The different operating systems of Linux:
Ubuntu MATE has several advantages. It comes closest to acting like the majority of Windows operating systems. It has a menu bar along the left side of the screen. The user clicks on the icon of what they want to run and the system runs the software. Ubunti MATE is preinstalled with LibreOffice (which is 100% compatible with Microsoft Office) and other basic software that is common and 100% compatible with Windows. Installing new software from the extremely large selection of free software available, is just a matter of clicking on the “Software Center” icon along the left side.
In the upper righthand corner is a search bar. Type in what you're looking for - like "audio" or "video" or "arcade games" - and get a list of software that matches your search. Click once on the software you want and click on the install button on the right. That's it. The OS does everything for you. No typing involved. Ubuntu MATE does have automatic updates available just like Windows, but they can be turned off easily.
This is the easiest to use and the most popular operating system with the most support and requiring the least amount of thought (I just want it to WORK!!!). There is also a version available for laptops and standard desktops with even a greater variety of software than the RPi version of Ubuntu MATE. It is simply called Ubuntu.
This is the default OS for the RPi; 99 percent of all articles that discuss how to do things on the RPi refer to Raspbian. It is not as friendly as Ubuntu MATE, but is still point and click like Windows. It does not come with software as comprehensive Ubuntu MATE. It still has a basic text editor, but is nothing like Microsoft Word and is not compatible with it. It does have a spreadsheet program, but it is not compatible with Microsoft Excel and is nothing like it. The software it comes with was chosen mainly for size and not compatibility to the Windows counterparts. This is the only OS, so far, that has a graphical configuration tool for the RPi. This is a huge advantage, because it is much easier to configure different features than in any of the others, including Ubuntu MATE. If, for example, you buy the camera module that is available for most of the Rpi's, simply turn on Raspbian's configuration tool to recognize the hardware. In the other OS's you have to edit several configuration files that require a more advanced knowledge. Does this make it better than others? For some people, maybe so. For others, it might not be a consideration. But there are hundreds of great free resources to support Raspbian.
This is a single task OS, meaning it was developed to do one thing and do it exceptionally well: for example, a kiosk for a business, or a DJ mixing machine for night clubs. In the latter, the OS is designed to be a DVR (Digital Video Recorder). This is the same as some cable and satellite companies offer in order to watch programs at your convenience. Just like old VCRs, you set the time and the channel and it records and stores the program to your microSD or hard drive so that you can watch it at your convenience. Unlike the commercial services, there is no monthly fee and you get to keep the recording for as long as you want and even make your own DVDs of your recordings.
The caveat for all this wonderful goodness is that you need to buy additional hardware to work with the RPi. The upside is that the hardware is usually fairly cheap, $25 or less. The downside is that it is usually older hardware and not readily available and needs a USB device in order to connect it. This means that you will have to purchase it from eBay or Amazon.
Robert M. Laine has been working in the IT industry for 30+ years. He has a B.S. in Computer Science. He has worked for the Chicago Tribune IT group and as the in-store technician for Staples. You can email him with questions or comments at BobLaine_sw@mail.com and visit LaineTech.blogspot.com