Dec 3, 2007

What are the Top 10 Linux Distros?

Have you ever tried to count the stars in the sky? Impossible, there are literally thousands of them out there and no one could possibly count them all. Similarly, there are literally thousands of Linux distributions out there.

So which ones are good? For Linux n00bs this may be a stopping point. I know in college when I had my Capstone class, my classmates could hardly spell Linux, let alone pick a good distro.

In that spirit, let me narrow it down a little bit. Here is the current top ten list of Linux distributions, with an honorable mention to FreeBSD put out by

From Distrowatch:

The bewildering choice and the ever increasing number of Linux distributions can be confusing for those who are new to Linux. This is why this page was created. It lists 10 Linux distributions (plus an honorable mention of FreeBSD, by far the most popular of all of the BSDs), which are generally considered as most widely-used by Linux users around the world. There are no figures to back it up and there are many other distributions that might suit your particular purpose better, but as a general rule, all of these are popular and have very active forums or mailing lists where you can ask questions if you get stuck.

Without further ado, here is the list:

  1. Ubuntu
    Pros: Fixed release cycle and support period; novice-friendly; wealth of documentation, both official and user-contributed

    Cons: Some of Ubuntu's own software (e.g. Launchpad, Rosetta) are proprietary; lacks compatibility with Debian

  2. OpenSuse
    Pros: Comprehensive and intuitive configuration tool; large repository of software packages, excellent web site infrastructure and printed documentation

    Cons: Novell's patent deal with Microsoft in November 2006 seemingly legitimised Microsoft's intellectual property claims over Linux; its resource-heavy desktop setup and graphical utilities are sometimes seen as "bloated and slow"

  3. Fedora
    Pros: Highly innovative; outstanding security features; large number of supported packages; strict adherence to the Free Software philosophy

    Cons: Fedora's priorities tend to lean towards enterprise features, rather than desktop usability

  4. Debian
    Pros: Very stable; remarkable quality control; includes over 20,000 software packages; supports more processor architectures than any other Linux distribution

    Cons: Conservative - due to its support for many processor architectures, newest technologies are not always included; slow release cycle (one stable release every 1 - 3 years); discussions on developer mailing lists and blogs can be uncultured at times

  5. Mandriva
    Pros: Beginner-friendly, especially the commercial editions; excellent central configuration utility; very good out-of-the-box support for dozens of languages; installable live CD

    Cons: The company's customer service has developed bad reputation over the years; complex, confusing web site infrastructure; dropping popularity due to its commercial nature and unpopular corporate decisions in the past

  6. PCLinuxOS
    Pros: Out-of-the-box support for graphics drivers, browser plugins and media codecs; fast boot times; up-to-date software

    Cons: No 64-bit edition offered; no out-of-the-box support for non-English languages; lacks release planning

  7. Mepis
    Pros: Beginner-friendly; excellent hardware auto-detection and support; intuitive, installable live CD

    Cons: Software in its repositories not always up-to-date, lacks development roadmap

  8. Knoppix
    Pros: Unparalleled hardware auto-detection and auto-configuration; portable operating system that can be used for rescue, demonstration and testing tasks; provides a hard-disk installation script

    Cons: Recent releases somewhat buggy; lack of polish and unification of menus across the different desktop environments; slow when run from DVD

  9. Slackware
    Pros: Highly stable, clean and bug-free, strong adherence to UNIX principles

    Cons: Limited number of officially supported applications; conservative in terms of base package selection; complex upgrade procedure; no official 64-bit edition

  10. Gentoo
    Pros: Excellent software management infrastructure, unparalleled customisation and tweaking options, superb online documentation

    Cons: Occasional instability and risk of breakdown, the project suffers from lack of directions and frequent infighting between its developers

  11. FreeBSD (Honorable Mention)
    Pros: Fast and stable; availability of over 15,000 software applications (or "ports") for installation; very good documentation

    Cons: Tends to lag behind Linux in terms of support for exotic hardware, limited availability of commercial applications; lacks graphical configuration tools

What is your favorite distro? Is there one you think Distrowatch missed? Hit me up in the comments!

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