This is a brief guide to the world of Linux distributions, primarily
aimed at individuals who are new to the Linux scene, and who are
thinking about taking the plunge
and trying Linux for the first time. To set the scene, let's
start with a very brief history of the origins of Linux.
The Linux kernel was started by Linus Torvalds in 1991, who was at the
time studying at the University of Helsinki. Linux was
intended to be a replacement for Minix, an operating system designed
for educational purposes. One of the most important
made by Linus was the licensing agreement that the kernel was released
under, the GNU General Public License (GPL). Using the GPL
that the programming code was freely-distributed and available to the
general public. This in turn encouraged thousands of
to submit their own contributions to the code. It is
that 1.5-2% of the kernel has been written by Linus
What is a Linux
If you follow the IT press, you probably have heard of some Linux
companies such as Red Hat, Mandriva, SuSE, and Debian. These
all organisations that have created their own 'distributions' (often
known as distros) of Linux.
A Linux distribution is more than just the kernel itself.
A typical desktop Linux distribution consists of various software
components including the Linux kernel, the GNU toolchain, and a
collection of free and open source software, such as office suites,
email clients, web browsers, instant messaging, graphics editors, video
and more. This software is released in both binary and source
code form, the former of which is code that the computer can
understand, the latter what humans can read. Having the
code released under a GPL license means that other developers can
legally modify the
software, thereby providing a mechanism where the community can
contribute to the development of the software components.
most distributions there is often some proprietory software included
where the source code may not be released. This may be due to
patent and licensing restrictions.
There are in excess of 700 linux distributions available, of
which more than half currently are being actively developed.
However, try not to be daunted by this vast number. This huge
number is partly a reflection of the fact that there is no barrier
preventing an individual or organisation from creating their own
distribution. Many distros were started simply because an
felt that none of the existing distros met his specific
requirements. Furthermore, many of the distros are derived
one of the 'major' distros, sharing the same base, even sometimes being
released at the same time. To illustrate, let's take the
Debian distribution. The following distributions are all
GNUstep, Symphony OS, Ubuntu
(see list below), and Xandros.
DeveLinux, Dreamlinux, Elive,
(see list below),
Morphix, Parsix, and sidux.
BeatrIX Linux, LinEx, Loco Linux, NepaLinux, PingOO, Sun Wah RAYS LX,
Tuquito, and Trisquel.
Additionally, some of these 'derived' distros have themselves also
spawned a whole raft of other distributions.
List of Distribtions
based on Knoppix:
Barnix, Bioknoppix, ClusterKNOPPIX, Clusterix, Condorux, CosmoPBX, Damn
Small Linux, Danix, Dappix, DCC/Live, Dinux, distccKNOPPIX,
DistccPPCKnoppix, emKnoppix, FCCU GNU/Linux Forensic Boot CD,
eduKnoppix, Feather Linux, FREEDUC, GIS-Knoppix, grml,
Instant-Grid, Julex, Kazit, KernelKit, knopILS, Knoppel, Knoppix 64,
Knoppix-Mib, Kalango, Knosciences, Kuliax, Kurumin, Lin4Astro, Local
Area Security Knoppix, Linux Live Game Project, Luit Linux, Medialinux,
Mentoppix, Musix, Myrinix, NordisKnoppix, OGo Knoppix CD, Overclockix,
PaiPix, ParallelKnoppix, Parsix, Paipix, Penguin Sleuth Bootable CD,
Quantian, ROSLIMS, Shabdix, SLYNUX, StreamBOX-LiveCD, Toophpix,
Vigyaan, Vital Data Forensic or Rescue Kit (FoRK), Xarnoppix, Xfld,
List of Distributions
based on Ubuntu:
CE (all official derivations);
andLinux, Elbuntu, Fluxbuntu, gNewSense, Gnoppix, Hiweed, Impi Linux,
Linux for Clinics, LinuxMCE, nUbuntu, Scibuntu, Uberyl, Ubuntu Lite,
Ubuntu Stunio, and XUbuntu.
Phew! As you can see, over 100 distributions are based on Debian
Take a look at the Linux distro timeline below (clicking on the graphic
will make it readable). This timeline gives you an accurate
representation of when distros were launched, and when other distros
were spawned from their parent distribution.
Page: What are the differences between Distributions?
are the differences between Distributions?
other factors might influence my choice of Distribution?
what Distribution should I use?
Last Updated Sunday, March 23 2008 @ 05:32 AM EST