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Listing every system I used

Written by Solène, on 02 July 2021.
Tags: #linux #unix #bsd

Comments on Fediverse/Mastodon

1. Introduction §

Nobody asked for it but I wanted to share the list of the system I used in my life (on a computer) and a few words about them. This is obviously not very accurate but I'm happy to write it somewhere.

You may wonder why I did some choices in the past, I was young and with little experience in many of these experiments, a nice looking distribution was very appealing to me.

One has to know (or remember) that 10 years ago, Linux distributions were very different from one to another and it became more and more standardized over time. At the point that I don't consider distro hoping (the fact to switch from a distribution to another regularly) something interesting because most distributions are derivative from a main one and most will all have a systemd and same defaults.

Disclaimer: my opinions about each systems are personal and driven by feeling and memories, it may be totally inaccurate (outdated or damaged memories) or even wrong (misunderstanding, bad luck). If I had issues with a system this doesn't mean it is BAD and that you shouldn't use it, I recommend to make your opinion about them.

2. The list (alphabetically) §

This includes Linux distributions but also BSD or Solaris derived system.

2.1. Alpine §

  • Duration: a few hours
  • Role: workstation
  • Opinion: interesting but lack of documentation
  • Date of use: June 2021

I wanted to use it on my workstation but the documentation for full disk encryption and the documentation in general was outdated and not accurate so I gave up.

However the extreme minimalism is interesting and without full disk encryption it worked fine. It was surprising to see how packages were split in such small parts, I understand why it's used to build containers.

I really want to like it, maybe in a few years it will be mature enough.

2.2. BackTrack §

  • Duration: occasionally
  • Role: playing with wifi devices
  • Opinion: useful
  • Date of use: occasionally between 2006 and 2012

Worked well with a wifi dongle supporting monitor mode.

2.3. CentOS §

  • Duration: not much
  • Role: local server
  • Opinion: old packages
  • Date of use: 2014

Nothing much to say, I had to use it temporarily to try a program we where delivering to a client using Red Hat.

2.4. Crux §

  • Duration: a few months maybe
  • Role: workstation
  • Opinion: it was blazing fast to install
  • Date of use: around 2009

I don't remember much about it to be honest.

2.5. Debian §

  • Duration: multiple years
  • Role: workstation (at least 1 year accumulated) and servers
  • Opinion: I don't like it
  • Date of use: from 2006 to now

It's not really possible to do Linux without having to deal with Debian some day. It's quite working when installed but I always had painful time with upgrades. As for using it as a workstation, it was at a time of gnome 2 and software were already often obsolete so I was using testing.

2.6. DragonflyBSD §

  • Duration: months
  • Role: server and workstation
  • Opinion: interesting
  • Date of use: ~2009-2011

The system worked quite well, I had hardware compatibility issues at that time but it worked well for my laptop. HAMMER was stable when I used it on my server and I really enjoyed working with this file system, the server was my NAS and Mumble server at that time and it never failed me. I really think this make a good alternative to ZFS.

2.7. Edubuntu §

  • Duration: months
  • Role: laptop
  • Opinion: shame
  • Date of use: 2006

I was trying to be a good student at that time and it seemed Edubuntu was interesting, I didn't understand it was just an Ubuntu with a few packages pre-installed. It was installed on my very first laptop (a very crappy one but eh I loved it.).

2.8. Elementary §

  • Duration: months
  • Role: laptop
  • Opinion: good
  • Date of use: 2019-now

I have an old multimedia laptop (the case is falling apart) that runs Elementary OS, mainly for their own desktop environment Pantheon that I really like. The distribution itself is solid and well done, it never failed me even after major upgrades. I could do everything using the GUI. I would recommend like it to a Linux beginner or someone enjoying GUI tools.

2.9. EndeavourOS §

  • Duration: months
  • Role: testing stuff
  • Opinion: good project
  • Date of use: 2021

I never been into Arch but I got my first contact with EndeavourOS, a distribution based on Arch Linux that proposes an installer with many options to install Arch Linux, and also a few helper tools to manage your system. This is clearly and Arch Linux and they don't hide it, they just facilitate the use and administration of the system. I'm totally capable of installing Arch but I have to admit if I can save a lot of time to install it in a full disk encryption setup using a GUI I'm all for it. As an Arch Linux noob, the little "welcome" GUI provided by EndeavourOS was very useful to learn how to use the packages manager and a few other things. I'd totally recommend it over Arch Linux because it doesn't denature Arch while still providing useful additions.

2.10. Fedora §

  • Duration: months
  • Role: workstation
  • Opinion: hazardous
  • Date of use: 2006 and around 2014

I started with Fedora Core 6 in 2006, at that time it was amazing, they had many new software and up to date, the alternative was Debian or Mandrake (with Ubuntu not being very popular yet), I used it a long time. I used it again later but I stumbled on many quality issues and I don't have good memories about it.

2.11. FreeBSD §

  • Duration: years
  • Role: workstation, server
  • Opinion: pretty good
  • Date of use: 2009 to 2020

This is the first BSD I tried, I heard a lot about it so I downloaded the 3 or 5 CDs of the release with my 16 kB/s DSL line, burned CDs and installed it on my computer, the installer was proposing to install packages at that time but it was doing it in a crazy way, you had to switch CD a lot between the sets because sometimes the package was on CD 2 then CD 3 and CD 1 and CD 3 and CD2.... For some reasons, I destroyed my system a few times by mixing ports and packages which ended in dooming the system. I learned a lot from my destroy and retry method.

For my first job (I occupied for 10 years) I switched all the Debian servers to FreeBSD servers and started playing with Jails to provide security for web server. FreeBSD never let me down on servers. The most pain I have with FreeBSD is freebsd-update updating RCS tags so I had to merge sometimes a hundred of files manually... At the point I preferred reinstalling my servers (with salt stack) than upgrading.

On my workstation it always worked well. I regret packages quality can be inconsistent sometimes but I'm also part of the problem because I don't think I ever reported such issues.

2.12. Frugalware §

  • Duration: weeks
  • Role: workstation
  • Opinion: I can't remember
  • Date of use: 2006?

I remember I've run a computer with that but that's all...

2.13. Gentoo §

  • Duration: months
  • Role: workstation
  • Opinion: i love it
  • Date of use: 2005, 2017, 2020 to now

My first encounter with Gentoo was at my early Linux discovery. I remember following the instructions and compiling X for like A DAY to get a weird result, the resolution was totally wrong and it was in grey scale so I gave up.

I tried it later in 2017 and I successfully installed it with full disk encryption and used it as my pro laptop, I don't remember I broke it once. The only issue was to wait the compilation time when I needed a program not installed.

I'm back on Gentoo regularly for one laptop that requires many tweaks to work correctly and I also use it as my main Linux at home.

2.14. gNewSense §

  • Duration: months
  • Role: workstation
  • Opinion: it worked
  • Date of use: 2006

It was my first encounter with a 100% free system, I remember it wasn't able to play MP3 files :) It was an Ubuntu derivative and the community was friendly. I see the project is abandoned now.

2.15. Guix §

  • Duration: months
  • Role: workstation
  • Opinion: interesting ideas but raw
  • Date of use: 2016 and 2021

I like Guix a lot, it has very good ideas and the consistent use of Scheme language to define the packages and write the tools is something I enjoy a lot. However I found the system doesn't feel very great for a desktop usage with GUI, it appears quite raw and required me many workaround to work correctly.

Note that Guix is a distribution but also the package manager that can be installed on any linux distribution in addition to the original package manager, in that case we refer to it as Foreign Guix.

2.16. Mandrake §

  • Duration: weeks?
  • Role: workstation
  • Opinion: one of my first
  • Date of use: 2004 or something

This was one of my first distribution and it came with a graphical installer! I remember packages had to be installed with the command "urpmi" but that's all. I think I didn't have access to the internet using my USB modem so I was limited to packages from the CDs I burned.

2.17. NetBSD §

  • Duration: years
  • Role: workstation and server
  • Opinion: good
  • Date of use: 2009 to 2015

I used NetBSD at first on a laptop (in 2009) but it was not very stable and programs were core dumping a lot, I found the software where not really up to date in pkgsrc too. However, I used it for years as my first email server and I never had a single issue.

I didn't try it seriously for a workstation recently but from what I've heard it became a good choice for a daily driver.

2.18. NixOS §

  • Duration: years
  • Role: workstation and server
  • Opinion: awesome but different
  • Date of use: 2016 to now

I use NixOS daily in my professional workstation since 2020, it never failed me even when I'm on the development channel. I already wrote about it, it's an amazing piece of work but is radically different from other Linux distributions or Unix-like systems.

I'm using it on my NAS and it's absolutely flawless since I installed it. But I am not sure how easy or hard it would be to run a full featured mail server on it (my best example for a complex setup).

2.19. NuTyX §

  • Duration: months
  • Role: workstation
  • Opinion: it worked
  • Date of use: 2010

I don't remember much about this distribution but I remember the awesome community and the creator of the distro which is a very helpful and committed person. This is a distribution made from scratch that is working very well and is still alive and dynamic, kudos to the team.

2.20. OpenBSD §

  • Duration: years
  • Role: workstation and server
  • Opinion: boring because it just works
  • Date of use: 2015 to now

I already wrote a few times why I like OpenBSD so I will make it short, it just works and it works fine. However the hardware compatibility can be limited, but when hardware is supported everything just work out of the box without any tweak.

I've been using it daily for years now and it started when my NetBSD mail server had to be replaced by a newer machine at online so I chose to try OpenBSD. I'm part of the team since 2018 and apart from occasional ports changes my big contribution was to setup the infrastructure to build binary packages for ports changes in the stable branch.

I wish performance were better though.

2.21. OpenIndiana §

  • Duration: weeks
  • Role: workstation
  • Opinion: sadness but hope?
  • Date of use: 2019

I was a huge fan of OpenSolaris but Oracle killed it. OpenIndiana is the resurrection of the open source Solaris but is now a bit abandoned from contributors and the community isn't as dynamic as previously. Hardware support is lagging however the system performs very well and all Solaris features are still there if you know what to do with it.

I really hope for this project to get back on track again and being as dynamic as it used to be!

2.22. OpenSolaris §

  • Duration: years
  • Role: workstation
  • Opinion: sadness
  • Date of use: 2009-2010

I loved OpenSolaris, it was such an amazing system, every new release had a ton of improvements (packages updates, features, hardware support) and I really thought it would compete Linux at this rate. It was possible to get free CD over snail mail and they looked amazing.

It was my main workstation on my big computer (I built it in 2007 and it had 2 xeon E5420 CPU and 32 GB of memory with 6x 500GB of SATA drives!!!), it was totally amazing to play with virtualization on it. The desktop was super fast and using Wine I was able to play Windows video games.

2.23. OpenSuse §

  • Duration: months
  • Role: pro workstation
  • Opinion: meh
  • Date of use: something like 2015

I don't have strong memories about OpenSuse, I think it worked well on my workstation at first but after some time I had some madness with the package manager that was doing weird things like removing half the packages to reinstall them... I never wanted to give another try after this few months experiment.

2.24. Paldo §

  • Duration: weeks? months?
  • Role: workstation
  • Opinion: the install was fast
  • Date of use: 2008?

I remember having played and contributed a bit to packages on IRC, all I remember is the kind community and that it was super fast to install. It's a distribution from scratch and it still alive and updated, bravo!

2.25. PC-BSD §

  • Duration: months
  • Role: workstation
  • Opinion: many attempts, too bad
  • Date of use: 2005-2017

PC-BSD (and more recently TrueOS) was the idea to provide FreeBSD to everyone. Each release was either good or bad, it was possible to use FreeBSD packages but also "pbi" packages that looked like Mac OS installers (a huge file that you had to double click on it to install). I definitely liked it because it was my first real success with FreeBSD but sometimes the tools proposed were half backed or badly documented. The project is dead now.

2.26. PCLinuxOS §

  • Duration: weeks?
  • Role: laptop
  • Opinion: it worked
  • Date of use: around 2008?

I remember installing it was working fine and I liked it.

2.27. Pop!_OS §

  • Duration: months
  • Role: gaming computer
  • Opinion: works!!
  • Date of use: 2020-2021

I use this distribution on my gaming computer and I have to admit it can easily replace Windows! :) Upgrades are painless and everything works out of the box (including the Nvidia driver).

2.28. Scientific Linux §

  • Duration: months
  • Role: workstation
  • Opinion: worked well
  • Date of use: ??

I remember I used scientific Linux as my main distribution at work for some time, it worked well and remembered me my old Fedora Core.

2.29. Skywave §

  • Duration: occasionally
  • Role: laptop for listening to radio waves
  • Opinion: a must
  • Date of use: 2018-now

This distribution is really focused into providing tools for using radio hardware, I bought a simple and cheap RTL-SDR usb device and I've been able to use it with pre-installed software. Really a plug and play experience. It works as a live CD so you don't even need to install it to benefit from its power.

2.30. Slackware §

  • Duration: years
  • Role: workstation and server
  • Opinion: Still Loving You....
  • Date of use: multiple times since 2002

It is very hard for me to explain how much and deep I love Slackware Linux. I just love it. In the date you can read I started with it in 2002, it's my very first encounter with Linux. A friend bought a Linux Magazine with Slackware CDs and explanations about the installation, it worked and many programs were available to play with! (I also erased Windows on the family computer because I had no idea what I was doing).

Since that time, I used Slackware multiples times and I think it's the system that survived the longest time every time it got installed, every new Slackware release was a day to celebrate for me.

I can't explain why I like it so much, I guess it's because you deeply know how your system work over time. Packages didn't manage dependencies at that time and it was a real pain to get new programs, it improved a lot now.

I really can't wait Slackware 15.0 to be out!

2.31. Solaris §

  • Duration: months
  • Role: workstation
  • Opinion: fine but not open source
  • Date of use: 2008

I remember the first time I heard that Solaris was a system I could install on my machine, I started to install it after downloading 2 parts of the ISO (which had to be joined using cat), I started to install it on my laptop and went to school with the laptop on battery continuing installing (it was very long) and ending the installation process in class (I was in a computer science university so it was fine :P ).

I discovered a whole new world with it, I even used it on a netbook to write some Java SCTP university project. It was the very introduction to ZFS, brand new FS with many features.

2.32. Solus §

  • Duration: days
  • Role: workstation
  • Opinion: good job team
  • Date of use: 2020

I didn't try much Solus because I'm quite busy nowadays, but it's a good distro as an alternative to major distributions, it's totally independent from other main projects and they even have their own package manager. My small experiment was good and it felt quality, it's a rolling release model but the packages are curated to check quality before being pushed to mass users.

I wish them a long and prosper life.

2.33. Ubuntu §

  • Duration: months
  • Role: workstation and server
  • Opinion: it works fine
  • Date of use: 2006 to 2014

I used Ubuntu on laptop a lot, and I recommended many people to use Ubuntu if they wanted to try Linux. Whatever we say, they helped to get Linux known and bring Linux to masses. Some choices like non-free integration are definitely not great though. I started with Dapper Drake (Ubuntu 6.06 !) on an old Pentium 1 server I had under my dresser in my student room.

I used it daily a few times but mainly at the time the default window manager was Unity. For some reasons, I loved Unity, it's really a pity the project is now abandoned and lost, it worked very well for me and looked nice.

I don't want to use it anymore as it became very complex internally, like trying to understand how domain names are resolved is quite complicated...

2.34. Void §

  • Duration: days?
  • Role: workstation
  • Opinion: interesting distribution, not enough time to try
  • Date of use: 2018

Void is an interesting distribution, I use it a little on a netbook with their musl libc edition and I've run into many issues at usage but also at install time. The glibc version was working a lot better but I can't remember why it didn't catch me more than this.

I wish I could have a lot of time to try it more seriously. I recommend everyone giving it a try.

2.35. Windows §

  • Duration: years
  • Role: gaming computer
  • Opinion: it works
  • Date of use: 1995 to now

My first encounter with a computer was with Windows 3.11 on a 486dx computer, I think I was 6. Since then I always had a Windows computer, at first because I didn't know there were alternatives and then because I always had it as a hard requirement for a hardware, a software or video games. Now, my gaming computer is running Windows and is dedicated to games only, I do not trust this system enough to do anything else. I'm slowly trying to move away from it and efforts are giving results, more and more games works fine on Linux.

2.36. Zenwalk §

  • Duration: months
  • Role: workstation
  • Opinion: it's like slackware but lighter
  • Date of use: 2009?

I don't remember much, it was like Slackware but without the giant DVD install that requires 15GB of space for installation, it used Xfce by default and looked nice.