I would like to apologize for the (slightly) off-topic and non-technical question, but I recently started to emerge myself into the wonderful world of Linux, and started studying some distributions in depth, the last of which, was Debian.

So my question is (to those who could enlighten me): Which distribution is usually preferred and why?

I know that each distribution has its own merits and strengths, and would not like to see this be turned into a flamewar, for any possible reason. The answers I am expecting regard under what circumstances might one select one against the other, or what was the "killer" feature for users that chose one distribution instead of another distribution.

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    Your question is open to debate and therefore not fit for this site. Flagged. – laebshade Feb 21 '13 at 22:46
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    @laebshade According to your argument, then this is also a very bad question open to debate that is not fit for the site. People like you have to understand that if you don't have something useful to add to the question, then don't come in trolling. Nobody told you to police the site. If you don't know the answer to a question, or don't want to answer it, then please, by all means don't. In every other case, don't come in trolling other people seeking advice because you seem to disagree with them – NlightNFotis Feb 21 '13 at 23:22
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    This question, while it might be open to debate, could be answered objectively. – Renan Feb 22 '13 at 1:12

Trying to answer it objectively:

In many applications, what drives your choice of distro is ultimately the software you are going to run there: you don't want to run your business-critical applications on a distro with a short life cycle, where you will have to upgrade to a new version every 1 or 2 years or lose all updates. Nor you want to lose money because a very important application does not work well with your chosen distro or breaks after an update.

Many of those applications (e.g. a list from Red Hat lists lots of certified software) are certified for RHEL (and sometimes other distros): you can run them in any other distro, but you're on your own if something wrong happens, an update to your distro breaks something, etc...

From personal experience: at university I used some CAD software which was certified to run on RHEL. We ran it on CentOS boxes, but I got it working on Arch Linux with some work - I didn't mind doing it, but in an application where this app was critical, it would be unacceptable.

RHEL (and thus CentOS, which is based upon Red Hat's sources) provides this with a 13-year-long support cycle (however, at a point you will only get security fixes - no new hardware support). For Red Hat, this support is backed with legal contracts - which matters in a business situation where one needs official (sometimes urgent) support to be fully accountable.

Debian has a shorter life cycle (4 years) and is community-driven: while you usually can get good help from the community, and the community does lots of testing, you will not be able to get a support contract, you don't have official support, etc... And it's harder for them to certify hardware.

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    Fantastic answer! Exactly the kind I was looking for. Will leave it open for a while for more community input, and if no other better answer shows up, you get selected as accepted. Thanks again :) – NlightNFotis Feb 22 '13 at 0:06

There are some companies, who need a "certified" OS, for example EAL. They may be serving a Govt customer for example, who mandates this requirement. In such cases, they have no choice but to install RHEL.

This doesn't mean Debian is "inferior" in any way. Redhat has the money, engineers and the lawyers to get the certification paper work done for RHEL.

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