I’ve written about two fantastic tools that help people discover the ideal Linux distribution tailored to their needs and expectations, but a new tool just materialized on my radar and frankly, it’s blowing my mind. I just took Debian 9.9.0 Cinnamon, MX Linux 18.3 and Peppermint OS for a quick test drive. But I did so without downloading any ISOs, without flashing any images to a USB, and without even firing up VirtualBox. That’s thanks to DistroTest.net, a website that streams the experience right to your browser.
DistroTest is the brainchild of Forster Tobias and Klemann Andy. It operates on the philosophy of every potential Linux user asking the “3 W’s” questions:
- Which distribution is the best for me
- Which graphical interface I want
- Which configuration options I have
DistroTest serves up a whopping 689 versions across 223 unique operating systems. This feels like a gargantuan undertaking for the site’s operators, but the end-user experience is seamless and dead simple.
RELATED READING: 2 Awesome Tools To Find Your Perfect Linux OS
Basically you browse or search for the Linux distro you want to test (you can also filter the site by the very newest releases) and then click Start. The equivalent of booting up the Live ISO or installer image is streamed to your browser in a separate window via NoVNC, but you can also connect to the system on a locally installed VNC client — the server’s IP address and port are provided after you start your session.
I found I only needed to wait a few seconds for each distribution to load, and occasionally you may enter a queue to manage the server side’s bandwidth load. Then you’ll have a full two hours to treat the distro as your own. Add or remove software, tweak configuration files, partition and format hard drives, whatever you desire. Once you shut it down, the system is wiped clean.
You’ll get a faster and smoother experience running these on your own hardware — or even from locally installed Virtual Machine software — but first impressions are everything, and DistroTest is a brilliant way to acquire that first impression!
Thanks for the tip @FroggoBaggins!
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