Best command-line distro

Tim Chase blinux.list at
Thu Nov 13 17:40:00 UTC 2014

On November 13, 2014, John J. Boyer wrote:
> Which distro is best for working solely at the command line? 

It depends on what you value as "best".

Does it need to come with accessibility turned on out of the box or
can you enable that yourself? Do you plan to access it locally, or do
you want to mostly use it over SSH from another box?  Do you want
cutting-edge packages across the board, or do you prefer stability?
Do you mind building packages from source, or would you prefer
pre-built binaries?

I prefer stability and pre-packaged builds over being cutting-edge,
so I run Debian on most of my boxes. That does come at the price of
having packages that are sometimes a bit behind. Debian Testing isn't
quite so bad (especially compared to RHEL/CentOS as they tend to be
*way* behind), but Debian Stable is noticeably behind on some things.
At the other end of the spectrum, you could have source-based distros
like Arch and Gentoo which give you the most cutting-edge stuff, but
can come at the cost of stability.  In between, you'll find distros
like Ubuntu, Mint, Slackware, Mageia, and Fedora.

Fortunately, on Debian I can build packages from source with little
difficulty, so for those that I do need to be cutting-edge (mostly
youtube-dl), I build them myself rather than attempt to use the
package in the repos which is woefully out-of-date.

Alternatively, you might check out one of the BSDs (FreeBSD, OpenBSD,
and PC-BSD in particular) which have pretty minimal (i.e.,
command-line only) base systems that you can build up as you need.
I've been pretty pleased with both FreeBSD and OpenBSD on an older
machine that I have (PC-BSD requires a 64-bit processor which the box
doesn't have).

Just my rambling thoughts on the matter,


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