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Jeremy Morgan
Jeremy Morgan

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I'm Letting the Internet Decide the OS of My New System

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Update The poll has ended and Arch Linux was the winner! I will be installing it on the new machine and dialing it in. Thank you everyone who voted.

I'm getting a new workstation for my office, and I'm not sure which OS I'm going to put on it. So I've decided to put up a poll and see what the internet thinks. Crowdsource my OS decision? Why not?

Crowdsource my OS

TL;DR You can skip to taking the poll here to vote!

I'm kind of an oversharer and thought it would be fun to share this decision with you folks and talk about these distributions more.

The New Office Machine

Digital Storm

I just ordered a new workstation from Digital Storm and it should arrive sometime in the next week. Here are the specs:

  • Processor: Intel Core i9-9920X (12-Core) 3.50 GHz
  • Motherboard: MSI X299 GAMING PRO CARBON (Intel X299 Chipset)
  • Memory: 64GB DDR4 3200MHz Digital Storm Performance Series
  • OS drive: SSD M.2 (1TB Samsung 970 EVO PLUS) (NVM Express)
  • Storage Drive: 2TB Seagate
  • Graphics Card: 1x GeForce GTX 1650 4GB

How I'll Use This Machine

What you intend to use Linux for makes a difference in which one you choose. Here's what I currently do with my "main" workstation:

  • Email / Social Media / Browsing / Banking
  • Develop my courses
  • Web Development (JS/Node Stuff)
  • .NET Core / Go development
  • Lots of stuff with virtualization
  • Writing (articles like this!)
  • Streaming stuff on Twitch
  • Meme finding / sharing

Arch Linux has done spectacularly well for me for many years. But recently I decided to run Clear Linux and it's almost equivalent I write more about that here so it's in the running. I used Gentoo a lot in the early 2000s and so I'm considering compiling a neato optimized build for that too since I intend on keeping this machine for a long time.

So here are some pros and cons of each.

Arch Linux

Arch Linux

Pros

  • I've been using it for almost 10 years. I know it well
  • It has every package I need to do my job
  • It's really fast and configurable

Cons

  • It's not as performant as others

Clear Linux

Clear Linux

Pros

  • CPU optimized performance
  • lots of effort behind development
  • I used it for the last few weeks and enjoyed it

Cons

  • Needs some more packages. No VirtualBox/VMWare without headaches
  • Still a little rough in spots
  • Tied to a company initiative (could be canceled by a suit any day)

Gentoo Linux

Gentoo Linux

Pros

  • The most configurable Linux besides LFS
  • I used it for years in the early 2000s, I know it well
  • Very performant

Cons

  • Lots of compiling
  • Not sure if performance boost is worth compile time
  • Using it might make people think I'm a Gentoo user

Why I Would Choose Each

Arch - Stability and familiarity
Clear - CPU Optimized Performance
Gentoo: - Performance and granularity

To be clear, it really comes down to performance and ease of installing/maintaining packages and there are minor differences between each.

Performance

So I decided to spin up some virtual machines and do a little head to head testing with GeekBench. For this, I created identical Virtual Machines in KVM and ran benchmarks from them.

The host machine is a Core i7-4790 CPU @ 3.60GHz running Clear Linux.

Note: I really didn't feel like compiling a full Gentoo installation for this, so I used Gentoo Based Sabayon to test results. If I choose Gentoo I'll do a full source compile for my machine.

Here are those results:

Arch Linux

Single Core: 1006
Multi-Core: 3151

Link to full test

Clear Linux

Single Core: 1017
Multi-Core: 3172

Link to full test

Gentoo (Sabayon)

Single Core: 1016
Multi-Core: 3727

Link to full test

Geekbench Results (Higher is better)

Distro Single Core Multi Core
Arch 1006 3151
Clear 1017 3172
Gentoo 1016 3727

Performance Winners

Single Core: Clear Linux
Multi-Core: Gentoo

Now, I was a little surprised by this, because Clear Linux in the past has shown to be faster than nearly every distribution I've put it up against. That is the selling point of the OS after all. I may have to do an actual benchmark on the machine to test this just to see.

Blender Render

Blender Render

I did a Blender render of the BMW for each of these, to show another good test:

Distro Render Time
Arch 08:54.26
Clear 07:28.47
Gentoo 09:28.87

Blender Render Winner: Clear Linux, by quite a bit.

If I'm going to focus on just pure performance, I think Clear is a good bet. But there are other factors.

Usability

Here is how I would rank these in terms of usability

  • Arch
  • Gentoo
  • Clear

The reasons for this are purely personal. I've spent years using Arch and Gentoo systems so I know them well. If I see something I like I can go grab the package and install it, or pull down the source and build it without much thought. I don't know clear as well and found a lot of things that don't work, or they require a ton of effort.

Arch is #1 because it's really "set it and forget it" for me. Once I get it configured and dialed in it just works. I do updates diligently and it stays out of my way. If something breaks, I know right where to start troubleshooting.

While that's not a particular fault with Clear Linux there could be more googling and time spent configuring of things.

When I installed blender for Gentoo I was reminded how much stuff you need to go out and compile. Most of the time it's hardly worth the effort for some tiny bit of performance gain. But I'm also fondly reminiscing some of the really dialed in Gentoo machines I ran in the past.

Conclusion

Vote on which OS I should choose, retweet it and share it with your friends. Tell me why I'm crazy in the comments.

I'll be installing one of these OS's on my system and writing about the experience here so feel free to follow me if you're curious.

Also, I'm going to repeating and expanding on these tests on my Twitch Channel next week, so tune in!

Discussion (14)

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hypoon profile image
Hypoon

Using it might make people think I'm a Gentoo user

Hey... what's that supposed to mean?! Do Gentoo users have a stigma? I've been using Gentoo for more than a decade... I want to know if I'm part of a problem! :-P

On a more serious note, I've never used Sabayon, but those benchmarks seem very unfair. There's something to be said for out-of-the-box behavior, but out-of-the-box Gentoo defeats the purpose of Gentoo. Instead, I would skip benchmarking Gentoo and assume it could match other distributions' benchmarks after a bit of tweaking.

Gentoo's biggest strength is its biggest weakness. If you don't or can't spend the time tweaking it, it is not the right distribution.

I would also be cautious of benchmarking distributions inside virtual machines. Some distributions could be optimized for running on virtual machines, and that's probably not what you're trying to measure. I would suggest a live-cd or live-usb if you don't want to interfere with your main storage.

I apologize if I'm way off-mark. I got here from my Google feed, so I might be missing some additional context (oops).

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jeremycmorgan profile image
Jeremy Morgan Author

No, you're not off mark at all. VMs aren't the best true benchmark but I wanted to combine them all side by side to get a rough idea of how they compare. They're all pretty similar to each other in performance, and unless you're doing a lot of rendering/compiling you may not even notice. The only thing I do often is video rendering so that extra optimization may help save me time over the long run.

As for the Gentoo user joke, I have no idea what it's like now but the community was really toxic when I was using it. (early to late 2000s). People asking for help would just get slaughtered by the groups and in a way, it made ME a better Gentoo user! I would go out of my way to research and try to help the person with a problem while everyone was dumping on them so I learned too.

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hypoon profile image
Hypoon

That's very interesting. I've never had that experience with the Gentoo community, even in that specific time period. I never posted much on the forums (I primarily used IRC when seeking help) so perhaps that might explain the different experiences.

People who make a community toxic are often unaware that the community is toxic. I still hope and believe that I did not contribute to that perception, though.

Perhaps I'll be a little more cautious waving my Gentoo flag now. Regardless of the past, I hope that few people experience a toxic Gentoo community today...

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jeremycmorgan profile image
Jeremy Morgan Author

Yeah it's mostly a joke and a bit of a meme out there these days. I tried to do my part to make it not toxic.

But on the original topic, Gentoo was a lot of fun for me, I found the compiling all the time to be less and less worth it when I wanted to get stuff done. Has that improved these days? I know with CPUs being what they are it has to be better. I remember spending entire weekends compiling a Gentoo build, then I would set up long compiles overnight for updates.

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ghost profile image
Ghost

I was a Gentoo noob in those days and I never found any toxic community, thay where very strict tho, all already answered question got a link to the related question and to the forum guidelines just before the post was closed or just a RTFM. I guess that may be considered rude but that's why those days no other forum got close to que quality of Gentoos. Arch on the other hand, I've seen users making valid questions berated. Non-pure Arch users being almost insulted and don't even dare to mention systemd, you'll get dozens of toxic comments. As you mentioned Gentoo made try before asking, read the guidelines and documentation first and always be polite, you are asking for someone else time after all. Arch tought me, Arch is great, wiki is awesome, don't bother with the forums. Lucky me after years of Gentoo, when I used Arch never need the forum.

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jeremycmorgan profile image
Jeremy Morgan Author

I don't hang out in the Arch forums either. In fact, many Linux forums are toxic and full of smug people that bash newbies.

I don't understand it, I consider myself an advanced Linux user. Been using it since the mid-90s. I've run Gentoo, Arch, and even Linux from Scratch. I've never felt the need to use that as a reason to one-up someone or make them feel inferior.

I'm just the opposite, the more I learn the more I want to drag newbies into my world. So you like Linux Mint? Cool, let me show how ____ works. I don't get the "be smug and condescending" thing.

To each their own I guess.

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ghost profile image
Ghost

"The problem with climbing stepping on others, is that no matter how high you get, you're not getting any taller"
-- don't remember

Starts when people wants to be better than the others, what follows is realizing that improve oneself is way harder than bring everyone else down.

Sadly as far as I've seen, forums from more "noob friendly" distros like Mint and Ubuntu, are friendlier but their answers are usually useless, with much of click here and click there, sadly 2 versions ahead, the button is not there anymore nor the tab nor the menu. Very little background of the problems, very little about the cause.

Anyhow, I've heard a lot of new people with Linux having a great time and a very good experience with communities that don't seem to exist in other platforms. Maybe we are getting old and bitter :D and our vision is tinted with years of ocassional bad experiences, we sometimes tend to remember those more than the good ones.

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hypoon profile image
Hypoon • Edited on

But on the original topic, Gentoo was a lot of fun for me, I found the compiling all the time to be less and less worth it when I wanted to get stuff done. Has that improved these days?

Yes and no. On my machines, I only have to worry about recompiling very large packages (Libreoffice, for example). Many of those monsters have binaries in-tree, though. If you do want to compile them, it still takes a long time (hours). I definitely recommend libreoffice-bin because I can't justify spending that much time compiling something that will never feel super fast anyway.

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jeremycmorgan profile image
Jeremy Morgan Author

I agree! that's why I say not as performant. Clear Linux and Gentoo both beat it in benchmarks, but it's by such a small margin you don't notice until doing things like rendering a picture of a BMW. I've been using Arch as my daily driver since sometime around 2010/2011 and it's been great performance-wise.

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dwaynebradley profile image
Dwayne Bradley

If you like Arch, look at Manjaro (manjaro.org/). I have been using it as the OS for some of the VM's on my Windows 10 Surface Book recently and really like it so far. WAY better performance than either Ubuntu or Fedora in this setup.

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amine1996 profile image
amine1996 • Edited on

I was distrohopping until I found Solus. It's really nice to use, has nice perfs because of it's "from scratch" nature and has a lot of useful packages (but some are still missing).

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gene profile image
Gene

I think this post is about why you must choose Arch-Linux after all... hehe.

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jeremycmorgan profile image
Jeremy Morgan Author

I really can't go wrong with any of them, but Arch has served me well over the years. I still run it on my laptop, and it's one of the few machines I have that meets every need I have for it perfectly.