Linux Distributions

With so many different distributions or 'flavors' of the Linux Operating System, it can be difficult to choose which is right for you. Each distribution is unique, and has it's own strengths and weaknesses. In this section we will briefly describe a selection of the more popular Linux distributions.

Some Linux distributions are released as different editions. The table shown below indicates Desktop, Server/Enterprise, Live or Netbook editions for each listing. This may help you in choosing which Linux Distribution is right for the task at hand.
Edition Description
Desktop Usually a traditional desktop installation with graphical interface and common applications. Great for home use, on a laptop or as a workstation.
Server / Enterprise Designed to provide a multi-user platform for business and networked applications. The focus of such an operating systems tends to be centered around delivering services to multiple clients rather than a single user interface.
Live The operating system runs directly from a storage device. Often installed on a USB stick, a CD or a DVD. This is perfect if you're interested in just trying out Linux without actually installing to your hard drive.
Netbook Netbooks have sparked the development of many new light-weight GNU/Linux distributions. Since the Netbook hardware architecture is similar to personal computers, we're starting to see more and more Netbook specific distributions.

Debian

Debian GNU/Linux is a free distribution of the Linux based operating system. It is maintained and updated through the work of many users who volunteer their time and effort. Along with its large selection of prepackaged software is contains advanced package management tools that allow for easy installation and maintenance on individual systems and workstation clusters. Extensive pre-release testing is done to ensure the highest degree of reliability possible, and a publicly accessible bug tracking system provides an easy way to monitor customer feedback. This has made Debian one of the most popular distributions.

Website: http://www.debian.org
Get it: Debian ISO download
License: Open Source (Free)
Editions: Desktop, Server/Enterprise

Ubuntu

Ubuntu is a free, open source operating system that starts with the breadth of Debian and adds regular releases (every six months), a clear focus on the user and usability (it should "Just Work", TM) and a commitment to security updates with 18 months of support for every release. Ubuntu ships with the latest Gnome release as well as a selection of server and desktop software that makes for a comfortable desktop experience off a single installation CD.

Website: http://www.ubuntu.com
Get it: Ubuntu ISO download
License: Open Source (Free)
Editions: Desktop, Server/Enterprise, Live, Netbook

Fedora

Fedora is a set of projects, sponsored by Red Hat and guided by the Fedora Project Board. These projects are developed by a large community of people who strive to provide and maintain the very best in free, open source software and standards. Fedora Core, the central Fedora project, is an operating system and platform, based on Linux, that is always free for anyone to use, modify, and distribute, now and forever.

Website: http://fedoraproject.org
Get it: Fedora ISO download
License: Open Source (Free)
Editions: Desktop

CentOS

CentOS is an Enterprise-class Linux Distribution derived from Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). CentOS conforms fully with the Red Hat redistribution policy and aims to be 100% binary compatible. (CentOS mainly changes packages to remove Red Hat branding and artwork.) Basically, CentOS is RHEL without the cost of paying for it.

Website: http://www.centos.org
Get it: CentOS ISO download
License: Open Source (Free)
Editions: Server/Enterprise

OpenSUSE

Whether you're new to Linux or you use it daily, SUSE Linux delivers the features you need most for home computing and networking. SUSE Linux also includes more than 1,000 of the world's leading open source applications. From established solutions like Firefox and OpenOffice.org to emerging technologies like Beagle and Xen, these applications are a real value. You simply open the box, run the installation program and start using Linux for everything you do. Choose the default set of applications to get a great desktop or customize your entire computing environment. It's truly that easy. SUSE Linux has both a Desktop and Enterprise release.

Website: http://www.opensuse.org
Get it: SUSE ISO download
License: Open Source (Free)
Editions: Desktop, Server/Enterprise, Live

Mandriva

Mandriva, formerly known as Mandrakesoft, is the publisher of the popular Mandriva Linux operating system, one of the most full-featured and easy to use Linux systems. The company offers its enterprise, government, and educational customers a complete range of GNU/Linux and Open Source software and related services. Mandriva products are available in more than 120 countries.

Website: http://www.mandriva.com/
Get it: Mandriva ISO download
License: Commercial and Open Source (Free)
Editions: Desktop, Server/Enterprise

Red Hat

Red Hat has a family of Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscriptions that address server and client operating environments. The Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS and Red Hat Enterprise Linux ES variants are for high-end and entry-level servers. The Red Hat Enterprise Linux WS variant is for technical workstations. Red Hat Desktop is the newest Red Hat Enterprise Linux family member and is designed for the general purpose desktop user.

Website: http://www.redhat.com
Get it: Red Hat ISO download
License: Commercial
Editions: Server/Enterprise

Gentoo

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.

Website: http://www.gentoo.org
Get it: Gentoo ISO download
License: Open Source (Free)
Editions: Desktop, Server/Enterprise

Knoppix

Knoppix is a bootable Live system on CD or DVD, consisting of a representative collection of GNU/Linux software, automatic hardware detection, and support for many graphics cards, sound cards, SCSI and USB devices and other peripherals. KNOPPIX can be used as a productive Linux system for the desktop, educational CD, rescue system, or adapted and used as a platform for commercial software product demos.

Website: http://www.knoppix.org
Get it: Knoppix ISO download
License: Commercial and Open Source (Free)
Editions: Live, Desktop

Slackware

Since its first release in April of 1993, the Slackware Linux Project has aimed at producing the most "UNIX-like" Linux distribution out there. Slackware complies with the published Linux standards, such as the Linux File System Standard. The project has always considered simplicity and stability paramount, and as a result Slackware has become one of the most popular, stable, and friendly distributions available.

Website: http://www.slackware.com
Get it: Slackware ISO download
License: Open Source (Free)
Editions: Desktop, Server/Enterprise