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Survey Finds Most Popular Linux Laptop Distros: Ubuntu and Arch ( 141

After collating 30,171 responses, Phoronixhas released some results from their first Linux Laptop Survey. An anonymous reader quotes their report: To little surprise, Ubuntu was the most popular Linux distribution running on the respondents' laptops. 38.9% of the respondents were said to be using Ubuntu while interesting in second place was Arch Linux at 27.1% followed by Debian at 15.3%. Rounding out the top ten were then Fedora at 14.8%, Linux Mint in 5th at 10.8%, openSUSE/SUSE in sixth at 4.2%, Gentoo in seventh at 3.9%, CentOS/RHEL in eighth at 3.1%, Solus in ninth at 2%, and Manjaro in tenth at 1.6%. The other Linux distributions had each commanded less than 1% of the overall response.
Only 10.3% of respondents said their most recent laptop purchase came pre-loaded with Linux. But 29.3% are now dual-booting their Linux laptop with Windows, while another 4.4% were dual-booting with yet another Linux distribution.
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Survey Finds Most Popular Linux Laptop Distros: Ubuntu and Arch

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  • by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Sunday July 09, 2017 @11:01AM (#54773381) Homepage

    I was really surprised to see that Software Development was the second most popular primary application for Linux laptops. Personally, I use a couple of tower systems with a couple of big monitors for software development that I can upgrade periodically with new M/Bs, Processors, etc. The code that I write is mostly (C/C++) firmware with some Java followed by scripting/Javascript but I feel like there's no way I can be productive (other than emergency bug fixes) on a laptop and I worry about losing a laptop with any kind of code on it (even though it's backed up on GitHub). A laptop for me is something to do presentations, demos, emails and the occasional spreadsheet, not for developing code.

    Is it a personal style thing that I prefer the desktop systems or are there reasons why people use laptops for their software development?

    • by F.Ultra ( 1673484 ) on Sunday July 09, 2017 @11:09AM (#54773417)
      I prefer a proper workstation myself but all the other developers at work use laptops, I'm the outlier there. They claim it's so that they can take them home but at home I have another workstation with all the code on anyway so that one does not fully compute either.
      • I'm the same. I like as light and small form a laptop as possible, and that makes for a fairly shitty development machine. I also like to monitor setups, and while you can do it with laptops, I find it interesting awkward.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The way the question was worded it didn't mean "use it full-time for software development".
      I have a couple of projects I sometimes like to hack on sitting outside.
      Or when travelling.
      Or on the kitchen table, because the computer room got too hot with the computer running full speed and heat outside.
      So I answered that I do use it for software development, even if it's below 20% of the time.

    • by jouassou ( 1854178 ) on Sunday July 09, 2017 @11:33AM (#54773511)
      Academic here. Most of my programming are physics simulations programs, which are a bit too heavy to run on a laptop, but can be tested comfortably on a workstation, and are then run on a supercomputer to produce the final results. However, I still do most of my programing from a laptop. What I typically do then, is that I ssh from my laptop to my office desktop computer, and keep open a terminal with one nvim tab for development, one cmake tab for recompiling, one tmux tab for running test simulations, and one tab where I tail -f the output logs and plot any resulting data (relying on X forwarding).

      The main reason I do this, is that I find a typical office setting very uncomfortable over time — I much prefer switching rooms, furniture, and working positions every few hours when doing longer programming sessions. That's something you can do with a laptop with a decent battery, but not with a desktop computer. Also, I do a lot of work from home, where I haven't even had a desktop computer for the past 5 years, as a decent laptop now does everything I want from it.
    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Sunday July 09, 2017 @11:50AM (#54773587)

      I was really surprised to see that Software Development was the second most popular primary application for Linux laptops.

      Like any solicitation-response based survey, this one suffers from a huge selection bias. The Linux users that see the solicitation differ from "typical" Linux users, and those that take the time to respond differ even more.

    • I hate being tied to an office, and because my development 'gig' is a sideline for me often I find myself at my kids' extra curricular activities with spare time, so I develop from swimming pool lobbies, sometimes parking lots. I develop all the time, mostly web server and mobile app development. It works fine on a laptop for me.
    • Most of my programming life (11 years) was as a consultant where I'd frequently be working on site so a laptop was a must. I never really felt like coding on one was any real hindrance though a second monitor when at a permanent location was a nice plus.

      Coding on a laptop is another reason I really like vi/vim keybindings in any editor I can get them in. I'm very used to only using smaller laptop keyboards that don't always have the arrow keys in handy locations.

      And to this day I sorta despise the giant 1

    • by henni16 ( 586412 )

      I do mostly server-side Java stuff and have been using the same Linux laptop for it for the last 6+ years.
      But since working on a laptop for more than a couple of hours is literally a pain in the neck, I connect an external keyboard, mouse and monitor.
      So from a practical, prouctivity-related point of view, there really isn't a difference between laptop and desktop for me.

      I'm mostly using the laptop instead of a desktop because it's nice to have my current environment wherever I am AND because I work mostly

    • I was really surprised to see that Software Development was the second most popular primary application for Linux laptops.

      No kidding. I write a little code on my laptop while traveling, but for day-to-day work I want a beefy workstation with multiple, large monitors, and I want a better keyboard than I've ever found on a laptop, and a good trackball. My workstation is has two 24" monitors and one 30" monitor (and I'm looking to upgrade that 30" to a 40" 4K display) and has a Kinesis Advantage Pro keyboard (with foot pedals!) and a Kensington Expert trackball (which I'm not entirely happy with -- recommendations welcome!).

      I c

    • by Ramze ( 640788 )

      My cousin owns his own software company that largely creates middleware solutions, and while I'm not sure what he has at home, he always has his laptop with him so he can work anywhere in nearly any environment. In the car, at a hotel, in an airplane, in a hospital waiting room, a coffee shop, etc.... He can take calls, open a project on his laptop and edit code and issue patches. He's often travelling.

      There's really no other solution for someone who lives on-the-go so much.

      Another friend is a programmer

    • You probably do more coding than I do; When I am at work I dock my notebook to a KVM, large monitor, etc and find that setup just fine for what I do, including some light development. I completely agree with your point on SW development on the small screen- I'd do that when docked.
    • What kind of Software Development Work on Laptops?

      I've been writing software for the last around 18 years for various employers, who all provided the machines. For the first 4 years or so did I have a desktop (Windows 3.1 then NT, MSVC, those cluncky CRT monitors... - mostly C, with 4GL and database clients), then also for a short stint at a European subsidiary that had a fairly locked-down environment. But for the rest I've worked mostly for contracting houses that wanted their workforce to be mobile - even if based at the same client's office for years.

  • by lucm ( 889690 ) on Sunday July 09, 2017 @11:06AM (#54773409)

    I can understand CentOS/RHEL on servers, but on desktops, who would choose that? While Fedora is bleeding edge and ships with 10-minute old kernels, CentOS/RHEL are possibly even more conservative than the Debian "stale" branch.

    Unless one has antiquated hardware, there's just no reason to pick antiquated libraries and kernels. I mean, if you buy a recent laptop, why would you want a kernel that was released 3-4 years before the hardware you bought was designed? Or who in their right mind would possible desire Java 7?

    • Some people just prefer not having to deal with a major software upgrade to their computer every six months.

      • by lucm ( 889690 )

        Maybe my thinking is biased because I don't keep laptops or desktops long enough (I usually buy new ones every year, I'm like those women who have 20 pairs of shoes except in my case it's laptops I no longer use).

        But the way I see it, there's been no point in time when CentOS/RHEL or Debian stable was in sync with whatever modern computing offered, which means that unless one buys computers second-hand, one has to restrict themselves to antiquated software if they install those distributions. I don't see th

        • I usually buy new ones every year, I'm like those women who have 20 pairs of shoes except in my case it's laptops I no longer use.

          As long as the shoes are bootable, why throw them away?

      • by RotateLeftByte ( 797477 ) on Sunday July 09, 2017 @11:41AM (#54773543)

        Or (like me) prefer to have the exact same OS on their Laptops as on their servers. Makes S/W development easy.
        The Stability is as you say a key point. 10 years of patches with CentOS and built from the same sources as RHEL. Great.

        • This, a million times this! Consitency between how the code works on the servers and the dev machines is important to me and also it makes distribution far easier, you just have to scp over the binary.
    • There are large hardware development systems, like Cadence, that are guaranteed/supported only on RHEL, which CentOS is essentially equivalent to. It works fine for that purpose, and often is run on shared servers, as well as desktops.
      • by lucm ( 889690 )

        Been there before. CentOS "works" for stuff certified for RHEL but if the vendor finds out you're f*cked.

        There are a few interesting differences. For instance while you get the same patches (a few days late for CentOS), with RHEL you can do a bit of cherry picking and decide to only apply security patches. On CentOS you can't do that, it's just "updates" without nuances. If the vendor certifies his app for a specific RHEL release you can bet they're not gonna support it if you have conflicting libraries fol

        • And how often does CentOS/RHEL create conflicting libraries due to updates within the same major version? Have they even done it once? Sounds like they have from your post but I find that really strange since the big reason to have a stable release such as RHEL or any of the LTS systems from i.e Ubuntu is that they do not do changes like this.
          • by lucm ( 889690 )

            I don't mean that they release updates that cause problems within the o/s, I mean that they release updates that the vendor's product may not work with. I've seen that happen more than once with specialized apps; for instance, a million-dollar wonder behaving weirdly after upgrading some obscure library from 4.7.3u22 to 4.7.3u24.

            And of course when it happens you don't get an obvious error message; something weird starts happening - maybe sessions don't serialize properly when they reach a specific size or s

            • Ouch that sounds really bad. Wonder what that vendor or your was up to, they must have been doing something really nasty for an update like that to break in such a way.
              • by lucm ( 889690 )

                Ouch that sounds really bad. Wonder what that vendor or your was up to, they must have been doing something really nasty for an update like that to break in such a way.

                This happens all the time with all kinds of products. This is because they have very very specific test cases that are only validated on very very specific o/s releases.

                For instance, look at this exciting series of support windows for SAP Hana:


                and look at the comment at the bottom:

                Contrary to the unclear statement in picture in chapter "Red Hat Enterprise Linux for SAP HANA (RHEL for SAP HANA)" where you can see the gray arrow for RHEL 6.8 from June 2016 which might indicate that it is a validf release for SAP HANA SPS 12 Red Hat Enterprise 6.8 is NOT supported for SAP Hana SPS 12. We cleared this with an official ticket @SAP. See also Note 2247020 - "SAP HANA DB: Recommended OS settings for RHEL 6.7" where RHEL 6.8 explizitily is excluded from support !

                Same kind of limitations is to be expected with most ERP/MRP/CRM/etc. You have to stay in their narrow "corridors" to be supported or you're on your own when shit hits the fan.

                • Well glad I don't have to use such shitty software. I have yet to see an upgrade of RHEL or CentOS that breaks the software that we create and support for our customers.
        • When I install yum-cron and only select security updates, how is that not the same?
          • by lucm ( 889690 )

            When I install yum-cron and only select security updates, how is that not the same?

            Doesn't work. The security updates are not tagged as such in those repos, that's a feature available only in paid versions of RH repos.

            See this discussion for instance: []

            I don't know what exactly you see in your list but it's probably everything, not just security ones.

            The only way to do it would be to piggyback on the updates in a valid RHEL subscription to pick & choose, but I'm pretty sure that would break the EULA.

  • by Type44Q ( 1233630 ) on Sunday July 09, 2017 @11:12AM (#54773429)
    Mint @5th? Not buying it.
    • by lexman098 ( 1983842 ) on Sunday July 09, 2017 @11:42AM (#54773547)
      Maybe Ubuntu isn't as bad as the vocal minority keeps telling us it is?
  • Lenovo most popular? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by maestroX ( 1061960 ) on Sunday July 09, 2017 @11:19AM (#54773459)
    Thought most Linux users would stay away from Lenovo after the bios incident
    • Yup... As far as I'm concerned, if it aint Dell, it can go to hell... And it is nice to see that Dell is finally putting Linux on their Precision line of laptop workstations..There for the longest time all you could get Linux preinstalled on was consumer-grade XPS. Running KUbuntu 14.04 on both my Precision T3500 desktop and M4400 laptop. Flawless operation...

  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Sunday July 09, 2017 @11:48AM (#54773579)
    I had been running Linux Mint on my notebook for nearly a year. About 25% of the time it would not get through a cold boot-up. I had to power down and restart. Thinking It might be an install quirk, I wiped and re-installed Mint. Same thing. Now I run Debian with no issues at all. (notebook is a ThinkPad)
    • If you ran Mint for a year and it wouldn't boot 25% of the time, that's on you, your install, an/or your hardware, not Mint. In the same vein, I can't claim that Mint is perfect just because it boots perfectly 99.98% of the time for me on my laptop.
      • If you ran Mint for a year and it wouldn't boot 25% of the time, that's on you, your install, an/or your hardware, not Mint. ...

        Oh, did I strike a nerve? The hardware is fine. It has run OpenBSD, FreeBSD, various other flavors of Linux, and is now running Debian with no issues or problems whatsoever. There is the possibility that the hardware exposes an obscure bug in something Mint, I don't know.

        I'm coming into Linux from Windows. I don't have any "favorite" Linux distribution, I just want a notebook that is reliable. Debian provided that for me. You may have different experiences. That's fine. Pick what works for yo

  • Ubuntu and Mint are Debian based, so the Debian total is 65%. Manjaro is Arch-based, so Arch is 28.7%. I also tend to lump RPM-based distros together, Fedora + SUSE + RedHat is at 22.1%.

    Personally, I started with Red Hat (5.0 IIRC, and note this is not Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which started a new number sequence), obtained as a boxed set on CDs purchased at Barnes & Noble. It wasn't long before I gave Debian a try, starting with 2.0 (Hamm), and I was hooked. Within a couple of years I had stopped using Windows completely, so Windows 2000 was the last version I used, and that only briefly. For many years I ran Debian unstable, then I backed off to running testing, since it was less fiddly, not that unstable is bad, really. It's quite solid; the name refers to the changing nature of the contents, not to the reliability of the system. Along the way I tinkered with Gentoo, Slack and a few others, but always came back to Debian.

    These days I just use my work machines which run a customized version of Ubuntu (desktop) and OS X (laptop). If I did have a personally-owned laptop, it would probably be a MacBook running Debian testing. Though I'd probably give Arch a try. I like the rolling release model and Debian testing undergoes occasional lockdowns as the project gets close to a release. If Arch is less fiddly than Debian unstable, I might like it better.

  • by Jerry ( 6400 ) on Sunday July 09, 2017 @01:53PM (#54774017) []

    Ubuntu is only 2.3% of the 14,445,000 hits running Linux this month. The rest of the name brand distros hoover around 0%.

    The most popular distro is Unknown:
            GNU Linux (Unknown or unspecified distribution) 12,446,745 44.4 %

    • Why are they unknown?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The stats are based on browser IDs. If the distro does not add a fingerprint to the web browser then it's classified as unknown.

  • Or is it that they just haven't finished compiling yet?

  • by Jerry ( 6400 ) on Sunday July 09, 2017 @02:13PM (#54774087)

    on this thread reminded me of the great uptime wars 15 years ago. Linux users were claiming uptimes of 200, 300, 400 and more days, only to be countered by Windows users who claimed equal or longer uptimes.

    The argument was settled abruptly and permanently when Microsoft announced the 32bit clock bug which automatically rebooted ALL Windows installations after an uptime of only 49.7 days. Any Windows user claiming 50 or more days of uptime was lying.

    My longest uptime was 410 days (IIRC) on an in office PostgreSQL server running SuSE 6.3.
    I've been retired for nine years and I no longer need 24/7/365 access to my computers, all of which are laptops, so I turn them off every night.

    Today I see in this comment sections lots of criticisms about the "usability" of KDE, Plasma, Gnome, Mint and other Linux DE's and it is obvious from the nature of the complaints that the complainers are less than truthful about their assertions. The more things change the more they remain the same! :D

    • The 49.7 day bug was only on 95 and 98, maybe Me too but nobody even had that installed for 49.7 days.

      The stuff on NT kernels (Win 2k, XP, etc) never suffered from it.

      • I ran a selection of those OSs, and have to say that the NT kernel flavors were also the ones more likely to approach 50d uptimes compared with the others.
    • Any Windows user claiming 50 or more days of uptime was lying.

      Or running Windows 3 or 3.1 or 3.11 or NT 3.1 or NT 3.5 or NT 3.51 or NT 4, or if they were writing in Chinese they could have been running Windows 3.2

      There were 2 versions of Windows affected by the bug.

    • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

      Not quite. The Windows rollover bug triggered due to a bug in the system's timer chip, and not all hardware had the bug. My Tyan S1830S (440BX) motherboards certainly didn't; my unpatched Win98 (and WinME, once I got it beaten into submission) had no problem staying up for months on end.

      My longest uptime in that era was WinXP (no SP) on one of the Tyans, which ran 24/7 for eight *years* with only two restarts along the way, both due to power outages beyond the UPS's capacity. And that box did all the heavy

      • You don't have 8 years of uptime with 2 restarts along the way, though if you really only restarted it twice in 8 years that means you had at least 2.66 years uptime which is pretty impressive as Windows XP goes. I never really got XP (or 2000) to last much longer than 120 days, which iI repeated on multiple installations on multiple pieces of hardware. I've seen NT4 make it close to a year, and my personal best was a Vista(!) system that made it all the way to 497 days, which you might notice is 49.7 day

        • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

          Yep, that old XP box really did have uptimes measured in years; was closing on 3 years when it got sorta retired because of a protracted crosscountry move. (WinME on the same hardware did almost as well... started off so bad it couldn't even crash properly, but applied 98Lite and disabled System Restore, and it never crashed again. Best uptime was a little under 2 years. Tyan motherboard and Matrox vidcard, stable hardware makes a huge difference.)

          Then again, my original DOS6 box was just as stable, and all

  • I've always run Arch on my desktop/laptops [when running a Linux distro] but I always though that it was "too hard" for most Linux newbies. And when I recommend a Linux install to new Linux users, it's ALWAYS Mint, bc it's so easy and built ready-to-go after install. Currently use a MacBook for my main system (work perk), but I do still use Arch in a VM when necessary, and run Arch on my personal laptop.

  • Linux Mint is so good that i am shocked it does not reach the number one spot. I really love Mint.

3500 Calories = 1 Food Pound