Great thread, very interesting to see others' perspectives. I haven't used Windows seriously in a very long time. In my limited experience XP and 7 seemed to be good releases. I think 10 might be safest used offline! I've never liked Windows updates, and the whole Windows system lacks elegance and a certain coherence to my mind. I have no experience of and little interest in Apple except for my older iPhone with iOS 12 which I find adequate.
My needs are basic. I use my computer for primarily for storing and listening to music, for editing pictures, email, shopping, a little bit of writing. Simple end user stuff that doesn't require commercial software. I like my system to be beautiful, elegant, easy to use, and trustworthy. I like to make it mine.
I started using Linux in the early 2000s. I'd bought a second hand computer with no OS. Someone told me about Linux. I fooled around with Mandrake and Red Hat. Compared to Windows 98, Mandrake in particular was a breath of fresh air. Logical and transparent and beautiful. A wealth of free and very useful software was available at a mouse click, more or less. Knoppix came out. I believe it was the first live distro. It was my introduction to Debian and a real showcase for software. I loved it. The seed of a curiosity for Debian was planted in my head.
I did a short stretch on XP for hardware reasons before trying out Ubuntu. It was touted as a friendly version of Debian. The package management system was superb. I started with Edgy and gave up after Gutsy. Too many changes were made from release to release. Not all were good and it felt like change was made for change's sake. I never felt entirely safe
I took a deep breath and plunged into Debian proper. It had a fearsome reputation for the newcomer. Etch, stable, didn't like my hardware. Lenny, testing, did. The learning curve was steep but in it I found a great OS! Elegant and fast with no frills unless you wanted to add them. I used Gnome 2 and Xfce and found a taste for refinement.
I discovered Mint Ellyssa. Far out!
I'd laboured for months to make Debian the way I liked it - and here was Mint ready configured almost perfectly from the start! Wow! It was Ubuntu done properly. I made a dual boot. I still used Debian more. Something about it.
Then the best of both worlds arrived. LMDE!
Debian Squeeze with a wonderful Mint overlay. It drove my big laptop. Meanwhile I enjoyed Helena on a netbook. Something about hardware compatibility as I remember. LMDE Ada had occasional issues and secretly I preferred Helena for her stability.
All would be forgiven. LMDE 2 Mate became my favourite Linux release ever. Fast, light, and stable almost to boringness. Just superb. I wish it could have continued forever. We were made for each other. I did swerve past a notorious upgrade to Mate that broke many other systems.
Late last year I left my beloved, elderly Betsy, god rest her beautiful soul, for Tara. Two reasons.
1. Mate and Xfce editions were discontinued for the upcoming LMDE 3 and I'm not a fan of Cinnamon. Sure you can install these DEs, but they'll be without the polish of official editions, and I like polish - hence Mint
. I chose Xfce for a change. Although I've rearranged the furniture, the Mint team has done a great job of building the house.
2. The five year support period.
I'm on Tessa now after a faultless upgrade. As with Tara it's nice and very useable and it's good to have all
the Mint tools at hand. No serious breakage or showstoppers so far. But as good as this regular Mint is, it's a compromise. I was spoiled by Betsy. There's something about a true Debian base I love and prefer and for some reason trust
just that bit more. Is it its more reserved nature? That elegance thing, hard to explain. I see it, feel it somehow, in LMDE - and also in MX, which in some ways is the next best thing to Betsy, or even better, in my limited experience of recent distro dancing. MX is solid and super fast with excellent tools. It remains in my mind (and I've just learned of its latest release, ahhh!). But, last I saw, it didn't have quite the beauty and polish and the long term support I want - so right now, Mint it is. I've also invested a lot of time in it!
P.S. Desktop Linux has a very very low public profile. Amazing, the number of people I encounter who have no idea of alternatives to MS and Apple. It's almost everyone. I always recommend Mint to users exasperated by Windows and who don't need specialized commercial software. Those who follow through are always happy.