I'm need a little help picking a new Linux distro for me to migrate to. The problem I'm up against is that my knowledge of the advantages of various distros is quite low. I'm not a complete Linux newbie, but my knowledge with Linux distros is limited basically to only what I've ever needed to know (i.e. Ubuntu), so I could use some expert opinions on which way to go next.
I've been a Linux user for some time. My university taught it's CS students primarily using RHEL, and have had a Linux distro installed in some form or another (either on a partition or in Virtualbox) since 2006. Originally, I went for Fedora simply because it was based on Red Hat. But I abandoned Fedora in 2006 when twice it managed to do... something to my partition tables and wipe out both Fedora and Windows XP irrecoverably. Between then and mid-2008, I went Windows only simply because I could go to the labs at the university if I needed to do any Unix-based work.
When my dissertation rolled around in 2008, I decided that I needed a copy of Linux installed to do some of my Unix work at home, since it was very laborious travelling to and from the university to do 30 minutes of work, only to return home to do 3 hours of development in Windows. This time around, I went for Ubuntu, since it was all the rage at the time. From 2008 to the end of 2010, I used Ubuntu inside Virtualbox to do my development, and it was an arrangement that worked well, however I often found myself spending more time in the virtual machine than I did in Windows, so at the start of the year I got hold of a hard drive and installed Ubuntu 10.10 on it. I have been a happy Ubuntu user ever since.
Reason for Changing Distro
I've been warily watching Canonical's work on Unity for a while, and there are two things that I disliked about Ubuntu and it's direction. Firstly, I disliked their take on Gnome. I like the black theme they had going on, but the massive unnecessary integration of things like evolution, Ubuntu One and the like annoyed me. But things weren't all lost, since I could just remove the panels, and did so. This massive integration of services I didn't need felt very... Vista-like, and I ended up spending most of my Ubuntu setup taking out various service panels and pre-installed stuff that I didn't need. Again, this wasn't a big deal.
The two major thumbs down for Ubuntu for me has been...
- Unity. I don't like it, at all. I know you can turn it off, but the whole of Gnome 3 looks like ass to me, and so I'm not interested in the direction that the Ubuntu GUI is headed.
- Old Software. I mean Jesus, Firefox 4 has been out since mid-March, and it didn't appear for Ubuntu until 11.04, and it's still not available through the 10.10 repositories. Same applies to the Eclipse IDE. Eclipse 3.6 has been available since mid-2010, and it still isn't available in Ubuntu 10.10.
The kicker however came today. I decided that I was going to upgrade to 11.04, since I knew I didn't need to use unity, and I wanted access to newer software via the Software Centre, instead of manually installing everything (no big deal, but Software Centre is still easier). After spending no less than 8 hours running through the damn upgrade process, I rebooted my PC only to find that Ubuntu will not boot. I have tried everything that everyone else on the Internet has suggested, and I just cannot get it to load. It's looking more and more likely that I'm going to have to reinstall from scratch.
That being the case, combined with the fact that I'm not particularly interested in staying with Ubuntu, gives me the opportunity to switch distros.
What I need
I mainly use Linux as a general purpose OS. I do some basic word processing, some spreadsheets, some games, and so on, but mainly I do programming, usually using Eclipse. I have little interest in spending weeks and months tweaking it to suit my needs, and preferably I'd rather not build everything from source, so an equivalent to Ubuntu's "Software Centre" would be a plus but not entirely necessary if it has enough advantages for me to use it.
Primarily though as long as it...
- Runs an office suite
- Lets me use Eclipse
- Lets me browse the web
... I'm open to any suggestion, I'd even be happy to go stick with Ubuntu if it really is the best distro for my needs. Mainly though I'm looking for a list of pros for each distro so that I can pick the best one for me, since I do spend most of my time in it. If you can, please give a reason WHY you're suggesting it. Blank suggestions of distros won't help me, since I can reel off a list of distros already.
Hopefully this can be a stimulating conversation comparing Linux distro's, please please please don't turn this into a flame war.
Regards, and many thanks in advance,
p.s. TL;DR: I need suggestions (with reasons) for my next Linux distro to install
p.p.s. Apologies for the wall of text!