Daily Linux
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Daily Linux

As I’m moving more to use open source software I would like to start using Linux as my daily. I’ve used Ubuntu and Debian for work but nothing more. Do you have some good distro to recommend?

EDIT: Thanks everyone for the suggestions, they helped a lot

@fruechtchen
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distros:

  • if you have time, try to use arch linux or something similar. That way, you learn a lot about how linux works.
  • if you have a lot of time, try to use something like exherbo linux or gentoo linux. You will learn even more about how linux works, since - in comparison to arch linux - it requires you to compile things and learn about the lin* read this: how to ask questions the smart way by Eric Steven Raymond - however, i do not say that your question is not smart. I just know from experience that its far easier to get helpful answers if you understand whats written there. It reduces the likelyhood for frustration, in my experience. Note: the term ‘hacker’ refers to hacker culture not ‘people exploiting vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized system access’.ux kernel, etc.
  • if you have huge amount of time, try to do linux from scratch: http://www.linuxfromscratch.org/ - that way, you will do everything manually, which results in a very deep understanding what the usual package managers and distributions do already for you. LFS has a book describing everything you need in detail, which is great. The things you’ll understand here makes it way easier to contribute to some open source project, as you’ll understand many basics.
  • as a daily driver, i’d recommend qubes os, which safeguards you against lots of bad things on the internet. i think qubes os is the most secure desktop os on the planet. above all other linuxes, above openbsd, above windows, above macos.

tinkering:

  • i’d even recommend to buy a cheap thinkpad here is an overview on youtube and use that only for tinkering. When you can try out stuff on real hardware without destroying your work environment, that is great. You can learn a lot from that.
  • the archlinux wiki is really great. i use it for many things, altough i don’t use arch linux anymore. Proably one of the best documentations on linux things.
  • after you have understood linux, it makes sense to also try out freebsd, netbsd and openbsd. start with the ones you find the most interesting.
  • after you feel comfortable with linux, try to install coreboot on your cheap thinkpad. This is a small, free software replacement fro your bios. Libreboot is also an option, but the last release is from 2016. So coreboot is more current.
  • i personally have always one thinkpad as my daily driver and one for tinkering. if i want to try out something as daily driver i have tinkered a while, i can just test-use the thinkpad as daily driver and switch back if it doesn’t work. and if it is working, i use the other thinkpad to tinker with.
  • the separation of daily driver laptop and tinkering laptop is also great because you don’t fear to break stuff anymore. Because you know you can still work with your daily driver. And fixing your laptop after you have broken something is a great learning experience.

understanding linux:

  • try to live in the terminal. use commandline things for your email, calendar, file management, music listening, programming, note taking, etc. You will learn a lot from that, because: if something does not work the way you want it to, you can change it more easily as many GUI apps. Also, many terminal things are more efficient to use, or more powerful compared to many GUI things.
  • https://nostarch.com/ is a great publisher for understanding interesting things. I recommend to buy a few books and read them.
  • read this: how to ask questions the smart way by Eric Steven Raymond - however, i do not say that your question is not smart. I just know from experience that its far easier to get helpful answers if you understand whats written there. It reduces the likelyhood for frustration, in my experience. Note: the term ‘hacker’ refers to hacker culture not ‘people exploiting vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized system access’.
  • read the documentation for the software you use. this is especially true for openbsd, where most of the things you need are documented somewhere, you just need to understand where to look - and after some time, you find the things you need in a matter of seconds.
  • always remember when to tinker: understanding things is way more important than solving problems. Because if you forgot the solution and the same problem occurs another time, you will have an easier time fixing it if you understood the concept of the problem before.
  • you can also subscribce to lwn.net and read that regularly, to receive high quality linux information. I can recommend it if you have the time.

contributing:

  • if you can, run a testing/unstable version of your distribution and report bugs. You will learn a lot from that. I do that at the moment for openbsd, where i have both my server and my my tinkering laptop on a snapshot, and i learnt a lot in a few weeks. Reproducing and verifying bugs is a very nice thing to help distributions if you’re not a programmer. If a bug can be reproduced in a very clean environment, it is very easy to fix for the developers. a tinkering machine is also good for that use-case. The cheap laptop i bought has an old harddrive with it, which i can use to test stuff. so i slide the hardrive out (which i can do without unscrewing the laptop on my T60), slide the testing-hardrive in and try to reproduce a bug in a clean environement on a development snapshot.
  • learning about the BSDs is also great if you want to develop kernel source code. Because the bsd tech lists are way less active compared to linux, which means it is easier to not get lost on the things you want to do. Specifically, i’d recommend the book ‘the design and implementation of the freebsd operating system’ - this also will help you with understanding other kernels.
  • How can you help with open source development?

social things:

  • visit and watch talks from the chaos communication congress: media.ccc.de - you’ll learn a lot from that.
  • go to your local hackerspace regularly. It doesn’t matter how much you know about anything, just go there and bring something with you to work on. hackerspaces are great environments to tinker.

Good luck!

@developred
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@fruechtchen
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By using arch you learn stuff like how to configure your partitions, grub/boot manager stuff, UEFI vs bios boot, what filesystem you want, what window manager/graphical environment you want and how to set that up properly.

At least i learned a lot in that area. Yes, you can do that also with debian or so, but I personally felt arch more inviting to learn. debian is better when you understand things and are too lazy to set things up, etc.

I guess that is especially the case because of the arch wiki, which i found to be more helpful than the debian documentation.

@Panzerfaust
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Mx Linux: https://mxlinux.org

Has some really good tools …

@AgreeableLandscape
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Ubuntu actually has a lot of privacy issues and non-FOSS components, including telemetry and the snap store (whose back end is proprietary). Simply searching up these issues will give you plenty of reading material if you want to learn more.

Debian is amazing, if you’re okay with having older versions of software since the flagship stable version updates packages pretty infrequently (security updates generally are pushed fairly quickly through backports though). It might be just what you’re looking for, it might not, it depends on what your preferences are.

I’m currently using Fedora as my daily driver as I find that it has a good balance between stability and package update frequency. I also liked openSUSE Tumbleweed (a rolling release distro), but I found that packages associated with my Nvidia graphics card broke it on a semi regular basis, so your mileage may vary. openSUSE Leap is the standard release version, whose packages don’t updates as often as Fedora, but is a good choice for stability and reliability. I would consider both Fedora and openSUSE to be reasonably easy for someone new to Linux to use.

Last comes the elephant in the room, Arch Linux. Honestly, not many Linux users would recommend Arch to someone just starting out with Linux as it is kind of difficult and does break often due to its rolling release model. You could try Manjaro, but it also had issues with using non-FOSS software (not sure if it still does), see my other comment, and again, you’re going to have to figure out how to fix the system if arch updates break it.

@ajz
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Ubuntu actually has a lot of privacy issues and non-FOSS components, including telemetry and the snap store (whose back end is proprietary). Simply searching up these issues will give you plenty of reading material if you want to learn more.

Please give details and sources, instead of pointing people to search engines. Regarding the non-FOSS components, most of Linux distributions ship with binary blobs for the Linux kernel. Apart from that there is Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Ubuntu MATE and more to choose from.

@Micalet
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Re visit Manjaro or articles about it. You can choose freeoffice - take that as an ad - I never had problems upgrading And with debian based ones better reinstall than upgrade the version in my experience. And you always can have Trisquel as pure FOSS.

@Micalet
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I love Manjaro, it is arch for human beings.

I can use arch, but as I do like to “spread the word” Manjaro can be installed in non-techie friends & family computers.

But whatever you will use you will love it (comparing with your MS WOS experience GNU is heaven).

My recommendation is to have 2 or more distribution installed in the main computer (I use 100 Gb for each one sharing data partitions), one deb like LMDE linux Mint Debian Edition or UOS / Deepin and other with any Manjaro spin

Your second one may work as fail-safe, to make some tricky software work, to experiment Desktops Environments and Windows Managers, to change it to distro hop having the main one free of tests to work, and sometimes to switch to that distro that you think is better than yours.

But I am rare.

@AgreeableLandscape
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Manjaro’s commitment to FOSS is questionable as they have a partnership with and by default ships distros with FreeOffice, which despite its name, is proprietary.

@Micalet
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That is not true, last edition ask you to choose, and you can install LibreOffice.

It is a non-mandatory advertisement if you want, being able to install non FOSS software or even put it as default as Steam is not being against FOSS.

And of course you always would have Trisquel and pure FSF distributions that do not allow even Nvidia blobs as Debian and derivatives do.

And being purist there are 2 options or Trisquel and similars or the other ones.

@TheMainOne
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@Micalet
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That is not true, last edition ask you to choose, and you can install LibreOffice.

It is a non-mandatory advertisement if you want, being able to install non FOSS software or even put it as default as Steam is not being against FOSS.

And of course you always would have Trisquel and pure FSF distributions that do not allow even Nvidia blobs as Debian and derivatives do.

And being purist there are 2 options or Trisquel and similars or the other ones.

@Micalet
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Re visit Manjaro or articles about it. You can choose freeoffice - take that as an ad - I never had problems upgrading With debian based ones better reinstall than upgrade the version in my experience. You always can install Trisquel if you want pure FOSS, and unfortunately the others work better, and we choose them more.

@TheMainOne
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@Micalet
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Default configurations are not distros. It seems that Manjaro now support full confinement snaps. This requires apparmor.

AppArmor is maintained by Canonical, and present in all debian based distros, plus snap compliant ones.

Critical security patches are not delayed If 2 weeks delay is a security a risk you can choose the testing repository, but you cannot be at the same time a risk for being too bleeding edge and a risk for 2 weeks

Only arch based distros (or Manajro testing repo) would pass the always up to date barrier.

So no Ubuntu Debian Fedora or SUSE baed distribution would pass that bar

AppArmor is newer than SElinux and now is needed to use snaps

What is unacceptable is to trash talk a distribution, that is doing things so well that others hate it so much because of that with half trues and lies.

After Ubuntu is the one with more market share, and as Ubuntu has much more share than Debian, Manjaro has more market share than arch. Being both, Debian and Arch wonderful distros, but I do prefer Arch and Manjaro as I love AUR more than PPAs.

@ajz
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Manjaro actually provides Pamac integration for Snaps and for Flatpak, which is a cool feature imho. Both Snaps and Flatpak provide confinement, and with Flatpak you can even install Flatseal https://github.com/tchx84/Flatseal to fine-grain permissions.

@TheMainOne
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@ajz
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I’ve read that Manjaro supplies security updates right away, but other updates are tested first over the course of a few weeks before being added. Furthermore, you can use Firejail as an easy to use alternative to AppArmor. In fact with Firejail you can utilize their AppArmor integration from Firejail. And unfortunately AppArmor doesn’t have a good default profile for Firefox, which is quite important when browsing the web a lot. Having said that, a Linux distribution like Debian does not use SELinux or AppArmor by default. Does it therefore qualify as a “flawed by design” Linux distro ? The OP is new to Linux and might want a nice looking and easy to install Linux distribution to get familiar with Linux. Later on they can go for other more security focused distros ?

@TheMainOne
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@ajz
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You are right, Debian has finally enabled AppArmor by default in Debian Buster. https://wiki.debian.org/AppArmor/Progress (But no profile for Firefox mentioned there on that page). Glad to see you like Firejail.

@TheMainOne
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@andycuccaro
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Nice writeup! As someone who doesn’t work in IT nor is some kind of sysadmin, I’ve been using Fedora Xfce for the last 2 (or maybe 3?) years and I’m loving it. I don’t think I’ll ever change, but if I do, it’d probably be for Pop_OS!, since I tried it recently and I really liked it too.

@AgreeableLandscape
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First of all, this is an amazing write up!

Anaconda, literally the worst installer for Linux IMO. despite the Fedora developers being very competent, i have no idea why they are using this shitty installer

At least it lets you set up multiple independent encrypted partitions (like separate partitions or drives for root and /home), unlike the Ubuntu installer. I actually find the Ubuntu installer to be the simplest among the popular distros, in a bad way.

openSUSE is REALLY different compared to other distros, so it will take a while for you to get used to it

In what ways? I used openSUSE Tumbleweed with KDE and it didn’t feel too different from Debian or Fedora with the same desktop environment.

similar to Fedora, instead of using SELinux, it uses AppArmor instead

Seeing how SELinux is made by the NSA (I’m not joking), AppArmor is a welcome alternative that I want to see succeed.

@ajz
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SELinux project was started by NSA many years ago. The Internet itself was started as a military project many years ago. As long as there are enough eyeballs there should not be a need to worry, right ?

@TheMainOne
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@AgreeableLandscape
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I agree with that ^^ (but AppArmor is owned by Canonical)

Oof, not that great either then.

@developred
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@TheMainOne
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@AgreeableLandscape
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Does Pop_OS! have the same issues with telemetry that Ubuntu has?

@TheMainOne
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Dessalines
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I’ve been wanting to try out pop os, it looks really interesting. Thx, this is a really good writeup.

@developred
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@Panzerfaust
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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Linux is a family of open source Unix-like operating systems based on the Linux kernel, an operating system kernel first released on September 17, 1991 by Linus Torvalds. Linux is typically packaged in a Linux distribution (or distro for short).

Distributions include the Linux kernel and supporting system software and libraries, many of which are provided by the GNU Project. Many Linux distributions use the word “Linux” in their name, but the Free Software Foundation uses the name GNU/Linux to emphasize the importance of GNU software, causing some controversy.

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