Linux, Linux Mint, or ?

Submitted by peter on Mon, 01/15/2018 - 09:12

Linux is the world's most common operating system when you count the Android version. The most popular smartphone uses Android. The most popular television uses a version of Linux. Linux is the most popular operating system on the hundreds of millions of servers behind the Web and in clouds. Which version of Linux is best for your laptop, ultrabook, or desktop?

Some versions of Linux have compact screen layouts designed for netbooks and tablets with small screens. There are more compact layouts for handheld devices, cameras, and screens the size of the original smartphones, the ones made in japan back in the 1990s and the ones invented by HTC then sold with other brands on the front. The screens are too small for use as a computer.

Utrabooks start at 13" screens. Desktops can have multiple screens up over 30". Two screens is the practical limit for most notebooks and desktops. I will work in that range.

Interesting distributions

Here are some interesting and popular distributions of Linux. There are many more distributions with some designed for media centres, routers, and other hardware.

Debian

Debian is reliable. Debian is popular on servers. Debian is a bit too difficult on the desktop.

The Debian restrictions on package licenses is a roadblock for video software. You can use VLC on a Debian server to convert video from format to format. When you try to watch video from Web sites and streaming services on the desktop, you find Debian does not have some popular codecs but Ubuntu does have them. You switch from Debian to Ubuntu for convenience.

When the Ubuntu user interface annoys you into further action, you switch to Linux Mint that offers the choice of the Ubuntu installation of everything or the Debian option of only free open source codecs.

Deepin

Deepin is a Linux distribution with some recent coverage. I offer it here as an example of the many Linux Distributions that are popular for a short while without having a visible reason to exist outside of their specialised market, which is China.

Deepin used to be based on Ubuntu and now is based direct on Debian. Deepin appears to be somewhere in between Ubuntu and a few other Linux distributions but does not add anything distinctive that I can find. The team behind Deepin are based in China and set out to be the number one Linux distribution in China. Now they are working on being the number one distribution in other countries.

I looked at Deepin as a possible alternative to Linux Mint and for people crossing over from Windows. There are other distributions that would make the switch from Windows easier for most people. For people who can read English, Linux Mint has better support forums and Linux Mint is now the number one Linux distribution on the desktop in Western countries. The Deepin Web site current features Mandarin, English, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Turkish, and German versions with a mix of mostly English and Chinese in the forums.

The Deepin desktop is shown in some screenshots as having an Ubuntu style sidebar but along the bottom, similar to Apple. Screen height is the most precious resource in modern computers because the screens are designed for wide movies, not useful interactive activities. The screenbar at the bottom is a disadvantage for may uses. There is no mention of an option to change it the way you can in Windows and some other distributions of Linux.

Deepin arrives with an unusual set of default applications. A quick read shows a few I would have to delete and replace with more useful alternatives. Add to that, Deepin is a large distribution to download, making Deepin an expensive way to get things you do not want. I prefer a distribution with exactly applications I want or with nothing so that I can install what I want without having to first delete whatever is installed.

Some of the Deepin specific software does not work reliably. The alternatives work reliably in a wide range of popular distributions. I do not see a reason why Deepin decided to choose less reliable software for basic operations.

In summary, Deepin does not appear to have any advantages outside of China and has problems including the huge download.

Linux Mint

Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu which is based on Debian. Ubuntu adds some extras and some testing to Debian. Linux Mint adds some extras and additional testing to Ubuntu. Linux Mint also offers a better choice of user interfaces and a few improved applications, compared to Ubuntu.

Ubuntu uses selected packages from the Debian testing stage. Linux Mint runs about three months behind Ubuntu, providing enough time to spot the problems with Ubuntu and fix them. I chose Linux Mint for the better user interface and stayed for the reliability.

Puppy Linux

Puppy Linux is the Linux you want when you save Linux to CD instead of DVD. Puppy is about a tenth the size on many other Linux distributions.

You can run Puppy Linux as a live operating system, booted from a USB stick with nothing written to your hard disk. Puppy has the fastest operation due to everything running from RAM instead of disk. Puppy has a decent set of utilities you could use to rebuild a broken Linux computer.

I have never used Puppy Linux. I did use something similar back in the days of CDs. Cheap USB sticks are now 8 gigabytes, removing the need for CD sized distributions.

Ubuntu

Ubuntu is Debian Linux without the delays and with some restrictions removed. Ubuntu used to be the most popular Linux on the desktop then switched to a touchpad interface that is difficult on anything other than a tablet. Ubuntu fell behind Linux Mint on the desktop.

Conclusion

Linux distributions for special uses make sense. Linux distributions for China make sense due to China's restrictions on Internet access. Outside of China and some specialised uses, Linux mint makes the most sense for use on the desktop and for people switching from Windows.