New users get swamped when attempting to select a Linux Distribution as there is a large number of Linux Distributions and Linux Desktop Environments and each distribution may be developed using a different version of a Linux Kernel. An outline of the distributions will be given in a section below. The detailed installation guides below focus on beginner friendly distros that use a modern Linux Kernel on a relatively modern computer (manufactured post 2015).
Linux Installation Guides
This guide will look at installation at the leading edge Linux Distributions on a Dell XPS 13 2 in 1 Touchscreen Convertible Device:
Minimum System Requirements
These guides cover installation of Linux on a Modern Computer that is subject to the following minimum requirements:
- Manufactured Date: Late 2015
- BIOS: UEFI BIOS with Secure Boot*
- Processor: Intel 6th Generation (i3, i5 or i7) Processor or AMD Ryzen Processor
- 8 GB RAM
- NVMe SSD or SATA SSD
- Touchscreen Convertible (Optional)
* The system requirements for a modern Linux distribution are much lower than those stated above however there was a recent discussion on depreciating the legacy BIOS. i.e. developers are less likely to be testing older systems and these may not run very well.
Linux distributions differ in the following areas:
- Linux Kernel
- Display Manager
- Package Manager(s)
- Desktop Environment
Use Distros only with a modern Linux Kernel (6.2 or later). Having an up to date Linux Kernel generally means improved driver support and improved reliability on a modern computer.
Linux has two display managers, the modern display manager Wayland and XOrg. For a modern computer defined above, use a distro that uses the Wayland display manager as it will work best with your graphics card. XOrg is no longer being actively developed and has many issues. It only works on legacy devices which use matching screen sizes with 100 DPI scaling.
Although Linux is Open Source, there are a handful of companies that drive its development with the following projects:
- RedHat Fedora
- Debian → Canonical Ubuntu
The company Canonical develop Ubuntu which is based on the open-source project Debian. An analogy is Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge which both base both of their products on the open source project Chromium. Unlike Google Chrome and Microsoft edge, Ubuntu remains open source so many other distributions are in turn Ubuntu-based.
The company RedHat develop Fedora from the grounds up.
The Desktop Environment is essentially the Operating System User Interface and is the main difference between Linux distributions. Canonical for example release "Ubuntu Flavours" which are variations of Ubuntu that use different desktop environments. The main desktop environments are:
Fedora uses an unmodified GNOME Desktop Environment and Ubuntu uses a modified GNOME Desktop Environment. The company System76 modifies the GNOME Desktop in Ubuntu further in their distribution called POP!_OS. System76 are an OEM and bundle Pop!_OS on their own hardware but also make their distribution available to others keeping it Open Source. The company Zorin Group modifies the GNOME Desktop in Ubuntu further to make it visually similar to Microsoft Windows. Both companies base their distros on Long Term Support (LTS) releases of Ubuntu. Unfortunately POP_OS! is behind a year using a legacy kernel and Zorin is behind 3 years using a legacy kernel and display manager.
KDE is a Desktop Environment made by KDE Webmasters. KDE Webmasters base KDE on a LTS release of Ubuntu and work on elements of the the Desktop Environment in their distribution KDE Neon. Canonical also have a flavour called Kubuntu. KDE Neon and Kubuntu are therefore very similar, KDE Neon has the latest changes in the Desktop environment while KDE Neon has the latest changes elsewhere in the Operating System.
GNOME3 was a massive change from GNOME2 and Linux Mint was a community fork that continued to work on GNOME2 to create the Desktop Environment MATE and the closely related Desktop Environment Cinnamon; the Cinnamon is generally the flagship desktop environment associated with Linux Mint. Recently the Linux Mint community have made some major changes away from Ubuntu defaults, particularly by sticking to the legacy display driver model XOrg and using an alternative package manager. Canonical already had the Ubuntu flavour called Ubuntu MATE but recently made the additional flavour Ubuntu Cinnamon, in response to the Linux Mints team drift away from its use of package manager. Hopefully this new flavour will also help develop the desktop environment for the newe display driver mdoel Wayland.
At current GNOME and GNOME modified desktop environments have the best support for a 2 in 1 touchscreen convertible device as GNOME includes an onscreen keyboard and supports device auto-rotation. It has still some limitations in these areas which will be addressed but it better than the other Desktop Environments which don't have these features.
In the past Linux was relatively difficult to install and software in Linux was in turn difficult to install. Software generally required installation of multiple dependencies and used the command line.
The Debian project uses Debian Packages, the company RedHat behind Fedora have their own package format Redhat Package Manager (RPM) and the company Canonical have their own package format Snap. There has also been a move towards an Open Source standard called Flatpak.
Ubuntu flavours which are Debian based use Debian Packages; Canonical have configured Ubuntu and Ubuntu flavours to favour Snap for software but still use Debian Packages behind the scenes for Operating System components.
Fedora uses the RPM and have recently adoped Flatpak integration; RedHat have configured the preference for RPMs and allow use of Flatpaks for wider software installation.
Linux Mint, although Ubuntu based and therefore Debian based made the decision to block Snap and adopted Flatpak; therefore preferences Flatpaks for software installation but also use Debian Packages behind the scenes for Operating System components.