I took some time-out, testing plenty of distributions which in my eye should get a closer look, and I want to give you an insight in which distribution I prefer, and the pros and cons of the other ones. Please note that this is not a rant, but a personal opinion, and maybe can be some inspiration to some distributions about what to make better.
The following distributions I tested, and I know that Mandriva as one of the leading KDE distributions is missing, but I never liked it, and I doubt that will change in the near future – so due to having a mindset about it, I left it out for good, sorry folks:
- Arch Linux
Pretty much up in the ranking, and one of my favourite distros – had to give it a shot.
Arch with installer and going for desktop use? I’m in.
Derived from Arch – let’s see what they did (so far).
Well, being the RH sponsored one – let’s see.
Giving themselves credit as the best – so testing it was obviously logical.
Don’t know the current state of the distribution, but once developed for it. Wanted to see where they are.
It’s an Ubuntu derivate, and since Ubuntu gets much credit – test it.
Hey – it’s still the most used distribution, considering all the derivates at least.
I’ll start off with the installation progress, and how “easy” things were.
Ye, well, we all know that Arch is not the easiest distribution to install, and that’s one of the critism I have. Though, it went much smmother (especially considering I’m running an UEFI system) than I expected. I was ready and set up basically in the same time as when I would have installed any other distriution – which is probably because pacman seems to be lightening fast. Not easy enough for new users, but pretty solid process and documentation – and especially for that one – kudos Arch.
Though, /home volume encryption turned out harder than thought, and workflows described in the WIKI did not work at all, that’s a -.
Supposed to be easier than Arch. Supposed to – exactly. The installer is – irritating, letting me choose region and language twice (ye, I know, once for the locales, once for keyboard and time settings). Though, not necessary.
But the installation process was pretty painless overall – I was impressed. Though, /home folder encryption missing, -1 for Manjaro.
Well – that one was a bit more “tricky” since they officially don’t support UEFI, but my hardware can only be booted UEFI. I got a certain ISO file (thanks Demm by the way for pointing me to it) which can boot UEFI, and got it installed. The installation progress was pretty neat, except two bugs around (locale setting and keyboard settings which are not dealt with). Being a good old Arch user, that wasn’t a big deal, but for newcomers a no-go of course. They go for Calamares, a pretty new installer slowly taking shape, so I’m sure that will improve over the next year – I’ll happily give it a shot again. Home folder encryption was missing as well.
Fedora had by far the best and easiest installation process I found. With one exception: /home volume encryption missing.
Pretty neat installation process, easy to use, pretty much the same as Fedora. But /home encryption missing as well. Straight-forward, except a nasty bug I ran into: The keyboard settings are not set, so you end up with an us keyboard. In my case, the keyboard was not at all recognized at the boot time (not even with the wrong keyboard setting), so I couldn’t type my password in. Changing it to “de” in the /etc/XORG/xorg.conf.d/00-keyboard.conf solved the issue – though, a no-go, and does not live up to a major distribution or any QA I’d expect of it.
I shouldn’t be too hard of them, since it was me who maintained the intaller, but it’s a test – so I have to. Though, it is crippled, and they should look another way and get away of Tribe. Maybe Thus or Calamares can be the future for them, I don’t see Tribe in any shape to be their future installer, except a maintainer steps up. Another problem is, that they don’t have an UEFI boot, so I couldn’t even boot Chakra in UEFI mode (I did it booting an Arch UEFI, and installing Chakra from there).
Oh hell, all I want. /home encryption, easy setup. A little minus for setting the keyboard language AFTER the WIFI password – seriously? My WIFI PW is 24 random characters – I can’t easily type that with an US keyboard being used to a german one.
To my surprise, Debian was almost the easiest to set up. Though, I missed /home encryption there too. But the downside is, compared to all others, to install Debian took ages.
Well, arch is famous for not pre-installing too much, or bundling too much. It’s lean, it’s KISS. If you know what you do, it’s a simple 10. If you don’t, it’s a 0. But well, the distribution is designed that way, so it’s a 10 in my eyes, since I was able to configure it in exactly the way I wanted it.
Well, I was surprised with how much *crap* this distribution comes. I didn’t expect that, since the installation media was not that big, but it has piles of software loaded by default and when I looked at the lists, I was like: “I rather uninstall the distribution before I uninstall all the crap they pre-install”. Several web browsers is the first thing I recognized, and then it was Rekonq and Konqueror – and KDE users know, if there is a Qt choice for a browser it’s QupZilla. Rekonq has this nasty habit of trying to guess your URLs, still getting them wrong (https://https:// – uhm?). In general the default software selection of Manjaro seems not too well thought, and it’s the first complete no-go.
Well, while I agree with them “the best of a breed”, they pre-install QupZilla, where QupZilla is for sure not the best of the breed of browsers. The rest of the software collection is neat, and pretty clean, I liked that they only install “one tool for the job” ;-).
A big downside I found is that they don’t provide i386 / multilib repos, so you can’t use Skype, Steam, and probably other software. This is sad, but for me personally no real bummer – for some others not being able to skype or play their linux games it is.
Hmh, pretty neat software collection. As all of them, it comes with the whole PIM suite, but I guess that’s what’s expected nowdays. The only main thing I have a lot of critism for is that it ships by default with Apper. Apper uses packagekit – I know, but it always tells you have only 12 seconds to go doing updates, and uninstalling software it never can meet dependencies (clean install, update, and then remove KMail in example – won’t work). That shouldn’t be the choice of a default GUI package manager, and would drive a regular user nuts, since he wouldn’t know how to install / uninstall software.
Score: 5/10 (since Apper is not usable at all).
Hell yea, I can live with that. Not bad, but not good either. The only thing I have to say: the software installation progress gives way too much information, and is a lot too complicated to use. A bit of an easier version would have been nice. In the end, a stable and good software collection, and a pretty solid installation tool
It comes with a very pre-selected sofware setup, which is in my eyes well selected, but the browser choice is “limited” due to their opionion of only using Qt/KDE software – which inherits the bad browser choice.
While I don’t agree with [a lot] of software installed (personal preferences, as Clementine instead of Amarok, VLC instead of Dragonplayer etc.) – but it’s a KDE distribution, so what did I expect – I have to say it’s clean. One tool for the job, and for real, the best package manager out there in KDE distributions. Muon and it’s friends (Discover etc.) are pretty well designed and well working.
I have tried to migrate a few desktops to KUbuntu for my Aunt (68 years old) and my grandmother (79 years old), and it works flawlessly for them – so the selection can’t be that bad.
I was again pretty surprised about Debian. A lot of crap, but a seriously good software collection pre-installed. It can’t hold up the package management pre-installing Apper with Muon of course, but it’s a neat selection and it works. And Apper slightly better than the complicated OpenSUSE thing Yast provides.
Whew, what to sum up. I personally don’t like Ubuntu / Canonical / KUbuntu too much, but they’re doing a good job, and as KDE distribution I can recommend it – since it was the only fully featured distribution I found, with only little drawbacks. I personally will continue to use Arch – personal favourite .. but to be true, with the installation process, Muon and the pre-selected software, KUbuntu is almost too mighty. So for all looking for a stable, well organized and snappy KDE distro, I can recommend it.
I’m aware that I’ve had not all distros. Especially Netrunner I’m still interested in, but didn’t find the time to test (yet). I’m also not too sure what the “rolling” and “stable” model basing on two different distribtuions should be, and what Netrunner could do better than KUbuntu (except the default installation, which is already pretty neat in KUbuntu). But a Manjaro with well selected software – does not sound too bad for me (very good to be true), but I don’t get the goal on the “stable” release.
Maybe I get around doing another test on Netrunner, PCLinuxOS and Mandriva one day, but I had enough of hopping the past weeks :).