A couple of weeks before Christmas I had a fall at home which caused me a back injury and pain. My back has been a tricky bugger for years, and it took full advantage of the situation and I’ve spent a lot of time laying flat and taking the weight off to stop it screaming at me.
Apart from catching up on my unread Audiobooks I have been using my small, light, Thinkpad X240 (easiest to use while laying down) to do a little personal distro comparison of my favourite distros. It’s not a very detailed comparison, or very scientific/techie. I simply had the 6 distros installed in parallel on the 1TB SSD in this machine.
GParted layout of the SSD
As you can see the distro are MX-19, Manjaro, Endeavour, Debian (Bullseye - the Testing branch), ArcoLinux and Sparky 6 (based on the Debian Testing branch).
Now, I have them all using Xfce, and they all have the same panel layout (more or less barring the odd minor thing). The idea is, do I notice a difference in use between them doing whatever I normally do on a daily basis.
I’ve been booting into them and using a different distro every session and apart from the differences between the update/package management between them (I actually have shell scripts to run updates whenever I log in anyway that runs either apt or pacman depending on the distro) I don’t actually notice any difference “doing stuff” between any of them. Yes, program versions vary, with MX-19 based on Debian Buster tending to be a tad more behind the bleeding edge, Debian Bullseye ans Sparky a little less behind, Manjaro closer (within spitting distance) and ArcoLinux an Endeavour being as close to on the edge as Arch gets.
For me, and the kit I use, any of them work as well as the others. My favourite and default boot option remains MX Linix, the MX Tools are a bonus, and my nostalgia for Simply Mepis from years ago all contribute to that. It installs easy, works well, has a great community and support - what’s not to like?
I have used Debian based distros most since 2003 when the last vestige of Windows was swept from my personal computers. Debian itself was a little less simple to get onto the hardware and get everything working (the old installer was not the easiest). The non-free stuff was a pain. However with Buster things are easy, I used the “unofficial” non-free and firmware .iso files and then the instrctions here to update to Bullseye… simples.
SparkyLinux has 2 branches, 5 and 6, with 5 being based on Debian Buster (stable) and 6 on Debian Testing (Bullseye) as their (semi-)rolling release. I went with their semi-rolling 6 option, it works well, tracks Debian Bullseye well and generally is a great distro. It has a few extras like MX, not quite as many and not quite as polished overall I feel as MX.
If I had to choose between Debian Bullseye or Sparky 6, I think I would go with Debian, now if only MX did a Bullseye tracking variant, but I would still choose the current MX-19 over Debian Bullseye.
On the Arch based front, hmmmm, no problems with usage, (Endeavour OS “Kalu” tool niggled so I removed it when it stopped working and installed “pamac”, don’t know if they ever fixed the problem, can’t be bothered to check).
I like ArcoLinux a lot, it is my 1st pick from this bunch, but probably because it was the 1st Arch based distro I really tried so I’ve used it longer. Endeavour OS REALLY surprised me when it came out as to just how good it, as a new distro, was. Probably, if I’m honest it is probably hair-splitting to say either Arco or Endeavour is better than the other. Both are excellent, no harder to update than Deb based distros (although pacman syntax is weird. I could be perfect happy using either (and I do use both).
Manjaro, why don’t I like you as much as Arco or Endeavour? Possibly because you are green… Otherwise you are also excellent, a little slower to roll but not enough to cause any but the most ardent “bleeding edgers” to die of frustration. It is also one of the prettiest, most polished and consistently themed Linux distros across all the desktops they offer (they are also all green).
Of the Arch based distros I would pick either Arco or Endeavour (toss a coin) for a dedicated home setup, but for a business setting I’d probably go Manjaro (despite the green) for that slightly more conservative rolling and the more “corporate” theming.
I’m going to be keeping all 6 distros on this machine for the foreseeable future and continue to swap between them randomly. My back is improving, I can now sit for 4 - 5 hours before my back starts twinging, 6 hours before it’s screaming so I’ll be using other machines during those periods, but the X240 is a handy size and weight when being lazy laying in bed, and will continue in that roll.