Monday, April 1, 2013

My Current Setup: Distros

I mentioned recently that I am no longer confortable with switching distros day in and day out. I have settled with a few things I love and my setup hasn´t really changed in months. Some people were curious of what my setup looks like, so this is the first article in a series that will be covering what I use, which distros, DMs, etc.


My desktop computer is the main one I use, covering everything I do from plain Internet browsing to photo edition and audio recording. It sports two hard drives, which I then use in a triple boot configuration, which includes Fedora 18, Ubuntu Studio 12.04 and Kubuntu 12.10.

Fedora 18 is the distro I use the most of the three and the main reason why is that it is, even with its consistent delays, the best GNOME distro out there so far. I absolutely LOVE GNOME Shell after what they have done in version 3.6 and, from the looks of it, 3.8 only improves even further. I will cover DMs on another article, though, let´s concentrate for now on Fedora 18 and why I like it.

I was critical on Fedora for a while when they seemed to completely forget about standard users for a few releases. It seemed like all they cared about was keeping the programming features included up to the latest version available. Since Fedora 15, though, a change of direction became apparent and more and more features that could appeal to a wider user base started to get attention. Much needed performance improvements around SELinux, the recent Anaconda face lift and so many other important changes that I can´t keep track of, have made each recent Fedora release a success. In fact, I have seen much more agreement on that notion lately, the idea that each Fedora release is the best yet... It didn´t use to be like that, there was more of a love/hate deal with Fedora.

So, yes, I like Fedora A LOT, but why exactly, what kinds of things appeal to me that differ from, say, Ubuntu? Here´s my list:

  1. Living on the edge: Fedora is about being at the forefront of Linux. The latest Kernel, new partitioning defaults, new file system defaults and probably most importantly for standard users, a very up to date application catalog... As long as a Fedora release receives support, users don´t need to worry about their software getting rusty, as is usually the case in Ubuntu. Being systematically on the cutting edge of the spectrum is not always best, it has pros and cons and sometimes you may find nasty surprises along the way, but I have come to appreciate that Fedora is amazingly stable given its edgy spirit.
  2. No PPA hassle: A direct consequence of the previous bullet point is that staying up to date results in no need to look for repositories to download updated versions of software. Fedora repositories are pretty significant in size, which in my case means that I have never downloaded anything outside of the official and/or fusion repositories. This makes using Fedora comfortable, but also very safe as one can rest easy knowing that software always comes from trusted sources.
  3. YUM package manager: Unlike Ubuntu, Fedora does not have a great UI software manager, so you end up using YUM way more than you would use APT in Ubuntu. However, because of how great a package manager YUM is, after a while you come to appreciate it and it´s hard to get away from it.
  4. Pure DM flavor: Fedora likes to keep the user experience with a certain DM as pure as possible. In that sense, you will not find a heavily customized KDE or GNOME here, it´s all pretty stock, and that´s something I love.
  5. Security: Aside from the PPA bit I discussed before, I like how Fedora doesn´t go overkill with sudo, as Ubuntu does. Some things remain locked under the root umbrella, and while that may feel a bit less comfortable than usual if you come from Ubuntu, it quickly makes sense. Other features like SELinux and the onboard Firewall certainly help in keeping you and your data safe.
  6. Flexibility and Power: Some distros out there have, for better or worse, a very defined scope. They target a certain set of users and what the distro does and how it works is very closely related to that scope. Fedora has a more flexible approach in that regard, offering all the power a very advanced user may seek while (specially in recent releases) offering a simple enough approach for starters. Now, don´t get me wrong, Fedora cannot (and probably doesn´t want to) compete with Ubuntu or Linux Mint in terms of ease of use, specially for someone new to Linux, but is accessible enough while certainly offering more flexibility and power in the top end.

Obviously, there is a lot more to choosing Fedora than just distro-specific reasons. Desktop Managers have lots to do with it too, as do splash screens, login screens, etc., but I will cover those in future articles.

Kubuntu 12.10 is another distro I use a lot. In fact, it used to be the most used before I started using GNOME 3.6. KDE is a great DE, no doubt about it, but some of its quirks are like an itch. I put up with them but they are still there, bugging me somewhat. Anyways, reasons why I choose Kubuntu over other KDE distros:

  1. The Ubuntu community: Ubuntu is obviously a very popular distro with a huge user base. In my experience, it´s hard to experience a problem with a distro from the Ubuntu family that you cannot find information about in the Internet. Fedora is popular as well, but I have not seen nearly as much information about it out there.
  2. The Ubuntu benefits, minus the problems: I must admit it, I can´t stand Unity. I have tried over the past couple years, but I just don´t like it. Performance problems are just a tiny part of the problem when you release an alpha project to the public and keep adding nonsense features instead of addressing basic issues... And who wants all the Mac-like design concepts? The lack of a decent icon theme is not a major thing, but still bothers me, specially since they have been announcing it for so long and it is important if they want to be a true alternative to Android, Windows Phone or iOS.
    Kubuntu offers most of what is awesome about Ubuntu, with a solid KDE integration that still boots very fast, has probably the best installation wizard in Linux and all the other stuff that make Ubuntu great.
  3. Drivers management: This one is indeed an Ubuntu benefit, but deserves its own category. Ubuntu does an EXCELLENT job at detecting and automatically downloading and configuring drivers needed for specific pieces of hardware. So does Kubuntu.
  4. Software management: Fedora has improved recently with PackageKit, but I find Muon better. Not only do I slightly favor its UI, but it is also great that it incorporates ratings and reviews from Ubuntu.
  5. LightDM KDE: While Kubuntu aims to be as pure KDE as possible, it stopped using KDM and embraced LightDM, as used in Ubuntu. Personally, I think this is the right way to go, as LightDM is faster, lighter, easier to tweak and theme, and most importantly, fixes many of KDM shortcomings that have bugged me for years. For instance, is it so difficult to display a message when a user enters an invalid username or password? In KDM both fields are reset and the user has no idea what the problem is... "Was my user account not created?" "Is my password incorrect?"
    LightDM also fixes some of the inconsistencies around screen resolution, avatars, and the ability to add a guest account.

Finally, Ubuntu Studio 12.04. In this case, there are not that many options out there to choose from if you want a Linux distro that is powerful, current, stable and media creation oriented, specially if you don´t like Unity. Ubuntu Studio raised from its ashes and, in my humble opinion, nothing in Linux does the job quite like it.

So there you have it, a quick rundown of my distros of choice and some of the reasons why I use them. You´ll notice that some of those reasons are sometimes somewhat opposite, like liking Muon and Yum. This is alright with me, though, because Linux is all about choice. At the end of the day I want to experience the best of GNOME and KDE and Fedora and Kubuntu both match my expectations there.

What do you use and why? Please add your comments below!


  1. I agree with almost everything you say and Fedora has a good face lift. and Ubuntu Studio is pretty Good.
    Like you I am going to call it off downloading and testing simply because my Electricity bill which I cannot afford NOW..
    If money is not a problem for you, I suggest you should keep testing if not many as few as you possibly can.
    There lot of guys and girls confused about Linux who need some direction and guide.
    I love the small (is beautiful) Linux and today downloaded and tested Byzantine (371 MiB) with LXDE and KDE which is pretty good for its size..
    It is based on Protues which is a good ?Slackware product..
    I know downloading (which is painfully slow, in my country) and testing may be boring but it is still worth the trouble for novice to follow in which direction Linux is moving.
    THANK YOU for all your WORK and Efforts.
    If will be reading your updates since I will take a bow now..

  2. hey nice setup man fedora is cool am using opensuse nice blog keep it going :D

  3. some screenshots would have been gr8 :) btw which web browser do u use chema ?

  4. i use opensuse bcoz of yast and packman repos :)

  5. Thanks all for your comments!

    Screenshots will come in an upcoming article, when I talk about DMs. Also, I am working on a GNOME Shell article, which should hopefully clarify some of the grey areas I see many people criticize or be unclear about.

    In addition, I do keep trying new things from time to time, I recently installed the latest Chakra to test KDE SC 4.10, and I don´t see that changing soon. What I meant is that I don´t test as often and as deeply as to post reviews here the way I used to. I might from time to time, but the idea is that reviews should no longer be expected.

    1. I appreciate the detail about your likes, those preferences help guide my likes as well.I am a linux user with an edgy style in using linux. I used ubuntu exclusive a long time till I started experimenting with other distros, now I wonder if this a problem and not a variety style. I am using Zorin O.S. version 6.3 not version 7 don't like it,they took a ton of features out, I wonder why such a drastic/dramatic change. Probably they kinda did overkill in features not even mentioning the special effects.I have a question bout blogspot, how much do they charge for registration and hosting fees? I am considering my own blog with some options but, simplicity not complicated set up and administration.

  6. Wow, you should REALLY try openSUSE 12.3. It's everything Ubuntu tries to be but done right (e.g. 1-click installation). And it's a heck of a lot more stable and requires less fiddling than Fedora.

    It's definitely back on track with 12.3. I would highly recommend it before you settle down into Fedora.

    1. I have already settled down into Fedora, it´s been my main distro of choice for about a year, and I don´t think it requires much fiddling at all. Have you tried the latest releases?

      With that said, I might install OpenSUSE at some point, but for the last 4-5 years I have consistently given it a try once or twice a year, only to leave more and more disappointed after every test. In my experience it´s always been subpar in terms of performance, I have never seen any stability advantages, certainly not over Fedora, and software has always been less than current at best.

  7. Nice blog and I hope you're DM blog will come soon, I'm very interested :)
    For your question: I use a Kubuntu 12.04 and a Xubuntu 12.04 on my netbook and plan to test others to after I take a Linux class to be able to notice differences better. (OpenSUSE, Gentou, Fedora, Linux Mint are all interest me, but only with KDE or Cinnamon. (LXDE, XDE, Unity, GNOME don't fit my preferences. (Xubuntu is only in use, because I set up a lot of development tool there and losing them would make me crazy and I don't have time to set up a new distro :D)))

  8. Hi Chema,

    what exact advantages do you see to run Kubuntu and UbuntuStudio 'in parallel'? Shouldn't be the program packages shared between them? Thanks.

    Best regards, mark

    1. Hi Mark,

      Well, Ubuntu Studio is obviously a very specific distro with very specific goals. Technically, I guess I could install everything there is in Ubuntu Studio, including the RT kernel, but why do that when they do it better and more conveniently? Besides, Ardour looks TERRIBLE in KDE!... ;-)