Notes on operating systems I've tried

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

1. One to recommend to newcomers to Linux.

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 designed 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. 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. Take this with a grain of salt as these are one person's experience, often after only a small period of use.

Anything Debian-based (incl. Ubuntu, Mint)

Reputation: stable, user-friendly

Init system: systemd

Tried: Ubuntu years ago, Mint in 2020 summer


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

Tried: 2020 summer


Reputation: cutting-edge

Init system: systemd

Tried: 2020 summer (only on server)

CentOS is derived from Fedora (through Red Hat), so it's much the same except its packages are outdated as hell.


Reputation: DIY for advanced users

Init system: systemd


Reputation: Linux/BSD hybrid

Init system: runit

Tried: 2020 summer, multiple times.




Reputation: DIY for advanced users, nightmarish install process

Init system: OpenRC (others supported)

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


Init system: sysvinit


Tried: 2021 on desktop, currently use on server

Reputation: secure, lightweight

Init system: OpenRC


Tried: 2020 summer - present.

Reputation: Arch without systemd.

Init system: choice of OpenRC, runit or s6. I've tried OpenRC and runit.


Tried: unknown year - 2020 summer.

Reputation: the go-to BSD.

Init system: BSD init



Init systems

I now explain my preferences when it comes to init systems.


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:

Randy Westlund's critique

This is someone I know and consider pretty reliable, and he's balanced too - not an anti-systemd zealot.

The Suckless critique

I wouldn't consider them a reliable source on this, but they link the systemd patch notes on every criticism for proof. Read some of the list. It's horrifying.

BSD init

Works well enough, but service files are extremely cumbersome.


Colored output. Service files are concise.


Runit has fewer lines of code than OpenRC, which attracts me, and I also like the way it leverages the filesystem instead of reinventing it. For example, services are "enabled" by symlinking them into a certain directory.

I like a lot of things about runit, but there are two issues I have, might be solvable but I don't know how:


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


A few other things I explain about my preferences:


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