The Brightest Distro Stars of 2012

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 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 DublinersMudslide 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!!!!!! 😀

“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+.


  • Rosa didn’t exactly mimic Unity. Slingshot was there since 2007 and everyone based their ideas from that, even Mac OSX Lion. The Slingshot launcher is deliberately sidelined by the so-called open source developers, the action which is somewhat criminal.

    It could be that the "old" Slingshot was made on a request from the eOS crowd, but even they are trying hard to send it down the drain.

    This "old" Slingshot is universal, it can be installed in any Debian and Ubuntu distro. AND, that is the problem to our "devs" their backing-companies. If you have a universal pretty launcher, what would happen to all these "developments" of Gnome, Unity UIs?

    I have installed it in all kinds of Debian distros and Precise, Quantal and Raring. It is fully universal and that’s why the "free" open source devs trying hard to ignore it and if possible kill it. But, the closed source Mac guys took it and developed it for their expensive hardware.

    So much for the "open sources" community!

  • It doesn’t make any sense – why won’t anyone in the Linux media circle ever even mention Fuduntu?

    We’ve been busting our rears for over two years fixing bugs and building an excellent desktop experience – and we just continue to get ignored.

      • Because without even looking I can say you are just repacking the same old crud with a different wallpaper? let me guess, Gnome or KDE (Maybe E17 or LXDE if you are trying to be "edgy") with Firefox, Gimp, and Libre Office, unless you are again trying to be "edgy" which will mean Chromium and Gnumeric/Abiword…am I correct?

        Linux distros are like Taco bell, they may appear to have a huge menu but in reality it just the same beans, meat, cheese, lettuce, and sour cream put in different shapes, at the end of the day its still the same stuff over and over AND OVER.

        Whether you are the community like it or not the future is NOT Linux, its Android. Even now we are seeing those places that were traditionally Linux like Mini-PCs and STBs switching to Android, within 2 years yours and every other distro on the planet put together won’t have even one one hundredth the share old 2.x android has, much less ICS and later.

        In the end you can look in the mirror to assign blame, nobody dared to stand up to the devs and do something truly different, like get away from the mess that is tying software to which kernel you have, or making things truly backwards compatible, or even fixing the mess that is the driver situation. Instead you took the same handful of FOSS programs every body and their dog and their dog’s chewtoy has packaged, you stuck your own wallpaper on it, and you are shocked when nobody cares.

        Sorry to be so blunt but sometimes the truth hurts, nobody cares about another brick added to the wall of look and act alike distros out there. this is why Canonical is on life support, Mandriva is in a coma, because its been 20 years and still everybody just does the same dance and wonders why they get no share.

        • Actually – we forked Fedora a while back and have been maintaining a classic desktop using GNOME 2 in addition to the thousands of packages we maintain and the software development and bug fix efforts we lead.

          If by edgy you mean things like having Netflix support baked in – today, or by having Steam support – today.

          Then yes, that would be us.

          • Oh I looked up after I posted, lets see, Chromium,Libre Office, Gimp…yawn. Its the same stuff as everybody else, you add maybe one or two things different but that is like slapping a little hot sauce on the taco at the end of the day its STILL just a taco.

            If you haven’t figured it out 20 years of NO SHARE should be the giant cluebat, nobody wants the same old Linux mess! if you want share you can’t just package the same old crud that everybody else has done a billion times before, you need to do just like Google did, just take the kernel and fork it, throwing the rest over your shoulder and starting over.

            BTW I wouldn’t be bragging on having Steam, I predict valve will abandon it in less than 2 years, why? because Win 8 is a flop, which was the only reason valve was trying, and at the end of the day nobody is gonna want Linux for gaming when 90%+ of the AAA games out there are based on DirectX and will NOT be ported. at the end of the day steam on Linux will have less games than even the Mac port, which will make it all but worthless to all but those that consider running windows to be some sort of hearasay, everybody else will just dual boot or stick with Win 7.

            Final verdict? Linux will not only NOT gain share but will actually lose share to android, Valve will abandon Steam on Linux due to lack of sales and too many hassles trying to keep their DRM running on Linux, and nobody will care about your distro as it’ll join the 500+ distros on distrowatch that has a number of users so small it would be below the margin of error.

            Again sorry to be harsh but as a retailer I can’t pretend because my livelihood depends on seeing which way the wind is gonna blow and making sure I have the units people want to buy and that is Win 7 on desktops and laptops and Android for mobile and STBs. If you truly want people to care? Toss Linux, get a hold of someone in china and work on making a dual core android STB that does 1080P and costs less than $100, preferably with ICS. do that and enjoy the piles of money, stick with being one of 500+ Linux distros out there and enjoy having no money and a userbase so small you could bring them all together in the meeting room of your average Hilton.

            BTW you cook up the STB drop me a line, I’ll be happy to be a dealer.

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