Most of you are probably Windows and Mac users, which is just a guess. Probably a good one.
But, given that Linux, the free and open source alternative to commercial operating systems, is 30 years old this year, I’m sure you have heard of it in some extent and context. You might even have met one or other popular distribution of the fascianting and wonderful world of the Tux. Knowingly or not.
Well, as a heavily technology interested person myself, I have of course met with it. Intimately.
Since 2005, with many distributions, with many versions. That was the time that I really got sick of Windows, to be honest, so I was looking for viable replacements. That doesn’t mean I haven’t looked back ever since, as I always tested and used versions of Windows (up to 10) and we have MacBooks too in our household (besides iOS, but that is not desktop), though Linux remains a beloved and primary part of my technology assets. Always and forever!
But, there are huge differences in the quality of GNU/Linux systems and application from 2005 and today, 2021. A whole galaxy of differences. The Linux world, like many things in tech, evolves too, but in an incredibly rapid pace. Starting with its core, the Linux kernel with its versions. It includes more and more of the most modern hardware and software supporting technologies, advancing under the hands of true coding, engineering geniuses, with Mr. Linus Torvalds on its lead. Thanks to their efforts, combined with the developing efforts of distribution and desktop environment developers around the globe, these days we have working and playing tools we couldn’t have thought of 10-16, 20 years ago (but we always have hoped). Linux matured to become a stellar alternative, to be enjoyed by anyone. Absolutely anyone, no matter if you are a non-technical person. Given that you choose the distribution right for your level of expertise. Good news, there are many of such. Developing for the masses and for Windows, Mac switchers is ongoing for quite some years now, and you can choose from an army of completely free systems and install without hassle.
Sure, no software is perfect.
No matter if it’s commercial or free (free as in freedom too, like most software in Linux), a sudden glitch can be expected sometimes. Just look at the series of update fiascos the Windows team at Microsoft has been capable of the past years, often causing serious headaches on a massive scale. Glitches can occur with Linux too, but that is today very rare on usual hardware. The ease of use and stabilty of the distributions and individual applications evolved with the years to incredible levels.
My favourites and list of distributions for those who want to get into the very first time:
– Solus 4.2: an independent (not based on Debian, Ubuntu or SUSE like many others) and fantastically developed, complete distribution. Its in-house built Budgie desktop is, in my opinion, stellar and competes with older names. Its Software Center covers most computing needs, from entertainment to work. Its online forum is the best, to be honest.
– Ubuntu: One old player in free OS world, and probably the best known. Easy, good looking and stable. Solid as a rock, with a wide range of application availabilty right from its Software Center and outside, over the web. There are independent variants like Kubuntu, Xubuntu and others, which are even lighter on computers but every bit as powerful in applications.
– openSUSE Leap and Tumbleweed: A robust, huge, famous distribution for beginners and pros alike. Huge selection of software, up-to-date and a vast range of tuning options inside the distro make it a great tool to anyone.
– Linux Mint: derrived from Ubuntu, and that is its base, Debian/Ubuntu, however its direction is different and often better for the absolute starters. I would strongly suggest to take it to a test drive!
– Feren OS: Relatively young, with a small developer base, but highly enjoyable distribution.
– Fedora Workstation: Try with GNOME. Thank me later!
I have used others through the years, like Arch, Manjaro, Fedora, Gentoo, and so on, however, I do not list those for absolute beginners. Especially not Arch, Gentoo and Fedora. Manjaro tends to claim super ease and friendliness towards beginners, and it is definitely lightyears more accessible than its Arch base, however, as a still rolling release Arch-based distribution, things DO break at times. That is NOT for someone just started his/her adventure in free and open source software.