What actually distinguishes one distro from another?

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FirebirdTN
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What actually distinguishes one distro from another?

Postby FirebirdTN » Thu Jul 02, 2015 8:55 am

Forgive the really newb question, but having been using Mint now for about a year, and having dabbled in a few other distros, I got to thinking...what *actually* distinguishes one distro from another?

Example: Until somewhat recently, I think Cinnamon was synonymous with Linux Mint. That obviously isn't the case anymore, as you can install Cinnamon in many other distros...

So, its not the DE, its not the WM, its not the preinstalled applications, and it's not the kernel. Is it the package manager? That really can't be it either-I'm sure there are many others, but I see two basic types of packages usually available for download when on application sites...rpm and deb. rpm I know is used by RedHat, Fedora, CentOS, and deb are used by Debian, Ubuntu, Mint, etc...

So what is it exactly that separates one from another? I mean you could install Cinnamon in Ubuntu (actually seen an article on doing this...by why LOL?), or I guess you could install unity on Mint...

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Pjotr
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Re: What actually distinguishes one distro from another?

Postby Pjotr » Thu Jul 02, 2015 9:01 am

It's the design vision. What's the user base focus of the devs, what's the risk profile they use, what's the quality of the software sources, etc. Mint is rather conservative, risk-avoiding and above all: desktop user oriented. Which is exactly what I want in a distro. :mrgreen:
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Re: What actually distinguishes one distro from another?

Postby Flemur » Thu Jul 02, 2015 9:52 am

Is it the package manager?


That's the main difference.
The others are the software you get on a default install, and the software & versions available.
One newer difference is "systemd" vs "upstart" vs "sysvinit" for booting.
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jimallyn
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Re: What actually distinguishes one distro from another?

Postby jimallyn » Thu Jul 02, 2015 6:06 pm

It's all of the above. There are many, many choices available in Linux for package management, window manager, desktop, and so on. Each distro puts these together in whatever manner they think is going to suit people's needs the best.
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InkKnife
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Re: What actually distinguishes one distro from another?

Postby InkKnife » Thu Jul 02, 2015 10:17 pm

Pjotr wrote:It's the design vision. What's the user base focus of the devs, what's the risk profile they use, what's the quality of the software sources, etc. Mint is rather conservative, risk-avoiding and above all: desktop user oriented. Which is exactly what I want in a distro. :mrgreen:

I concur.
It is the development philosophy of the Mint team that makes Mint special. There is a wide selection of distros that move faster and take more risks, these distros are for people who want the very latest code and are willing to accept a certain level of instability.
The Mint team is much more focused on stability and if that means lagging behind a bit that is fine. I am good with that approach. I want a stable, trouble free operating system. Before switching to Mint I had used OSX for over ten years and I was looking for an OS that was just as stable and just as easy to use as OSX. I found that in Mint.
I want an OS to give me a stable platform on which to do what I want and if there are risks to be taken I want that to be up to me and it is in Mint. I am fine with older versions of most applications but I always want my photo editing software as up to date as possible so I have chosen to add some related PPAs which keep me updated.
If you take Mint as presented you have a great, stable and easy to use system you don't have to manage or if you want specific newer software it is very easy to have those to via the PPA system. I am having my cake and eating it too.
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RacerBG
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Re: What actually distinguishes one distro from another?

Postby RacerBG » Fri Jul 03, 2015 3:31 am

My opinion looks like this:

1. Target audience.
2. Package base.
3. The choice of software.
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Re: What actually distinguishes one distro from another?

Postby MALsPa » Fri Jul 03, 2015 3:33 am

Some things that come to mind:

One could say "design vision" or "development philosophy" and I think that's along the same lines as "mission" or whatever. Or you could think of a distro's "target audience." You could check out Debian's Social Contract, for example (https://www.debian.org/social_contract), or the "About" page for Arch Linux (https://www.archlinux.org/about/); those say a lot about what those distros are all about.

Besides that, important ways in which one distro might differ from another for me include package management, repositories, development team (the pros and cons of using a "one-man distro" come to mind), documentation, release "lifetime" (unless it's a rolling-release distro like Arch or whatever). To what extent a distro is based on some other distro.

For a lot of people, "community" is important. Some folks really fall in love with the MX/MEPIS forums/community, for example.

Ease of installation. The things you have to do to finish setting things up post-install. Some will prefer more of a build-your-own type of distro that gives the users more control over what they end up with rather than a distro where everything's kinda set up for you.

Long-term stability, which results from some of the factors mentioned above. For your main system you might want a distro that you can install and forget about for a few years, not have to concern yourself with updates breaking anything.

Quality -- how well things are put together. Does everything work? Do apps crash on you? Design vision/development philosophy and the "strength" of the dev team will have a lot to do with how that goes.

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Re: What actually distinguishes one distro from another?

Postby BigEasy » Sun Jul 05, 2015 2:43 am

All written above is true but not complete. One distro from another can diifer even same application. For example in Fedora 22 Firefox is GTK3 version with no user's choice. Really ugly looks and no way to change something.
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Re: What actually distinguishes one distro from another?

Postby xenopeek » Sun Jul 05, 2015 3:54 am

BigEasy wrote: For example in Fedora 22 Firefox is GTK3 version with no user's choice. Really ugly looks and no way to change something.

How awesome is that! I didn't know there was already a distro shipping the next Firefox as default. I hadn't even noticed on my Fedora 22 install :) As for how it looks and how it can be customized, I can't find a single difference between Firefox using GTK2 and Firefox using GTK3 (comparing on the same Gnome Shell version). I think that would be the point; migrating to newer library without impact on the user.
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BigEasy
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Re: What actually distinguishes one distro from another?

Postby BigEasy » Sun Jul 05, 2015 1:08 pm

xenopeek wrote:
BigEasy wrote: I can't find a single difference between Firefox using GTK2 and Firefox using GTK3

You don't find that GTK2 themes gone away? You are happy.
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