Simplified Privacy

Distros Don’t Matter Much

Linux distributions don’t matter that much.  They should only be the focus of highly advanced users for the purpose of extreme security against very sophisticated and resourceful adversaries.  Among the distributions for beginners, there is not that much difference. You will get a lot out of subscribing for free to our new content by email, by Session messenger, or RSS feed.

Linux vs distributions

Linux is just a kernel, or core operating system, that allows software to interact with the hardware.  The Linux kernel by itself does not have software installations.  As Linux is open source and decentralized, different competing groups create their own software management tools called distributions.

The main purpose of a distribution is software management.  The distribution decides what the policies are for inclusion in their default repositories.  However, most distributions allow for software developers to host their own software outside the repo on their own website.  The end user can then download the software directly from the developer’s website by issuing commands from Linux’s command line.

Since developers and users can add their own software, which distribution the end user picks doesn’t matter that much.  A distribution really is just a collection of default software. 

Graphical Environments Swap

The different graphical environments, or how the operating system looks, can be swapped or changed.  The graphical environment is completely separate from the distribution package manager.  For example, Ubuntu comes with GNOME by default.  But Ubuntu can be changed to use KDE.

GNOME

Graphical environments are just the way the system looks, and choosing one is a far bigger decision to a beginner than which the distribution.  The distributions vary in which graphical environments they support, but many share the same common popular ones.  For example, Linux Mint created its own graphical environment called Cinnamon, but now some other distributions, such as Debian and Artix, allow Cinnamon to be used with it.

Now technically, some distributions allow compatibility with other “init” start-up systems (other than System D).  And Void Linux allows you to switch C libraries from Clibc to Musl, but this only matters for a really advanced user who is deeply focused on security against a highly trained adversary.  As a beginner, you should just use System D based distributions with Clibc, such as Linux Mint, Fedora, and Ubuntu.

Conclusion

As a Linux novice, your main focus should be on finding open source software alternatives to the proprietary software you were used to using on Windows and Mac devices.  The focus should not be on the minor differences in distributions default software packages or on highly technical security flaws in display managers (X.org), C-libraries (Clibc), or start-up systems (System D).

It’s true that X.org, Clibc, and System D are more prone to attacks from highly sophisticated hackers.  By using more obscure setups with a more narrow code base, they offer better security.  However these setups significantly narrow the scope of software that is compatible.  This is a huge problem for the new Linux user that is trying to find free and open source alternatives to the spyware they were using under Windows or Mac.  Using well-reviewed open source software for privacy is far more important than using advanced setups without Clibc or X.org for security.

Therefore, our main advice to the novice user is “distributions don’t matter that much.”  But if someone has a significant threat model against these “extreme advanced adversary” security flaws, we recommend Artix with (KDE or GNOME desktop for Wayland) or Void with Musl. You would benefit a lot out of subscribing for free to our new content by email, by Session messenger, or RSS feed.

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