I've tried and researched a lot of Linux and BSD distributions in search of two goals:

  1. One to recommend to newcomers to Unix.

  2. One I'd want to use myself.

    I'm a software idealist - I don't want to use an operating system that isn't the best practical one. Where practicality and design quality conflict, I seek a balance, because I realize practicality is the point of it all, and I'm not an OS dev, but I want to support and encourage good architecture and also I think using it helps me grow wiser about software.

Here are my notes on the ones I've tried or researched and why I won't or will use them. When I say things like "broken install process", I mean that when I tried it, I ran into things that were clearly releng mistakes, such as the installer telling me to run a command that doesn't exist. I consider egregious instances of this pretty much disqualifiers; I don't want to use a distribution that's had problems like that, even if they've fixed it since.

Anything Debian-based (incl. Ubuntu, Mint)

Reputation: stable, user-friendly

Init system: systemd

Tried: Ubuntu years ago, Mint in 2020 summer

Devuan

Reputation: fork of Debian that switches out systemd for sysvinit. Everything else from Debian applies.

Tried: 2020 summer

Fedora

Reputation: cutting-edge

Init system: systemd

Tried: 2020 summer

Arch

Reputation: DIY for advanced users

Init system: systemd

Void

Reputation: Linux/BSD hybrid

Init system: runit

Tried: 2020 summer, multiple times.

Trident

Reputation: desktop distribution of Void

Tried: 2020 summer

Gentoo

Reputation: DIY for advanced users, nightmarish install process

Tried: years ago (mentor helped with install); no first-hand recent experience.

Slackware

Init system: sysvinit

Alpine

Tried: 2020-09-17

Reputation: secure, lightweight. Uses musl libc, which is argued to be better than glibc but means binaries compiled for glibc won't work.

Artix

Tried: 2020 summer - present.

Reputation: Arch without systemd.

Init system: choice of OpenRC, runit or s6. I use OpenRC.

FreeBSD

Tried: unknown year - 2020 summer.

Reputation: the go-to BSD.

Init system: BSD init


Init systems

I keep referencing these and as you can see, systemd is a disqualifier at least for my own use. I explain this now.

systemd

I don't have much personal experience with systemd. My negativity from it pretty much comes from hearsay, but well-sourced hearsay. Two in particular:

BSD init

Works well enough, but service files are extremely cumbersome.

OpenRC

Colored output. Service files are concise.

sysvinit

Legacy standard. I don't know much about it, but the prevailing opinion seems negative.


A few other things I explain about the connection between my notes and my judgements:



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