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I don't want to start a holy war, I just want to know which distro will be best for me specifically.

I'm currently running Fedora-13, which is in EOL. So I did a little more research — probably the research I should have done before picking this OS — and found that Fedora requires frequent upgrades. Well, this might not be a problem for me but I'd much prefer not having to frequently back up my system and do reinstalls. (As I understand it, the upgrade process isn't great, and reinstalls are recommended for stability.)

However, I see that Red Hat Enterprise Linux is not freely available. It seems I would have to spend at least $50 for the OS. So... I'm wondering if it's worth $50 to not have to upgrade very often. I've used Ubuntu in the past, and I found that I had a lot of trouble getting some of my hardware to run.

I'm going to be running this on the laptop I'm using to develop a website in Scala/Lift. I'm probably not going to host the website from the laptop.

share|improve this question
Do you want it as a desktop or a server? – OldWolf Sep 1 '11 at 17:50
There are so many reasons to choose one over another but other than frequency of upgrades, what are you looking for? It would be hard to get meaningful answers otherwise. – Itai Sep 1 '11 at 17:50
I want it for a laptop. I'm trying to develop a website in scala/lift but i'm probably not going to host the website from the laptop. – Ramy Sep 1 '11 at 17:51
I voted to reopen. See Lord Torgamus' edit for how to phrase stuff like this better. I think your main point is the upgrade procedure? – slhck Sep 1 '11 at 18:21
Thanks for the suggestions guys. I think i'm going to give CentOS a shot. Arch linux sounds very tempting because of the rolling-releases but I'm going to go with a REHL spin off because of my current comfort level with Fedora. I'm sorry that this question was closed. You are awarded no points. And may God have mercy on your soul. – Ramy Sep 1 '11 at 19:00
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Here are couple examples:

  • You've mentioned Red Hat. That is a stable distribution with long term support. There are free alternatives that are the same (almost) as Red Hat just prepackaged: CentOS and Scientific Linux. The pros for these distributions are extreme stability, the cons are you don't get the latest software (although you do get security/bug fixes for versions installed)
  • Debian Stable branch - as the name says, also extremely stable distribution, supported for a long time, but also not for you if you expect the newest stuff all the time. But if you're satisfied with OpenOffice 3.1 while 3.4 is out, you'll be fine. Also Debian has large base of packages.
  • Ubuntu LTS - LTS stands for Long Time Service, is based on Debian and has support for 3 years desktop, and 5 years server version. The next release, due to April in 2012 will have 5 years support for both desktop and server. The advantage of Ubuntu is that for many packages there are PPAs which enable you to get the newest versions for some software packages. That can also be done in previously mentioned distributions but you'll you might need to fix things for your self.
  • Linux Mint LTS - same as Ubuntu, based on Ubuntu but with different interface which you might like more
  • Linux Mint Debian Edition - this is a rolling release based on Debian testing repository. I've mentioned Debian Stable, Testing is based on software that is not fully tested yet, but you can expect good stability in general (for example nonLTS releases of Ubuntu are based on Debian Unstable which contains even less tested packages). Rolling release means that packages are constantly upgraded, the system is constantly continuously upgrading. It needs to be said that Linux Mint Debian Edition is still an experimental project by Linux Mint team, however it does work good, but might sometimes need some user intervention, usually nothing more complicated than stated on their web site.
  • Arch Linux - this is a rolling release distribution with newest packages all the time, it's constantly changing. Also needs user intervention from time to time, but in general is more complex than previously mentioned distributions. You need to install everything from bare bones, the desktop environment, all the settings, starting services... But their documentation is superb so it can be done if you have the energy. You can't expect the stability of Debian or CentOS, but you'll get everything as soon it gets out. It's also lightning fast.
  • Gentoo Linux - the same as Arch, but you need to compile every single package. The advantage of that is that you get great performance. Also has superb documentation.
  • PCLinuxOS - is partly rolling release which means that some packages stay the same (for example system packages) while you get for example the newest version of Firefox

I suggest that you take a look on distrowatch

where you can get a description of all the distributions and find which one you like. Take a look at "major distributions" for example

share|improve this answer
might also want to consider the red hat recompiles - centos and scientific linux – Journeyman Geek Nov 8 '11 at 14:26
As stated on first point. – enedene Nov 8 '11 at 16:02
For debian, testing is pretty stable too. I've been using it on my netbook for a while now with no issues at all. – Rob Nov 8 '11 at 16:08

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