My Top Five Favorite Distributions for 2010
Ms. Carla Schroder shared a list of her "bestest distros" recently, so I thought I might follow suit. She called hers "not-usual" and looking at her list, I'd say my choices are probably a little more usual. In any case, here are my top five favorite Linux distributions for 2010, in no real order.
SimplyMEPIS has always been one of my favorite distributions for several reasons. SimplyMEPIS was one of the first to understand that looks do matter and so does out of the box functionality. It includes proprietary drivers, codecs, and browser plugins that make using Linux enjoyable. It leans toward the conservative side concerning new version of its components, but that makes for an extremely stable operating system. In all its years I only ran into one release that gave me any trouble, and that was about three or four years ago - possibly when it went through its Ubuntu phase. It is truly one of the best.
openSUSE has been one of my favorites since it first opened up to community involvement in 2005. Novell's agreement with Microsoft did damper my enthusiasm a bit, but the distro itself remains one of the most polished and professional offerings we have. It just has a commercial feel to it. Like SimplyMEPIS, I only encountered one release that gave me any trouble. Otherwise, its been a slick and attractive distro. I don't run it full time mainly because I'd have to hunt up some one-clicks (that are available for openSUSE) or install codecs and stuff myself to get going and then worry about those updates. But it always remains high on my radar. I follow its development very closely. I'm a little worried about what will become of it despite assurances. But as long as it lives, so will my admiration.
3. Linux Mint
Well, I don't think too many people could disagree with me on this one. Linux Mint is an excellent distribution for users of all levels, but perhaps especially new users and experienced users who are tired of futzing around and just want to install and go. While that characteristic is shared with SimplyMEPIS, Linux Mint is a bit more up-to-date with latest goodies without giving up too much stability. I've had a few issues with it over its lifetime, but nothing too serious. One thing that bugs me about it is that I have to use the hardware restricted driver utility to get drivers for my wireless NIC and graphics chip. I have to run a wire to my laptop from the switch each new install in order to get my wireless Ethernet chip to work. That's a bummer. But still Linux Mint is my preferred Linux for my aging laptop because it's small (one CD and approximately a two gigabyte install) and lightweight enough.
Mandriva has sure had its problems over the years and most recently its very existence was in peril. Despite its years of financial issues, the distribution itself has often been very good. Sure, it isn't always the most stable, but they commonly walk that cutting-edge line. In recent years I've really liked the appearance and I've always liked the Mandriva tools. The Drake-tools are still really the only significant competition to openSUSE's YaST. Like openSUSE, the future of Mandriva is still a bit uncertain, but for now, Mandriva remains one of my favorite distributions.
I used Gentoo for many years - and I enjoyed Gentoo for many years. But a couple of years ago I began to grow tired of all the work. Sabayon was born to provide an easy binary distribution based on Gentoo, but for several years, wasn't exactly the most stable and sometimes had other issues. But since the 5.0 series was introduced, it has been pretty and stable. It's repositories are fairly well stocked and updates come fast. It also treads on that cutting edge that I tend to prefer. So in the last year, Sabayon has become my everyday desktop Linux. I'm moved in and comfortable. I just might move though when its developers release their Christmas Gaming Edition.
These are the top five I prefer to actually use. There are many projects I admire and many many distributions I like and have to test each release.