Saturday, July 24, 2010

Seven Ubuntu Derivatives worth Checking Out

One of the mottos the Linux community has is "if you don't like it - then fork". While this is interesting idea it has created as many Ubuntu derivatives as the day is long. Don't believe me? Check Distrowatch - as I am posting this four of the eight "new releases" listed on the front page are Ubuntu derivatives. Now personally - I do not think this is a bad thing. Not the same thing works for everyone and when you are new to the world of Linux it is easier to try a different "spin" than it is to learn to configure everything yourself. The only problem with all these spins (and something I've often heard complaints about) is that there is too much choice when selecting what flavor of Ubuntu to install.

I make a point of trying as many different variations of Ubuntu as I can, this way I can be informed when I recommend one version over another to friends and family. The following is a round up of my favorites I have found over my last three years in the world of Linux.

Best Full Featured DVD - Pinguy OS:
This is a spin just recently released and it has become the main OS on my Sager laptop for a number of reasons. Overall Pinguy OS has a very elegant, unified feel to it and careful work has been put into the visual aspects of the operating system with a close attention to detail. The current release is based on Ubuntu 10.04 and Pinguy has says he plans to release a new version with each new Ubuntu release.


Best Full Featured CD - Linux Mint:

Linux Mint is one of the older Ubuntu spins and it is still one of the best. It is where the fantastic menu and update manager Pinguy OS also uses were developed and it set the standard many derivatives have followed of including codecs, flash, and java in their releases (although the latter of these three is not include on the CD version of Mint). Where is Ubuntu has begun changing their default application set, Mint sticks to its roots - still including the Gimp and Pidgin instead of Empathy. The latest release of Mint is version 9 and it is based on Ubuntu 10.04 - Mint follows a release cycle the is typically a month or so behind Ubuntu releases.


Best Windows-Like - Zorin:
Zorin is designed with the intention of making a recent Windows convert feel at home. The default skinning and applets look decently close to Windows 7 and this can easily be changed to look like Windows Xp. Zorin includes flash and media codecs by default and the most recent version is based on 10.04


Best Lightweight - Lubuntu:
Lubuntu leaves a memory footprint right around 100megs on a fully booted system. It uses LXDE and is designed to be quick. The latest release of Lubuntu is based on 10.04 and Lubuntu follows a very close release cycle to Ubuntu. Before anyone leaves a "what about Crunchbag" comment - sorry, I prefer Lubuntu.


Best Netbook Remix - Jolicloud:
Jolicloud is designed to work with as many different netbooks as possible. In fact it is one of the only distros to support the GMA500 out of the box. It is based on 9.04 - but don't worry about this older version number, Jolicloud has some of it's own repositories to provide more up to date packages to it's users.


Best KDE - Netrunner
:
I really like a lot of the features KDE has to offer - however many of the applications most KDE distros ship do not feel as "complete" as their Gnome counter parts. So while Netrunner uses KDE it still uses nautilus as it's file manager, Firefox for it's webrowser, and VLC for it's media player. It also includes media codecs, java, and flash. One thing I dislike about Net runner though is that it uses Knetwork manager - which I feel is horrid compared to nm-applet. The latest release of Netrunner is based on 10.04


Best E17 - Moon OS:
Moon OS is an E17 distro that is based on 9.04 It looks elegant, is fast, and is decently stable. The only real draw back to it is the fact that being based off of 9.04 is contains mostly older packages.

If you want an update to date version of Ubuntu with E17 you might want to try compiling from SVN or Bodhi Linux.

These are what I feel are seven of the best Ubuntu derivatives and the area in which I feel they shine. Is there another type of Ubuntu spin you think I missed on my list? Or maybe you feel one of my picks should have been something else - if so let me know by dropping a comment below.

~Jeff Hoogland

41 comments:

  1. I wish e17 had an up to date project behind it...

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  2. You can't get much more up to date than an SVN compile...

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  3. And Elive is based off of Debian stable... Which is older than 9.04

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  4. Hi Jeff, I've read your review on PinguyOS the other day and then I tried it myself on a portable HD. It's awesome :) it's by far the most polished Gnome implementation I've seen to date. Thanks for reviewing it ;)

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  5. Hey how about LUPU, which is puppy linux based on Lucid, A derivative that doesn't just borrow stuff, but but contributes enough to make it completely different

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  6. Never heard of that one saiftynet. I will have to give it a download and try it out this week :)

    Thanks!

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  7. VLC is actually a Qt app, not GTK

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  8. Never said VLC was a GTK app... (As a heads up Firefox is not GTK either) It is just most KDE distros/spins do not use VLC or Firefox as their defaults - typically it is Gnome distros that do this, which is what I said.

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  9. A second vote for Puppy Linux. It is very good, very small and very fast. Unfortunately, It does a lousy job getting wifi to work. Other distro's do wifi much better, eg, Ubuntu. Yesterday, I installed Zorin 3 and my Netgear WN111 worked after two clicks ...still can't get it working with Puppy.

    Thanks for the Zorin review.

    Hakkwei

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  10. #!crunchbang is no longer ubuntu based. The new version, Satler is Debian Testing based.
    Also, elive i believe since the last stable version is also Debian testing based.

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  11. Puppy linux wifi ?

    Make a (bash-)file with

    iwconfig eth1 essid "wap-name"
    cpcd -t 30 -d eth1

    and let it start at boot or make a desktop link

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  12. I don't think you can say Zorin is a derivate, it basically skins Ubuntu to look like Windows, Xp, Vista or Windows 7 or a Mac OS. how does this teach people to use open source. The only message it sends is we need things to look like other OS in order to be productive.

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  13. People are afraid of change - so too much at once is a bad thing. Something like Zorin can help someone "ease into" the transition from using Windows to using Linux.

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  14. Over the last two years I tested over 180 Linux distros (not all with success), and my two favorites are Mint and Ubuntu. They are really easy to use. I prefer Mint because it works perfectly with remastersys. So for me Mint 9 LTS is my OS for the next 3 years.

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  15. OMG!! My desk looks like I read your article a week ago. I run a dual-boot system with Win7 & Mint9. The cd's/dvd's on my desk to try include pinguyOS, moonOS, netrunner, zorinOS, and Ultimate Edition. I much prefer ubuntu and it's derivatives to fedora, openSUSE, debian or mandriva. The only non-ubuntu linux distros I've ever had any real luck with are Puppy and pclinuxOS. I believe that even Windows lovers should get to know linux and dual-boot because windows CRASHES!! Then you boot into the linux and save your data, go online, and/or finish up that important project BEFORE spending precious hours getting windows back up running.

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  16. Puppy wifi?

    Thanks for the suggestion -- however, you prove my point. If someone has to create a bash file, then Puppy has problems with wifi. I had to write a script file to get Puppy to work with ZD1211 chip. Why? Why doesn't the Puppy crew take some different gpl code for wifi??? Remember: two mouse clicks and Ubuntu connects with ZD1211, RT2870, or AR9170.

    The Puppy Wifi Wizard is awful.

    Hakkwei

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  17. I just started using PinguyOS and it's the best distro I've tried yet. Thanks!

    @Scott.. If you don't mind an RPM-based distro, PCLinuxOS has a current Enlightenment spin. http://www.pclinuxos.com/?page_id=215

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  18. Zorin Rocks!! Its interface is by far the easiest transition from Win. Most distros have a 30 to 75% learning curve if you're coming from Win. Zorin has about a 3-5% learning curve...Mint is my second favorite choice. Suse has some advantages, but is not nearly as easy. Solaris for rock solid stability, but you'd better be willing to learn command line!

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  19. Lubuntu is still beta and buggy with little customization options. Xubuntu is a better stable balance. Zenwalk, Debian XFCE and Mint XFCE are pretty cool too.

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  20. LXDE is much lighter weight than XFCE. Plus I used Lubuntu for awhile, never had any issues with it...

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  21. After reading the article and all the comments, I am disappointed that only one reference to the Ultimate Edition by "Thee Mahn" was made. True it is not a OS in it self, but your article is referring to spins.
    In my opinion, you will be had pressed in finding a more complete variation off Ubuntu. Ultimate Edition 2.7 is based off of Ubuntu 10..04 LTS. The artwork and detail are in my opinion, second to NONE!
    I have tried most OS, but keep running Ultimate Edition because it is so complete. It comes as ISO/DVD download and has more standard apps installed than most will ever need. It's all there and it works! For What it's Worth!

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  22. Kudos for the Asus T101MT suggestions. I'd expect most to work with Mint 9 + plasma netbook shell. I wonder if a suitable Puplet can do better for less battery strain and disk space, though. I love Elive, LM64KDE ,not so much Kubuntu Netbook, but Plasma Netbook shell gives a kinda Enlightenment feel. The Asus will be my 1st netbook and I wanna take it bike-packing in Hawaii using solar charging somehow... Any thoughts on battery saving / feature-rich OS tips? Is 64 bit a no-no for netbooks? I'll try EEEbuntu / Pupeee maybe but I'm no wiz on CLI.

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  23. One more you might have included is Puppy as its now compiled from ubuntu sources. Its developer claims that doesnt make it an ubuntu derivitive but they call it Lucid Puppy. also there is a good Enlightenment version called MacPup that is very well done.

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  24. Just installed Bodhi on my pasela eeePC 2G Surf. Works! Posting with Firefox 4 beta.

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  25. The best lightweight Ubuntu based distro I've used is Peppermint Ice which is based on Lubuntu (which I've also tried and liked) but a little more cloud based and works fantastically. I'm looking forward to trying Bodhi once it hits the stable phase.

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  26. I agree with mtnbiker72. Peppermint Ice is the best, fastest, and lightest, for my taste. It just works.

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  27. thanks for the review, will have to try pinguy...

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  28. Lubuntu was OK for me until I tried to get my mic to work properly in skype. Then chaos began: ran alsaconf and alsamixer. Even though alsamixer got my mic and mic boost up to what looked like acceptable levels, there was no change in skype. So there is another app hiding in LXDE-land controlling the mic and mic boost. Unfortunately can't find it and so ultimately (when I have the time) I will be dumping lubuntu for something light-weight that I can configure and make work - with a proper forum and docs.

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  29. I tried Pinguy, and I love it, now is my distro of choice.

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  30. I realise this article is almost a year old, but i still have to give you a sarcastic, yet heartfelt, "THANKS ALOT!"
    I am by no means a linux guru, or even amateur. But i have enjoyed playing with distros since i first got into computers. I wont say what version of Mandrake was my first, but Redhat was still free then.
    So i have tried several distros/spins/forks over the years. When i first installed Ubuntu, i knew they would do well. Think that was a version 2, or something like that.(?)
    After seeing distro watch grow to "google-sized" search results i quit trying.
    But now i come across your old article, and find not one or two, but 7 new variations to try.
    In fact i have 7 tabs calling my name right now!!

    Good article...thanks

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  31. Hi, Jeff, Some good choices, I've tried most of those except Netrunner. If you want to try something wild try Macpup, e17+Puppy. It will run in RAM. If you set up persistence you can download more themes and the special effects modules from their repository. Now, if they'd only get rid of Rox as default file manager! All in all it's fun to mess around with. I think eLive is a dead issue. Everyone bitching in the forum about the $15.00 installer module and it not working, etc. I think the 2 most stable e17 are your Bohdi and PCLinuxOS versions. Personally, I'm starting to like the lighter weight versions like Xfce and LXDE. I think Gnome 3 is a dead issue on desktops as is Unity. Well, off to check Netrunner!

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  32. How about AriOS?
    http://arioslinux.org

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  33. or aros :)
    The AROS Research Operating System is a lightweight, efficient and flexible desktop operating system, designed to help you make the most of your computer.
    http://aros.sourceforge.net/

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  34. Transform HumanityMarch 22, 2012 at 10:56 PM

    Modesty may demand that you keep Bodhi Linux out of the list but let me add it for you! Others to decide the ranking.

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    1. This list was actually published several months before Bodhi was started. I'll have to post a more current list later this month methinks...

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  35. Now I know why I will not use Nettrunner... That is what they mean by Gnome integration. Nautilus vs. Konqueror or even Dolphin? You've gotta be kidding me...

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