Key points for each major Linux distribution – Manjaro Linux User Guide

Key points for each major Linux distribution – Manjaro Linux User Guide

December 11, 2023

Key points for each major Linux distribution – Chapter 1.5

This is the sixth of the free articles directly taken from the Manjaro Linux User Guide book, available at The full list of freely available articles is here: Manjaro Linux User Guide – For newbies, fans, and mid users. More information at the end of the article.

Read time: 4 minutes. Previous article: 1.4 A Brief Linux History And What A Distribution Actually Is. Next article: 3.1 A Few Important Steps After Installation.

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Here is a list of the major Linux distributions (and when they were started): Slackware (July 1993), Debian (September 1993), Red Hat (1995), Gentoo (2002), Arch (2002), Fedora (based on Red Hat – 2003), and Ubuntu (based on Debian – 2004). Following are important points about each of them.

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  • This is the first Linux distribution.
  • Slackware’s initial goals were design stability, simplicity, and becoming the most “Unix-like” free OS.
  • The ability to customize is maximized, but no GUI-based or other tools are provided, so it is unsuitable for any regular user.
  • In the last 10 years, it has not received kernel updates more than once a year. This results in very slow updates in general but also provides stability.
  • It is considered a very hard distribution to learn.

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  • It is famous as one of the oldest distributions and for its stable branch. This means its SW has been thoroughly tested by thousands of people, normally for a year.
  • It has the biggest number of child distributions. Over 35% of the existing and discontinued Linux distributions are based directly or indirectly on it. This is also thanks to its “ultra”-stable branch.
  • One of the most extensive databases for SW packages can be found on Debian’s servers, where you can also find tools to create distributions. With the available SW and their “stable,” “testing,” and “unstable” branches, you can create whatever distribution you want.
  • Debian also has a great community bound by its values. We all owe them a great deal for this.

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Red Hat:

  • Red Hat was the first commercial and open source Linux distribution.
  • Red Hat discontinued its Linux line in 2003, replacing it with the proprietary Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) for enterprise environments.
  • Fedora Linux, developed by the community-supported Fedora Project and sponsored by Red Hat, is the free alternative designed for home users.

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  • It began as a Linux-based OS that can adapt and be customized to any HW, while most Linux distributions only target servers or desktop PCs. Nowadays, there are a lot more Linux distributions targeting multiple HW platforms.
  • It is extremely difficult for non-professionals to use, as it is intended to be custom-built by the users themselves.

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The Arch community clearly defines its values: simplicity, modernity, pragmatism, user-centrality, and versatility. This equates to the following characteristics:

  • The users can install and configure any extra features by themselves.
  • It is a playground to test all possible new features and provides one of the richest repositories, the Arch User Repository (AUR).
  • Its Rolling Release development model guarantees regular updates. Over the last decade, Arch has produced at least five releases annually.
  • The update is automated, smooth, and easy.
  • Arch provides maximum configuration with custom tweaks and setup.
  • A great deal of security features can be customized.
  • Many Arch users recommend this as the best distribution if you want to learn about Linux in depth and with the command line. However, this means that you will be mainly using the terminal.
  • Finally, this distribution is mainly for advanced users despite being excellent.

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Fedora (based on Red Hat):

  • It is sponsored primarily by Red Hat (now owned by IBM) and the upstream source for Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
  • It contains SW distributed under various FOSS licenses and aims to be at the forefront of open source technologies.
  • It focuses on innovation, integrates new technologies early, and collaborates with upstream Linux communities. The upstream collaboration means that updates and improvements are available to all possible distributions and users, just like Arch, Debian, Ubuntu, and so on. However, for this distribution, it is officially stated.
  • Since the release of Fedora 30 (in 2019), besides the Workstation (for PC) version, we now have editions for Server, IoT, CoreOS (for cloud computing), and Silverblue (for an immutable desktop specialized for container-based workflows).
  • A new version is released every six months, and for many years, it was famous as Linus Torvalds’ distribution of choice.
  • Additionally, it aims to build SW with advanced security and support several desktop graphical environments.

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A comparison between Fedora, Arch, and Manjaro:

  • Fedora has a different package manager.
  • It refuses to include non-free SW in official repositories due to its dedication to free SW (although through third parties, it can be installed). However, Arch and Manjaro are more lenient toward non-free SW, allowing users to choose.
  • Both Arch and Fedora are intended for experienced users and developers, and they strongly encourage their users to contribute to project development. Fedora is, by default, integrated with a graphical environment, so it has higher HW requirements. Manjaro has several official graphical environments and better GUI-based settings managers.
  • Fedora has a great community and is one of the most significant kernel contributors. At the same time, Arch provides much more flexibility and an improved online documentation base. Arch has one of the greatest SW repositories (AUR) available to anyone who needs it. Manjaro has its additional official SW repository, but it also includes AUR and again has a great online community.
  • Fedora is sometimes not recommended for an inexperienced user, as using all the newest experimental features can be unstable and may present some challenges.
  • To summarize, Manjaro is excellent for all regular users who want an Arch-based distribution with direct access to AUR, a larger amount of available SW, and the easiest start. Fedora is aimed more at system administrators, developers, and advanced Linux users.

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Ubuntu (Debian-based):

Canonical Ltd. developed Ubuntu, marketed initially as Linux for everyone. The South African entrepreneur and millionaire Mark Shuttleworth funded the project for the greater good of everyone. This was the most famous distribution from 2005 until 2010 (according to DistroWatch Thanks to Canonical’s marketing efforts and significant GUI SW contributions, regular users started to use Linux more and more. Then, its derivative Linux Mint gained popularity, and as it is practically a better Ubuntu, it was preferred by many users and was at the top of the DistroWatch rankings from 2010 until 2017.

Here are a few facts about Ubuntu:

  • Ubuntu is open source, based on the Debian stable, and Canonical generates profits through enterprise services.
  • It provides seven modifications for PCs, as well as for servers, cloud computing, and the so-called core (for IoT and robots).
  • As a “mainstream,” “common,” and “famous” OS, it supports a lot of HW by default and is pre-installed on many laptop models.
  • Canonical does as much as it can to make a great deal of SW available, but this results in an overloaded-with-SW OS, which needs more powerful HW than Arch or Manjaro. I used it for around two years (between 2008 and 2011), but eventually, the number of additional features and services became so unnecessary that I switched to the Ubuntu-based Linux Mint.
  • Canonical also developed the Ubuntu-touch variant for smartphones. As a result, a few more distributions copied their idea.
  • Due to its strict schedule – bleeding-edge SW is not an option.
  • Despite Mint being better, without Ubuntu, it would not exist.
  • The positive aspects are that it is stable and has thousands of SW modules and additional SW packages. It is well supported, with a large user database, so most problems can be solved easily.

Compared with Ubuntu, both Manjaro and Arch have lower HW requirements, better system flexibility, more recent stable SW, and better security and privacy.

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Next article: 3.1 A Few Important Steps After Installation.

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