People that know me well know that switching operating systems is something I enjoy the same way others like to take cruises. I love kicking the tires on a new operating system or desktop environment. Since starting Tuxrocket I’ve see-sawed back and forth between openSUSE and Ubuntu. My first (successful) use of Linux was with Red Hat about a dozen years ago. BeOS was a definite favorite and someday I hope Haiku will be stable (and have apps) for daily use.

Every operating system has good and bad, some having in general more bad than good- I try to avoid that. Despite liking to fiddle around, I do need to actually work on the computer, so I’m pretty careful.

So with that in mind, when I say I’m back to Ubuntu as of about two months ago, you’re probably not surprised. But this time it might stick.

Maybe I’m just getting older, or maybe I see the bar getting raised by available operating systems out there, but I’m unwilling to settle for a set of workarounds or a poorly thought out interface. At the same time, in terms of applications, more than any time in the past, your OS itself doesn’t have to do much- you’ve got the cloud to fill in any gaps.

78 of the 313 active Linux distributions on distrowatch.com right now are Ubuntu derivatives. That’s 25%! It’s hard to tell how much of the Linux user base that is, but Ubuntu has been considered the most popular Linux distribution for some time, with many of the runner-ups being based on Ubuntu. It’s certainly the easiest for which to find software. In some instances when you go to download the ‘Linux’ version, it’s a .deb package meant for Ubuntu. Yes it leaves some distros out in the cold. But for the most part, there’s nothing stopping those distros from packaging the software for their own platform.

So it’s easy to find software in packaged form, so what? Well, it’s one less thing I have to worry about. The same is true for other users that just want to use their system. As a minimum, a Linux software developer needs to provide a DEB package.

But add to that Canonical’s drive to make Ubuntu better. I don’t think they necessarily intended it, but some of the painful choices and stances they’ve taken also mean that they’ve differentiated themselves from other distros in significant ways. Aside from several lesser known desktop environments for Linux, you’ve basically got Gnome and KDE. They’re both great with tons of talented people behind them. Ubuntu wanted to do something different and made Unity. Everyone else jeered or got angry, but Ubuntu stuck to it. I love that.

Not just how Unity works or looks, but that Canonical is doing it. If I install Fedora with Gnome or openSUSE with Gnome, the differences in daily use will be fairly minor. Same thing goes if you install the KDE desktop on them. Yes, some things are tweaked differently, but Gnome and KDE both seem to be out to provide the entire desktop environment (meaning all needed apps) for their users. Which means that more and more, distros are coating their base system with one of those desktop environments and they’re done. I know I’m simplifying.

Ubuntu on the other hand is it’s own creature. Just like an app developer needs something to make his app special, Ubuntu has made choices that make it special. Yes you can put other desktop environments onto it, but by default you get a system and a desktop environment that was made to work together. I think there are a couple of distros you can say that about, but it’s rare. For the most part you have to qualify things. Fedora 15 with KDE or openSUSE 11 with Gnome 3. It’s such a mishmash. I’m using Ubuntu.