--get your your Linux knowledge
> Linux Reviews > Software guides >

Linux Distributions

A guide to Linux distributions - Help Finding the one Matching Your Needs

  1. Live CD (bootable) Fully Functional Linux Distributions
  2. Mainstream Linux distributions
  3. 1337 distributions
  4. Floppy Disk Linux Distributions
  5. Coyote Linux
  6. Xbox

All Linux distributions come with a huge variety of applications.

1. Live CD (bootable) Fully Functional Linux Distributions

Insert a Linux Live CD and start your computer, then wait a few moments. A fully functional and usable Linux desktop with a wide variety of applications will appear. You can access a installation center if you like what you are trying. 10 minutes later you have a complete Linux system installed on your computer, complete with easy to use GUI front-ends for installing more software from the net.

Live CD Distribution makes Linux the easiest thing on the planet.

1.1. Knoppix

Knoppix is the leading Live-CD (bootable distribution).

There is a knoppix archade version that boots MAME. Get a 128 MB USB storage device, a CD and you have access to a nice desktop anywhere.

It's the ideal solution if you just want to try Linux for fun, without installing anything.

Knoppix comes with a nice GUI installer, if you feel like doing that then go ahead: it's very easy.

The CD includes the common office suites and development tools.

How to install Linux on your computer using this live-cd: Run knoppix-install as root.

1.2. MEPIS


How to install Linux on your computer using this live-cd: Click on the installation center.

  • Very Girl (and generally user) Friendly
  • Excellent installer
  • Based on Debian
  • Poor network autoconfiguration

1.3. Kanotix

This is Knoppix with some adjustments. It is still in the early stages but it is quite usable.

How to install Linux on your computer using this live-cd: Run kanotix-install as root.

1.4. Onebase

The Onebase project makes the bootable CD distribution OnebaseGo.

They also release interesting versions like OnebaseGo-2.0-KDE3.3beta1 for testers from time to time.

2. Mainstream Linux distributions

2.1. Mandrake Linux

Mandrake Linux is probably the best "beginner" distribution.

Mandrake Linux is availble in three boxed versions, Beginners (Discovery), Advanced (PowerPack) and Professionals (ProSuite). Look at Mandrake Linux Products for an overview. Like with all distros it does not matter what version you choose, all the packages are freely downloadable from the net anyway.

There is also a Live-CD version called MandrakeMove available for those who just wants to try Linux without installing anything. A Live-CD is a bootable CD with a complete OS.

What makes Mandrake Linux a good easy choice for beginners is the Mandrake Control Centre. From here you can tune your hardware settings, install and remove packages and generally do just about anything related to configuration. The advantage of using this is that you don't really need to learn anything about Linux to use it. The obvious disadvantage is that you will not learn anything about Linux by using Mandrake like you would with a "hardcore" distribution like Gentoo where you are required to read (RTFM) much and edit the configuration files by hand.


  • Based on the RPM package format
  • User friendly
  • Easy installation
  • Optimized for i586

3. 1337 distributions

Skip on ahead if you do not understand what 1337 is. (Do not worry, not knowing is a good thing)

3.1. Gentoo Linux

This is the best Linux distribution.

  • Gentoo > all
  • Gentoo outperforms everything else.
  • Gentoo is only friendly to people who are willing to learn. Being openminded helps. This distribution leaves much of the configuration up to the end user.
  • You must change configuration files by hand.
  • User friendly GUI tools are replaced with excellent documentation. You are step by step hand-held through installation and configuration. But you must do it.
  • Gentoo is not for lazy people.
  • Gentoo can be extremely user friendly and easy to use even for complete novice users of the system is administered by a skilled person. For home users you are the admin and how your system looks and feel are completely up to you if you choose Gentoo.
  • Source based distribution, all software is compiled from source using your preferences, compiled optimized for your needs (CFLAGS) and with support (USE flags) for the software and libraries you prefer.
  • Do you really want to (ab)use other peoples dirty binaries? Do you trust RedHat?

3.2. Slackware

  • Slackware is great
  • Basically Gentoo without the automated tools
  • Source based distribution, complete freedom if you got the required skills.
  • Slackware 10: First Impressions (osnews)

    = Damnsmalllinux =

Damn Small Linux is a business card size (50MB) bootable Live CD Linux distribution.

Damn Small Linux comes with:

  • nearly complete desktop,
  • including XMMS (MP3, and MPEG),
  • FTP client,
  • Web browsers:
    • Dillo web browser,
    • links-hacked web browser,
  • Spreadsheet,
  • Sylpheed email,
  • A Simple word-processor (Ted-GTK),
  • four editors (SciTe, nVi, Zile emacs, and Nano Pico),
  • graphics editing and viewing (Xpaint, and xzgv), Xpdf,
  • emelFM (file manager), Naim (AIM, ICQ, IRC),
  • VNCviwer, Rdesktop, SSH/SCP server and client,
  • DHCP client, PPP, PPPoE (ADSL), a web server, calculator,
  • GhostScript printer support, NFS,
  • Fluxbox window manager,
  • games,
  • system monitoring apps,
  • a host of command line tools etc

Damn Small Linux impresses by being able to provide all of this in only 50 MB.

But when do you prefer to bring a business card size CD instead of a normal CD fitting much more complete desktops? This seems to be one of those things that exist purely to demonstrate how far (in this case small) you can push the limits.

4. Floppy Disk Linux Distributions

4.1. tomsrtbt

tomsrtbt is "The most GNU/Linux on 1 floppy disk.". This is the perfect rescue system, but offers much more. Keep a copy of this distribution handy if you still own a floppy drive, you will at some point need it.

4.2. Installing tomsrtbt

To make a tomsrtbt floppy disk, download the latest version, extract and type ./install.s as root. Feel free to less install.s first if you don't trust tom.

  tar xvfz tomsrtbt-2.0.103.tar.gz
  cd tomsrtbt-2.0.103

4.3. tomsrtbt download mirrors

5. Coyote Linux

Coyote Linux is a bootable single floppy Linux distribution aimed at setting up basic Internet network services.

It can be used to quickly setup

  • Full featured web administrator
  • SSH 2 Support
  • Internet connection sharing
  • Firewalling
  • Wireless access points
  • QoS bandwidth limiting
  • Caching DNS server
  • DHCP reservations

Coyote Linux is distributed as a GUI Disk Creator. You can set up your own personal bootalble Linux floppy disk and make it suitable for your purpose using a simple GUI interface.

There is also a Windows Wizard for creating a Coyote Linux floopy disk available.

6. Xbox

GentooX is a very nice Gentoo-based Linux distribution for the XBox.

Meet new people