Welcome to my review of the top Linux Distributions of 2014! The first thing to keep in mind--the distributions are not ranked in any specific order, they are my opinion of the best options out there. Each distribution has its own Pro's and Con's, which will be explained here, but explained in-depth in later articles. Furthermore, this review is purely my opinion; this means that it may differ from the opinions of others. No matter! if you have a distribution that you think should be on this list make damn well sure that you comment so that you can explain to me why.
First on the list--Arch Linux. My personal favorite distribution. It's lightweight, not too hard to install, and on the bleeding-edge of software all the time.
It's lightweight. You will find no pre-installed software on this distribution. The installer lets you customize how you want it installed too, which means it can be made to whatever you need it to. This distribution can be made to be whatever you want, or need it to be. Whether it's a light and fast distribution, or a feature-heavy monster. Arch Linux can do that for you. It's also on a rolling-release cycle, which means that to update you simply need to sudo pacman -Syu (the update command) , and you are good-to-go. This also means that whenever a new company releases an update to software, it is almost immediately available in Arch community repositories and ready to install.
Instability. A rolling release cycle and the bleeding-edge update policy, means instability. When choosing Arch Linux, be ready to play around with the distribution if a stray update brings kills the install. This distribution is not recommend for those who need stability for work purposes, as it most definitely will break at one point or another.
A progressive Linux Distribution. Created by one of the largest video-game curators out their--Valve, this distribution is instrumental in introducing and bringing games as well introducing a wider audience into the Linux Scene. Since SteamOS is directly based on Debian, you can expect many more companies to be creating games for Linux in the future, especially once SteamOS platforms begin gaining traction. Some games, such as the Metro and The Witcher, already have Linux versions because of SteamOS.
A Full blown gaming platform is the main focus of SteamOS, and it accomplishes this very well. The interface is smooth, the games launch swiftly, and it is available for a good variety of hardware while at the same time still increasing the type of hardware it can run on. You can find many great games on SteamOS, such as Counter Strike, The Witcher and Metro; more than enough to keep you company for a long time.
Since SteamOS is essentially a Linux Distribution based on Debian, there are a limited number of available games on the platform. This is beginning to change, however, as more and more gaming companies are catering to the platform, as demand increased. The Distribution cannot be used for much other than gaming, and though it does run on most hardware, it cannot run smoothly on everything.
A more traditional distribution meant for beginners and those who want a simple light-weight solution. Ever since Ubuntu created their Unity Desktop Manager Mint has existed as a alternative to the new, and overly-complex manager that Ubuntu implemented, instead instigating the creation of "Cinnamon", a more simple and traditional Desktop-Manager. Mint is also available in other flavors.
Simple and Lightweight is where Mint excels. It's perfect for old laptops, and those seeking to put life into slow computers. It is perfect for people embarking on their Linux Journey as well. Based on Debian, one can expect a stable easy-to-use distribution with more packages than you could hope for.
Some may not like the simplicity. If you are an experienced Linux user looking for a bleeding-edge distribution with all the features you can't even imagine, Mint is not for you (Look to Distributions such as Arch Linux instead).
Very similar to Mint, except that it offers the Unity desktop manager. A more eccentric manager than Cinnamon or other flavors of Mint, Unity is for those who like "different". Much improved than it's first iteration, however, it is definitely something to check out.
Easy, Simple to use, Stable. This is a distribution for those new to Linux. Ubuntu is arguably the most known-of linux distribution. It's stable, though definitely not as lightweight as Mint, it can still run on quickly and snappy on a great variety of computers, making a great first linux distribution, as well as a daily driver desktop.
Unity can be a bit of a hassle to use. it's unlike any other window manager, and is arguably not very windows or mac-like, instead creating it's own thing. Easy to get used to however, many may prefer this.
Debian. Arguably the most stable, and standard Linux Distro there is.
Debian is great if you are looking for an ultra-stable Linux Machine, or looking for a distribution for a server. Because of Debians stability, you can be pretty sure that whatever kind of server you intend to make, will stay up and running. It's also very lightweight, making it an even more sleek and attractive distribution for server use.
I generally would not recommend using Debian as an everyday desktop. Because of it's stability, it's packages are often time older, and it takes much longer for them to update (on a 6-month cycle). If you are looking for a desktop, start at something like Ubuntu or ElementaryOS (distributions both based on Debian). the complexity of this distribution also makes me recommend this for moderate-experienced users of Linux. As a beginner, you may not have a great experience with Debian.
Easy to use, sleek, intuitive, and an eye-pleasing design, ElementaryOS is pretty much all anyone could want for their desktop. It has most of the stability of Debian, since it is based off of it, and all the packages of Ubuntu. It comes pre-loaded with many great applications, such as it's own photo manager, file manager, calendar, and email. All of these applications are top-notch, something hard to come by in a Linux Distro these days. Being very easy to use and beginner friendly, a must for anyone just starting with Linux. It's simplicity is inspired by MacOSX. I've got to say, Elementary does a damn good job of incorporating MacOSX design elements and philosophy in their distro. For you mac-like desktop lovers out there, look no further than ElementaryOS!
Many criticize Elementary for being too simple--and this is true. some features are locked-down and require extra-circumventing to get to if you want to modify them. This distribution is definitely not recommended for the Linux user looking for a totally unlocked distro where they are able to get to anything they want with ease.
Bleeding edge, easy-to-install, and moderate to use, Fedora can only be described by me as a cross between Ubuntu and Arch. For a moderately experienced Linux user looking for something new, look no further than Fedora.
Based on a fixed-release cycle, you can still expect to see software updated very regularly. Fedora is used as a testing ground for Red-Hat linux systems, so if you want to see possible new implementations that may be brought to other Linux distro's, use Fedora. Though if you just want the new software, save yourself the trouble of breaking alot of packages and go with Korora, a fork of Fedora which is a bit more stable and user-friendly.
Fedora can be a pain to use. You can expect to do some tinkering after updates to fix some broken parts of the system. Since this is a testing ground for Red-Hat linux, many beta softwares may cause problems. If you are looking for something a bit more user-friendly, go for a Fedora fork such as Korora.
The Linux distro to save you in a time of need. You have no idea how much Gparted has saved my computer, or fixed some problem that could have ruined everything. One of those problems was Windows, which, upon asking for it, Gparted was very happy to remove their partitions (Thank You Gparted).
Easy to use distribution for modifying system partitions. If you don't want to use Microsofts sluggish and locked partition manager, load up Gparted onto a flash drive and use that. You can thank me later.
Not for desktop use. Gparted is purely a partition manager. In my opinion it is the greatest partition manager in existence, and it can fit on a very small USB. For this reason alone it deserves a place on the top 8 distributions of 2014. (Or arguably all-time).
Distribution to Watch For:
Deepin- Based on Ubuntu, Deepin originated in China. Since, it has grown and moved onto the world-stage. Deepin went the extra mile to create their own desktop management system called, you got it, "Deepin". Its a fast management system based on HTML5, making it light on the RAM.It's mac-like interface and custom programs remind me of Elementary. By no means, however, are they as intuitive. Deepin is a flashy, simple to use distribution, but many kinks in it stop it from being truly great. Nevertheless, it is one to watch. It only recently came out of China, and so it still has time to grow and evolve into something much greater.
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