Mayank Sharma helps you choose your next distribution, how to build one yourself and reveals 20 of the best out there
Mayank Sharma can’t help you find your purpose in life, but he sure can help find a distribution for your purpose.
Linux, the kernel, by itself wouldn’t be of much use to most of us. Version 0.01 of the Linux kernel made its debut in September 1991, but it only made sense to a particular Finnish student and his ilk of uber-geek hackers.
One of them, Owen Le Blanc of the Manchester Computing Centre (MCC), wrote a menu-driven installer to install the kernel along with a handful of GNU utilities, and in the process created the first Linux distribution in February 1992. This distribution allowed even non-Unix users to get a taste of Linux and helped roll in more developers. Later that year Peter MacDonald created the Softlanding Linux System (SLS) distribution that offered a software collection on top of the X11 graphical interface, which had only recently been ported to Linux. SLS in turn spawned two major distributions. The first was Slackware created by Patrick Volkerding in July 1993. Over two decades later it remains the oldest Linux distribution that’s still actively maintained. The other was Ian Murdoch’s Debian. Although it had been in development for several months, v0.91 released in January 1994 was its first public release and included a simple package system that could install and uninstall packages. The next major milestone in the Linux distribution timeline also happened in 1994 with the birth of Marc Ewing’s Red Hat Linux.
Together these three distributions form the bedrock of the modern Linux distribution habitat. Although there have been other independent distributions such as Crux, Arch, Gentoo and Puppy, a majority of the current stock is an offshoot of the three oldest distributions. You’ll find hundreds of them on distrowatch, all vying for a slice of your hard disk. Over the next few pages we’ll help you sort through the lot and pick the one that’ll serve you best.