Linux Distros That Don’t Suck
I, much like every other hardcore geek on the face of the earth, have multiple linux based distro iso’s laying around. Some of them are for testing and some of them contain tools that I use on a daily basis. I have had many people email me about the best distro out there. The only answer I have for them is “depends on what you want to do”. I have spent sometime working on a list of Linux distros and what they are good for.
Now, before I start. Discussion distro’s with people is like discussion religion. Everyone has one and everyone feels something different towards other people who aren’t of the same faith. I just want to remind everyone that this list is just what I see, and how I feel about each distro. It’s definitely not a “what’s right and what’s wrong” type of list. Enjoy.
Knoppix – The one that started it all. Knoppix was the first major LiveCD based distro to hot the scene and open up a whole new world of bootable operating systems. This is probably the best known and most complete LiveCD distro out there. It contains everything you need to act as a full production replacement system. Word Processing, graphics editors, media players, browers, mail clients. You name is, Knoppix has it.
SystemRescueCD – This one I keep with me all the time. SystemRescueCD is a massive collection of tools to help you get out of a bind. It aims to provide an easy way to carry out admin tasks on your computer, such as creating and editing the partitions of the hard disk. It contains a lot of system tools (parted, partimage, fstools, …) and basic tools (editors, midnight commander, network tools). It is very easy to use. Plus, it can also be booted via a USB flash drive. A must for anyone’s collection.
Dynabolic – Billed as a complete media distro, dyne:bolic is shaped on the needs of media activists, artists and creatives as a practical tool for multimedia production: you can manipulate and broadcast both sound and video with tools to record, edit, encode and stream, having automatically recognized most device and peripherals: audio, video, TV, network cards, firewire, usb and more; all using only free software!. Just boot off the CD and your ready to go.
BackTrack – The king of all penetration testing and security distros. If you’re worried about security or exploits then this is the one for you. With more than 300 different up-to-date tools which are logically structured according to the work flow of security professionals. This structure allows even newcomers to find the related tools to a certain task to be accomplished. New technologies and testing techniques are merged into BackTrack as soon as possible to keep it up-to-date.
NimbleX – This is one of my favorite all around LiveCD based distros. It’s full featured but a lot smaller than something like Knoppix. With everything you need to act as a Desktop replacement in a 200 MB CD image, what more can you ask for.
Gentoo – The hardcore Linux distro. What makes Gentoo unique compared to other distros is the need to manually compile every part of the OS. I know that their are gui installers now and pre built packages for the mindless, but having the ability to tweak and optimize every aspect of the OS will not only give you a stable system, but one hell of a quick one too. Mind you, all of this compilation could easily take you days before you have a base system, especially when you make Xorg and a windows manager like KDE or gnome.
Debian – My day to day OS. Debian is one of the oldest and most stable distros around. The core to a bunch of other distros like Knoppix and Ubuntu. If your looking for something that will give you no headaches and carries a very stable branch of applications, Debian is the distro for you.
Ubuntu – Ubuntu is Debian to the next level. It’s a fork of Debian that has quickly become the most popular Linux distro in the world. It’s easy to install, easy to use, and is probably the best Windows replacement OS that is Linux based. Ubuntu’s software repository contains applications that are more recent than say Debian, but the down side to that is the fine edge you walk on when it comes to stability.
Fedora – The big boy on the block, and by big boy I don’t mean popularity, I mean in size. Fedora comes chalked with what seems like every application ever made. Although to some this might be nothing more than bloat, to others it’s a full and complete experience. Install Fedora and you pretty much have every open source application that is useful at your finger tips. If you have never experienced Linux before this is a great distro to get your feet wet with.
I know there are other great distro’s like Slackware, DSL, and OpenSUSE, this list is just a collection of distro’s that I find useful or that I have had experience with. Feel free to add your recommendations in the comments.