Looking Back on Linux Distro Hopping

October 30, 2021 — Jt Spratley

I used to distro hop between Linux operating systems every few months. Then I started to focus more on my independent music production than free open source software (FOSS). Most of the Linux and FOSS stuff I've learned recently was directly related to improving my music production workflow. FFMPEG is such a versatile tool for audio and video projects.


I still like to produce FOSS content for the few that want to learn about the topic from me. In this blog I'll review an older blog on why I like distro hopping. Then, I'll describe my process.

What I've Learned From Distro Hopping

First, I want to review things I said over five years ago in my blog "5 Reasons I Enjoy Linux Distro Hopping".

Linux Command-line Interface (CLI)

Every Linux OS has random terminal applications installed that are useful. Sometimes, I just type a letter and Tab to see what I can find. My most recent discoveries:

  • RIPEMD-160 checksums
  • Unshortening bit.ly URLs with wget --max-redirect --head URL
  • PDF merging/separating apps (pdftk, pdfmerge, etc.)

In my older blog I mentioned learning the CLI of multiple distros. Now I realize it's enough to understand the Linux terminal basics and distro package managers. Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux (EPEL), RPMFusion, and Python Installs Packages (PIP) are also good to know for installing some web applications on Linux servers. StackOverflow and the man command can get me through everything else.

Linux User Groups and Communities

Internet relay chat (IRC) channels are sometimes the best way to reach the most experienced Linux users without non-sense. I haven't visited #ubuntustudio-offtopic in years but I've since found many platforms to talk with other creatives using FOSS for art. I still recommend everyone get at least a basic understanding of Freenode, the most popular IRC service.

Finding Free Open Source Software

Exposure to new software (including GIMP and kdenlive.

The Best Linux Distro For You

I've chilled on learning "all of the things," but I know plenty enough to recommend a Linux OS compatible with most needs:

General use: Linux Mint for the massive Ubuntu repo with a familiar desktop environment.

Linux server hosting: AlmaLinux for cPanel hosting (since CentOS is dead and CentOS Stream isn't the same thing) or Ubuntu Server higher compatibility with newer apps.

AV production: Ubuntu Studio.

WordPress doesn't care about your OS, just the latest versions of LAMP/LEMP-stack (Apache/NGINX, MySQL, and PHP).

From my limited experience, gaming on Linux desktops isn't affected much by the OS outside of availability in repos. If it's not supported natively, you'll need WINE or Steam Proton regardless of your distro.

How I Distro Hop

I’ve talked about why I enjoy Linux distro hopping, but not how I distro hop. Below are the five steps I used.

1. Have I Used the Current Distro Long?

I want to be able to answer “yes” to the following questions:

“Have I tried all the pre-installed apps on my current OS?”
“Would I feel comfortable giving an unbiased review of the current OS?”

2. What Should Be Next?

I’ve written many posts about different Linux distros and choosing one for specific needs. During my first year of using Linux, I'd try to pick distros from different categories on Distro Watch - old computer, AV production, etc. I'd sometimes try less popular distros – ones ranked lower than 100.

3. Download & Verify

  1. Download the distro ISO file.
  2. Verify the MD5 or SHA checksum.
  3. Test the ISO file in Virtualbox.

4. Data Backup

Archive everything, including important apps. Make sure archives are good.

5. Install the New Distro

I used to wipe hard disk drives (HDDs) before baselining a computer. In my experience, it sped up the installation process and improved performance of the new OS. Solid state drives (SSDs) and the new Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) SSDs baseline faster regardless of being wiped beforehand which is awesome.

Tags: linux