And the GRAND winner is ...
You haven't seen it listed above, but it would feature under the glorious title of best all-arounder. And that would have to be Linux Mint. While it did underperform in the spring, the autumn release is just splendid. It's a perfect 10 for the tenth release.
Linux Mint Julia has the best overall combination of ingredients. The best desktop theme and menu, the best combination of programs, the best package management. It's the most usable distribution out there, and it's just a pleasure to run.
Linux Mint Julia
Linux Mint is not afraid to be different. While it is based on Ubuntu, it uses its own set of programs, sticking to goodies like Thunderbird, Pidgin, GIMP, and others, without following the herd mentality of the social integration and application dumbefication.
Everything works out of the box, every little detail is carefully placed and designed, there's practically nothing bad you can think of. Upping this achievement is going to be really hard. But the title is well deserved.
Linux Mint Julia Compiz
Best distro of 2010: Linux Mint 10 Julia. Bravo!
Why not any of the others?
Plain and simple, they did not win.
openSUSE remains as stable as a rock, but openSUSE 11.3 is a very soft improvement over service pack 2, without any revolutionary changes that merit a medal. Still, if you're looking for stability and usability, you won't go wrong with openSUSE.
Fedora has had a couple of fairly stable releases. However, they were both quite bland and took a while setting up properly. Fedora still leads in terms of default security and performance, but beware a geek bearing gifts. The security will actually bite you on the hand.
PCLinuxOS and Mandriva remain strong contenders, but they did not manage to make a cataclysmic impact. What more, Mandriva, like so many Linux projects and companies, has seen a very bad year. Bankruptcy, forking, intrigue. And PCLinuxOS still does not have a 64-bit version.
I've missed many names, I know. For example, Debian or Sabayon. They are also very worthy contenders. But you can't have them all. Ultimately, it comes down to a few choice selections.
Year 2010 has been very cool when it comes to Linux. Tons of great stuff, a torrent of disappointments, lots of in-fighting and forking. In this raging sea of storm and change, you will find a number of excellent distributions that should make a significant impact on how you use and enjoy the computer.
Perhaps Ubuntu looks the best, perhaps openSUSE is the reliable workhorse, perhaps Pardus is most user friendly, perhaps nothing beats Puppy when it comes to using your distro anywhere you go. But at the end of the day, when you combine everything into one equation, there's no doubt about the winner. It's Linux Mint.
Have a great new year. See you around.