Is there such a thing as a perfect Linux or BSD desktop distribution? If so, what features and functionalities would such a distro have for it to have attained that high state – of perfection (on the desktop)? And perfect for what group of users? Geeks or non-geeks? In order to answer these questions, we set out here the most important features we expect a modern Linux or BSD desktop distribution to have.

While we may not all agree on a single perfect desktop distro, we do have an expectation that when we install a distro, we expect certain features or functions to work right out of the box. That is, no digging into a configuration file or files to get certain features to work. Linux and BSD distributions are infinitely configurable, but we do not expect every user to have the time or the experience to know what files to tweak or to RTFM.

Perfection is tough to define, but given what we know about the computing needs of the average, non-geek user, we can reasonably expect a distro to meet certain standards of out-of-the-box usefulness and usability.

So, what are those features we expect that perfect desktop distribution to have?

Here they are:


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21 Responses

  1. How do you expect distros that do not pre-install proprietary software to ship browsers with all plugins installed. That doesn’t seem to line-up with what they say that they can not do. However, I agree with you that that would be great. Also, why don’t you suggest ways of doing this in your posts, this would very helpful for novices. Keep up the good work, as I am very happy with your post.

    1. The part that I do not understand is some distros will not pre-install proprietary software, but make it readily available in their repos. I’ve made this point in a previous comment, but isn’t that just as good (or bad) as pre-installing it? If I own the rights to a proprietary software and I want to make trouble, I could go after a distro for illegally “distributing” my work.

      1. I understand, thanks. One more quick question please. How do you get vlc to play encrypted videos without requiring the libdvdcss2 package being installed in ubuntu, it doesn’t seem to work. You said this in your comments on the mint vs ubuntu post. Thanks.

        1. I stand corrected on that point. It should not work. On distros that distribute proprietary codecs, installing vlc automatically installs libdvdcss2. The problem with Totem not playing certain DVD videos goes beyond just encryption. Totem on some distros is just not configured to handle dvds – encrypted or not.

          If my original comment was misleading, my appologies.

  2. Kubuntu Linux 9.1 is not the perfect distro. 3G modem, sound, NetworkManager, kppp & package manager that all worked properly & reliably in 8.04, now fail erratically. Switching computer off is a 5 step process because a “theme” has control, not me the owner. “Plasma has crashed….”

  3. After six months I can reformulate my reply.
    Now, with some tests behind, I can assume Linux Mint the perfect desktop distro with the caracteristics menthioned in the post.
    But I think there is a characteristic that was forgotten. The perfect release and package management.
    Linux Mint have not yet this, because you must reinstall it to upgrade to the next release of the distro, and it isn’t syncronized with the release of ubuntu.
    On the other hand Mint have the perfect package management for newbies.
    For this reasons kubuntu is the best compromise.

  4. I think how Ubuntu is doing this is nice, especially the development and constant improvement! Under the hood it is debian, put things are nicely put together.
    The online community is also a aspect to consider, there are lots of great tutorials for almost anything you would do with an OS.
    Besides Ubuntu, OpenSUSE 11.1 is something to check out, german engineering, lot of attention to details! a very stable and fast distro! With support for active directory! so OpenSUSE is becoming ready fo the enterprise!
    Very importent for Linux to become a succesfull replacement for Windows on the desktop!

  5. I choose Debian without any doubt.

    I think that for an operating system to be considered “perfect” (from a desktop perspective), it must provide outstanding hardware support. If you have just one peripheral that you cannot use because your OS has no driver for it, then I don’t think that you can think of that OS as perfect (or at least, you can’t say that it is ready for the desktop).

    Unfortunately, since there are so many missing drivers in Linux (webcams, wireless cards, 3G modems, to name a few common examples), it won’t become a mainstream desktop system anytime soon.

    Please, don’t get me wrong: I love Linux, an Debian in particular. The problem with hardware support doesn’t have to do with Linux itself, but probably with all the incompetent or unethical manufacturers that insist on releasing only binary drivers for proprietary platforms.

  6. I use debian sid, the universal distro, but for the newbies I recommend and install pardus, great, simple, stable … distro. Only one defect: Turkish by default.

    1. @speedyx : Turkish is no longer the language by default since the 2007 version of Pardus. I mean you can change the language when booting on the CD, as Ubuntu Live CD or anyone else.

      Appart from that you’re right : that’s a distro for newbies, it makes everything so simple ! I mean, everything that a basic user needs, of course.

  7. Debian is a good answer, for sure, but I don’t think that it comes with multimedia and plugins “out of the box”.

    For me Pardus is a perfect distro, but I think everybody has its own perfect distro. That’s why there are so many posibilities in Linux.

    I would add one feature. The look&feel : sure you can easily custom it, but I appreciate when a distro uses a personnal style, with an original icon sets and eveything.

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