Clearly Ubuntu is among the most popular Linux distributions, but which other versions of this operating system are proving popular with users? Looking at a number of online lists, including the popular Distrowatch site, a general idea of which Linux versions are most popular emerges.
10 Puppy Linux
Puppy Linux is not only one of the most popular Linux versions but also one of the smallest. Puppy Linux is an ultra-small version of Linux that can be run from a range of media including USB drives and CDs. The core version of Puppy is just over 50MB in size and includes a working desktop. Versions with more features included typically clock in at around 90MB.
Arch Linux not a name that is often heard in Linux roundups but is proving to be popular with experienced users. Arch uses its own package management system, called Pacman, and aims to be simple to use and yet powerful. In its base form Arch includes just a bare bones system that can be built on by users to create the desktop that they want.
In the beginning there was Gentoo, a Linux version that allowed users to build each and every package from source code, the idea being that applications built for specific hardware was better performing than generic builds. Sabayon is built around a similar idea but also includes a core of pre-built applications. But it does offer the ability to maximise performance on most platforms.
Ideal for Linux newcomers, Mandriva is designed to be as easy to use as possible. Mandriva is currently undergoing some financial challenges and there are rumours that it will be sold in the near future. Nevertheless Mandriva continues to issue new releases and is very good at running on just about any PC platform, including netbooks.
One of the longest-running and most important releases, Debian is still a core part of the Linux community. At the heart of Debian and all of its derivatives is the Debian package management system which is a highly configurable and powerful system of managing applications, their dependencies and how they are built. Other distributions based on Debian pioneered the idea of “Live” CD releases which could be run directly from disc without being installed. Debian is widely used by users that prefer stability over experimental features.
PCLinuxOS is a derivative of Mandrake, later acquired by Connectiva in 2005 and renamed Mandriva. PCLinux OS is built around the KDE desktop interface so it makes a good alternative for users not wanting to run the Gnome desktop, which is the default for many other distributions. One of PCLinuxOSes strengths is it’s very active community which is continually improving the distribution. Like Mandriva, PCLinuxOS is also designed to be as easy to use as possible.
Another of the long-running Linux releases, OpenSuse is the community edition of Novell’s Suse Linux OS. OpenSuse is very easy to use and includes the very powerful YaST (Yet another Setup Tool) graphical configuration tool that makes it one of the easiest distributions to use. OpenSuse is one of the best desktop releases but also has a number of unique features that make it a powerful server system favoured by enterprise users.
Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu Linux but aims to add even more user-friendly features than its parent. Linux Mint has additions such as its Mint Menu which is among the best around. Where Linux Mint most differs from Ubuntu is that it includes full multimedia support by default and has a Mint-specific configuration tool to ease setup. These include many closed multimedia formats that Ubuntu includes only as optional extras. Linux Mint is among the best distributions for Linux first-timers.
Fedora Linux is the community edition of Red Hat Linux and tends to be more experimental than most other releases. Many of the features that will later be included in commercial Red Hat releases are tested out in Fedora. This doesn’t mean that Fedora is entirely experimental but it is one of the places where the future of Linux is on show.
Mark Shuttleworth’s Ubuntu is without a doubt the most popular Linux distribution available. Based on Debian Ubuntu it is designed to “just work” and is a popular starting point for first-time Linux users as well as long-time users. Ubuntu’s popularity means that there is constant development and new features are added regularly throughout the six-monthly release cycle.
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