Which Version of Linux is Right for You?

Do you know how many times I’ve heard that question asked in the media or various Linux magazines or what not? Too many. So I’m going to tell you KISS, Keep it simple, stupid. That is the philosophy of the Arch Linux distribution, but for those who are just starting out with Linux, I highly recommend Keep it Simple, Stupid by just going with Linux Mint. I use Linux Mint KDE when I use Linux Mint.

Now I’m an experienced user. I’ve used all kinds of distros from Arch itself as well as offshoots like Manjaro and Antergos to Gentoo and Slackware. I’ve used Debian, Ubuntu, Xubuntu, Ubuntu Studio, Linux Mint, SolyXK, Fedora, openSUSE plus I use an Android phone (Android being a derivative of Linux developed by Google).

I’m not talking about installing these operating systems in a virtual box. I’m talking about actually installing it on my computer as my sole and only operating system for weeks, months or years at a time. So I really know what it’s like to live and work in a computer that runs Linux as it’s operating system.

This blog post – posted inside Linux. Although once I was also a kind of Windows XP expert, but I don’t even like, trust or understand Windows anymore. Everything I need is here on my computer and I pay nothing for the privilege of using any software I need. I’ve learned to meet all my needs inside a “Linux box” as we call it.

There’s people going to tell you to install this version or that version, and that’s fine. But if you’re just starting out, go with the most popular, robust and driver friendly version of them all that works right out of the box every time on every computer. Linux Mint.

Too Many Options

I cannot decide. There are too many options. A Microsoft Windows person would have no idea.

It’s all the fault of Linux, or more properly “GNU/Linux” pronounced “Gah-New Lin-ux” or sometimes “Gah-New Lin-ox.” Much to the distress of the GNU people who provide all the software for Linux and BSD systems, nobody wants to say “Gan-New” before “Linux.” The harsh reality is this: the vast majority of the public just calls it Linux.

First decision: Which Linux? There are hundreds and hundreds of versions of the open-source, free operating system. It’s already running on devices you probably own, like your modem, router, Android Phone, tablet and smart TV. At my house it also runs my Desktop Computer.

I feel secure in Linux. No viruses. No compromises. Safe, functional, beautiful, incredibly powerful.

So for the first choice I decided I wanted a “rolling distribution,” or one that once installed, it never had to be installed again. It will update itself forever, including the Linux kernel. I am tired of the versions that get outdated and have limited support after an expiration date. There is no need anymore to put up with that. There are both stable and “bleeding edge” rolling versions of Linux out there that do everything that Ubuntu or Mint do. Tough it out.

Next I needed it to be functional. Out of the box working, for the most part. At least in major areas. I shouldn’t have to have a command line prompt and build the entire operating system from the ground up like with Arch or Gentoo. I have no time for that. I wanted a version of Linux which made disk partitioning easy and left me with some kind of graphical interface when I’m done installing and at the same time which gives me complete control over what I’m putting on my computer.

Finally, I wanted to be slightly off the beaten path, but not too far off. I didn’t want Debian/Ubuntu/Mint family versions, or Red Hat versions, Gentoo derivatives or Slackware. Something different. I decided on Arch derivatives, and I narrowed that down to one: Antergos-OS. I did, in the process, over the years, explore all of the above options.

Second decision: What desktop environment? This is where Microsoft Window users are lost. They just have to accept whatever Microsoft has decided for them. They can customize their desktop to some degree, but not with the flexibility and complete range of power that someone using Linux has. In Linux we have many “DEs” such as KDE Plasma, Gnome 3, Mate, Xfce, Cinnamon, Deepin, Enlightenment, Openbox, Lxde and so on. Each of them handles things a little different, look a little different, have different functionalities, strengths and weaknesses.

The Desktop Environment is where I falter.

The desktop environment sits on top and is what your Window Manager serves up to you to interact with your operating system – I think.

For years I used a well-known desktop environment called Mate, and pronounced it “Mate” like the British version of a friend. Only recently I figured out it’s not pronounced like a British friend, but a two syllable word “ma-tay,” which I have trouble getting my head around.

I also used Cinnamon, but didn’t like it so much. Mate was my DE for years.

Then I got bored with it. I tried Unity. Hated it. So I went with Xfce, which is pronounced exactly like the letters of the alphabet. I couldn’t figure out and didn’t seem to like KDE Plasma. We’ll get back to that.

Then I migrated to Gnome and discovered that half the YouTube world mispronounces it as “Nome” when the developers want us to pronounce it “Gah-Nome” because the G means something – what I don’t know, but it’s really supposed to be pronounced “Gah-Nome.”

Then I went back and looked at KDE Plasma, the most popular of all.

Now I have all three on my computer. I can switch from one to the other: Gnome, Xfce and KDE Plasma. I have them all set up. They are all beautiful, have rotating wallpapers, intense functionality and so on. I can do anything. I can place Facebook games, watch Netflix, watch Amazon Videos and YouTube, work on my spreadsheet, write and update this blog – all from any of them. It’s hard to remember which DE I’m in at the moment. Let me check … Behold – I’m in Xfce, which is weird because for the last few weeks I’ve been inside Gnome and the last two days I’ve been setting up Plasma. Xfce was my first of these three.

With it all set up so nicely, I can’t decide. I’m confused. I don’t know what to do.

I guess if you don’t like this kind of problem and like having to pay money for an anti-virus subscription just to protect your computer from software you have to download from questionable sources, then go on using MS Windows. In Linux all our software comes from trusted “repositories” and is safe and sound, and we don’t have virus problems. See my earlier post about Linux Virus protection.

So for now, if I get bored, I just switch. Why should I be nailed down to some boring window environment when I can have anything I want and complete freedom with my computer?

Those are some of my reasons I run Linux on my desktop computer.

Bad Blood and Help Vampires in Linux Forums

by Wayne Boyd
April 3, 2017

As you probably know there are about a hundred billion versions of GNU/Linux freely available for download that you can install on your computer, wiping out Windows altogether (or keeping it if you like too).

Some of these versions were started from scratch using the Linux kernel developed and maintained by Linus Travalds in the early 1990’s. It also includes various other pieces of software from GNU and even sometimes proprietary sources. (Android is one of these Linux branches and runs on many, many smart phones.)

There are charts you can look at on Wikipedia about the history of the development of these many Linux distributions (herein called distros), but many of them branched out from some older and often still maintained distros.

The largest family tree is Debian. From Debian come so many versions of Linux it takes up have the chart on Wikipedia. It includes Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Ubuntu Studios, Linux Mint, Linux Debian, SolyDX, Bodhi,  ad infinitum. No way to do it justice here.

Then there’s the Red Hat branch, and that’s the next big branch. It includes dozens and dozens of offshoots, including openSuse, Fedora, and Lord knows what.

Slackware is a distro with many active branches.

More recently Arch and then later Android (developed by Google) came along.

Arch is a gloves off roll up your sleeves operating system that you install from the ground up with certain command line tools. Unlike other popular distros, after you install Arch on your computer, you wind up with a command line. What you do from there is partition your hard drives with fdisk and start installing the bits and pieces that eventually will give you some kind of functioning desktop computer down the line.

These Arch people are hard core. They have little time for fools like you and me who they call Help Vampires come to suck the life blood out of their efforts. Honestly, though, as someone who has used Linux since the turn of the century (exclusively since 2002), and somewhat familiar with how a Linux system is put together and works, I just don’t want to build a version of Linux from the ground up anymore.

There’s no need.

So along came some branches off of Arch, most notable but not exclusively, CineArch and Manjaro. CineArch was an Arch based distro with a graphical install and which provided the Cinnamon desktop environment. Thus the name: Cinnamon + Arch: CineArch. But when Cinnamon was dropped by CineArch and they went with Gnome 3, they need to change the name of the distro. Thus Antergos was born.

I’ve used both Manjaro and Antergos now, and they are great operating systems that give you a wonderful graphical experience and you don’t have to worry how it was put together underneath the hood.

The Arch people are very quick to point out, despite so many YouTube videos and forum claims, Arch is not 100% Antergos. Antergos has their own repositories and software, their own wiki, their own forums and their own administrators. It is not true that Antergos is just a graphical installation of Arch. Antergos is a full-fledged Linux distro in it’s own right using the Arch framework plus their own tools to build their own operating system.

The Antergos community and their forums are not as populated as the Arch forums, and so a lot of Antergos users, thinking Antergos is just Arch, go to their forum and ask questions. This makes some in that community upset. Many of the original Arch developers have stated their feeling that they should not help Antergos. Antergos should provide their own help on their own forums to their own users.

Life is a two way street, and although much less so, there’s a similar mood from Antergos diehards about the Manjaro people that come to their forums and ask questions about their Arch based distro.

Arch forum moderators get all hot headed and have no tolerance for what they are calling Help Vampires. Help Vampires, they say, come in swarms and completely distract and destroy a well developed online community.

That’s what they think of us – the Antergos community.

So I found bad blood and calls of Help Vampires after reading a prominent article tonight on the Arch user forums. Now I don’t want to go there anymore. Let them have their world all to themselves. Power to them.

I just want a computer that works pretty good, is fun to fiddle with, looks pretty and functions effectively. I’ve got that with Antergos. I recommend it.

That’s my two cents worth. I came here to get away from politics, not to find it.