Advice for a non-rolling-release alternative to Manjaro


I soon have to setup a DELL precision tower for work, which basically serve for day-to-day tasks as well as a computing CPU/GPU unit for modelling and deep learning. The setup is: Intel Xeon 8 cores at 3.5 GHz, NVidia GPU Quadro RTX 4000, 32 Go ram, 1 SSD NVMe for system install and 1 HDD 7200 rpm 1 To for data storage.

I currently use Manjaro on a iMac, which has been great. However, for this one I was thinking to move away from rolling-release because (I think):

  • updates are sometime too frequent for a production system that will have external users potentially connecting to it;
  • plus I want to spend not too much time setting up the system (so no vanilla Arch despite I'm really tempted!!! :slight_smile: )

I have considered:

  • go Manjaro again, but maybe as a computing server it is a bad decision? I never really got in trouble but some packages broke time to time, like Zotero (memory leak; OK it is AUR, but it is not an obscure package... maybe using snaps will be best next time?). The thing also is that I don't want to have to reboot frequently, while at the moment the weekly update cycle pushes me to reboot every week or so; I can't update and reboot if users are connected...

LTS releases may be good:

  • keeping Ubuntu 18.04 LTS as provided by DELL;
  • installing Debian 10 (outdated packages?);

Shorter release options may include:

  • installing Fedora 30 (too unstable? driver support? but I like Fedora!);

I need good NVidia driver support for the GPU, and then I just mostly use LibreOffice, Zotero, Python/Julia/R and Firefox in my daily workflow so everything should be there in all those distros.

The thing is I like vanilla Gnome after having installed it on Manjaro. I tried i3, KDE, XFCE, Openbox, bf-idon'tremember, and Gnome is actually the desktop I prefer. It is with i3 the fastest on my setup (yep, I'm saying that Gnome is faster than XFCE on an iMac 2015... It consumes 2.5 Go of ram but manages it very well contrary to other DEs! baloo_file in KDE overfills the ram on my setup and kills the system, i3 is great but tasteless, and XFCE is nice but as good as Gnome).

I tried the Ubuntu flavor of Gnome in distrotest and it felt really weird, not to say bad.

So there it is, after hours and hours of thinking... I wanted to ask for some opinions. What do you recon? What would you do? Go for Ubuntu?

There is no practical way to answer this question. It is all personal preference.

Certainly, Fedora has a very vanilla gnome experience out of the box. I, personally, wouldn't use Fedora in a production type environment as it isn't supported very long so it will require constant updates. You could also look at OpenSuse which offers a gnome installation. Or, you could select any number of Debian/Ubuntu derivatives. RedHat/CentOS/Oracle Linux may also be a good choice for this application. CentOS is currently a version behind RedHat and Oracle but they are getting closer to releasing version 8. Given how old version 7 is, I would either use Redhat/Oracle Linux or wait for CentOS 8 if this is the direction you were interested in.

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This is indeed a hard and personal decision. Coming from Manjaro, I'm used to have bleeding-edge stuffs. So it is a bit difficult to accept the "old" packages on Debian/CentOS. But in this context, this is a trade-off that is needed.

I've thought about CentOS, after all it was the base of Scientific Linux. I will have a look, maybe it will be a good way to go?

fwiw, I've installed MXLinux on a desktop that is mostly used for printing and music.
I had Arch on it but the updates are somewhat too frequent, just like your problem.

Now MX is based on Debian but with newer software, and has a release cycle of three to five years, so that is nice.
You can pick a systemd free or a systemd version during boot.


In case you didn't think about it:
Make your list, get the ISOs, try them on LiveUSBs.


CentOs works well rock solid base and flatpak for the bleeding edge software, i'm actualy waiting for ver8 to arrive, on v7 i had the latest kernels but kept the core stock latest software via flatpak it works well on a rock solid RH based distro.


keeping Ubuntu 18.04 LTS as provided by DELL;

Personally, I would go this route (if not usuing Manjaro) on a Dell workstation, as Ubuntu's Software Center picks up firmware/BIOS updates from Dell.

There are several guides availble on the internet to switch ubuntu's version of gnome for vanilla gnome. (For example, this one.)

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Here's what I did when confronting a similar decision. I made a list of distros that met my research objectives. After I narrowed the list to a half a dozen, I made a live boot thumb drive of each and tried them on my hardware. I was surprised when I did so. Some ran much better on my machine. After trying out the ones that ran best and the ones that I preferred, I picked a winner and made it my main work station distro. That was four years ago and I've been happy since.

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Try this link. You can refine it how you need as well. It's a good starting point.


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Thanks for the replies!!

Well, from the distrowatch search (I indeed did not thought about it, I used other distro-chooser websites) and the comment of @bsridnour regarding Dell firmware/BIOS updates available for Ubuntu (important point!), I guess I will stick with Ubuntu on this one...

I don't know why but I really struggle with Ubuntu. Some kind of mental barrier... It's like the Windows of Linux for me...

Well, I will remove the bloat and I will see if I like the desktop, if not, there is ways to install vanilla Gnome I guess!

Won't you have more or less vanilla gnome if you disable all the extensions?

Maybe... A few articles on internet show how to get vanilla Gnome in any case, like this one

Yeah you're fully right there about firmeware/BIOS, it is indeed indicated on Dell website.

Thanks because I would not have thought about that at all!

That is a huge plus for Ubuntu, thanks for the tip. However, somebody coming from Manjaro might prefer a community-driven distro. I wonder if the official community "flavours" that do not use Ubuntu's Software Center (e.g. Kubuntu, which uses Discover) share that benefit?

After a bit of research, I found that the firmware/bios update feature is fairly generic.

On Manjaro, fwupd provides a command line interface for firmware updates.

I think Discover does provide a fwupd interface, although I haven't used it.

Beside Fedora, ubuntu and maybe Pop!_OS. If and I do mean if. The few distro I have tried and able to upgrade to next version with little issue from the cli. Are Fedora and NixOS. NixOS is going be scary if you never Configure stuff like awesome wm and xmonad. Like void linux. You need to unlock non free repo. And installing is easier over arch linux. Mostly because you don't need to chroot. But it can be harder. It took me 4 try. Till I figure it out. Almost everything is handle from /etc/nixos/configuration.nix. I consider this distro a hybrid between intermediate/advanced user. And I only see arch linux as a intermediate distro with a ■■■■ ton of packages. I find it way less bs to maintain compare to gentoo.

Assuming you're using CUDA and you want an easy life then you want Ubuntu 18.04 with Nvidia's CUDA repos (both CUDA and cuDNN).

Install a basic Ubuntu system (e.g. use a CLI install and add only what you need), add the Nvidia repos, install cuda and cuda-drivers (and libcudnn7, and maybe miniconda) and you're done.


Yes, CUDA + Pytorch. So as Dell pre-installs Ubuntu, I will just keep it as is and go with it! The fireware support is also an interesting +!

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