A Neowin Guide to Linux Distributions v1.6.1
Here shall serve as a guide and reference to the most popular and user friendly distros currently on offer to the Linux community. This reference is the collective work of the neowin community and shall be an on going project. What you see here will be subject to change as we revise and update where needed. If you would like to contribute to the cause get in contact with me (Keldyn) or Configure (our Linux Moderator) so we can include your contribution and ensure you are given due credit.
First of all, Linux, unlike Microsoft Operating Systems are available in many different flavors.
No one Linux is the same.
Since Linux is free (as in beer) to obtain and modify, its development has progressed in the form of multiple “distributions” A distribution is the packing of an application and support base with the Linux Kernel, usually to make Linux as powerful for the end user as possible. Some popular distributions include…
Linux Mint is a 32- and 64-bit Linux distribution for desktop computers, based on either Ubuntu or Debian. Its stated aim is to be a "modern, elegant and comfortable operating system which is both powerful and easy to use." Mint provides full out-of-the-box multimedia support by including some proprietary software such as Adobe Flash. Mint's motto is "from freedom came elegance".
New versions of the Ubuntu-based Linux Mint have been released approximately every six months. The first release, named "Ada", was released in 2006. The 17th release, "Qiana", was released on May 31, 2014. Support for older releases usually ends shortly after the next version is released, but there have been releases with long-term support, including the current release, v17.x, which will be supported for five years, until April 2019.
Ubuntu is a Linux distribution built on the popular Debian system. The advantage that Ubuntu has over Debian is an easy-to-use CLI installer and a well put together desktop package. It comes with Gnome 2.8 and a custom GUI theme and sound scheme that ties the system together nicely.
Ubuntu also features more "bleeding edge" software than the standard Debian stable branch. Since Ubuntu is built on Debian, it uses the easy apt package manager for package management (installation, uninstallation, upgrading, etc.).
The thing that impresses many about Ubuntu is how well the whole system is put together. The login screen, GUI theme, and sound scheme really give it a polished look, even more so than some of the other commercial distros like Red Hat, SuSE, or Mandrake.
With an ageing final build of 9.0, Red Hat was one of the most popular distributions. RedHat recently announced that they were ceasing retail development of the Redhat Linux line and are instead moving towards a more Open Source and community orientated project. The Fedora Project was introduced in late 2003. Built for and with the help of the open source community, the Fedora Project is for developers and early high-tech enthusiasts using Linux in non-critical computing environments.
Fedora is useful for new users insecure in their knowledge of computing. The official Red Hat (the foundation of which is used in Fedora) varieties have proven themselves as a reliable, and powerful Linux distribution for mission critical serving environments.
Suse is a popular European distribution based in Germany. SuSE Linux has been best noted for its slick installation courtesy of YaST (yet another setup tool) which closely resembles that of Calderas OpenLinux. SuSE Linux has been RPM compliant since release 5. The default window manager is KDE, which has been redesigned by SuSE to sport a number of enhancements.
Gentoo Linux is a versatile and fast, completely free Linux distribution for x86, PowerPC, Sparc and Sparc64 that's geared towards Linux power users. Unlike other distros, Gentoo Linux has an advanced package management system called Portage. Portage is a true ports system in the tradition of BSD ports, but is Python-based and sports a number of advanced features including dependencies, fine-grained package management, "fake" (OpenBSD-style) installs, path sandboxing, safe unmerging, system profiles, virtual packages, config file management, and more.
Portage allows you to set up Gentoo Linux the way you like it -- with the optimization settings that you want, and with optional build-time functionality (like GNOME, KDE, mysql, ALSA, LDAP support, etc.) enabled or disabled as you desire. If you don't want GNOME on your system, your apps won't have optional GNOME support enabled, and if you do, then they will. That's why we prefer thinking of Gentoo Linux as a meta-distribution or Linux technology engine. You decide what kind of system you want, and Portage will create it for you.
Debian Linux is a different kind of Linux distribution. Rather than being developed by one isolated individual or group, Debian is being developed openly in the full spirit of Linux development.
Fundamental to Debian are its package management tools. This allows users to maintain their computer systems with ease. It is so powerful that many people have been known to switch to Debian solely because of it. It orientates itself however towards more experienced users and developers. For that audience, it represents the leading edge of Linux and open source development.
Debian has had many children who live on under many different names. Here is the Debian-derived distro list:
Mandriva Linux (formerly Mandrake Linux)
Mandriva is at present one of the industry leaders in Linux distros and is well known for its good looks, ease of installation, well rounded package selection and customized wizards and setup tools. The installation program, DrakX is colorful and attractive and patiently walks you through the required steps to install mandrake Linux. Mandriva comes with an impressive list of third party software. Mandriva is available from major software retailers and directly from their website. As of writing, they are up to version 10.1
Slackware is one of the oldest distributions and is produced by Walnut Creek CD-ROM. It does not possess all the user friendly attributes of its brethren and is best suited to those who have a thorough understanding of UNIX & Linux.
Slackware tries to maintain its link with the UNIX heritage of Linux by conforming strictly to UNIX conventions and not overwhelming experienced users with commercial functionality. In this way it is very similar to Debian GNU/Linux – the two have a related history.
ArchLinux is an i686 optimized distro. Arch is sort of like Slackware and Gentoo in some ways. There is nice and easy text based interface installer. During the install process the installer lets you format the hard drive with cfdisk or it can do it automatically. Then it will install the basic packages and kernel. If you download the bigger iso (full) you can also install xorg, and other app. Once the installer gets done installing the packages then you need to edit /etc/rc.conf /etc/fstab /grub/menu.lst /etc/lilo.conf, etc... You have a choice between lilo and grub as your boot loader. Grub is better supported. Then you install grub / lilo to the HD and reboot. Once you reboot you setup the Internet and run 'pacman -Syu' pacman is a packages manager. The S in the command download and install software. The y sync the data base of apps/programs and the u looks for updates of already installed packages. Once done you can go install all you other programs that you want by doing 'Pacman -S programname'
Pacman file Manager
Pacman automatically detects which dependencies are needed
Install only what you want
Configure you system and make it the way you want to make
Extremely Easy + Fast to install
This distro is not for New comers you need to have some knowledge of linux
Linux Live Systems (Knoppix, Gentoo LiveCD, Slax)
http://www.knoppix.net , http://www.gentoo.org , http://slax.linux-live.org
LiveCDs are a great way to run Linux without having to install it to your hard drive. In fact, you don't even need to have a hard drive in your system at all. It will run completely from the CD and available RAM. Many LiveCDs offer a way to install to your hard drive, if you wish. Some also include utilities to perform virus scans on your Windows drives and recover data. Features vary from one LiveCD to another, so read through for the features you are interested in.
This kind of distro will completely run from CD, so you don't need to install it and maybe waste your partitions or something. It's a great way to see linux running on your system. There are many different distros, each with different goals. If you just want to "see linux in action", i'd suggest you go for a full-featured distro like Knoppix.
Here are two big lists of these CD-based distros:
Which distribution is the right one for me?
Linux distributions can vary significantly in their focus and application base. They all have one thing in common however. The Linux kernel powers each Linux distribution and choosing the right one for you will depend on how you like to use your computer.
If you intend to use Linux for desktop productivity, Ubuntu, Fedora Core & SuSE are probably for you. If you intend to deploy Linux into a non graphical, server type environment than Gentoo, Arch, Debian and Slackware make good choices.
Some quick URL's:
www.linuxdoc.org - HOW-TO's... gotta love em'.
www.rpmfind.net - finds RPM for your distribution.
www.linuxnewbie.org - general "newbie" tips and how-to
www.distrowatch.com - provides a package comparison table.
www.linuxiso.org - Want to download Linux distribution ISO? No need to look furthur, LinuxISO has it all
Compiled by Keldyn Majere for Neowin.net
Some handy links contributed by Cold
Mr. Static Void
- Edited/Updated by fred666 on January 8, 2006 (distro order based on 2005 poll results)
- Edited/Updated by Haggis on October 2nd, 2014