A major switch requires a major blog post. This will be a long one.
Five days before I changed my OS. I switched from Fedora – which I had been using for a really long time (i think five years) – to Linux Mint. Had a lot of thought, before choosing Linux mint. But in the end I did go for it. In this blog I talk about why I moved.
Linux is all about options. There are so many distributions out there that sometimes, it is not wise at all to keep browsing the web for new distributions and features. Because you will definitely get sucked in and want to switch. If all your work is in the cloud, then I think switching should not cause much irritation to you. Or if you are trying out distros on a virtual box. But if you are like me, with loads of post installation work to be done after getting a new OS, switching is not really a walk in the park. Sometimes it can be really frustrating. So, the point is, do not switch, unless you really have to or something about your distribution really bothers you. With that said, I was accumulating my grievances for a long time before I made the switch. I want to list those here.
Although dnf is really good and i liked it a lot more than apt because of the really nice way it summarizes the things you are going to install, i recently found out that there is a HUGE difference between the number of debian packages compared to rpm packages. This literally means that I will have more of the software that the rest of the world has been using under the debian/ubuntu umbrella.
I am not sure why. But there was a time when I had a lot of trouble installing a simple virtual box on fedora. Not sure what I did wrong. But I did not spend time on it to find out what happened. I left it after that. It could be my lack of knowledge.
There are a lot of policies that red hat based systems seem to have that hinder the installation and support of drivers and software. I am not really clear about this. But it annoyed me a lot in a lot of instances and, unless you are a sys admin, I think it is not worth to go learn these things as well. I did not have this much trouble with the ubuntu machines at work. The word SELINUX brings a lot of stress to me.
It was one of those things that bothered me a lot. I was installing a LAMP stack on a fedora machine to build a web app once. Through the period of time while I was developing this app I had a lot of SELINUX related stress. It took me a lot of time to learn those things. Although this is a good thing to do, I felt it was not necessary for me. I guess I wasted a lot of time on it.
Although gnome is the most widely used Desktop Environment for linux machines, I feel it might be the worst as well. I felt bloated when I was using gnome. I also felt that it is not suitable for a desktop or a laptop used as a desktop, as in my case. Why do I say this? Because of the design decisions they have made. Large proportions given to the menu bar and icons and everything, that use up valuable space on the screen. It felt like working on a laptop with lower resolution sometimes.
I switched to MATE Desktop sometime back on fedora itself, since it was a light weight alternative to Gnome 3, which was default with Fedora. It was really good. I liked it. It was in fact a fork from Gnome 2. But then, there is something I have noticed with desktop environments. I feel it is not a good idea to install a second desktop environment. It is a lot of work to make it look like as if you downloaded the Fedora MATE spin itself. I found the Fedora MATE spin to be more stable than the Fedora Gnome edition onto which MATE was installed. Similar thing happened when I installed cinnamon on my Fedora Desktop at home. Not a good idea. There is something missing. What I’m saying is: Download the distro with its native desktop environment to reap the most stability out of it, because I think that is where most of the focus is going.
Updates and Support
When someone says fedora, the word that comes to my mind is ‘cutting edge’. Fedora focuses on providing its users with all the latest technologies. But the downside of this is that it also stops supporting older OSes in 13 months. This bothered me a lot. By the time you get adapted to one, people are already on the next one. I did not like this. I was more of a Long Term Support guy. Took sometime for me to realize this.
Ubuntu does this, with its Long Term Support editions. But the linux mint folk are offering support till 2022 for the OS I am using right now. Linux Mint 18.2 Sonya. That is just amazing. If you are looking for something stable and you want to sit on it for a long time and most of your software are old anyway, then this is it!
I tried linux mint via a flash drive a long time back (maybe 2/3 years?) and it was not something special. Just thought that it felt like a linux that looked like windows. I read somewhere recently that the linux mint community is focusing a lot on its cinnamon desktop and user experience. I sampled the new 18.2 version and it was SO evident. So many design decisions taken just right. Nothing more nothing less. You just feel the professional desktop feeling oozing out of cinnamon. I love everything about it, right out of the box! The way a company sets its default values for first use speaks a lot about their design team, I always say. Linux Mint with Cinnamon is just a very usable distro right out of the box.
I also installed virtual box and installed windows on it and it runs really well.
Please do not get fooled by the fact that some people say, mint is for beginners. No. It is rather for people who want to focus on their work and worry less about the rest.
Decide what you want from a distro before you make a choice. Different distros do different things differently. Make a choice as to what is important for you and what is not. Do not ask your friend for a suggestion with a question like “Hey what is the best distro out there”. No that is not the right question. The question is “Hey, what do you think is the right distro for me” and tell him your needs. The more accurate you are with these requirements, the more closer you will be towards finding the right one.
Almost all major distros are great. It just depends on what you want.