to be compiled manually (this will most likely have to be done multiple times). If you do not set it up or install it, it will not be in the operating system. If you want network connections you have to set it up in the kernel.
Having this control is the fun and draw to using distributions like Gentoo and Slackware. This is both a curse and blessing. On one hand the machine will be light weight and fast but it will take time.
I had a Gentoo box in college and loved it. It was fast, setup exactly how I wanted it, and the learning process was wonderful. However, due to recent events career, wife, and trying to start a new business the time is not there to setup my dream Linux setup.
So, I would recommend Ubuntu as a Linux distribution is good for starters and for the long term users. However, if you want to dive in a little deeper I would look into Gentoo.
The main benefit to Gentoo is their documentation. Along with Ubuntu they have the BEST documentation resources of any operating system, including Mac and Windows. Both Ubuntu and Gentoo also have great communities that are extremely helpful when looking for information.
I have had bad experiences with two Linux distributions.
- Mandrake (now Mandriva)
I did not enjoy the experience of either flavor. I was an administrator for both systems and they were quite painful to manage and use. SUSE was the more difficult to manage and Mandriva was not my cup of tea. Both may have improved drastically but until Ubuntu screws something up I don’t plan on playing the field (except with Gentoo).
Now go try one and if you don’t like it, try another one. You are bound to find the right one for your needs and wants.