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TM's Top 10 Linux Distributions of 2009

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Daniweb published their list of Top 10 Linux Distributions for 2009 and unfortunately I and not-just-I didn't agree with his list. I don't want to detract from the hard working folks on those projects, but some won't even run on modern hardware too well. One has turned into a specialty distro, although much of world keeps ignoring that fact. Another needs a Windows install to use. Anyway, so here's our Top 10 List:

1. openSUSE - Always in my Top 10 is openSUSE, despite any contracts signed by corporate with large monopolistic companies because it's just a really great distro. It's rock solid, I've never had a crash of even an application on openSUSE! It always looks great out of the box. It's a large corporate sponsored distro with a paid support version employing some of the most talented, and famous for being talented, developers in our community. It always has a professional look and feel, highly polished and overall just a really excellent example of what a Linux distribution can be.

2. Gentoo - Here I agree with Daniweb, it's one of the few source-based distributions aimed at the power user. In today's climate of dumbing down everything for the lowest-common-denominator, Gentoo is a cleansing breath of lack-of-ease air. Despite that, it still can and is used by new Linux users all the time. They've had their problems here and there over the years but hung-in there and recently celebrated 10 years of custom compiling goodness. It was a pioneer in its heyday and is still unique today.

3. Mandriva - Another commercial distribution who was the leader in ease-of-use when every other Linux distribution was still difficult to install and even use. They were the original pop-in-the-cd-and-click-next distro and yet always maintained a very large repository of software. I don't think I ever tried to install an application that wasn't found in its repos. Despite not always being the most stable distro available, they were commonly the first distro to support the very latest hardware. And it's also become of most beautiful in recent years.

4. Puppy Linux - DSL was one of the pioneers of the tiny distro, but they've seemed to stagnate in recent years. Although that decision was a conscious strategy in order to maintain a distro for those older machines, Puppy has come along and swiped the crown from them. They are very small and yet modern. They support a wide-range of hardware and only the very ancient may have issues. It comes with scripts to install on about any medium out there as well. They have their own package management and lots of original tools as well. I see a lot of talent behind the creation of Puppy.

5. Sam Linux - While Sam is a derivative of a derivative, they seem to have taken the art to a new level. By applying some common sense logic with some handy little apps, they've created one nice all-around desktop distro. It comes with support for video and audio playback as well as some proprietary hardware drivers, so there's very little tweaking required. The desktop offers some cool and useful little extras that add functionality without cluttering the workspace or distracting the user. For me, it's just install and enjoy.

6. Linux Mint - is another derivative that improves upon its base by leaps and bounds. Again, by providing an almost complete out-of-the-box experience with little or no tweaking required, it's another install and go distro. Linux Mint is the distro I usually choose when I need a solution and I need it now.

7. Slackware - Slackware is always a favorite for its rich heritage and for staying true to its straight and narrow vision of keeping it simple. Even though the modern kernel and hardware detection has taken most of the fun out of running Slackware, making it practically an install and go distro, it's still high on the nostalgic scale. And it gets points for still being developed by a small handful of developers with most of the work still being done by the original founder. And it's the oldest living distribution.

8. Debian - is the original go anywhere do anything distro. It's an all around universal operating system suitable for the smallest embedded gadget to the largest cluster of mainframes. It was really the only choice for me when looking for a server distro because of its commitment to security and stability. It is also the base of some of the most popular desktop distributions available today - and many say it's a fine desktop distro itself.

9. SimplyMepis - This is one of the Debian derivatives that takes a stable base and builds it into one mighty fine desktop distributions. It was one of the first to offer one of those install and go solutions. It was the first to include that proprietary code others avoided for legal reasons. They offer paid support options, but not on the scale of Novell, Red Hat, or Mandriva. And it always looks pretty too. SimplyMepis is another one that pops into mind if I need a quick, easy, and guaranteed successful system.

10. Ubuntu - I hesitantly have to include Ubuntu on this list for the sheer number of loyal and sometimes rabid users all over the world. Ubuntu is by far the most popular and has taken Linux onto mainstream hardware offerings. It has introduced Linux to many people who may otherwise would have never heard of it. Like it or not, Ubuntu is a Top 10.


Honorable Mention. PCLinuxOS - PCLOS was one of the first to take a large unstable distro and recompile it into a complete and highly stable out-of-box offering. It became very popular and many users remain hooked today. They've had some personnel issues, but somehow maintained the distro with little or no evidence to the outside user. It was also the first distro to show it believes a computer interface can be pretty as well as useful.

HM 2. Red Hat - For being the largest commercial Linux entity and proving a Linux distribution can be as viable or even more viable than Windows in an enterprise setting. Probably the first name in Linux.

HM 3. Sabayon - For being a great distro from a talented developer. Complete is the word that comes to mind when I think of Sabayon. Points for writing an original package management suite. And I just like it.

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It's subjective...

My top 10 are:

1.) Red Hat. Hands down, they do more development in the Open Source community than anyone else. They deserve the top spot for that alone. Also, they've spearheaded Linux into the corporate world on servers and workstations and are the main reason Linux got a foothold at all. Red Hat and Linux were once synonymous and it got as much press as Ubuntu enjoys nowadays. It's a shame they stopped doing a desktop distro.

2.) OpenSuse. Also a major developer in the Open Source world, Novell has brought us many things that have become part of our everyday computing experience, from the beginnings of the Compiz movement to the much hated Mono. Like them or not for their dealings with a certain Redmond based company, they make our lives better. Very innovative company.

3.) Debian. The mother of all the derivatives that have flooded the market. They all rely on the development efforts of Debian, and they bring a lot to the table for the rest of us.

4.) Fedora. Living on the cutting edge does a lot for the rest of the Linux world. When other distros are taking all the credit, Fedora quietly keeps doing real development that the rest of us use everyday.

5.) Mandriva. Struggling along, the once dominant desktop distro has become the very example of how to make a distro look polished and beautiful. Unlike some other distros that use a default KDE look, Mandriva customizes it with taste and with the end user in mind. Also, they continue to be the hands-down easiest to use distro on the market. You'll probably never see a console command line.

6.) PCLinuxOS - hands down the most stable and easiest to use and maintain distro I've ever installed. It takes the essence of Mandriva and fixes some quibbles and makes it rock solid stable to boot. Also, I love the fact that they don't hide the root login or protect the users from themselves. Easy as you want it to be, as powerful as you want it to be in a great package. They've simplified everything they could find, including the fact that there is but one single repository listing ever needed in the package manager. The rolling release concept, though not originated from them, can't be beat. Great community, too.

7.) Linux Mint. Though a derivative of Ubuntu, Linux Mint vastly improves the user experience from the very layout of Gnome through the fact that they include all the non-free stuff you need to play video and listen to music right out of the box. One very polished Linux experience. They're artwork team needs to take a bow...

8.) Gentoo. Though not as popular as it once was, Gentoo continues to spearhead the source based distro market. Not for the newbie, nor the faint of heart, but it is what it is.

9.) Slackware. The original, and still remains true to it's own idealism. It's not quite as hard core as it once was, but never-the-less it's not for the newbie, either.

10.) Ubuntu. Not exactly my favorite due to the zealots that use it and the fact that I feel they get more credit than they deserve, but you can't argue that they've opened more people up to using Linux than anyone in recent times. You might argue that Red Hat did that and more in the late 1990's, and possibly Mandriva in the 2000's, but Ubuntu certainly has left its mark. I just wish Mark Shuttleworth would actually do something to improve Linux instead of talking about it. He's been heavily criticized for the lack of real development in the Open Source community, given the size of the user base.

Honerable Mention: SimplyMepis, Sabayon, Knoppix, LFS

re: lfs

Oh man, I forgot about LFS. Yeah, that is a cool project. They definitely deserve a mention. Thanks.

I like your list

Your list is the best!

re: best

Yeah, I liked his list too, but I thought it leaned a little too heavy towards the rpm - fedora/RH/mandriva/pclos side of the house for my tastes.

pclos got knocked down my list because of the older technology still in use and the last several releases felt a bit ...stagnant. But they did get an honorable mention for being able to put out a couple decent releases despite all the personnel and other issues. I have high hopes for the next release though - I'm betting it'll kick ass.

Actually, I could care less

Actually, I could care less if a distro is Debian based or RPM based. Distros like OpenSuse may use RPM, but they're roots are in Slackware. I have Linux Mint and Mandriva installed on my machine, right now, an I love them both. I'm salivating at the impending release of Fedora 12, and have ample room to install it, too.

PCLinuxOS is my all time favorite, but I haven't been able to install it on this system. I'm hoping for a new ISO, soon, that'll install. As far as older technology, you must be referring to KDE. I fully supported the use of KDE 3.5.10, instead of KDE 4, until recent because I agreed with the developers that KDE 4 simply wasn't ready for production systems. My Mandriva KDE 4.2 installation completely changed my mind. Also, I haven't used Gnome in years because I hated it, but Linux Mint Gloria changed my mind about that, too. I think others need to follow Mint's lead on how they setup Gnome.

got 1 more for your list

Ok i just got done installing moon os and as a new linux user i love it.I been thru alot of them.It has a fast boot off the live cd.It has fire fox browser along with java,and that is a big plus for me .

I do not agree with

I do not agree with you
Slackware 12.0 is my first linux distro
and I love its on our first sight, I was a newbie at that time.
I had try to move to another distro but I could not.
I love its conservative and the way patrick make his distro, everything is on my hand

Good list

Yes, Mandriva and SUSE have always been KDE leaders.

Great List, but you forgot.....

Dreamlinux! A great Debian based distro. One of my favs.

re: Dreamlinux

Yeah, it's a nice little ole distro too. I like it.

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