A Linux distribution (often abbreviated as distro) is an operating system made from a software collection, which is based upon the Linux kernel and, often, a package management system. Linux users usually obtain their operating system by downloading one of the Linux distributions, which are available for a wide variety of systems ranging from embedded devices (for example, OpenWrt) and personal computers (for example, Linux Mint) to powerful supercomputers (for example, Rocks Cluster Distribution).
A typical Linux distribution comprises a Linux kernel, GNU tools and libraries, additional software, documentation, a window system (the most common being the X Window System), a window manager, and a desktop environment. Most of the included software is free and open-source software made available both as compiled binaries and in source code form, allowing modifications to the original software. Usually, Linux distributions optionally include some proprietary software that may not be available in source code form, such as binary blobs required for some device drivers. A Linux distribution may also be described as a particular assortment of application and utility software (various GNU tools and libraries, for example), packaged together with the Linux kernel in such a way that its capabilities meet the needs of many users. The software is usually adapted to the distribution and then packaged into software packages by the distribution’s maintainers. The software packages are available online in so-called repositories, which are storage locations usually distributed around the world. Beside glue components, such as the distribution installers (for example, Debian-Installer and Anaconda) or the package management systems, there are only very few packages that are originally written from the ground up by the maintainers of a Linux distribution.
Almost six hundred Linux distributions exist, with close to five hundred out of those in active development. Because of the huge availability of software, distributions have taken a wide variety of forms, including those suitable for use on desktops, servers, laptops, netbooks, mobile phones and tablets, as well as minimal environments typically for use in embedded systems. There are commercially backed distributions, such as Fedora (Red Hat), openSUSE (SUSE) and Ubuntu (Canonical Ltd.), and entirely community-driven distributions, such as Debian, Slackware, Gentoo and Arch Linux. Most distributions come ready to use and pre-compiled for a specific instruction set, while some distributions (such as Gentoo) are distributed mostly in source code form and compiled locally during installation.
Widely used Linux distributions
- Debian, a non-commercial distribution and one of the earliest, maintained by a volunteer developer community with a strong commitment to free software principles and democratic project management
- Knoppix, the first Live CD distribution to run completely from removable media without installation to a hard disk, derived from Debian
- Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE) uses Debian packages directly (rather than Ubuntu’s)
- Ubuntu, a desktop and server distribution derived from Debian, maintained by British company Canonical Ltd.
- Kubuntu, the KDE version of Ubuntu
- Linux Mint, a distribution based on and compatible with Ubuntu. Supports multiple desktop environments, among others GNOME Shell fork Cinnamon and GNOME 2 fork MATE.
- Trisquel, an Ubuntu-based distribution based on Linux-libre kernel composed entirely of free software
- Elementary OS, an Ubuntu-based distribution with strong focus on the visual experience without sacrificing performance.
- Fedora, a community distribution sponsored by American company Red Hat. It aims to be a technology testbed for Red Hat’s commercial Linux offering, where new open source software is prototyped, developed, and tested in a communal setting before maturing into Red Hat Enterprise Linux
- Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), a derivative of Fedora, maintained and commercially supported by Red Hat. It seeks to provide tested, secure, and stable Linux server and workstation support to businesses.
- CentOS, a distribution derived from the same sources used by Red Hat, maintained by a dedicated volunteer community of developers with both 100% Red Hat-compatible versions and an upgraded version that is not always 100% upstream compatible
- Oracle Linux, which is a derivative of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, maintained and commercially supported by Oracle
- Scientific Linux, a distribution derived from the same sources used by Red Hat, maintained by Fermilab
- Mandriva Linux was a Red Hat derivative popular in several European countries and Brazil, backed by the French company of the same name. After the company went bankrupt, it was superseded by OpenMandriva Lx, although a number of derivatives now have a larger user base.
- Mageia, a community fork of Mandriva Linux created in 2010
- PCLinuxOS, a derivative of Mandriva, which grew from a group of packages into a community-spawned desktop distribution
- ROSA Linux, another former derivative of Mandriva, now developed independently
- openSUSE a community distribution mainly sponsored by German company SUSE.
- SUSE Linux Enterprise, derived from openSUSE, maintained and commercially supported by SUSE
- Arch Linux, a rolling release distribution targeted at experienced Linux users and maintained by a volunteer community, offers official binary packages and a wide range of unofficial user-submitted source packages. Packages are usually defined by a single PKGBUILD text file.
- Manjaro Linux, a derivative of Arch Linux that includes a graphical installer and other ease-of-use features for less experienced Linux users. Rolling release packages from Arch repositories are held for further testing to achieve increased stability, and packages identified as addressing security issues of critical or high severity are “fast-tracked” to the stable branch.
- Gentoo, a distribution targeted at power users, known for its FreeBSD Ports-like automated system for compiling applications from source code
- Chrome OS, Google’s commercial operating system (using Gentoo and its Portage) that primarily runs web applications
- Slackware, created in 1993, one of the first Linux distributions and among the earliest still maintained, committed to remain highly Unix-like and easily modifiable by end users
Indian Linux distributions
Boss Linux : BOSS (Bharat Operating System Solutions) is a GNU/Linux distribution developed by C-DAC, Chennai in order to benefit the usage of Free/Open Source Software in India. BOSS GNU/Linux is a key deliverable of NRCFOSS. It has enhanced Desktop Environment integrated with Indian language support and other softwares.
OpenLX Linux : The OpenLX LINUX Distribution aims to offer an Enterprise-grade LINUX to the widest spectrum of users, right from the individuals wanting a freely download-able/exchangeable one, right up-to the large-Enterprise that needs 24/7/365 support with complete aspects of Installation-Maintenance-Support-Training aspects being taken care of at a single point
Rebellin Linux:ebellin is based on Debian Sid. It offers the latest packages from free and/or open source world. Rebellin gets regular updates and is quite stable for everyday usage. Rebellin also supports latest hardware because of its newer system drivers.
AryaLinux: AryaLinux brings the lightweight XFCE desktop into a new light of freshness and usability. We have tweaked the desktop layout to resemble the more traditional desktop for increased usability and less clicks and mouse movements for window operations. Apart from making the system more stable and usable we have also given attention to the user interface elements and tried to make things as pleasant as possible.