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The world of Linux is rather diverse in its offerings, especially compared to the likes of Windows or macOS. If you’re not happy with the desktop you’re using for example, it’s easy to change it to your liking, or do away with it completely. As a result of this though, there’s always going to be arguments about which of them is “better”.
For example, user-friendly Linux operating systems are sometimes snubbed by Linux geeks due to petty and overly technical reasons. While they mightn’t go as far as to discourage them, there is little respect for the likes of Ubuntu and Mint for example.
But as it turns out, all this really isn’t necessary as long as you don’t split hairs. For the most part, Linux provides a good experience, regardless of how you decide to run it. Whether it’s an Arch system, or Elementary OS, it doesn’t really matter. So use whatever Linux operating system with pride.
Standing on the Same Shoulders
Despite the variation between Linux operating systems, they all share a common ground with each other. This goes past the little differences like how they install software. To see what your programs are really running on is to see the extent to which they’re similar.
The Linux Kernel
Every Linux operating system is built around the same kernel. It’s one of the largest factors of your system that determines performance, along with whether or not your computer runs on the distribution of your choice. Since it has all the drivers and resource management needed to run programs properly, any differences above this are mainly superficial.
And fortunately for everyone, there isn’t much variation on that front, regardless of which Linux operating system you use. This means that you should expect performance and compatibility to be relatively the same. Yes, there are extremely lightweight operating systems such as Lubuntu. But as it turns out, a lot of their properties can be achieved with the current system you’re using.
It isn’t just the Linux kernel that’s the same. Along with this, many Linux operating share a lot of the same software. It’s easy enough to install whatever programs you want across the system of your choice. This makes sense — it’s still Linux after all.
If you’ve ever used a different distribution, you’ll see that the same programs are available, pre-installed. LibreOffice is a staple of many of them for example, along with GIMP. These similarities go even deeper than just the desktop software however.
The reason why Linux is sometimes called GNU/Linux is because of the core software behind every Linux operating system. The essential programs that you don’t really notice, like the BASH shell, and even basic command line tools to copy files — all of them come from the GNU Project.
It also supplies something called a C Standard Library called glibc, which ensures that programs written in C will run on Linux (there are others, such as the Windows C runtime library, but that’s for another story).
Many, many important parts of your Linux system are made by GNU as free software. Without them all, you’d be left only with a kernel, unable to run any programs. It also means that despite how different each operating system is, they’re still standing on the same shoulders: Linux and GNU.
Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Exactly
Thanks to the similarities between each Linux operating system, it’s easy enough to change each one to your liking. There are a number of desktops you can choose from, along with many themes. As such, nothing is stopping you from stripping your Linux system down to the bone, and likewise, filling a minimal one to become fully fledged.
Rather than reinstalling your computer with a “light” system like Xubuntu, say, you could achieve the same effects by getting the XFCE desktop on vanilla Ubuntu. The largest gains are made by the differences in desktop environments, since they’re one of the larger components in a Linux operating system.
People who argue that their desktop is better than another because of its looks miss the fact that making any Linux system like theirs is a matter of installing a few themes. Appearance is based off of multiple factors. There are themes for specific parts of the desktop, and putting these together creates something that (hopefully) looks nice. You can even make Linux look like macOS if you try hard enough.
In many cases, if you’re not happy with how your Linux desktop looks, it’s very easy to change. So switching to another operating system because of how it appears out of the box might not be the best of ideas. The differences are surface-deep only, after all.
A Few Exceptions
Aren’t there always? While Linux is generally the same in most cases, there are a few differences that you should take into consideration. Switching to a niche distribution might not be a very good idea for example, and here are a few reasons why.
- Larger package sources. If you don’t want to spend time compiling lots of programs, you shouldn’t switch to something like Gentoo for example. Also, if you want newer programs faster, you wouldn’t install something like Debian Stable, say.
- Targeted userbase. The larger Linux operating systems are designed to be quite intuitive even to novices. However, there are a few which are definitely not friendly in that sense, which should be avoided if that’s the case. For example, the decidedly complex Arch Linux, which eschews intuitiveness for control.
- The community. Smaller Linux distributions have less support around them, since less people use it. At least with larger operating systems, you can be sure that a forum post will get a helpful response. It’s quite rare for such help to exist with more obscure ones.
A Matter of Choice
Looking past small differences, Linux is Linux, no matter how it’s shaped. Each one is similar where it counts. From Elementary OS to Gentoo, it really isn’t important in the end. Either way, you’re helping the Linux desktop.
Which Linux operating systems do you use and why?
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