Starting with Linux desktop, any recommendations?

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Door ren

Paragon (1795)

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18-09-2015, 12:30

Hey, I know/reckon some fellow MSXers run Linux. I want to make the transition from Win7 to Linux, or dualboot, and have already used / played a bit with Linux in VirtualBox (CentOS & Debian), although mainly for development purposes (server/Bash only, no desktop).

What I want to do with it (next to daily use):

* (web-)development;
* gaming (I reckon Steam, but also running emu's & some things through Wine);
* run Wine to be able to run some Win-only apps;
* ...

btw: ATM I'm using an (couple of years old) ATI card (HD 4xxxx series), which I probably want to upgrade to an up-to-date Nvidia card in the future somewhere.

What I'm looking for:

* stable/robust system, but also (be able to use) (fairly) recent packages;
(though I'm not too shy to build something myself, it CAN be tedious work..) (I reckon building/compiling openMSX should be doable.. ? Wink)
* it should also be security & privacy focused. I anticipate to harden security by using something like SELinux or AppArmor (the former is the most difficult to set up in that regard I believe - I do *not* want to make my life impossible however.. Smile);

Some possibilities I currently consider (with some observations I made (plz correct me if I'm wrong about something)):

1. Debian
* Tried & Proven, base of many other distro's (eg. Ubuntu)
- choosing the stable release does mean settling with outdated packages (by default)
+ Recent packages can be obtained through backports though
* otherwise possibility to run 'testing' branch instead of stable
* Has the largest base of packages I reckon

2. Antergos
* == Arch with installer
* uses Arch's repo's
* rolling release
* very recent packages
* (apparently) makes Arch less hard/tricky to use, and in reach of more novice users

3. Fedora Workstation
* geared towards developers
* is up to date (Red Hat testing bed?)
* (new) features above rock stability (so I heard/read)
* it's cool it currently uses Wayland already instead of X as default?
- heard some bad things about it (people experiencing severe issues) (but that's a while ago already..)

I know Ubuntu is a popular option, but I'm trying to avoid it because it seems quite 'branded' by Canonical, and heard some less positive things about it in regard of the distro doing things it's own way (thus making harder to tweak / perform custom commands/tasks / install custom packages?) Other distro's seem more 'free' / neutral is this regard, am I right?

I also tried openSUSE for a brief moment, but the distro felt a bit on the heavy side to me when I tried it in VirtualBox.

So I wonder what other people (openMSX peeps perhaps? Wink) are running/using and would recommend?
One of my biggest doubts is: rolling release, or a periodic/fixed release based distro?
Someone experienced with setting up & successfully applying Acces Control (SELinux, AppArmor or similar)?

Your input will be appreciated! Smile

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Van snout

Ascended (15184)

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18-09-2015, 15:47

Which distro to use is, at the end of the day, largely a matter of personal preference. All distros you mention have a good reputation and should be perfectly capable of fulfilling your needs.

One distro you might want to consider as well in the Ubuntu based Linux Mint or its semi-rolling Debian-based flavor LMDE. This is the first distro that won me over to Camp Linux quite some years ago. The Cinnamon desktop has a great focus on usability and should be familiar enough to Windows users. KDE and XFCE spins are available as well.


As for Debian, there is a huge community of Debian users, most (web)based development tutorials focus on Debian or its derivatives and just about any self-respecting Linux developers releases his software in .deb format. Furthermore, afaik all/most openMSX use this distro which might be a bit of a plus. So, yes, there is a lot to say for Debian.

On the other hand, you might dislike (or like?) the very strict interpretation of free software that Debian applies and the annoyances that sometimes imposes on the average end-user. Furthermore, the organizational structure of Debian is sometimes... interesting. Just google on why Debian uses libav instead of ffmpeg, or how the decision was made to move from sysvinit tot systemd and you'll see what I mean.

Things that annoy me personally about Debian? Well, I'm not fond that apt starts and stops services while updating packages. Or that configuration settings can differ from defaults chosen by the original developers of packages. When using backports and custom repositories (such as Dotdeb), conflicting packages that block updates can be a real pain in the ass. I also don't really understand why Debian backports kernel security updates to their own Debian Linux kernel, while there already are official LTS Linux Kernels.


I've only booted this distro a couple of times and it seemed pretty okay, although it took some getting used to the package manager (DNF). Have not run it long enough to judge it properly though.

Arch Linux

I have not used Antergos, but instead have gone hardcore with Arch. It's the distribution I currently use and enjoy more than any distro I've used before. Its package manager is a godsent and being in control of package updates/rollbacks, configuration files and whatnot has never been this easy. The distro is extremely up-to-date, the AUR offers an immense selection of packages and is IMHO a much nicer approach than dozens of small PPA's/custom repositories and manually installed packages. What is more, Arch is extremely well documented. I actually started looking into Arch because every time I ran into an issue that I could not solve on Mint/Debian, 9 out of 10 times I'd end up on the Arch wiki or forums to find concise information and solutions.

Yes, the first installation of Arch is intimidating. But as it turns out - if your system configuration is not extremely exotic - it's actually quite basic if you follow the [url='_guide]beginners guide[/url]. Using arch has taught me very much about how Linux actually works and I'd recommend it to any developer to give a try at least once.

I also like the fact Arch is bleeding-edge. It allows me to get to know, develop and prepare for new releases of software (long) before they hit the Debian or CentOS repositories. I like almost not having to wait for the almighty distro/package managers to do their thing before I can use new features or technologies. On my personal desktop, I trust that if a developer releases a new version of their software as stable (often featuring important fixes) it doesn't need a second look by a distro package manager before I can use it. That said, you get the same benefit if you use e.g. Fedora as development environment and CentOS in production.

In case something breaks, previous versions of installed packages are cached locally on your system so a rollback is peanuts. After 2+ years of Arch I have only done a reinstall once (after f*ing up myself while experimenting with kexec) and everything has been stable as a rock.

Last but not least, if you're working with web development, on any distribution, have a look at Docker/Flocker. You'll thank me later Smile

Van Grauw

Ascended (9817)

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18-09-2015, 18:09

ren wrote:

I know Ubuntu is a popular option, but I'm trying to avoid it because it seems quite 'branded' by Canonical, and heard some less positive things about it in regard of the distro doing things it's own way (thus making harder to tweak / perform custom commands/tasks / install custom packages?) Other distro's seem more 'free' / neutral is this regard, am I right?

On the other hand, vendors of commercial multiplatform software, when they do support Linux, usually they target Ubuntu as their platform. E.g. Steam or Bitwig Studio. It can probably be made to work on other distros too, but you may have some extra hassle and it may not integrate as well.

Van Manuel

Ascended (17869)

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18-09-2015, 18:39

I've been using Debian testing since 2001 and I'm still very happy with it.

Gaming and Linux don't work well. If you're mostly into gaming, stay on Windows.

Van snout

Ascended (15184)

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18-09-2015, 19:18

What Grauw said is a very valid point - you are also very likely to get support only on Ubuntu, and perhaps on its derivatives. But if you want to run said software on a non-buntu distro, you're pretty much on your own. That said, I play the odd steam game every now and then and haven't run into any issues. They include a bunch of their own libraries based on Ubuntu 12.04 anyhow Wink.

Van Daemos

Paragon (1948)

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18-09-2015, 19:26


Gaming and Linux don't work well. If you're mostly into gaming, stay on Windows.

The most current versions of wine are running my games so well I never booted into windows ever again since 2009. Running games on linux just needs some patience and yes in some rare cases, games are programmed so non standard that wine will make the game run different if not.

However if you work within education and need to put grades in Evil Evil Evil magister Evil Evil Evil you will need silverlight which is the horror of every linux user that I know. It will be either booting into windows or use virtualbox/vmware or any other virtualization platform.

Van snout

Ascended (15184)

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18-09-2015, 19:45

That, and thanks to the efforts of Steam at least -some- games are making it to Linux these days. Often golden oldies, but one can actually play more than Tux Racer these days Smile

Van turbor

Champion (475)

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18-09-2015, 19:48

I consider Ubuntu as the 'slightly friendlier' version of Debian, but I'm also not a big fan of the unity desktop of a 'real' ubuntu (Spoiler: I use Kubuntu, the ubuntu with KDE desktop). The more relaxed stance on what is included by default and the ease of installing more proprietary drivers/software makes it slightly more friendly then a pure Debian. And, as is already noticed, most commercial software is packaged as deb file for Ubuntu. A lot of indie games are available this way.
The abundance of PPA's make a lot of non-standard-ubuntu software available and those will nicely integrated with the package management.

If you go for one of the bigger distributions, like any of the one mentioned in this thread so far, you should be safe. They all have an active community with their fora and wikis full of answers to most problems you might encounter.

As far as hardening is concerned: Most packages in the official repositories will most likely provide the needed apparmor and/or SElinux rules. I once needed to set up SELinux rules at work. It is a PITA to setup since you are able to control even the smallest part of kernel activity done for the program, so nailing everything down will most likely stop your program from working anyhow since you need to have in -depth knowledge of the program itself and all libraries used.
There is a reason why something (relatively) simple like AppArmor came into existence.

Van Grauw

Ascended (9817)

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18-09-2015, 19:55

Steam has 6447 games for Windows, 2320 for OS X and 1497 for Linux. It’s not bad.

Steam has been making a push for Linux for a while because they want to compete with consoles with their Linux-based SteamOS platform.

Van syn

Paragon (2042)

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18-09-2015, 19:57

I just switched to Ubuntu a few weeks ago as my main desktop OS. The reason I went with Ubuntu is that I assume its the most userfriendly one for total Linux newbies.

I still have to install some decent DAW though.

I haven't tested WINE yet, and I am keeping a windows 7 in dualboot for gaming/convenience with random software.

Still undecided what to use for music production (windows or linux), main issue would be windows VSTs (although I have read they work now under linux also with some workaround, but I have yet to check if the important once run perfect).

Anyway an old idea/ideal of mine may finally be realized: totally no-cost music making (free OS+free softwareTongue)

Van Grauw

Ascended (9817)

afbeelding van Grauw

18-09-2015, 19:56

Grauw wrote:

Steam has 6447 games for Windows, 2320 for OS X and 1497 for Linux. It’s not bad.

Generation-MSX has 3682 Smile.

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