Whether or not we like to admit it, we Linux users live in an Ubuntu world.
Still, some users out there may not be all that thrilled with Ubuntu or the Ubuntu core underpinnings. For these folks, I believe that it's worth exploring Ubuntu alternatives. There are plenty of Linux distros that aren't related to Ubuntu in any way, yet are still usable for new and intermediate Linux users alike.
In this article, I'll share some of my top picks for solid Ubuntu alternative distributions.
PCLinuxOS – Without any question, PCLinuxOS is the goto Linux distro that I point people to when they're looking to try something completely non-Ubuntu/Debian in origin. Based on Mandriva, PCLinuxOS took the best that the Mandriva core had to offer and built on it with great enthusiasm.
So, what in the world makes PCLinuxOS so compelling? For me, it's the distribution's speed while still offering great wizards and a solid control panel for getting things done. Another advantage is its stability. While it may not have the number of packages found on its newbie-friendly cousin Ubuntu, or with more advanced distributions such as Arch Linux, PCLinuxOS warms my heart with is rolling release cycle.
By rolling release, I mean that instead of finding yourself trying to map out an upgrade to a new release, all of the updates are simply hand delivered by the update manager instead.
Another bonus with PCLinuxOS these days is that it comes with a number of great desktop environment choices. Some fan favorites include KDE, LXDE, and my personal favorite. . . the XFCE desktop environment! Bundle these desktop environments with the various behind-the-scenes tweaks made by the development team and it leads to a solid distribution.
PCLinuxOS also has software that's provided in the repositories. These apps all work great without any hassles. Last but certainly not least, PCLinuxOS provides a "media usability out of the box" type of experience by providing needed media codecs by default. This is helpful for newbies who would not know how to install these things themselves.
Nosonja – For anyone looking to try out an Arch installation without the soul-killing experience felt by Linux newbies, Nosonja is the distribution to meet the challenge. Not only is it based on Arch Linux, but it provides newbies with an experience that allows them to benefit from the Arch User Repository via Nosonja's software manager. This means you gain access to the wonders of the great software available to Arch users, which is a plus for anyone wishing to be on the cutting edge of their favorite application's release cycle.
Nosonja also means you don't have to know how to configure anything! All of the critical stuff you need to enjoy a solid Linux experience is provided out of the box and then polished up a bit via the software update process. And if this wasn't enough to appear on your list of possible distributions, consider this – it's a rolling release. Never again concern yourself with the headache of reinstalling the OS every time there is a major version release – just update it and enjoy!
The only consideration I would point out is that Nosonja is reasonably young when compared to other distributions. Don't let this deter you from trying it, rather keep this mind as you get your feet wet with this Arch-based operating system.