What's your favorite distro, and why?

Levi Pearson levipearson at gmail.com
Tue Dec 3 12:05:14 MST 2013

I am a long-time user of Debian-based distros.  I currently use both
Ubuntu and Debian, but Ubuntu's utility for me is wearing thin as it
seems like it's not particularly more stable in its packages that are
newer than Debian Testing or Unstable anymore.

I'm trying Arch out on a laptop, and it works well enough, but I am
not crazy about its minimalistic package management system or its
insistence that I learn how to manually configure absolutely
everything.  Mostly the rocky stuff is behind me, though, and it's
nice having up-to-date and not terribly altered versions of things
easily available. I'm not sure I'd start with it again, but I'm not
feeling enough pain to switch.  I don't think the choices it's made
are *bad* so much as not exactly to my preferences.  I've done my
share of manually configuring everything; I don't need the learning
experience, and I'd rather spend my time doing other things.

If I was going to spend a bunch of time installing and learning a new
distro, I'd try out NixOS (http://nixos.org/) which has my favorite
concept of all the distributions. It treats package management and
configuration management as part of the same system, and it approaches
it from a very principled view that allows both extreme flexibility
and extreme safety.  Trying things out is easy (you can even test them
out in a vm automatically before upgrading your live system), and
rolling back if you don't like something is easy, too.  You can even
have different configurations of userspace stuff on a per-user basis,
different versions of the same packages installed at the same time,
etc.  It's source-based, but provides binaries from a central source
if your build configuration matches the central one.  It can even
upgrade via binary delta patches.  I think it would make a killer
foundation for custom-purpose VMs or Docker-style containers.

If that sounds interesting to anyone who's itching to try out
something new, I'd be very curious to hear what you think of the

On Tue, Dec 3, 2013 at 12:13 AM, Dan Egli <ddavidegli at gmail.com> wrote:
> Since it's been so dead lately, I figured this would start some lively
> discussions. I'm not looking to start a flame war here, but I am curious
> why everyone uses whatever distribution they do. I'd like to hear back from
> people, especially those not using things like Fedora or Ubuntu or Debian.
> The less popular distributions have always been a curiosity to me.
> So, I'll go ahead and start this one off. My personal favorite distribution
> has to be Gentoo. Yes, it's complicated. But I like that. I also like the
> fact that it's not a binary distribution, so someone else's ideas on how a
> package should be built are not necessarily the same ones I'll use.
> Let me give an example on that one. Years ago, when I first started fooling
> with courier-imap and the Maildir format (vs. UW's Mbox format) I tried to
> install the courier-imap package on my Fedora Core 2 system (yes, FC2, it
> was that long ago). The rpm failed to install because I didn't have all the
> dependencies. What was missing? Ohhh, just the database libraries for
> nearly every SQL based open source database available at the time! I
> already had MySQL installed, so that was fine. But then it insisted I
> install (among other things) mSQL, Pgsql, OpenLDAP, and (I think) sqlite. I
> was floored. Why on earth would you compile the package to have so many DB
> libraries required? I finally bit the bullet and installed them, but that
> always seemed a waste of disk space and resources, considering I'd never
> use any of those systems.
> Meanwhile, with gentoo, all I'd have to do to make sure courier-imap was
> installed and only needed the mysql libraries would be:
> USE="-* mysql" emerge courier-imap
> Easy enough, no? :)
> I could go on, but that would be (I think) enough to get the thread going
> and hopefully liven up the Plug list a bit. So, what's YOUR preferred
> distro, and why?
> --- Dan
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