Why Picking a Linux Distro is Like Picking a Girlfriend

January 10, 2009

Wow. Thanks to all for stopping in!

In case it wasn’t obvious, my last post was something done on a whim and on the fly. I set up some conditions and then performed some tests. I don’t thnk these were particularly rigorous tests. Like most nOObs, I’m more concerned about things that just work. If something makes a good initial impression, I’m more willing to tweak and work with it later.

Choosing a Linux distro is a lot like choosing a girlfriend. If she appears too needy or too high maintenance, I am probably not going for a second date. Of course, a pretty face doesn’t hurt, but as my previous review showed, there is a lot more to her than her looks. But looks and the amount of effort required are all subjective things. Most of us nerds enjoy fiddling with things and many will enjoy the challenge that the spirited and untamed distros bring. Some of us like a distro with a nicer personality. Some like a distro that is younger and others prefer ones that are more mature. Some are purists and prefer a distro that is totally pure and unsoiled by proprietary software. And some of us don’t particularly care and will take the one that is the easiest no matter what corporate entities she has gone to bed with. Whether you are a purists or a pragmatist, there is probably a Linux girlfriend distro for you. Or, you could stay with same whore everyone else purchases or the exclusive high classed beauty whose pimp only allows her to serve clients who can afford to use her in the more expensive accommodations.

Everyone has different criteria, and I didn’t think my initial criteria were that rigorous. Afterall, getting on the web, typing a document, watching some youtube and and having a bit of fun are minimum requirements that can be satisfied by many cell phones! My Dell laptop is hardly exotic so should not be beyond the reach of any modern distro.

There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of flavors of Linux so having some relatively quick way to screen them is important if you are on the hunt for a new one. The live CD provides a very efficient method for doing this. Not everyone has a bunch of extra machines sitting around waiting for a new OS to be installed/tried. Trying it out before having to commit is one of the first things that enabled me to overcome my own anxieties about trying a seemingly alien OS and if you want to see more people trying Linux, you can not underestimate the value of decreasing anxiety. And this is why it is so important that there is some robust functionality out of the box. Ubuntu and Mepis both brand themselves as being friendly for someone trying Linux for the first time. But if I fail to get sound or video working, my opinion of the OS will NOT be friendly. Yes, there are work-arounds and tweaks and fixes aplenty. But if I want work-arounds, why not stick with Vista which has better work-arounds for all of its ills?!? It’s only a live update or a service pack away!

I do appreciate the feedback and several people suggested Mint as a viable distro. It is on my short list of distros to try. What other distros would be worthy opponents for Mint 5? Are there any other tasks that a distro should be able to perform out of the box besides the ones I already tried in my last review?



  1. I think you have the title reversed… It should read “Why picking a Girlfriend is like picking a Linux Distro

  2. ok this is a little, erhmm, ok I see what you mean. B-E-A-utiful. I don’t really distro-hop but if I were to try one right now it’d be OpenSolaris. I guess it be like going out with a girl who reads books all the time. Yeah, it’s not the Linux kernel and has a lot less support for varied hardware but I hear it’s a tight distribution that runs well if you do have the hardware.

  3. Not nice. I know it seems to be “smart” to compare living persons with a distribution, but calling them a “purchased whore” is too sexist.

    I know you didn’t call everyone’s girlfriend a “whore” but it was an attempt at slandering Windows, but please try a bit to think of what the undertone of the comparison is. It is bad enough to imply that it is only you that “chooses” in a relationship, but suggesting, even if done in a very indirect manner, that having a girlfriend is “choosing a purchased whore” is wrong in so many ways I refuse to accept it as an idea.

    Associating this entirely wrong concept with Linux then is IMO a very bad thing. Linux is free software. Part of this freedom stems from the respect to us as human beings, who love associating with each other and sharing the things we like, including our software. This sort of respect is in direct opposition to ideas like name-calling of this sort.

  4. Eh, it was a pretty risky post, yeah. It was meant in fun, and I definitely was poking fun at proprietary OSs as well as how people seem to be attached to their favorites. It was only meant to highlight the subjectiveness of preference.

    True comparing Windows to a whore was being especially unkind to those practicing the world’s oldest profession, and for that I apologize. I might better have compared Windows to an inflatable toy, but then the novelty companies would have been up in arms.

    There’s just no pleasing some people. Perhaps we could all just relax and loosen up just a bit.

  5. I have to agree with you. I wish I had read your post before I made my most recent (Confessions of a Distro Chaser), but I have some real deep commitment issues that have chased me into my computing habits…

    I have a problem settling on one distro and jump around so much that I had to by a portable hard-drive to save my important work and play files. And no… I will not dual boot my system. That would be to easy!

    Problem is… its not my fault! The distros make it to easy for me with their LiveCDS and USBs and all that other stuff!

    Anyway, great post. Love your blog!

  6. Hello, my name is Gyffes and I’m a distro-hoppin’ who– um… lover.

    I’ll just say this: Thank the gods for VMWare’s Fusion! It allows me to create, dabble with and blow away distros at an amazing rate.

    I gotta say, I’m astonished that kubu did not come with Firefox. While I loathe, for the most part, KDE and therefore haven’t played with kubuntu, I have created/used/tossed several ubuntu distros, including Mint, xubu (my favorite) and plain brown ubuntu, and Firefox was there on all of them. Flashability is a separate issue.

    I think a factor you need to weigh in your comparisons is the ease of adding new software: every time I try to puppy (including installing puppeee on my eee701), I get discouraged by the difficulty of installing the puplets. I recently created a PC-BSD virtual machine and was quite happily dallying with it (despite its KDEness!) when I realized that its much vaunted ‘ease of app install’ wasn’t really so easy.

    Similarly, although my Fluxbox-running Mint’s app installer offers Mint, Debian AND Ubuntu repositories, finding and installing a new game required me to use the Terminal, Firefox and the MintInstall app — and then I still couldn’t find/play the game once it was installed (although ‘sudo apt-get install XX’ continued to report, “Already installed!”).

    Frankly, I think the reason more and more people look to Ubuntu for their Linux pleasure is the APT/synaptic install system. Nothing else I’ve tried (except maybe the iPhone/iPT) comes close to ease of install.


  7. As a former Distro hopper also (I think I’ve used every major and most minor distros at least once) I actually now just run Vista with VirtualBox. I find it to be much easier… I know that sounds silly but Vista is more stable for me then Ubuntu ever was. Personally I am a OpenSUSE fan since they know what stability is.

    As for picking being like a girlfriend I think that is a great comparison since there are many girls most guys would never pursue just like there are also many distros most people would never pursue.

  8. Good to know that only heterosexual men use operating systems. I must have gotten confused and wandered into the wrong profession.

    • Whoa, check your attitude at the door, girlfriend.

      Besides, everyone knows geeks only DREAM about getting girlfriends, let alone boyfriends, so the whole exercise is just that.

      Forget distro-choosing, you need a sense of humor.


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