Distro-hopping; the Linux geek's time and sex-life killer. If your reason for switching distros is to have to enter more commands than necessary in order to look l33t, you are strongly misguided. I want to be able to help you find a Linux distro that you can grow with and master as a tool for productivity.

You're probably reading this article because you want definitive answers to questions such as "which distro is best" and "which distros are stupid" to not make your life harder than you need it to be. The vast majority of distro lists give a general "just choose the one you like", but how can you do that if you don't know anything about what other distros can do for you?

Honestly, a lot of Linux distros are really fucking stupid and useless, but alas, there are hundreds. In fact, one of the reasons why Linux has not been adopted outside the tech community is because having a hundred different choices doesn't help sell a product. I'm going to help narrow down your choices and find something for you that stands out to you.

I'm going to compare and comment on bunch of Linux distros based on what makes them special in an attempt to find the best for your situation. I'm not going to compare similar software between distros since any beginner while have no idea what I'm talking about. I know what I'm calling Linux is actually GNU/Linux but I'm not an incel. Just because /b/ has a fetish for complicated Linux setups doesn't mean they speak the truth for most people. Let's get on with it.

For General Use

Linux Mint

Linux Mint is arguably the most beginner-friendly distro and is based on Ubuntu. Linux Mint has a similar aesthetic to Windows 10 and is completely usable as a point-and-click kind of operating system rather than using the all-powerful and holy terminal. Linux Mint is more geared towards people who aren't developers nor power-users (doesn't mean a power-user can't use it) to provide a simple Linux experience.

Linux Mint uses the Cinnamon Desktop Environment

I've seen a surprising amount of libraries and computer clubs for children using Linux Mint because of how simple it is and how familiar it looks. Some people don't like Mint because it's "too simple" and I agree that it's probably not the best choice for a hardcore developer in my opinion. This does not discount its value and it's still a great choice for the not-so-technically inclined.

Ubuntu

Ubuntu is usually the distro you start with, since it is frequently recommended to beginners (including myself). Ubuntu works out of the box and comes with software to give a more "graphical" Linux experience with some very nice aesthetics. If you want to install some packages, you could always head to the Ubuntu Software Centre rather than using the command line. This operating system is good for beginners and some power-users alike. If all you need to do on your computer is browse the internet, some light gaming and maybe some programming, Ubuntu is probably the best choice for you.

Ubuntu Default Installation

One of the biggest complains about Ubuntu have to do with their parent company, Canonical, and their business decisions. Canonical has tried monetizing parts of their operating system such as sending usage and filesystem data to companies for the sake of advertising. Ubuntu is also not a "pure" open-source distro. Some of the software that comes with Ubuntu is proprietary, which would send Richard Stallman into a tizzy. If this isn't a problem to you, then it isn't a problem; welcome to your new home!

Debian

Debian is one of, if not the most well-rounded Linux distro. Debian can be used as a great desktop OS or a great server OS. Though not as stripped down as Arch or Gentoo, Debian more minimalistic than Ubuntu and thus provides a great base for customization. If you're a regular user of Ubuntu, you might be surprised to see some tools such as sudo missing after installing the operating system. Ubuntu is based on Debian and serves the purpose of making Debian easier to use, thus many things you know and love on Ubuntu have not been installed yet on Debian.

GNOME Desktop for Debian

If you're a programmer and you only want to install the things you need, Debian is a great choice. I've used Debian for a few years and have no problems with it. In the distant past, Debian was very hard to install and that's why Ubuntu was created. However nowadays, anything based on Debian and Debian itself can be installed in about 15 minutes or less with no command line skills needed. Switching from Ubuntu or even Mint to Debian is mostly painless since most commands are the safe, it's just the pre-installed software that differs.

Fedora

Fedora is the Linux distro targeted towards developers in particular. Fedora is a industrial-grade and purely open-source operating system. Even our beloved Linus Torvalds uses Fedora for developing the Linux kernel to this day and claims that it was the simplest to set up for him and his family.

Fedora also uses GNOME as default

Fedora is very similar to Debian in aesthetic (by default) but differs in some services and its package managers. Anything based on Redhat such as Fedora and CentOS is absolutely rock-solid in regards to code-quality, security, scalability and will run forever without hiccups. It's not uncommon to see Fedora or CentOS installs that have been running without reboot for more than a year.

I've used CentOS as my server for a couple years and have never had a problem. Redhat distros including Red Hat Enterprise Linux—the subscription based distro—are targeted towards enterprise use and is built to maximize security and don't need to be constantly updated because of its annual to semi-annual release cycle.

For Hobbyists

Arch Linux

Arch Linux, in my eyes, is the middle ground between Debian and Gentoo. Arch Linux is a minimalist, bleeding-edge, rolling-release, community-driven operating system with an emphasis on customizability. Arch Linux does not work out of the box and requires manual installation. Arch always keeps you updated with the very latest of your installed software. If someone just made a git commit 20 seconds ago, you'll get it.

Unfortunately, Arch is more complicated than the more general-use distros this is where distros start to become more and more impractical for your job and everyday life, though I find that I don't have to mess about with too much in order to get work done in Arch.

Linux "ricing" is also a big deal in the Arch community. Many Arch beards use the i3 window manager, a tiling window manager, which is similar to what you'll see the Hollywood hackers using. Using this window manager allows some pretty cool looking styled window tiling, which is why they use it. If someone uses i3, its more than likely they use Arch and vice versa. This bit of information might seem off-topic and useless but is very relevant to the culture you're be initiated into. The Arch community is all about maximizing aesthetics and actually fight over what look is best.

Rice example

The Arch community is less willing to help you solve problems because they expect you to do it yourself. If you aren't ready to be reading the manual and learning to fix problems yourself, Arch is not for you. Arch is a nice hobby though and will teach you a lot about your system by customizing it.


Gentoo

Gentoo is for people who have a lot of free time. With Gentoo, everything down to the kernel itself is customizable and compiles from scratch in order to tailor all your installed software to your computer. Though Gentoo sounds great, it is a pain in the ass to install and maintain. My experience with Gentoo showed me that it was too complicated to get my work done with it. I find Gentoo unpractical at best. You absolutely can customize and tailor everything to your heart's desire, but you shouldn't have to do the amount of work necessary to get Gentoo working.

Gentoo users often put a lot more effort into customization

For Specialists

QubesOS

Is security your top priority? Are you trying to evade surveillance? Is your name Edward Snowden? Then boy oh boy, do I have the OS for you. QubesOS can be thought of as what you'd get if VirtualBox was an operating system. QubesOS offers security through virtualization and isolation; you can create temporary or permanent containers for certain activities such as banking, browsing the internet,...porn...

Customization helps

Edward Snowden has endorsed QubesOS and claims to use it himself. QubesOS might be impractical for you if your life does not depend on computer security. Though a great idea and operating system, I would recommend hardening your Debian install or something a little more practical.

Kali Linux

Kali Linux is the most popular operating system for cyber security professionals and script kiddies. Kali Linux provides the user with hundreds of pre-installed tools with settings and services optimized for hacking. Some of my previous articles on hacking express where I stand on the whole "penetration tester OS" thing, I'm not a huge fan. I feel that these type of operating systems are bloated and not a good choice as a native OS. Many of the tools do the same thing and you'll probably only use 1 or 2 of a certain type of tool anyways.

As seen on Mr. Robot

Kali Linux was heavily featured in the TV tech-thriller Mr. Robot which reflects how much of an influence this operating system has on the mainstream. If you're following a book on penetration testing, then you'll probably be using Kali. It's unlikely you'll want to use Kali outside of a virtual machine but some actually do.

ParrotOS

ParrotOS, much like Kali Linux, is a Debian-based Linux distro targeted towards cyber security professionals. The only major differences between Parrot and Kali are some of the tools that are installed and the look and feel (different default desktop environments and themes). If looks matter to you, Parrot is the way to go. Personally, I like the MATE desktop environment theming and shell styling this OS comes with.

Stop Distro-Hopping!

How complicated your distro is to set up and manage does not reflect how skilled of a user you are. In fact, taking pride in having to rebuild your system every month makes you look like you have a double-digit IQ. If you ever have people trying to shame you for using Ubuntu or Fedora—which actually help you get work done—and claim superiority because they use Arch or Gentoo, don't listen them; they're full of shit. Linux is not about being complicated or technical, it's about being free OS to help make your life easier.

Try a few of these out and please find a home in one of them. Take the time to get to know and master your distro of choice. The more your know about your distro, the less impulsive you'll be about switching to something else. Distro hopping up the complications ladder doesn't help anyone's productivity in general and if you find a distro that sticks to you, you'll actually get work done for once.

I wish you safe travels and happy hacking!