Over the years I have used almost every significant Linux distribution available: either in work or at home.
- Yggdrasil Linux/GNU/Xl
- Caldera Linux
- Red Hat/Fedora and clones like CentOS
- SuSE and openSuSE
- Debian and Unbuntu and spinoffs like Linux Mint
- Arch Linux
Check out DistroWatch for information on many of these and lots more distributions. More than that, at times work has taken me onto just a few of the different flavours of Unix:
- SunOS, Solaris, OpenSolaris
- AIX and its friends
- BSD flavours
- Xenix and later Sco Unix
Eventually - possibly somewhere in the very late 90's or just into the new millennium - I was able to close down my last remaining Windows system and say goodbye to Microsoft products forever - at least as far as my own home systems were concerned. I certainly do not miss the regular 6-monthly system rebuilds or the frantic virus eradication sessions or the progressive performance degradation or the enforced hardware upgrades. Even now, after all these years, I am still impressed by the multi-year uptime stats reported by my Linux systems.
Up until recently, my distro of choice has been openSuSE. Mostly because of my preferred KDE desktop and the Yast administration tool; both made managing the platform very easy. Most of the time, the openSuSE team have created really good migration tools so that moving from one version to another has been relatively painless.
Migration policy has become more important too, not just with the SuSE team but others as well.
- the cost of maintaining version repositories has meant that most versions have a lifetime of 18 months or less before their repositories are closed
- the rate of change of application packages and even core packages such as language versions, window managers, support tools, etc means that a particular OS version rapidly becomes outdated either missing features or forcing an upgrade
I found myself being regularly thwarted by missing repositories and therefore unable to upgrade manually to new package versions since required support libraries were missing. As a result, forced to do without new, improved versions.
Then I discovered Arch Linux. I tested it out on my Asus netbook and liked it so much, it has spread now to all my home systems. The key differentiator compared to most, if not all, distributions is the lack of versions: there is only the current active one.
To be sure, it is not a distribution for everyone; it can be difficult to configure compared to the likes of SuSE and package updates can cause temporary breakages. Still, for me the cost of these inconveniences is far exceeded by the knowledge that my systems are generally as current as they can be and most of all I can exercise more control over what is installed compared to any other distro.
Unlike most other systems, I can also engage directly with the distribution; helping to evolve documentation and even contributing packages. Being able to give something back, however small, for the amazing software countless people continue to contribute to Linux is a pretty awesome experience.
Arch Linux rocks!