A Python finds out which is the best performing Linux distro!


With more and more linux distributions competing among themselves for the userspace, we are currently living in the best of times as far as choice in open-source software is concerned. However, more the number of choices, more is the head-scratching to decide what to choose amongst them. Like many, I am also one of the victims of “distro-hopping”. No sooner a major distribution declares a new version, I’m itching to try one out in my virtual box or as a LiveCD version. Few days ago, this benchmarking idea occurred to me.

I’m a software developer and my requirements were clear. I wanted a distro that is good at performance. Since my desktop is cluttered with “heavy-duty” programs like Eclipse-ADT, Java, IDLE, etc., performance was my primary concern. I mostly write application software and android apps, so things like disk I/O, memory and CPU utilization matter.

With these things in my mind, I was seeking a simple way to do a quick benchmark of various distros to find out what suits my needs. Thats when this idea came to me – Almost all distros come preloaded with a general-purpose scripting language called python which could be summoned for the job. I took “time taken in milliseconds” to do 5 basic tasks to decide on the performance. These tasks were:

  1. Zip-test: A test to compress a large file to a zip file, and extract in back in python code.
  2. Random-test: Generate 5 million random numbers and round them to zero decimals.
  3. I/O test: Write a unicode string ‘spam and eggs’ 5 million times to a text file, and read them back.
  4. CSV test: Generate a CSV spreadsheet with 5 million rows in it, and read them back.
  5. Bandwidth test: Download the 800K akonadi RPM file from IIT Kanpur’s website.

(The last one was just for the sake of completeness. Internet bandwidth depends more on other parameters such as your ISP limits, time of the day, latency, etc. rather than the disto you are using).

The contestants in the arena were:

  1. openSUSE 12.2
  2. Debian 7 (GNOME version)
  3. Fedora 18
  4. Ubuntu 12.04 LTS
  5. Xubuntu 12.04

My previous experience with Ubuntu made be biased towards it, but the tests showed me how wrong I was. Also, from what I’d read in most blogs on the Internet, KDE was one of the most bloated distros ever. However, in my tests KDE on openSUSE topped the race in most parameters, though the credit should go to openSUSE for optimizing the KDE. The second spot saw Fedora and Debian fighting amongst them, while Ubuntu (that I was presently using) fared the worst! Here are the detailed results:

Test zt1




random io csv bandwidth
debian1 7622 2753 9142 5732 12784 118978
debian2 7724 2752 9161 5287 12112 92386
fedora18_1 8605 4168 6287 5972 12750 0
fedora18_2 7762 4164 6419 6160 12818 0
openSUSE1 9001 2313 5915 5904 12715 115999
openSUSE2 7253 2245 6035 5935 11492 71257
precise1 9649 5012 8807 6846 13552 78560
precise2 10555 4434 8890 7229 13455 48286
xubuntu1 13305 4827 8954 5839 14676 58538
xubuntu2 10826 4760 8934 7908 12802 52768

*Above figures represent time-taken in milliseconds

The bandwidth test could not be performed on fedora as the Live CD did not have the wget package installed, but I did not need that to get a general idea of things.

My Conclusion: openSUSE wins the race, though Debian-7 and Fedora-18 are also fine distros for performance.

Here is the entire python benchmarking script that you may customize as per your requirement (change initializing variables in the script and run by issuing “python benchmark.py” from the shell):


import sys,time,os
import zipfile,random,csv
import subprocess
from zipfile import ZipFile,ZIP_DEFLATED
from random import random

#This should be initially present before running the program:
file_to_extract = “VirtualBox.exe” #”dotnetfx35.exe”

def timer(test):
if test == “ziptest1”:
elif test == “ziptest2”:
elif test == “randomtest”:
elif test==”iotest”:
elif test==”csvtest”:
elif test==”bwtest”:

print test,timetaken,”msecs.”
return timetaken

def ziptest1():
myzip=zipfile.ZipFile(‘t.zip’,’w’,ZIP_DEFLATED) #ZIP_STORED

def ziptest2():

def randomtest():
for i in range(1,5000000):
r = round(random()*100,0);
#print r

def iotest():
for i in range(1,5000000):
file.write(u’spam and eggs’)
while (s!=”):
#print s

def csvtest():
writer= csv.writer(file,delimiter=’,’,quotechar=’|’)#,quoting=csv.QUOTE_MINIMAL)
for i in range(1,5000000):
for row in reader:
s= ‘,’.join(row)

def bwtest():
subprocess.call([“wget”,”http://mirror.cse.iitk.ac.in/fedora/releases/18/Fedora/i386/os/Packages/a/akonadi-1.8.1-1.fc18.i686.rpm”,”-O akonadi.rpm”])

if __name__ == “__main__”:
#print time.strftime(“%d-%m-%y %H:%M”, time.gmtime())
#print time.strftime(“%d-%m-%y %H:%M”, time.localtime())

#Store results to csv file.
writer= csv.writer(file,delimiter=’,’,quotechar=’|’)
print ‘\n\nWritten results.csv’

Fedora vs Ubuntu vs Linux Mint for Performance

Fedora vs Ubuntu vs Linux Mint

The never ending search for that “holy grail” distribution keeps most people downloading and hopping from one distro to another without ever bothering to ask themselves why they want to use an operating system in the first place. I don’t blame them, as nowadays, the ever active “assembly-lines” of various distro factories like ubuntu, fedora and linux-mint are enough to boggle the minds of most newbies by throwing an enormous number of configuration options.

Until some time ago, I myself was one of those “holy grail” seekers endlessly installing one distro after another in the second partition of my hard drive which is always reserved for Linux. Since my full time job involves .NET programming for my organization, I have to keep the first one reserved for Win7 of course.

Anyways, coming back to my Linux endeavors, I decided to pause and look inwards. I asked myself why do I want to use Linux? Thats because I want to: 1) Learn and understand the Linux operating system and programs using a top-down approach, and 2) Learn programming on Linux – this involves a lot of things including C++, GTK+, Qt, Android and the suchlike, and 3) Doing miscellaneous things such as listening to music, some light gaming, etc.

The most obvious thing that occurred to me was one word – performance. I don’t need high-end graphics. I’m never getting into serious gaming stuff such as OpenGL. All I need is a distro that can handle as many applications and programs as I can throw at it. Since I don’t have time for doing things from scratch like LFS or ArchLinux, I shortlisted the below three candidates:

1. Ubuntu 12.04 LTS – Precise Pangolin

2. Linux Mint 14.1 – Nadia

3. Fedora 18 – Spherical Cow

Rather than search for existing benchmarks, I decided to put these gladiators in my own arena. I prepared my 16GB pendrive for a multi-boot with the above three Live versions and started testing them one by one. The stuff I threw at them was things I would normally do, such as extracting a huge (4GB) archive, format a USB pendrive, surf the net, etc. Here is how each one of them fared in the fight:

Distro Benchmarking

The verdict: Unlike the gladiators of Rome where one used to absolutely dominate over the other, the case of these linux distros is entirely different. One distro fared well in one area, while the other fared in another. For instance, Fedora was good at CPU usage, while Linux-mint did well in the RAM area. However, for my purposes, I regard Linux-mint as an ideal choice overall.