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I'm searching for the right Linux Distro. My four current ideas are:

  • Gentoo
  • Grml
  • Arch
  • Debian

But I'm absoluty open to more alternatives. Now a little bit more about my needs:

  • I want it to be really small by default, so I can customize the hell out of it.
  • I want to use text-tools only, I don't need any graphics on that OS
  • I'm going to use ZSH, Vim, the NEO Layout and maybe XMonad
  • I want to have a really nice package manager
  • The OS will mainly be used for programming

My CPU is an Intel Core 2 Duo, 64 Bit, of course.

My questions are now:

  • Which package manager is the most advanced: APT, Portage or Pacman?
  • Which distro fits my needs best?
  • What is the easiest way to run it from an USB-Flashdrive?
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up vote 1 down vote accepted

I've used Debian, Gentoo and Arch for a couple of years each. The more customizable by far is Gentoo. But it takes thought each time you want a given package. Debian is, well Debian: a mainstream distro, that can feel bloated to some. Given your requirements, I think you might like Arch. It's pretty lightweight and there are tons of bleeding-edge packages.

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Thank you for your answer, Frederik! I think I will try Arch :) – moonglum Mar 25 '11 at 10:08

Your requirement 1 say:

I want it to be really small by default, so I can customize the hell out of it.

Then, you DON'T want your package manager to be such advanced. Anyway AFAIK, portage is better for the "customization" thing, but maybe you want to read more about it because I'd never used it.

APT is really cool, and I'm debian user, but I don't know how much simple do you want your system.

Pacman is really good, and I used Arch for a year. Arch's system simplicity and customization are pretty and it's BSD-like feeling is really different. The only thing about pacman is that it's not as intuitive as APT, but as workaround, you have this Pacman Rosetta.

BTW: Maybe you want a Linux system, but if you don't care, you could try FreeBSD, it'ill be nice for you.


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Why would she want a FreeBSD? – Tshepang Mar 24 '11 at 18:04
What does size/customisability have to do with the package manager? – Tshepang Mar 24 '11 at 18:05
@Tshepang, is not about PM, but about the distro itself. The most customizable system is the system that you build by yourself. I know it's "possible" to reconfigure everything but, being realistic, if your package manager installs lots of "maybe you want it too" software, and writes lots of configuration, then your system gets harder to customize. If you install the very basic software in debian, you'ill still find lots of programs that you will never ever use, same but worst in Ubuntu. – D4RIO Mar 24 '11 at 18:21
Yes, I'm aware of it, but some "depends" aren't depends. An stupid example: In debian, the package git depends on curl and expat, but you can compile git without them. It's an stupid case, since you'ill almost always use curl or expat with git but... maybe you just want a little testing environment with versioning, and you just have FTP access, then you don't need them. In this case, stupid or not, the package manager has additional depends that you don't need. – D4RIO Mar 24 '11 at 22:18
And regarding FreeBSD yes... in my experience it runs hell of fast with similar software installed. Minimal text-based installations are different too. You need 150Mb free disk space for the minimal FreeBSD system, and 250Mb for the minimal Debian. And I still think FreeBSD has a best terminal interface (using mouse on it by default) – D4RIO Mar 24 '11 at 22:34

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