I know this is probably very controversial but I spent 2 weeks googling, downloading, installing and erasing various distros and still have no clear answer.

My machine

An old Asus EeeBox PC EB1012P Intel® Atom™ D510 Dual Core 1.66Hz, 2GB DDR2 800MHz.

My story

I'm migrating from Windows to become a proud Linux user. I mainly use my machine for web browsing (using Chrome and Firefox), graphic design (InkScape), programming (using Atom) and my toolchain mainly contains Node.js, ssh and git. I watch some YouTube and egghead.io videos.

What is a good distro (or the best way to configure a distro) to have a fast and smooth experience? Currently I use Ubuntu which is sluggish on my Arom D510 CPU with 2GB RAM. Xubuntu was better but then, every distro comes with a lot of shit (like Office programs) that I'm never gonna use and I'm wondering this might be the tip of the iceburn and there might be much more that I don't see.

Are there distros or guides for customizing distros that focus on front-end/node.js web development?

I guess this is a sensitive question to ask from Linux users. I don't want to start a distro-war! Just give me some hints where to begin my research

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    A good exercise to become a proud Linux user is to choose the advanced installation options for a distribution, install a 'minimal' environment or deselect the typical software groups and use that as the base installation. – Lambert May 15 '15 at 9:15
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    Distros are, package management aside, much of a muchness... This is purely subjective: voting to close. – jasonwryan May 15 '15 at 10:10
  • @jasonwryan I don't want to start a flame war. All I'm asking is some guide from people who have experienced a couple of distros and know more than me about what items I should consider when choosing a distro. – AlexStack May 15 '15 at 10:46
  • Seeing as you like Ubuntu have you looked at Lubuntu? From my experience it's even lighter than Xubuntu. – Aditya K May 15 '15 at 11:04
  • @AdityaK that's exactly the type of answer I was aiming for. Would you consider writing this as an answer? BTW, if I understand correctly a distro is merely a package manager with a collection of software. Is there any distro that is favorable by front-end/node-js web developers? – AlexStack May 15 '15 at 11:10

I recommend to take a look at Archlinux. Although many people say, it is not suited for Linux newcomers, I disagree. The only thing, which is a little bit irritating or perhaps intimidating for new users is, that it comes with no GUI-installer. You get a minimal installation image, that was it.

To get up and running, it is useful to do the installation with the instructions on a tablet / phone next to your box. Do not be afraid: the installation process is well documented - it should take you near to no time to get a working Archbox.

Why use Arch?

  • Arch's philosophy is to keep everything as simple and lightweight as possible (KISS) - hence the spartan installation medium and some text

  • Arch is the most / easiest customizable linux distro. In former times, this was one of the main reasons for Gentoo. But the downsides of Gentoo are the compile times, since it is mainly source-focussed. Arch on the other hand comes with binary packages.

  • One if not the best part of Archlinux is the AUR, the arch user repository. This is a community driven repo. This leaves no wishes open

Here are some differences listed beetween Arch and other distros.

Using Archlinux is like playing with Legos: you are free to build whatever you want. You need a small system? Install e.g. LXDE as DE. It's up to you.

  • The KISS philosophy sounds interesting. And I'm not afraid of command line so I'll give it a try. – AlexStack May 15 '15 at 14:31
  • I think you won't regret ;) Enjoy! – Thomas Junk May 15 '15 at 16:53
  • I did enjoy using ArchLinux but it has been time consuming for me troubleshooting problems on every upgrade. Which led me to look for another linux distribution at the moment. – Jürgen Paul Sep 30 '15 at 9:13
  • @Michelle »problems on every upgrade.« how frequent did you update your system and was it everytime a hassle? – Thomas Junk Sep 30 '15 at 10:35

Have you considered using Lubuntu?

In my experience it's lighter than Xubuntu

Other distros to consider are Bodhi Linux or try using Enlightenment on Ubuntu

  • Checked their webiste. Seems very promising for low-end machines. – AlexStack May 15 '15 at 14:33

I strongly suggest FreeBSD. Then you have no question about which "distro" to use and you can install whatever kind of desktop and tools you wish, all the same as most Linux distros carry, so you're not stuck with any one canned way of doing things and you can exchange/swap out whatever you wish while using an excellent, still Unix-like system. No distro hopping necessary.

However, FreeBSD is a professional operating system for professionals that won't hold your hand but the community and documentation is excellent. If you have the need for some handholding, you can look into PC-BSD.

I've used FreeBSD for my workstation, exclusively, for going on 11 years for web development.

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    I don't know. Many programs I use come only in 3 versions: Windows, Mac and Linux. I guess it's possible to compile most programs in FreeBSD as well, but it sounds like too much work for a newbie. Would you elaborate on your development stack and tools in the answer? How do you deal with things that don't exist in FreeBSD like Chromium? – AlexStack May 15 '15 at 14:48
  • @AlexStack I hesitate till today to install FreeBSD as a desktop system, allthough it is a fine server system. – Thomas Junk May 15 '15 at 17:31
  • @AlexStack As I write this, I do so on Chromium. I just finished using Inkscape, too. What else do you use that you think doesn't run on FreeBSD? – Rob May 15 '15 at 20:28
  • @Rob I use git and node.js mainly. Inkscape is on my todo list since I'm trying to replace Illustrator with something better. I also currently use WebStorm but I'm eager to replace that with Atom. Overall these apps plus Chrome (Canary) and Firefox (Aurora) are all I need. Opera would be great but not necessary. So what do you think. Does it take more time to set up a FreeBSD machine than Linux? What's the main selling point apart from being professional? – AlexStack May 16 '15 at 13:05
  • @AlexStack All of the things you mention, I use on FreeBSD, but answering your question is not appropriate here. I suggest asking that question here, forums.freebsd.org , though it's been asked many times before. FreeBSD will be more difficult to set up for a noob cause it doesn't come pre-canned with anything beyond the basic OS. Check out the handbook. First advantage, you install what you want without concern for "which distro?" or the wandering around of all those, much of which seems to be moving away from the Unix-way. All the rest is too much to mention here. – Rob May 16 '15 at 14:17

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