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Ask HN: Which Linux distribution do you use, and why?
28 points by pyeu 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 57 comments

Ubuntu 16.04 on client and server. Just phenomenally stable on a basic laptop. Particularly when I hear about High Sierra and UWP woes.

Very much looking forward to Bionic Beaver and Mesa 18!

Am still looking for a good distro as bootable usb thumb with persistence. Alpine is very convenient if you just want a quick shell. Tails for situations requiring more privacy. But apart from running mkusb and creating my own ubuntu live stick. Is there anything really specifically tailored to this use case?

The only major grip I have with Ubuntu is their deficient support for Nvidia drivers. The Noveau et al configuration was a particular kind of hell for me. Ubuntu is hands down the best OS for development for me though.

>their deficient support for Nvidia drivers

I believe the problem is with Nvidia. You'd get the best experience with Ubuntu since it is the most used by average customers, so well tested.

It isn't hard to create a live ubuntu stick if you like Ubuntu, no?

The live-boot CDs have always worked well for me (when I need them, for me that's rarely) I can only imagine a USB that you can boot from would be good as well?

On my laptop I use Arch Linux,mainly because it doesn't get in the way installing any unwanted package or service. Should I need to configure a new laptop suddenly, I have scripts that provision the new machine exactly the way I want it in 1h~. Another killer feature of Arch is its vast repositories of packages, I can install spotify, dropbox, skype the same way I install htop! In 4 years of running it (and updating weekly) I have not had any major problems with updates breaking things, which is a common concern of newcomers to the arch rolling update system.

On servers I most often use debian, rigorously with unattended-upgrades enabled, for its stability and attention to security.

As a base image for containers I prefer Alpine for its slenderness and security, escalating to debian or ubuntu as a last resort when needed for exhotic packages and such.

Finally, when I setup a linux box for inexperienced users, I usually use manjaro for its ease of use and attention to the inexperienced-user-experience.

Can you share those scripts? I need to reinstall arch on a new laptop, and I would like to see how you automated the setup.

Another Arch Linux user here, for stuff like Spotify, Dropbox, Skype I highly recommend installing them through Flatpak.

Some of these proprietary programs have dependencies that are out of date, so it's much easier to use flatpak to install these programs rather than messing with your system' packages.


I use Arch since ~8 years at work and on my laptop.

I have a few requirements when I choose my distro:

1. Ubuntu based, since I know where everything is. I don't mean to knock other great distros like Arch, etc.. but I'd rather do my stuff than try to figure out another package manager or another file system layout.

2. Customizable. I make my environment look a bit like windows, with the task bar and all. Not because I love windows, but because I have two laptops, one windows and one linux, and I need a bit of a seamless transition. I am sure if my other laptop was a fruit, I'd want my linux machine to resemble a fruit.

3. I need my desktop right click context menu, with a command line option.

For the longest time I used Xubuntu. I still think Xfce is the best out there, but its glacial rate of movement made me look in other places. It is falling behind in some things such as multi-monitor support with docking stations.

I now use Ubuntu 17.10 with Gnome shell. I was able to make it look almost like my Xfce setup. I had to turn off Wayland, since it was causing gnome to crash randomly on wake from sleep and close all my apps. It is also far less customizable than xfce, and some things are unexpectedly buggier (the terminal window loses cut and paste abilities randomly, and I cannot replace the console shortcut in the desktop context menu with Terminator).

I may yet go back to Xubuntu. Not sure.

Check MATE, they try to keep up with good experience without breaking anything. It just works

You should give cinnamon a try. I think you would prefer it over gnome.

I actually use Linux Mint for this reason - Cinnamon is just awesome (except the random crashes every once in a while)

Docking support is great, but sound output needs to be swapped manually sometimes.

Will Cinnamon be fast and responsive on an old laptop with a 2nd-gen Intel Core i5 processor and 4 GB of RAM? And how is the support for NVidia GPUs?

Ubuntu because there are even fewer meaningful differences among Linux distributions than there are among operating systems in general...and the important differences among operating systems are mostly "Will it run on my hardware?" and "How much more or less of a distraction is managing operating system A versus operating system B?"

Ubuntu 16.04 (LTS), because it's the closest thing there is to a standardized, plain-vanilla version of Linux. I don't want to think about it; I just want it to work.

Debian, good in: ethic, governance, maintainers, documentation, choices over time

Debian is one of the best choices

NixOS on both my laptop and all the servers I set up.

Declarative configuration, atomic upgrades, system rollbacks, a functional configuration language, excellent Haskell support, etc.

I used Debian and Ubuntu for many years, but now I wouldn't switch to any distribution that isn't inspired by NixOS.

I'm not usually opinionated, but as I see it, NixOS (along with Nix itself) is clearly a huge step forward.

Never heard of this one, popped over to the website. Literally the only thing I understand is that the name is NixOS which uses the Nix package manager.

They'd need to dumb down whatever it is they're talking about significantly before I would use it, can't make heads nor tails of it.

I'm brainwashed already so it's hard for me to see it from the perspective of a new user.

Here are some main points from the website:

NixOS has a completely declarative approach to configuration management: you write a specification of the desired configuration of your system in NixOS’s modular language, and NixOS takes care of making it happen.

NixOS has atomic upgrades and rollbacks. It’s always safe to try an upgrade or configuration change: if things go wrong, you can always roll back to the previous configuration.

That makes sense, doesn't it? Is it that you want a more detailed explanation of how it achieves this, and how it differs from other distributions?

Did you see this page? https://nixos.org/nixos/about.html

I'm not adverse to messing with config files but this seems a little above my knowledge base.

I've no experience with functional programming so have no idea really how it's doing the things it's doing. Plus I can imagine writing out your config file would take a long time.

What does declarative mean? What does atomic mean?

The orig PhD thesis paper is what you want http://www.st.ewi.tudelft.nl/~dolstra/pubs/phd-thesis.pdf

I use GuixSD, just because it's init system is in Scheme(guile) and the declarative syntax of system config and pkg definitions seem more straight forward to me and I prefer free software. You can easily run a GuixSD system with a mainline kernel if you want proprietary firmware blobs but so far I haven't had any issues with the default Libre kernel. There's a GuixSD presentation here http://dustycloud.org/misc/talks/guix/chicagolug_2015/guix_t...

Kali Linux on usb for pentesting

Ubuntu 17.04 for Machine learning/Cuda because anything else takes more time to work.

Alpine-Linux for Dockerfiles because it's the bare minimum.

Arch Linux for learning Linux, because you're responsible for installing what you'd like to have a stable machine.

Ubuntu LTS releases -- it's a relatively stable deploy target with a not ancient set of packages like on the enterprise linuxes.

The 2-year update cadence feels about right as well.

Xubuntu on my main development laptop, because I like its aesthetics and it's lightweight on CPU and RAM.

Ubuntu Unity on desktop. No particular reason for Unity, but I've become comfortable with it over the years and have no complaints or reason to switch.

Lubuntu on a secondary old laptop, because it's fast and lightweight.

ChaletOS on my father's old laptop, because it closely resembles Windows Vista/7 which he was used to, but unlike Windows, can continue to get latest software and updates. Can run all DOS and Windows programs using DosBox and Wine. ChaletOS is an Ubuntu variant - not sure if it's modified Xubuntu or deploys its own XFCE customizations over Ubuntu.

Xubuntu here too for pretty much the same reasons. Look and feel plus performance.

KDE Neon - the bleeding edge KDE experience. It's ubuntu LTS under the covers.

LineageOS - Nougat for 'obsolete' phones, though I might switch to postmarketOS if they get calls working!

Before Canonical decided to ditch Unity and go to Gnome I was using Ubuntu at work and Ubuntu Mate at home on laptop. Since Ubuntu dropped Unity I went full time to Ubuntu Mate and I am very happy with it. Apart from that I have KDE Neon on big PC that I hardly ever use. It's the least stable distro I use. There is always something to do on it, but I am using it only for gaming, so it's good enough. On servers I prefer to run Ubuntu LTS editions.

Gobolinux because i found the project interesting at one point and was fed up with Windows at the time.

Really exposed me to the sausage factory that is upstream userspace btw...

Laptop (x230)/Steambox+htpc(HP8300+GF1050): ElementaryOS - Looks nice, AppStore with native only-programs, Ubuntu underneath so I can find a lot of programs/information online in case of any problems, everything works mostly out-of-the-box

Desktop/Homeserver/VPS: VoidLinux + DWM(only on desktop ;)) - Simple (runit as init system, no default logging daemon [I'm using socklog on servers], LibreSSL), cutting edge and not bloated

Work: Ubuntu Mate LTS + ArchLinux in chroot - Ubuntu Mate - same reasons as with elementary on my laptop :) ArchLinux in chroot - cutting edge, AUR with everything and because it's a chroot I can easily snapshot/share/move my development environment, lot of information/solutions out there

I also use:

Alpine - containers with weird things[LXC] on home server - small(almost nothing inside ;)), LibreSSL

Slitaz - old Pentium-M laptop without DMA(I don't know what happened - I got it for $0 so no questions asked), old P4 machine - perfect fit(and toy...) for those machines

LineageOS - no google inside, only f-droid

I use Fedora; this was my first Linux workstation. Fedora was the most painless to install on my at-the-time just released ThinkPad X1 Carbon. The OS was easy to get started with and very user friendly after sorting out some initial issues with firmware and wireless card drivers. I haven't felt the urge to stray to anything else yet.

GalliumOS boots 10 times faster than Ubuntu, because it is designed to run on ChromeOS hardware. Even if you do not like Chromebooks perse, this might be a good enuff reason to get one. For example the off-the-shelf linux seems to waste minutes installing and looking for weird filesystems no-one ever uses.

Ubuntu 16.04

Why? Because it worked when I installed it.

I never got into the whole install the hottest distro each season phase, so I've never actually tried anything else (other than my work servers which are running Cent-OS, but I didn't have to bother with the hassle of installing and configuring those)

Bodhi Linux. http://www.bodhilinux.com/

It's sort of minimal. It's a derivative of Ubuntu which means it's not Red Hat.

It uses Moksha for a desktop, which is a continuation of Enlightenment 17. You can read about Moksha here: http://www.bodhilinux.com/2015/04/28/introducing-the-moksha-...

I use it because it's not annoying; it mostly works; I didn't have to fuck about to get it working; it's sort of minimal; it uses sensible defaults; I like the philosophy; I had a bad experience with Fedora and so I avoid anything red hat.

I use Bunsen labs Linux on my main computer, and Xubuntu on my gaming laptop. I'm gradually setting up a ham radio laptop and testing Devuan on that. All these Debian distros are just because it seems like it has just about everything and is wonderfully stable. I like being able to update without any surprises.

My phone is still android though! What are people's experience of LineageOS? Am I in for a nasty surprise if I try to switch without completely knowing what I'm doing?

Debian without systemd: On an older Pentium4, just for web browsing although I just replaced it with OpenBSD. Its a great distro because of its age, stability and ease of use.

Gentoo OpenRC: On amd64 laptops for learning how to build software.

I've installed and configured 80% of distros on Distrowatch.com. Its all the same pretty much. Linux from Scratch was a good experience as well. Recommended for anyone interested in the deeper reasons of a distro.

OpenSUSE with no desktop, just i3 on my development machine. Xubuntu on family machines and my travel notepad. CentOS on some server, Ubuntu on another.

Need to install Archlinux, because I need it at work. Want to install Gentoo, because it should be useful experience.

Its like with languages on earth. Many things might be easier if there were only one. But probably also something would get lost.

Fedora on my laptop and desktop, Centos on my servers, Debian based on my Raspberry Pi 3b and Zero. Been using Redhat based distros since 1998. I've tried others but never for very long. I know how to find help if something breaks which is very seldom.

Ubuntu because it worked first time on my laptop. Getting concerned about the end of Unity though. I don't like Gnome3 because it's to bar takes up too much of the screen. Ubuntu on desktop again because it works well in Virtualbox on Windows

Ubuntu Mate: Stable and gets out of the way. very good for non-techie family members

Debian (stable, or old-stable) on servers. It's reliable, well documented and has plenty of software available in the official repos.

For most things not in the active apt repo, there's backports and/or a vendor apt repo.

Xubuntu 16.04 on my Dell Latitude 7240 which is a 99% OOB working system. Only the fingerprint scanner is not working. But that is a bullshit sensor anyway. I love the minimal XFCE desktop.

Fedora - because of habit, RPM distros feel like home to me as I started out with one.

Arch Linux - installed it as a rite of passage, works okay on my laptop, can't be arsed to install something else.

Tiny Core Linux, Alpine Linux, Yocto Linux - because they run from RAM and tiny operating systems appeal to me.

Ubuntu because it is a full featured workhorse and everything works on it first time.

Sabayon Linux, active community, you get both binary packages (from sabayon repos) and you can compile gentoo packages from portage, because sabayon is built on top of gentoo.

Looking at the answers, I've learned lots of new distros. Never thought there'd be still that many!

I personally use Arch on desktop/dev and Ubuntu LTS on servers.

Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, and mostly because it usually just works. I use a mac, but there is always an ssh shell open to Ubuntu where "the real work" gets done.

Fedora - Stable but still up to date.

I used to use arch, but you have to be selective and careful with updates otherwise you find you can't boot into x. Takes time to go and fix.

Nailed it... I used Arch for years but moved to Fedora. Fedora is almost as up-to-date as Arch, but without the breakage.

Kubuntu 17.10 because I wanted per-folder views in Dolphin. The 16.04 backports repo hasn't had an update for ages.

Fedora. Up to date packages, decent KDE experience out of the box and synergy with RHEL when it comes to skills.

centos: I am surprised to see that centos is not mentioned a lot. Anyway, I am in the animation/vfx industry and most of the vendors support centos out of all the other linux flavors.

I don't know if it was relevant but I had Ubuntu 16.04 in my server.

Kali for Pentesting, Raspbian on the Raspberry Pi, TAILS for the privacy

sabayon as client: good package manager, up-to-date packages

rhel as server: long lasting projects/software because of long term support

ubuntu/debian as server: for smaller project

Debian. It's probably because I've gotten used to it so much over the years, it feels like a familiar friend every time I boot a new server on it. Rarely an error or issue I haven't encountered before, it just feels good being able to manage a system without much worry.

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