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Best Linux Distributions of the Decade (2000-2009)

- - 100 comments
We've seen plenty of "Best of the Decade" lists around, but not one is related to Linux distribution. So it's only fitting that we will give credit to the best Linux distros that dominated the last decade (2000-2009), or most part of it.


One of the best ways to measure a Linux distribution's caliber is to look at its popularity. Since Distrowatch is the only site that religiously measures the popularity of distros through its "Page Hit Ranking" system, let's take a look at first at some of its data gathered from 2002-2009.

Distrowatch Distro Rankings (2002-2009)

2002
1. Mandrake (Mandriva)
2. Red Hat
3. Gentoo
4. Debian
5. Sorcerer
6. SuSE
7. Slackware
8. Lycoris
9. Lindows
10. Xandros

2003
1. Mandrake
2. Red Hat
3. Knoppix
4. Gentoo
5. Debian
6. Yoper
7. SUSE
8. Slackware
9. Lycoris
10. Xandros

2004
1. Mandrakelinux (Mandriva)
2. Fedora
3. KNOPPIX
4. SUSE
5. Debian
6. MEPIS
7. Gentoo
8. Slackware
9. PCLinuxOS
10. Damn Small

2005
1. Ubuntu
2. Mandriva
3. SUSE
4. Fedora
5. MEPIS
6. Debian
7. KNOPPIX
8. Damn Small
9. Gentoo
10. Slackware


2006
1. Ubuntu
2. openSUSE
3. Fedora
4. MEPIS
5. Mandriva
6. Damn Small
7. Debian
8. PCLinuxOS
9. Slackware
10. Gentoo

2007
1. Ubuntu
2. PCLinuxOS
3. openSUSE
4. Fedora
5. Sabayon
6. Mint
8. MEPIS
9. Mandriva
10. Damn Small

2008
1. Ubuntu
2. openSUSE
3. Mint
4. Fedora
5. PCLinuxOS
6. Debian
7. Mandriva
8. Dreamlinux
9. Sabayon
10. Damn Small

2009
1. Ubuntu
2. Fedora
3. Mint
4. openSUSE
5. Debian
6. Mandriva
7. Puppy
8. PCLinuxOS
9. Sabayon
10. Arch

With a rough estimate based on the Distrowatch rankings, here are the best Linux distros from 2002-2009:

1. Ubuntu
2. Mandriva
3. openSUSE
4. Fedora
5. Debian
6. Mint
7. Gentoo
8. Slackware
9. Damn Small
10. MEPIS

You may also want to see this graph from Google Trends:


I think there's no doubt that Ubuntu is the best Linux distribution of the last decade. It started its ascend in 2005, and from then on its popularity has been astounding. But to those of you who don't agree with me (or with the stats), you may cast your votes below.


You can also share with us your thoughts via comment.


Other Related Pages:

100 comments

  1. this highly depends on the rank criterias, e.g. the timelapse frame (e.g. rank of a certain month, week, etc) you don't specify that.
    Furthermore, the ranks on the distrowatch site, doesn't say anything about popularity as in usage.
    But merely what visitors have clicked on.
    Clicking doesn't mean USING. Heck, i even click on some distro's in the list, but do i use them? NO. I just want the read on the developments on that distro, nothing more.

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  2. been using opensuse since 9.1, always liked it.

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  3. I am glad to see Mandriva in there where it belongs. What a great, long standing distro, that has been making linux easy for guys like me for years.

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  4. Distro's like lycoris, xandros, etc. had so much promise.

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  5. I suspect you are grossly under-counting RHEL, and SuSE.

    The most common Distros on the netcraft survey of hosting providers are, in order of popularity, FreeBSD, RHEL/Centos, Windows (all versions combined.), Debian, Custom Linux distributions. other Linux distributions.

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  6. I agree; this should perhaps be renamed "Most Popular Distributions of the Decade".

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  7. Most popular != Best

    You give data for the most popular distro (as per distrowatch) and equate that to "The Best". Is Windows "The Best" operating system? (No) Its more popular than Ubuntu though.

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  8. And yet, Slackware has been around longer than all the rest of them.

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  9. Lets hope there will be many good distros in the future too. I would find it very sad if the number of distros where only a few in the future.

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  10. SuSE/openSUSE and Mandrake/Mandriva are the only ones that are on every year's list. It's no surprise, since Madrake was once based on SuSE.

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  11. That is what people searched for, not what they use. Slackware, and to a lesser extent debian users don't have to search for help, they already know what they are doing and what is best.

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  12. I agree; most popular != best.

    My personal favorite would have to be Arch Linux as it's EXTREMELY flexible and is literally built for your system.

    But as for "best" distro, I would probably have to say Ubuntu. It got me where I am today. I had many hardships with it over the years, but it was a major stepping stone toward learning about Linux.

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  13. Most popular == Best

    Most Popular Band Ever (Beatles) == Best Band Ever

    Most Popular MP3 Player (iPod) == Best MP3 Player

    Most Popular Search Engine (Google) == Best Search Engine

    Most Popular Linux Distro (Ubuntu) == Best Linux Distro

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  14. Goo...go... Linux Go... :)

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  15. none, the archlinux was the best, look at it's
    grow

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  16. I'm looking at it not from a "global" perspective, but from my own experience. I'm a distro junkie, and like a lot of distros, love a few, but have always found myself using Mepis the most often. Fewer problems, easier fixes to the few problems I do get, great community forum. . . I've relied on it more than any other OS in the past decade, so that's how I voted.

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  17. Well I think you found one metric to measure the worth of a distro it's popularity. One might also look at it's purpose and determine if it met it's goals examples: Ubuntu easy home use, Slackware Unix like, Puppy small footprint. Then you could look at the number of issues various releases had Ubuntu has arguably had more issues on some releases than one might expect from a easy home use disto.

    I give your entry merit for a good start but I don't think you finished the article...

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  18. Voted Mepis as I am a avid AntiX user. It is one slick distro that works on all my hardware, including Wireless. I like and use other Linux Distros as well (example Puppy)
    But Antix gives the best of both worlds. Lean and Mean with a full repository to choose from. Can't beat apt-get.

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  19. Although I voted for openSUSE (second best) my personal favourite is Pardus Linux. It is an excellent KDE based distribution. Excellent speed and very well integrated system config tools (integrated into KDE/Qt environment that is!)

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  20. Er...GoremanX, Mandrake/Mandriva was based on RedHat. In the beginning was a RedHat specifically modified to use KDE.

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  21. One vote for Mandriva, a distro who really support Free Software. Ubuntu is quite popular but that dont make it better. Ubuntu is like Windows, so much people use it but that dont probe quality.

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  22. where would we be without debian base

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  23. (rarroyo23) = With Mandriva, Smooth, and you?

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  24. The popularity does not say anything about being best. It's just about popularity.

    Or are we saying that original Wolksvagen Beetle is best car in the history?
    http://www.cartype.com/pages/272/worlds_5_most_successful_cars

    Or that Windows is best?

    Calling the Ubuntu as the best distribution is like saying there is only one distribution needed for every situation.

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  25. Very interesting this research! I am a happy hard use of Mandriva, and i like it! The Ubuntun has its merits yes, and did well to achieve that. But I still think that the staff of Mandriva Linux has been evolving better, but are not recognized! They work with Linux for the desktop much longer than Ubuntu and their position here is deserved. Congratulations.

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  26. Vamos Mandriveros!

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  27. Sorry. Most popular really doesn't mean "the best".

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  28. MANDRIVA is the best
    from IBM Mexico

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  29. Ubuntu distro of the decade ? lol.... First distro was in 2005... That makes a short decade isnt it ?

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  30. I think what your article shows is that Ubuntu has the best marketing of the decade.

    For me, Mandriva is the best.

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  31. Linux Junkie $aid....

    Best Linux Distributions of the Decade (2000-2009)
    Distrowatch Distro Rankings (2002-2009)

    Some does not compute here.

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  32. By qualities, usability etc. The Mandriva wins Ubuntu. But it really is bad in marketing where Canonical wins easily. If just Mark Shuttleworth would done the wisest choise and started to marketing the free software and not package own distribution, there would be saved lots of money and got more developers to all projects. Now Canonical is just ripping off all the software from other companies and developers and Ubuntu community promote them as own and not as what FOSS community has done. This in the viewpoint as Ubuntu user.

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  33. And the list unfortunately misses the first two years of the decade as well as it relies only on distrowatch.

    Here's some way more interesting figures based on sales in 2000:
    http://translate.google.no/translate?hl=no&sl=fr&tl=en&u=http://www.toolinux.com/lininfo/toolinux-information/economie/article/mandrakesoft-devant-redhat-aux-u-s

    I think it should clearly indicate Mandriva being #1 in 2000, and implicitly 2001.. ;)

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  34. Mandriva is the best. I tried all distros like Ubuntu, Fedora, Suse regularly, but somehow none could beat the polish n stabilty of Mandriva. Hope Mandriva as a company improves its marketing.

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  35. (rjosue): Mandriva, simply the best

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  36. I use Mandriva and Sabayon, i used/tried Ubuntu/Kubuntu, Fedora, OpenSuse,Debian but for me Mandriva is number one, is the best! Ever!

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  37. Ubuntu? whats that?

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  38. A mi no me parece que Ubuntu sea la mejor de la década, sera la mas descargada en los últimos 4 años, pero para hacer una afirmación de década, tendría que existir desde hace diez años, cosa que no cumple.

    Ademas popularidad no es lo mismo que ser la mejor

    I do not think that Ubuntu is the best of the decade, will be the most downloaded in the last 4 years, but to make an affirmation of decade, there should be ten years, which does not comply.

    You popularity is not the same as being the best

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  39. Ubuntu is an ordinary distribution... OpenSuse is great,Sabayon is greater,Mandriva is THE GREATEST!!!

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  40. Everyone who tries Mandriva once wouldn't need anything else of Linux. Mandriva fulfills everything you need in things of Linux.
    Only the marketing could be better. Use Mandriva!

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  41. Ubuntu is overvalorated shit... Mandriva is just the best since 2002

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  42. (Sandra G): My husband's motto: With Mandriva Smooth, and you?

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  43. Ubuntu ? Never heart of it, ..... ooo I remember now the one who took everything from Debian and kernel.org but never share what they have back to the community.

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  44. I'm a happy Ubuntu user but do I know if it is the "best" distro out there? I have no idea. If something is working I don't fiddle with it and I believe that I represent the majority of computer users. Mandrake might be better in some ways and I'll never know because I won't risk my primary goal (having a usable working tool) in pursuit of ultimate performance.

    Now, what is the goal in producing these distributions? Is it to have as many people as possible using an open source OS or is it to have the technically best possible OS? If the former, then Canonical has done a pretty good job with Ubuntu. If the latter we'll have a few dozen linux geeks using the (currently) best distribution, but it'll only last for a few days at most until someone else releases its best and brightest. With open source it is just about impossible to "shoot the engineers and start production" as the joke goes.

    Unless you can induce the masses to use it having a technically better product is only good for bragging points. The folks at M$ and Apple love the distro wars. Divide and conquer!

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  45. Though I agree with most of the list and the fact that most popular does not always mean "best" there is one omission from the list and that is PCLinuxOS. To not mention it on the list is a plain and simple mistake. It is a fine distro and has been constantly listed in the top ten of distrowatch for years. It may not have the financial backing of some of the distros listed but as far as it's ability to get the job done and it's growing user base and underlying stability it deserves to be ranked among the best. It is that good.

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  46. Well, I guess we know which distributions users think it's important for their distribution to be the most 'popular'. Keep up the clicking fanboys and fangirls!

    Seriously, is there really enough difference between Linux distributions to inspire this much partisanship?

    I've used various distributions over the years since Slackware 3.0 and I think what is important is how far Linux and other free/open-source have come. The distributions of today are so easy to use and versatile. We should be thanking the people who contribute to all the distributions rather than arguing over which one is best.

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  47. OOOOOOPPPPPPSSSSSS!
    I think I fell into a Mandrivan eFanzine...

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  48. No Arch in the poll? D:

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  49. I've grown up with Kubuntu - even after trying most of the others. Where is it on the list ;)

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  50. I think Mandriva combine an ease of use and a good "freedom spirit".
    All of the programs written by Mandriva are under GPL, since always unlike some others.
    Despite Mandriva is a very small company (~70 persons), they contribute very often uptream to many projects ( kernel, kde, ...)

    They provide a high level of security and the msec tool is really great.

    I hope the company will recover the success it had.

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  51. Too bad Puppy wasn't a poll option.

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  52. arch is the answer
    greetings
    palinux

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  53. Mandriva deserves its place. They are one of the long standing distros that have made linux easy for years, and still lead they way. No hype, no crap, just consistent, continuous development and support to the community it serves. Rock solid, easy to use, and great forums. Forums where you get real answers from real users. Way to go Mandriva.

    (Happy Mandrake/Mandriva user since 1999)

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  54. For the desktop, my favorites are derivatives of other favorites.

    Mint is derived from Ubuntu and is, IMHO, Ubuntu done right. My only quibble with Mint is that they should loosen the link with Ubuntu's 6 month release cycle. Still, I appreciate the extra time between Ubuntu's often problematic new releases and their cleaned up Mint derivatives.

    PCLinuxOS, derived originally from Mandriva but constantly diverging, is my other favorite desktop. It does everything right and is a snap to set up for Windows refugees. It just keeps getting better and better.

    Honorable mention for desktops should go to Mepis and Puppy. For servers, I much prefer Debian with honorable mention going to CentOS.

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  55. The best Linux distro is whichever one makes you comfortable running it.

    Besides everybody knows Debian is the one and only ;-)

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  56. Arch Linux will rule them all in 2020's best distros of the decade.

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  57. ubuntu deserves it. been using this since 2005 and i'm happy with what i'm experiencing. updating and upgrading is so much easy. no need to build the driver for Broadcom 4xxx.

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  58. mandriva the best...

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  59. When will this survey finalize?

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  60. are hoping to win ubuntu?

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  61. I've been using Ubuntu for a while now since my windows was infected by viruses. Am thinking of giving OpenSUSE a try.

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  62. Tried all but Gentoo, MEPIS and Slackware. 've been using linux over a decade, starting from Redhat 6.0. After being *very comfortable* with RH, tried Mandriva once, and replaced that again with a RH.Boy! It was so difficult to give up Mdv. Tried 7 of the list various times and also others like Arch. And without doubt, Mandriva is my first choice! RHEL/CentOS is second, for a server platform. No need for the third. :D

    Thank you Mdv and good luck to you. *with a gracious bow*

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  63. Mine is Sabayon (dualboot with FreeDOS). Voted for M$ Linux though, because Sabayon doesn't seem to be in the poll.

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  64. I'd like to believe that there is some truth in the figures, but in all honesty, they really don't mean all that much and should not be taken very seriously" - Ladislav Bodnar (DistroWatch)

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  65. have no idea which distro is best, however the one I use fulfills all my business needs. opensuse.

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  66. mandriva,is number 1
    ubuntu marketing 1

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  67. mandriva the best

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  68. Mandriva 2010

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  69. Mint 2010

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  70. Mandriva: Primero la distribucion y luego la empresa para mantener esta.

    *buntu: Primero la empresa y luego las distribuciones como productos.

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  71. For a company that almost went down and did/does not have the resources that canonical has, Mandriva is and has been definitely on the top three list for years. And if we're talking about my list, it's number one and the way it's going with Mandriva 2010 it's likely to remain there for a while.

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  72. Mandrivaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa the best

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  73. Ubuntu is all about marketing.
    Mandriva is all about Linux!
    Go Mandriva!!

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  74. Mandriva as always the best

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  75. Of the ten, 5 based on Debian...

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  76. Mandriva, since Mandrake Linux 7.1 Deluxe boxed set, now 2010 x86_64 PWP FTW! ;)

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  77. Long live Mandriva! (Ivanhoe1966)

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  78. Not sure how the author of this list reached the conclusion that Ubuntu is #1 for the decade.
    Even using only the 2002-2009 rankings with #1 = 10 points, #2 = 9 points, etc..., I come up with:

    Year Ubuntu Mandriva
    ---- ------ --------
    2002 0 10
    2003 0 10
    2004 0 10
    2005 10 9
    2006 10 6
    2007 10 3
    2008 10 4
    2009 10 5
    ---- --- ---
    Total 50 57

    Winner = Mandriva

    If you also consider that Mandriva was the most popular distro in 2000 and 2001, its more like 77 to 50 in favor of Mandriva.

    There's no doubt that if this were a list of the most popular distros of the last half-decade, Ubuntu is the clear winner but that's not what this list claims to be.

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  79. Mandriva Linux 2010 Spring

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  80. mandrivaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

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  81. me gusta ubuntu :)
    pero a configuracion y facilidad mandriva :)

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  82. I love Mandriva.

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  83. AnonymousMay 03, 2010

    Mandriva Rocks!

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  84. pclinuxos! im new user and looking the best working distro for a new laptop, and pclinuxos 2010 works great easy to use.

    Pclinuxos es la mejor para mi y funciono super bien en una laptop nueva. que pena que no este en la lista porque mi voto es por pclinuxos.

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  85. AnonymousMay 28, 2010

    what the heck happened to fedora? and really there are actually only a few real distributions Debian and Red Hat, the top producers all-ways come from these.
    IE: Debian > Ubuntu > Mepis/Mint
    IE: Red Hat > RHEL > Fedora > Mandriva > PCLinuxOS
    the rest slackware BSD and the rest are also great distributions depending on your need. not to mention the awe inspiring.
    taken from:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mac_OS_X

    "Mac OS X is based upon the Mach kernel. Certain parts from FreeBSD's and NetBSD's implementation of Unix were incorporated in Nextstep, the core of Mac OS X"

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  86. AnonymousMay 29, 2010

    Mandriva es el mejor

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  87. AnonymousMay 31, 2010

    BRASIL É MANDRIVA

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  88. AnonymousJuly 17, 2010

    Mandriva is the winner ! Mandriva is a Linux for all users !Go Mandriva.Brazil is Mandriva.

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  89. mandriva gasta menos en marqueting y por eso no es la mas conocida ( repite una falsedad el tiempo suficiente y se combertira en la verdad oficial )

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  90. MANDRIVA ONE SPRING LA MEJOR, DEDICADA A IGNACIO DE PALMA DE MALLORCA (PRINCIPIANTE)

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  91. you dont need to be a geek or a nerd to use linux so i choose ubuntu.....

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  92. Hold on, Hold on. I am personally a Linux Mint user however some of you are whining that Ubuntu has become too much like Windows because too many people use it. That is such a stupid argument aren't we supposed to be in support of Linux popularity and in hopes that things like copy left and open source become a common day occurrence?
    We should be in support of Linux becoming popular. Unless you have an argument against Ubuntu as in it's open source frame work or it's intellectual property rights then seriously enjoy your Linux distro (the wonder of choice) and be glad that we are able to take with a popular distro on Apple and Windows.

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  93. I don't know. I've been testing out a variety of linux distro's the last few months. Some notables are CentOS and Ubuntu. The thing I didn't like about CentOS is that it feels like it's a decade old. It's using a kernal from about 5+ years ago.

    Ubuntu, however, works well with the configuration I want. But it has a wonky concept of security. Almost mimicking windows administrator concepts. Which is extremely annoying. You can unlock root access, but it doesn't really get you much. It doesn't take care of the problem.

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  94. Yaro KasearJanuary 21, 2011

    Most Popular != Highest Quality

    For example, Arch runs much more stable and much faster than Ubuntu, provides a full ports-like system to supplement its package management, affords the user an absolute maximum choice for whatever they need or want, is much leaner and makes no assumptions about what packages someone might use. This clearly puts it ahead of Ubutnu which takes the exact opposite approach and gets just about every approach to being a Linux distribution wrong. Yet Ubuntu tops the list and Arch BARELY made it in the top 10 of 2009.

    Being the most popular does not automatically make it the best. IF anything, it just means that it is found accessible by the least common denominator, and that's usually a sign of piss poor quality in many places.

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  95. Arch Linux and Slackware!

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  96. Debian and Slackware!

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  97. mint is working out of the box,has the codecs and so on
    eugen9

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