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January 9th, 2022, 20:56
I've been trying a few distributions in a VirtualBox VM to check what to install on a physical machine later. Quick impressions below in case it helps someone in the future.

All those distributions are based on a systemd init system, so the management of the services and other features is much easier and more coherent than the old SysV, and the boot process smoother.

For more details on the versions and distributions, distrowatch is a good site (hey, another Watch!).

I don't pretend to know what the best selection criteria are, I think it really depends on a lot of parameters. For my part, I like to look for
- how reliable the packaging system is, because it's very sad to break an installation (of course, you can make backups, or snapshots with LVM or btrfs/openZFS/…)
- how stable the updates / releases are
- the software availability in the repositories
- how active the community is, when help is needed, or just as a sign of good health of the distro
- how easy and flexible the installation is, when I need to create a quick virtual machine - this includes the available environment desktops as I hate to install and configure that on my own.

Manjaro (21.1.2)
It's based on Arch, not as old as other distributions but solid.

It's a stable rolling-release distribution. It is somewhat delayed vs Arch, which leaves enough time for the components to be stable.

Image selection
There are a few images to choose from. The main official choices are all desktop-oriented, with either Xfce, Plasma or GNOME. For each, there is a
  • pre-installed version (~3.5 GB)
  • minimal with basic desktop environment and no additional packages
  • minimal LTS Kernel with no additional package

There are also a few community editions that are robust but a little late vs the official. It's again a selection of desktop installations, with different ED: Budgie, Cinnamon, Deepin (why, oh why), i3, MATE, Sway.

I don't know them all. Xfce is light-weighted and very good. Plasma is more fancy with nice animations, and has many settings. I only tried Cinnamon with Manjaro in the past and it's very well configured overall, very convivial to use. I don't like GNOME but it's a personal opinion, it has fewer settings and appears simpler, cleaner at first sight (it's the Apple of desktop environments).

There are images for ARM processors too.

Installation
It's good, it boots a quick live version that provides an UI installation, or if you prefer, you can do it manually. It's a pre-selection of software, no choice there.

If you want LVM, no luck. There is a button that suggests you could configure it from the UI installation, but it doesn't work. If you do it from the command-line, the installer will just crash or fail to recognize the logical volumes. So if you need LVM, you have to install everything from the command-line. Otherwise it's perfectly fine, you can configure the partitions if necessary, the locale and so on, and the installation is quick enough.

Daily Use
The package management is done with Pacman, which is OK but not very intuitive with the commands, maybe I just need more practice. man or tldr help a bit, but the best is to find a cheat sheet. I never had any dependency issue when installing / uninstalling, and there is a good choice of software in the default repositories.

Then in addition to the repositories, you have the Arch User Repository, which contains the sources for a lot of software (they're compiled at the installation). It takes some getting used to but it's a welcome addition. I could find stuff like Teams, for example, most useful to work from home.

If you need a pure server, the best is probably to start from a minimal install. But I'm not sure this would be my first choice for a server, I'd rather use a more stable and mature distribution.

There is a user guide, but it's not as extensive as other distributions like openSUSE. It's very easy to find information though, a lot is common with Arch of course. There is a large and growing community.

Fedora (35)
It's a more mature distribution, which is sponsored by Red Hat and has been their testing ground (the "upstream source") for new technologies. I remember when they first included Security-Enhanced Linux ahead of Red Hat (and removing it presto).

Fedora is a release-based distribution, but you can use the Rawhide repositories to get constant updates, which may be a bad idea when some updates are not stable enough.

Image selection
Be careful, this is more obscure than it first looks. The first options that are shown are Workstation / Server / Iot. If you go from there, you're stuck with GNOME and pre-defined packages with a ~2 GB live image.

Instead, if you scroll all the way down, you'll find other choices (there are other choices in the middle of the page that I'll skip):
  • "Spins" are alternate desktop environments: Plasma, Xfce, LXQt, MATE (but with Compiz… I don't know how easily it can be removed), Cinnamon, LXDE, SOAS and i3.
  • "Labs" are selections of packages (science, Python, …), I suppose all GNOME but I haven't checked.
  • "Alt Downloads" are other choices, minimal installs and so on. And Rawhide.

Installation
Once again, it looks clear, but it isn't entirely.

Firstly, it doesn't correspond to their documentation, you actually have very little choice except if you take a network install like "Fedora Everything" from the Alt Downloads. The Workstation and Spins downloads are pre-configured and there is no software pre-selection you can make.

Secondly, for the disk setup… you can do an LVM configuration but it's a trial-and-error experience since once you make a selection, you cannot edit it, even though it's only a planning phase. With Fedora, you must first create a primary, unformatted boot partition of 512 MB, then you can add a Logical Volume and populate it.

Daily use
When I installed it, I didn't know there was no choice of desktop environment since their docs showed there was. So I ended up with a GNOME installation, and since I had spent some time figuring out how to install an LVM disk setup and other things (but that's on me), I didn't spend more time messing with it once it was installed.

The software installation UI looked like the MS app shop, I didn't like it, but I know that the console-line yum is robust, so it should be fine.

openSUSE (current Leap version is 15.3)
Another mature distribution, based on Slackware. There is a rolling-release version (Tumbleweed) and a release-based version (Leap). The only difference is the repository setup, so it's easy to go from Leap to TW.

TW is stable enough and I don't like to wait too long and do massive updates so that's usually what I take.

Image selection
The selection from the site is quite clear. For SW or Leap, you have different options: Intel/AMD 64-bit CPUs, 32-bit CPUs, and other systems like aarch64, PowerPC, …

Each propose either a full 4.5 GB image, or a small network-based installation image.

The full image contains a good choice for workstations (Plasma, GNOME, Xfce, Cinnamon, LXDE, LXQt, MATE, Enlightenment - this may vary a little), or server installs. I've only used Plasma and Xfce.

Installation
The best process I've seen so far (now and in the past). There is an excellent online/pdf documentation too.

For the disk setup, it supports LVM but once again, I had to search a little bit and the /boot partition was not clear to me. In the end, it put it into the MBR, so I didn't need the partition it was asking me. If you want another partition beside the Logical Volume, you need to create a partition for the LVM itself. It took me some time to figure it out.

The automatic setup chose btrfs, which surprised me. So don't use it unless you know what to expect. Automatic disk setups are usually pretty bad anyway, I never trust them unless it's for a quick test.

Otherwise, smooth and clean, with usually clear instructions. The software selection can be very detailed if you want.

Daily use
Usually outstanding package management for the installation and update. Very robust, even for huge updates.

I remember two quirks, but I haven't used openSUSE for a while so I don't know if they're still relevant today:
- network can be handled either by NetworkManager or wicked. It creates some redundancy or confusion in the settings.
- settings are mostly handled by YaST. But regarding the desktop environment, there are other independent panels, with some identical and some different settings, which creates some confusion too (especially with themes).

The default configuration of desktop environments like Xfce and Plasma is very good, better than Manjaro. It's not a big deal since all it takes is some tuning from the user, but it's nice not to have to deal with that every time.
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January 11th, 2022, 16:28
I'm a bit surprise ubuntu is not in your list; or perhaps that is the 'standard' and you are trying alternative. I have a friend who uses fedora and another slackware and both have used them for so long they would never switch.

Personally I find lvm a nightmare for long term management providing little benefit and a lot of obscurity.

As mentioned before zfs is my choice of file system (for robust raid support as well as block checksum to detect errors); which sort of locks me into ubuntu since my days of building kernels is over. Before zfs i used md which lacked the checksum feature. brtfs might be up to par these days (not sure) but when i tested it around 2016-2017 it had a lot of critical errors dealing with raid faults. The last thing you want is for the filesystem to make a fixable error unfixable sort of defeats the benefits of fault tolerance.

I have to say even with 20.04 ubuntu install is horribly buggy if you want (for example) custom or reused disk partitions. For simplicity i just give it the entire boot disk but i found the level and nature of the bugs rather retarded given that even a few years ago they did not exist. I've also been bitten by upgrades hitting stale packages and freaking out (package removed between major releases) and more than once being forced to use a rescue usb stick to recover. But for clean installs it seems sufficient. One of the issues i've run into is that having a home directory more than 10 years old and some custom changes in /etc upgrades are a headache as software like to 'move things around' or 'rename things' for the sake well because it just wasn't good enough before and these tweaks break everything without providing any real substantial benefit to either old or new users.
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January 11th, 2022, 18:52
I think we discussed a little about that in another thread indeed.

I don't like Ubuntu because of the history of Canonical, I just can't trust them. The polemic around their use of ZFS is a good example; as Linus said: don't use it, even though the infringement is not entirely clear, chances are Oracle may react unfavourably. The licence issues are not limited to ZFS, but to other software in their repository, and other unclear issues related to Snap itself. And of course, for the past actions of Canonical (the Amazon issue, the sudden changes back & forth of desktop environment and init system).

I'm not a puritan, but there's just no upside for me to choose Ubuntu when there are so many other good alternatives. Maybe I'll try it again in the future, but not now.

I heard there were some advantages, like drivers they hacked to make them run better on some devices (without making it open-source, of course), and the ability to update anything in their server line without rebooting, which is impressive, but I'm not in those use-cases.

Yes, I've seen that Btrfs had a bad reputation with RAID other than 0, 1. Perhaps it's correctly implemented now, who knows. It saved me once, but I'm not using it anymore and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone unless they know what they do.

Couldn't you use OpenZFS? I don't know anything about it, but if it's as good as ZFS, it could be an alternative if you had to use it on another distribution.
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January 11th, 2022, 20:58
I personally prefer simply the one that's translated best into my own language.

Ages agoi, I tried to find some informaion, and I couldn't find it in one distribution, because everything was - cynically puit LinuxLeetSpeak, in English, of course, and I couldn't understand it; the man pages were in English as well.

Since then, I've mostly been staying away from Linux, because I fear that they are still not as much translated as they are written in English language.

Now, my English is far better, but that wound is still there : Not to be understood by those who make Linux.
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January 11th, 2022, 22:00
Originally Posted by Redglyph View Post
Daily use
When I installed it, I didn't know there was no choice of desktop environment since their docs showed there was.
It's easy to install other desktops on Fedora via the package manager, and assuming you're using a display manager that supports it, also easy to switch between them at login. The "spin" you initially install really doesn't matter much. I always just use the generic network install media personally, and never touch those.

"dnf grouplist" (can also use "yum", it's just an alias for "dnf" now) to see the package groups, all the desktop environments are in there and those groups can be installed. (Might need to install the EPEL repo to get access to some more obscure desktops, I'm not sure)

gdm's probably the default display manager if you did a GNOME installation. I don't know off-hand if gdm lets you switch desktops at login or not. If not, install the "lightdm" package to get that display manager instead, and then "systemctl disable gdm", "systemctl enable lightdm", reboot.
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January 11th, 2022, 22:14
My understanding is openzfs is merely zfs adopted to bsd distributions. I'm not sure there is a different in license between openzfs and zfs - BUT both versions of zfs are not the same as solaris zfs; when orcale purchased sun they closed zfs and new changes are no longer publicly available. New features in zfs/openzfs are not provided by oracle.

here is the faq on openzfs
https://openzfs.org/wiki/FAQ

Originally Posted by Redglyph View Post
I think we discussed a little about that in another thread indeed.

I don't like Ubuntu because of the history of Canonical, I just can't trust them. The polemic around their use of ZFS is a good example; as Linus said: don't use it, even though the infringement is not entirely clear, chances are Oracle may react unfavourably. The licence issues are not limited to ZFS, but to other software in their repository, and other unclear issues related to Snap itself. And of course, for the past actions of Canonical (the Amazon issue, the sudden changes back & forth of desktop environment and init system).

I'm not a puritan, but there's just no upside for me to choose Ubuntu when there are so many other good alternatives. Maybe I'll try it again in the future, but not now.

I heard there were some advantages, like drivers they hacked to make them run better on some devices (without making it open-source, of course), and the ability to update anything in their server line without rebooting, which is impressive, but I'm not in those use-cases.

Yes, I've seen that Btrfs had a bad reputation with RAID other than 0, 1. Perhaps it's correctly implemented now, who knows. It saved me once, but I'm not using it anymore and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone unless they know what they do.

Couldn't you use OpenZFS? I don't know anything about it, but if it's as good as ZFS, it could be an alternative if you had to use it on another distribution.
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January 12th, 2022, 10:58
Originally Posted by Stingray View Post
It's easy to install other desktops on Fedora via the package manager, and assuming you're using a display manager that supports it, also easy to switch between them at login. The "spin" you initially install really doesn't matter much. I always just use the generic network install media personally, and never touch those.
That's a good point, though there's a caveat. In reality there's often some amount to fixing and tuning to do. It's possible, I've already done that a few times, but it's much easier to start from the correct configuration if you can.

1) Some distributions are not entirely clean, and it's not obvious to remove all remnants of the original DE. Sometimes the directories change and it's not easy to connect the new one. With some experience or a good support it's fine, but for a beginner it may be more challenging. Forums often provide help, there's often someone else who's been through that before.

2) It may not survive updates. Or it may simply not easily be compatible with the current dependencies.

3) The group who provides those spins have made all the tunings to make it look coherent - or at least, as much as it's possible with the disparate system Linux is.


=> If there's a big plus for one distribution, like the compatibility with something else, the desktop environment should certainly be a secondary concern. For example we often used CentOS as a test for Red Hat servers, but there was no restriction on the DE so we could switch to our favourite one - if we could find one that is retro-compatible (now it's moot since Red Hat decided to change everything).

I usually take notes of how I had to adapt the new DE, and do a backup or a snapshot before a big update.
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January 12th, 2022, 11:06
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
I personally prefer simply the one that's translated best into my own language.

Ages agoi, I tried to find some informaion, and I couldn't find it in one distribution, because everything was - cynically puit LinuxLeetSpeak, in English, of course, and I couldn't understand it; the man pages were in English as well.

Since then, I've mostly been staying away from Linux, because I fear that they are still not as much translated as they are written in English language.

Now, my English is far better, but that wound is still there : Not to be understood by those who make Linux.
I'm always installing English software even though it's not my native language. It's less trouble, and the labels are shorter (words and sentences are usually shorter).

There isn't much text anyway, so it's quickly learned.

But it's personal, I know people who are much more fluent than I am who prefer that any software is installed in their native language. The problem is some software are English only, and you end up with menus in a mix of both languages.
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January 12th, 2022, 20:34
In my experience, on average Norwegian sentences are even shorter, but I wouldn't go as far as to install Linux in Norwegian
I install it in English because it is easier to relate the found information on the internet, which is mostly in English, to my installation. It makes all so much more sense than it does in Dutch.
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January 14th, 2022, 03:27
Ive been on Fedora for the past 7 or 8 years - no windows usage besides at work. Fedora has been a stable OS to work and play games on. I agree 100% with this selection of distros (manjaro/fedora/openSUSE tumbleweed).I'll point out one minor thing, if you want to 'desktop hop' in fedora, try "dnf group list" you can install KDE with dnf group install "Plasma desktop"
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January 14th, 2022, 11:08
Originally Posted by Rook View Post
Ive been on Fedora for the past 7 or 8 years - no windows usage besides at work. Fedora has been a stable OS to work and play games on. I agree 100% with this selection of distros (manjaro/fedora/openSUSE tumbleweed).I'll point out one minor thing, if you want to 'desktop hop' in fedora, try "dnf group list" you can install KDE with dnf group install "Plasma desktop"
Good to know the switch of DE isn't painful. After all, they have spins with different ones, so it makes sense that their repository offers painless alternatives. You're not the first to be happy with it, I've heard that many times. CentOS is pretty strong too IMO.

I had Red Hat then switched to Fedora long ago, when it spun out from the original distribution, but it was a very casual use. Then RH became a more serious business, though it's still possible for anyone to legally use it with the dev programme, with some restrictions.

I have only listed the 3 distros I've used or quickly tested recently and a few gotchas, it's not in-depth and doesn't mean there aren't other interesting ones. It was also an occasion to get feedback from others.
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January 14th, 2022, 16:04
FWIW:

I have now installed opensuse tumbleweed on my 2-1 linux/win 11 pc (named archaeopteryx/haloarcula), and I'm going to install fedora on my good (not necessarily) ol' (definitely) linux/win xp rig (named mendax/liar).

pibbur who subscribes to the view that 3 distros is thrice as fun as 1 distro.

PS. "mendax" is latin for "liar" DS.
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January 14th, 2022, 17:08
Redhat fans may also be interested in a couple of other projects. Rocky Linux is now the community version of Redhat Enterprise, which is probably a good bet if rock-solid stability is a priority.

There's also Silverblue and Kinoite, which are respectively the Gnome and KDE spins of their new "immutable OS" model. Immutable being a bit of a misnomer, of course, but essentially built upon the idea of the OS being a read-only image that is extremely efficient to update or roll back, and compartmentalising applications and user data. As I understand it, this is the model they intend to pursue in the future. I've played around with Silverblue, and I like the model.
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January 14th, 2022, 17:42
So many distros…. So few machines….

pibbuR ….
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January 14th, 2022, 17:49
Originally Posted by Ripper View Post
Redhat fans may also be interested in a couple of other projects. Rocky Linux is now the community version of Redhat Enterprise, which is probably a good bet if rock-solid stability is a priority.
Isn't that one of the distributions that was meant as a replacement for CentOS when Red Hat decided to change CentOS to upstream, killing all hope to use it as a test platform for RH? This was a sad affair. There were a few candidates, one starting from scratch IRC, and even one from Oracle.

When I said CentOS was a solid choice, I should have said "used to", now it's indeed its replacement that should take that place.
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January 14th, 2022, 17:50
Originally Posted by pibbuR View Post
So many distros…. So few machines….

pibbuR ….
You can install Linux on virtual machines too, it's fun. And VirtualBox is free.
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January 14th, 2022, 17:56
Originally Posted by Redglyph View Post
Isn't that one of the distributions that was meant as a replacement for CentOS when Red Hat decided to change CentOS to upstream, killing all hope to use it as a test platform for RH? This was a sad affair. There were a few candidates, one starting from scratch IRC, and even one from Oracle.

When I said CentOS was a solid choice, I should have said "used to", now it's indeed its replacement that should take that place.
Yes, Redhat took over the CentOS project, and decided to turn it into an upstream testing platform, rather than a community version of Redhat. And the community said, "Um… How about 'No'?"

AFAIK, Rocky seems to be becoming the de facto replacement.
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January 15th, 2022, 13:20
Originally Posted by pibbuR View Post
… and I'm going to install fedora on my good (not necessarily) ol' (definitely) linux/win xp rig …
I tried to install Fedora, but after nearly completing installation, the installer complained that it couldn't install the boot manager. Now, that PC is quite old, more than 10 yeas far as I remember. Got 4 gb Ram, don't remember the CPU, but it's an Intel. Originally ran 32 bit Win Xp.

Maybe it has problems running 64 bit OS? Apparently Fedora is now only 64 bit. Other possible causes? Or are there distros which will should work on old hardware? I want Gnome on that machine.

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January 15th, 2022, 13:34
Originally Posted by pibbuR View Post
I tried to install Fedora, but after nearly completing installation, the installer complained that it couldn't install the boot manager. Now, that PC is quite old, more than 10 yeas far as I remember. Got 4 gb Ram, don't remember the CPU, but it's an Intel. Originally ran 32 bit Win Xp.
What the size of your disk, is it 2TB or more?

Other than that, perhaps there was no suitable boot partition. Did you do the default disk setup, or a manual one (in which case, what are your partitions?)

I doubt it's a 64-bit, you would already have had a problem running the live / installer system.
Last edited by Redglyph; January 15th, 2022 at 14:03.
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January 15th, 2022, 13:52
Originally Posted by Redglyph View Post
What the size of your disk, is it 2TB or more?

Other than that, perhaps there was no suitable boot partition. Did you do the default disk setup, or a manual one (in which case, what are your partitions?)

I doubt it's a 64-bit, you would already have had a problem running the live / installer system.
On 1TB disk, one 256 Gb SSD. Default disk setup (It think, but I'll try again, to be sure). BTW, it previously had Win Xp, and Ubuntu ( installed several years ago).

BTW: It boots fine from the install/live DVD. (For some reason I couldn't get the machine to boot from an USB stick).

pibbuR whose internal architecture is > 1 million bit with 70 billion RISC processors.

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