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The Brightest Distro Stars of 2012

By Katherine Noyes
Dec 13, 2012 5:00 AM PT

Well the year is rapidly drawing to a close, so naturally it's time for the requisite stream of "looking back at 2012" and "looking ahead at 2013" story headlines on the news wires.

The Brightest Distro Stars of 2012

The Linux blogosphere, needless to say, is no exception. Case in point: "Best Distro 2012" was the topic of a TuxRadar poll under way earlier this month, and now the results are in.

Could there be any better fodder for discussion when the nights are long and the days are gray? Linux Girl, for one, doesn't think so.

'Mint Takes on Ubuntu'

"We didn't want to restrict ourselves to the same old trials and tests, we wanted to promote distributions that might not have had the attention they deserve, while at the same time considering the obvious benefits of using a popular distribution," the TuxRadar team explained.

"To this end, we decided to group the contenders together not by success, but by function, and see how they would fare in a one-on-one usability fight to the death," the team added. "Mint takes on Ubuntu in the classic battle between father and son. OpenSUSE Tumbleweed takes on the most popular rolling distro, Arch."

Close to 100 bloggers weighed in with their opinions on TuxRadar, but they were soon drowned out by the blogosphere's loquacious Linux masses.

'I'll Go with SolusOS 1.2'

"Best distro of 2012? Hummm.... I'll go with SolusOS 1.2," Gonzalo Velasco C., a blogger on Google+, told Linux Girl over a Dubliners Mudslide down at the blogosphere's Punchy Penguin Saloon.

Comparing Ubuntu and Mint, meanwhile, "is tricky," he added. "For a start, there wouldn't be Mint without Ubuntu! And none of them can live without GNOME! Surprise!!!!!! :-D

"So, best distro among the two: Ubuntu," Gonzalo Velasco C. concluded. "Best desktop environment: you choose."

'A Really Great Distro'

Google+ blogger Linux Rants took a similar view.

"I'm going to be boring on this one, but I've got to go with Ubuntu 12.04," Linux Rants agreed. "There were a lot of great distros this year, but I don't think that any of them can compete with the Pangolin. It's solid, fast, and the basis for any number of other really great distros.

"Mint 14 was also a great distro, but it wouldn't have been possible without Ubuntu," he pointed out.

Meanwhile, "I do want to give runner-up status to SolusOS," Linux Rants added. "I think Ikey has a really great distro on his hands, and I'm anxiously waiting for the new version. I think it's going to be truly amazing."

'Debian Is the Best'

Consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack said he was hoping a Debian-based distro would make it to the top of the list, "since that will provide more package support," he explained.

"Other than that I don't really mind who is on top or even the top 5," Mack added.

"Of course Debian GNU/Linux is the best GNU/Linux distro of any year," blogger Robert Pogson heartily concurred. "It has been for a long time and will be for a long time in the future.

"If there's something you cannot do with Debian GNU/Linux, you're probably not trying," he added. "Debian's previous release is rock-solid, and the next release is very usable and has been for months, even if it's 'not ready' by Debian's standards."

Of course, "this assumes one needs functionality and not eye-candy," Pogson pointed out. "I take IT very seriously and certainly don't need frills."

'The One That Works for You'

Google+ blogger Kevin O'Brien had a more objective take.

"I have to say the best Linux distro is the one that works for you," O'Brien told Linux Girl.

"Right now I have machines running Kubuntu 12.10, Ubuntu 12.10, Fedora 17, and openSUSE 12.2," he explained. "I do different things on each, and each one is fit for the purpose.

"I think that is one of the benefits of Free Software: You can always use what works best for you," O'Brien concluded.

'Canonical Should Get Credit'

"The year is about to end, and I just realized now this has been a slow year for me," began Robin Lim, a lawyer and blogger on Mobile Raptor. "I have only tried two 2012 releases: Ubuntu Linux 12.04, which I plan to stick with for a long time because of the five-year Long Term Support that Canonical has promised, and Android 4.12 Jelly Bean."

In fact, "I really don't feel most of the improvements of Ubuntu 12.04, since I use the GNOME 3 desktop environment," Lim noted. "I have Android 4.12 vanilla on one device, and the older Android 4.04 with the HTC Sense 3.6 interface on another. I don't miss 4.1.2 all that much when I am on Android 4.04."

In any case, "I am sure there is something more ground-breaking out there, but I have no problem casting a vote for Ubuntu," Lim said. "Changing operating systems every six months is really not for the average user.

"Scouring the Web with your fingers crossed, hoping your Android device gets a confirmation that it will be updated to the latest official release, is no way to live," Lim explained. "Five years is a big thing, and I feel Canonical should get credit for that."

'The Best Distro Is Android'

Slashdot blogger hairyfeet, however, cast his vote firmly on Google's side.

"Hands down, the absolute best distro of the year is.... Android," hairyfeet opined. "By taking Linux away from the devs and instituting real quality control and making it truly UI-centric and consistent, Google has managed to do in a couple of years what dozens of distros absolutely failed to do in a couple of decades, and that was bring a Linux-based OS out of the nerds' basements and into the home of Joe and Sally Average."

Now, "you see everything from tablets to TV sets including Android," he added. "The little green droid is becoming as well-known an icon as the Apple logo and the WinFlag, and I don't see how anybody could say any distro could compare.

"Heck, if you took every distro on the planet and combined them, I doubt you'd get even one-tenth the share Android has, and it is growing by leaps and bounds," hairyfeet concluded.

Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+.

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