Open Source Weekly #11 - Flavors of Linux

Hello everyone 👋
This week we are going to talk about Linux and especially which flavor of Linux to choose. I know this is a rather controversial topic but as I’m often asked, I felt it was time to write it down.
Dear esteemed reader, please don’t feel offended if I don’t talk about your favorite one 🙏


Did you know

According to lwn.net there are between 500 and 600 different Linux distributions. As with everything: too much choice leads to decision paralysis.
Here are my favorite ones, after having tested or used the most popular of them.

Computers (desktop & laptop)
In my opinion the undisputed champion of Linux distros for desktop and laptop computers is Fedora (Workstation). It provides the best tradeoffs between user experience, speed, up-to-date packages, stability, hardware compatibility, excellent defaults and so on.
The software just doesn’t go on your way! Updates (even major ones) don’t break your system.
Packages in the repositories are (almost) up-to-date. Kernel vulnerabilities are quickly patched.
Also really I appreciate that the Fedora people are pushing the Linux ecosystem forward with projects like Flatpak, Silverblue, or Podman.

Phones and tablets
This is really a new field for Linux so there are no yet mature projects like on the desktop. Nonetheless my best bet is postmarketOS.

Servers
Debian. This is THE stable Linux distribution. Period.

Containers
Alpine is in my opinion the light distribution which perfectly fits the container use-case.
Be aware that if you use python or another dynamic runtime it may slow down your application due to the libc being MUSL rather than Glibc.

For your elders
Do you want to install Linux on the computer of your old dad or your grandma? Install Ubuntu. It’s a little bit stabler than Fedora so it will require less updates and it is the most well-known Linux distribution so there are tons of forum questions and answers for any time you will need help.


Projects

postmarketOS
Touch-optimized, pre-configured Alpine Linux that can be installed on smartphones

Kali Linux
Kali Linux is a Debian-derived Linux distribution designed for penetration testing and digital forensics.

Deepin (GPL 3.0)
Deepin is a Linux distribution based on Debian’s stable branch. It features DDE, the Deepin Desktop Environment, built on Qt.
It is often cherished by users due to its beautiful user interface. It is also the Windows replacement that comes with some Huawei laptops due to the trade war.

Open Snitch (GPL 3.0)
OpenSnitch is a GNU/Linux port of the Little Snitch application firewall.
Finally an usable Linux firewall!
It’s also a good example on how to code a modern Linux daemon with a GUI (Graphical User Interface).
(update: a more maintained fork is available here: gustavo-iniguez-goya/opensnitch)

Flathub
Flathub is a build and distribution service for Flatpak applications. Its goal is to act as a central hub for making desktop applications available to users.
Think of an app store for modern Linux applications which are using Flatpak.


Project of the community

cvdata (MIT)
Tools for creating and manipulating computer vision datasets: resize images, rename files, annotation format conversion, image format conversion, Split dataset into training, validation, and test subsets and much more.


Articles

My Business Card Runs Linux
The kind of hacking I can only dream of (having 0 knowledge in embedded development 😢).
The author’s business card is a micro computer running Linux with 32MB of RAM and 8MB of ROM.
It can even play the 2048 game!

postmarketOS: Aiming for a 10 year life-cycle for smartphones
Introduction post to postmarketOS, a touch-optimized, pre-configured Alpine Linux with own packages, that can be installed on smartphones.
Being Open Source allows people to port Linux to any kind of old hardware and thus reduce e-waste.
Imagine installing Linux on your old smartphone (rather than Android 3) and using it to host your personal website 😎

The Practical Linux Hardening Guide
Simply speaking, hardening is the process of making a system more secure. Out of the box, Linux servers don’t come “hardened” (e.g. with the attack surface minimized). It’s up to you to prepare for each eventuality and set up systems to notify you of any suspicious activity in the future.

Apple of 2019 is the Linux of 2000
I wholeheartedly agree. Having used both, a modern and expensive MacBook Pro provides a worse experience than an almost ten year mid-range laptop with the latest Fedora.

Why I switched from OS X to GNU/Linux
This blog post is especially interesting because the author made a table to match OSX software to Linux (Photoshop -> Gimp, Lightroom -> Darktable, Mail.app -> Thunderbird and so on).

Linux on an 8-bit micro
Another cool hack running Linux on a 8 bit microcontroller directly with a RAM strip and a breadboard.

Build yourself a Linux
A short tutorial about building Linux based operating systems.

Proton Has Brought About 6000 Games to Linux So Far
Really, there is no excuse to stay on Windows for gaming.

South Korean government to switch to Linux
The ministry’s digital service bureau chief Choi Jang-hyuk said the ministry expects cost reductions through the introduction of the open-source OS and also hopes to avoid building reliance on a single operating system.


Stay safe ✌️
Sylvain

I’ll write you once a week on open source, sustainability and avoiding complexity.
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