25 Jun 2013

What would be my own ideal Linux distribution?

There was a question addressed to me recently, after publishing the "Divergence in the distros" article. The person asked me
You tested many distros so you maybe have some pros/cons seen on distros to share.
That made me think about the most perfect distribution I'd like to get, ever. Let me share these thoughts with you.

Available packages

The ideal distribution should have packages available for all the software I regularly use. And this should be available in the default repositories. I should not have a requirement to compile software, or to add some obscure repositories to get the things I use.

My actual list of "must haves" is not that vast: LibreOffice (OpenOffice would also do), Chrome or Chromium browser, Skype, VLC, VNC client, PuTTY, Samba, Samba client, Qutim or MRA plugin for Pidgin, together with Pidgin itself, all the multimedia enabling plugins.

You may think that all these packages are already available in most distributions currently on the market. You would be surprised that's not true.

In addition, some distributions have an ideology that insists "if you can't compile software from source, you should not use this distribution". Sorry, guys, that's not my choice.


The distribution should be localised for as many languages as possible. For me in particular, it means at least two languages: British English and Russian. Unfortunately, not many distributions and their authors think about non-English speaking users and communities. Some of them only think about their local communities and release their distribution in the local language only. That's not that bad actually. But to conquer my heart, you would need to support Russian.

This "localisation" issue is actually two-fold.

Menus, texts, documentation

Of course all of these have to be in local language, if I choose this in my configuration or during the installation. That's not a show-stopper for me, because I know English well enough to work with English menu and documentation. But if you want me to recommend the distribution to my friends, please support their language. Not all of them know English well enough.

Keyboard layouts

There should be an easy way to configure multiple keyboard layouts and switch between them using a keyboard shortcut. This is actually one of the most common things I tested in my reviews. Unfortunately, it does not always depend on the distribution, but on the Desktop Environment they choose. Most modern DEs like Unity, KDE4, GNOME, Xfce, MATE, Cinnamon don’t have this problem. However, there were issues with KDE3 and LXDE. For the latter, the ROSA team made their keyboard layout switch easy to use in their distribution. Lubuntu 13.04 has taken a similar, but slightly different, approach. Some DEs (e.g. Enlightment) have, unfortunately, fundamental flaws that make them unacceptable for me.


The distribution should have a community which is easy to reach, responsive and nice. I should admit that most of the communities I tried to talk to are like this.

Unfortunately, that's not always true. The PCLOS community, for example, is "too friendly" in a swarm fashion. If they find you enjoy their distro, you are accepted and you're their best friend, part of the swarm. But if they find you don't like some feature in PCLOS, they'll bite you to death. Virtually, of course!

Even more extreme than PCLOS is the Aptosid community, which can frequently be newbie-unfriendly and sarcastic.

Graphical interface

The distribution of my love should have a graphical interface for all the configuration aspects I need. I should not have to leave the GUI or move to the terminal each time I change some configuration. Of course, it does not mean that there should be no Terminal or text file editor at all. It is necessary for some fine-tuning operations and queries, but not for normal configuration.

In these terms, again, most modern Desktop Environments are very near to perfection. The only exceptions I'd like to highlight here are Enlightment, which I've already mentioned before, and Conky-reliant distributions. Unfortunately, I have still never found a nice graphical configurator for Conky.


The list is not that long, as you can see. And the items from this list are almost achieved by many distribution teams. Unfortunately, there are still items to work on.

I've recently re-installed three different distributions on my new laptop: Debian 7 Wheezy Xfce, Mageia 3 KDE and Linux Mint 15 Olivia Cinnamon. The closest to the "ideal" of these three is Cinnamon, I must admit, with Mageia following very close. Debian, for well-known reasons, comes far behind. It does not mean that I dislike Debian. I like it. But there are some aspects that will never make Debian my personal ideal Linux Distribution.

Is it possible to get such a distro? I hope the day will come!

In the meantime, if you want to try any distribution, but cannot create a disk with it yourself for whatever reason, you can always request one from Buy Linux CDs site. The disk will be delivered into your mailbox anywhere in the world!


  1. " But there are some aspects that will never make Debian my personal ideal Linux Distribution. "

    It would be fun to see you define them so someone could maybe make you say the reverse one day ...

    1. There are some ideology restrictions in Debian, which mean some hardware will never work "out of the box" in Debian. I mean closed-source drivers.

  2. It's sort of funny. I started out with Slackware and tried Redhat and a couple of other distributions when I was first getting my feet wet in Linux.

    I went to Debian eventually because of its package management system and because it forced me to learn more about how things worked.

    I eventually started looking for Debian based systems which were more polished than the stock Debian distros. Mepis (I really liked it but it gets updated too infrequently and is almost a one man show.) Knoppix, Kanotix, Aptosid, Siduction, Ubuntu, and Linux Mint.

    I shied away from Ubuntu based distros because their software is not compatible with the Debian repositories. I really like the Linux Mint Debian based distribution, but for some odd reason, I decided to go back and try pure Debian. Well, not really pure because I enable the non-free stuff.

    And I use the unstable branch because I have a techno-lust and as stodgy and old as I am, I like to live on the bleeding edge, distribution wise, anyway.

    Debian has all of the software packages I want and is pretty easy to install. I still use the text based installation tools. And, believe it or not, I went from KDE (when the 4.0 not ready for primetime fiasco hit the fan), to XFCE4, to Icewm.

    Debian and Icewm does everything (almost) that I want and need. But I am just a crazy old codger anyway.


    1. Glenn, thanks for sharing your views on the ideal Linux distribution! :)

  3. Just stopping by to give you a virtual bite! lol

    1. Nice to see you here, Texstar! If you bother, do you mind an interview with DarkDuck? ;)

  4. Skype ..really? NSA data collecting tool, backdoor intrusion in to your privacy. If that's not enough you want Chrome browser... [shaking head]

    1. If you're so much concerned about your privacy, you should not have commented here. This blog is posted on Blogger, which is a part of Google empire. :)

  5. I think you raise a brilliant point with the localisation issues. It is something as a native English speaker that I would probably never speak about.

    For me the distro has to make it as easy as possible to do the things I want to do. For instance if I want to watch a video then I want to get to that video with the minimum of keystrokes/mouse movements. I want to be able to watch the video on native hardware and via a connection to a HD TV.

    I want my hardware to work and I want it to work without fiddling around in the command line. I want my internet connection to work.

    I want my operating system to be so good that I hardly notice it is there at all.

    1. Brilliantly said: I want my operating system to be so good that I hardly notice it is there at all.

  6. You point out some "fundamental flaws" with Enlightenment and pointed to another long blog of yours. Would you care to summarize what those flaws are?
    I use Bodhi and have yet to find a better DE than Enlightenment but that doesn't mean I am closed minded. I have used IceWM too and find Enlightenment far more usable and customizable.

    1. I would refer you to Lesson 3 of the linked article. Please tell me if things changed since I reviewed Bodhi and Nimblex myself.

  7. Personally, if PCLinuxOS did its own Fedora spin, I think it would be just about perfect...

    1. Honestly, I can't imagine this to happen :)

    2. It almost did. Before the 2007 release, Texstar said he was looking into basing PCLinuxOS on Fedora. However, the community voiced their opinion, and it was kept on the Mandriva base, at the time. Now, it's totally forked, and on its own legs.

    3. That's what I mean. PCLOS is now too far from its predecessor, which anyway almost deceased. :)
      The probability of PCLOS moving to Fedora base is only slightly more than Debian merging with RedHat base.

  8. @Everyone

    I actually sent a mail to check if the fork I prepare was done right, from what read between the lines in the subject and comments, it seem to fit well even if someone may don't like some choices at first sight but I'm confident that when you will see why, it could easily liked ...

    We're are stuck to create an installer but after that, the work will be easy to finish.


    Debian ideology don't fit with the out-of-the-box thinking but they have a 100% free software iso and unofficials ones with non-free content and firmwares :


    After the net install that isn't so hard, add network-manager and configure it ...

    At the end, knowing some light Linux stuff may help troubleshooting so it's important to keep it, Ubuntu users hardly know Linux even after years using it, any Debian/Arch/Slackware/Gentoo user will beat them with maybe just 3 months of experience ...

    @Glenn Thigpen/@Balaji Neelakantan

    Debian with apt-pinning may interest both of you ...

  9. @Ethical Hacker

    I have high respects on Debian, but I still prefer the "Out of the Box" functionality. I have tried debian once in a while, but it is not my distro of choice.

    Perosnally, I am not a fan of 100% free software. For me, firefox and thunderbird are free where as iceweasel and icedove (the corresponding debian equivalents) are 100% free. As an average end user, I don't want or need to know the licensing differences between firefox and iceweasel. One of the reason I ditched debian is icedove. Not all thunderbird addons are compatible with icedove (Lightning was one of them). These days, I take a backup of ~/.thunderbird folder before I try a new distro. When the new distro is installed, I copy the ~/.thunderbird folder from the backup and when I launch thunderbird, it is preconfigured with everything as it was before. I don't think I can copy the ~/.thunderbird folder into a distro which has icedove in place of thunderbird.

  10. Icedove stores profiles.ini in

    while Thunderbird stores profiles.ini in

    So you just have to change back and forth the name to have the configuration files handled ...