10 Linux distributions for developers
Linux distributions geared toward casual desktop users are important, but developers also need to use Linux. Developers have different needs than other users, so certain distributions can be better than others for development purposes. But which distros are well suited for developers?
A writer at TechRadar Pro has a helpful roundup of 10 of the best Linux distributions for developers.
Nate Drake reports for TechRadar Pro:
More popular versions of Linux such as Ubuntu focus on enhancing the user experience by automatically updating packages and providing flashy, resource-heavy GUIs.
While user-friendly distributions (distros) certainly have their place, in this guide, we’ve tried to get back to the glory days when developers would customise their Linux build. These Linux distros allow you to fine-tune your development environment so whether you’re a veteran programmer or relative newcomer, you can get on with your coding.
Red Hat as a desktop distribution?
Linux has many different desktop distributions. Some are well known and very popular like Ubuntu or Linux Mint. But what about Red Hat? How good is it as a desktop distribution?
His fellow redditors chimed in with their thoughts about using Red Hat Linux as a desktop distribution:
Turismofive: “I’ve used CentOS, which is basically almost the same thing as RHEL. It’s actually very weird to get set up with (like grabbing packages related to video codecs and graphics and whatnot, along with Microsoft fonts or something), and if I just wanted an RPM-based distro for the desktop, I’d just roll with OpenSUSE or Fedora.
I’d imagine the only thing different from CentOS and RHEL is licensing.”
Aliendude5300: “Not at home but at work, RHEL 7.3 is a surprisingly functional desktop. I run Fedora at home. Things like EPEL and Nux Dextop are totally necessary for some stuff to work, since it is a very old stack. It’s incredibly stable though, not too exciting.”
Victoresupadre: “Old everything. Stable. Boring. Works well for software development. You might miss out on new tools and web stuff. Depends on your needs. Gnome got weird around RHEL 7 release. I use Xfce. ”
Albionandrew: “I had been using as RHEL 6 as a desktop for three years at work. I’ve just moved over to Ubuntu 16.04 because I’m doing more Python and wanted it to work out of the box.”
Jmtd: “I have used it at work, a RHEL 7 based system, and it was fine. RHEL 7 is based on GNOME 3, but I think the default is Classic mode IIRC. It isn’t bleeding edge, but there are no surprises, either, stuff that works continues to work. Bleeding edge for the desktop is overrated, IMHO. You focus more on doing other things when you aren’t constantly toying with your desktop. It’s a tool for achieving things, after all, not an end unto itself.
Lots of my colleagues use Fedora, and twice a year there’s a down period when lots of people break their machines upgrading to a new version and hitting huge bugs, followed by a period of developing work arounds, which are all obsolete in another six months.”
Roscocoltrane: “RHEL is still running Python 2, which is becoming a problem for some Python 3 GUI tools, like Back In Time. I wouldn’t recommend it and I moved my desktops to Fedora instead since it has become much easier to upgrade and since the container technology makes the underlying OS more and more irrelevant for development anyway.”
Md_tng: “Using RHEL on desktop is like using Fedora from four years ago, or like using current Debian Stable.
Everything is so old.”
Bubblethink: “I use RHEL 7.3 as a semi primary system. It works as well or better than Ubuntu. EPEL covers most of the additional useful stuff. If you need Nvidia drivers and media related stuff, there are a couple of repos (Negativo17 for instance) that cover that well too.
The only thing I miss is Unity, but Cinnamon is close enough (although not a first class citizen). That is kind of moot though, since Unity is anyway deprecated even on Ubuntu. For the minor inconvenience of slightly old packages, you gain a lot of other useful bits over Ubuntu though. Of course, you may as well use Fedora if you aren’t averse to upgrading every six months.”
ChrisTX4: “It really depends on what you’re looking for. What RHEL does well is to provide a stable setup for working. Using Software Collections, you can also get a decently new stack, and load whichever version of a technology you want. If you want to use new tech, there’s your Devtoolset-6, currently shipping GCC 6.3.1 and consorts, for example—so the stack being ‘old’ isn’t that much of a concern.
To give an example, another department at work has a complex software stack that’s using MPI and Python. There’s a number of FOSS software on top, but you’d likely want to compile that part yourself, but not Python or MPI. When using a normal distro, they’d need to rebuild all dependencies as soon as a new MPI or Python version is released. On RHEL, rh-python35 does not affect the functionality of rh-python33 and vice versa.
If such a stable stack, and potentially the ability to run proprietary software, is what you’re looking for, RHEL is your best bet. If you’re looking for a multimedia desktop for home usage, don’t bother since Fedora is what covers that need in the Red Hat world.
Oh also on that note, RHEL incorporates RH Satellite (remote management) and third party Java repos with IBM and Oracle Java. For the usage RHEL is targeting that’s good value; for home usage you won’t care at all.”
Daniel_Laixer: “Currently running RHEL 6.8 at work
Feels like using Ubuntu with the good old Gnome 2.0 but with crappier repos and package managers. A co-worker runs RHEL 7.x and looks as bad as Ubuntu with Gnome 3.0.”
Why you should run Windows as a VM in Linux
The recent Windows-based Wannacry ransomware attacks shocked many people around the world. The attacks also underscored why it is a good idea to run Linux instead of Windows. One writer at PCWorld notes that if you must run Windows, it’s a good idea to run it in a virtual machine in Linux.
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This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network.