No one can make the claim that Ubuntu isn't becoming the de facto Linux distro out there in the world today. It's becoming especially true when looking at those using Linux here in the States. For new and die-hard users alike, Ubuntu has all but captured the community.
Sadly, there is also a problem with watching Linux being tied to a single experience. Choice goes right out the window. The fact of the matter is that not everyone out there thinks that relying on a single distro is the way to go.
So thankfully, despite Ubuntu's success, there are some fantastic alternatives out there that fit the needs of most people. Simple to install, easy to use and all of them fit onto a LiveCD no DVD downloads, thanks.
In no order of importance, here are my strongest Ubuntu alternative distros -- no, theyre not based on Ubuntu in any way.
1) Simply Mepis is Simply Fabulous
I consider Simply Mepis to be among the first distro to get it "right" for people looking for a no-hassle, stable experience with a generally consistent environment from release to release.
At its core, Simply Mepis is created to make things easy to use right out of the box for any Linux skill level. Despite being a KDE-only distro based on Debian, Mepis allows the end user to setup their network, video configuration and other settings from the Simple Mepis "assistants."
This is handy when you want to switch from the NVIDIA NV driver to a proprietary driver instead, yet wish to do so safely from a GUI environment.
Even better, you can repair a broken Xconfig, setup your various mouse needs (Wacom, Synatics, etc) and make display monitor changes all without ever touching the command line. For newer users, it's got Ubuntu beat about a hundred times over.
Youll find the same kind of goodness with Mepis's networking assistant. For instance, it provides a wireless tab that allows you to easily (via a pull down menu) select your networking alias for wi-fi devices, and the networking preferences are available for ipv6, ndiswrapper and firewall protection all in one area.
The icing on the cake is the troubleshooting tool. Hardware, associated drivers, both native and Windows (ndiswrapper) based. Did I mention you are able to blacklist drivers in the GUI too? Mepis destroys Ubuntu here. Completely decimates Ubuntu in this area.
The last killer feature Mepis provides is their user assistant. Repair, copy/export and delete all the settings associated with any given user easily. I also love how you can restore user preferred defaults, too. It's very well done.
The rest of the particulars include a fairly standard KDE desktop install, featuring Firefox as the default browser with Synaptic as the package manager at large. I also appreciate the fact that Open Office is installed, rather than using the typical KDE defaults for all applications.
Simply Mepis is a great alternative to Ubuntu/Kubuntu for new users and those who prefer to stay away from excessive terminal usage.
2) Fedora for the Fast and Serious
Definitely a distro for more advanced Linux users -- or those who prefer to setup things their own way -- a default install of Fedora using KDE is just what the doctor ordered.
Unlike Simply Mepis, you'll find that this Fedora with KDE comes with a slightly different menu style than Simply Mepis. Also note the addition of PulseAudio and the elimination of Firefox, out of the box.
Ready for your customization right away, the KDE Fedora installation lacks many of the niceties most advanced users honestly could do without. Any GUI benefits are provided by KDE immediately or are not available.
Other goodies like Open Office or Firefox, must be installed either from the package manager or from the specific websites offering the software.