Linux-using Operating Systems

These are Linux-based operating systems, or operating systems which started off by using the Linux kernel

There are many variations. DistroWatch.com covers many. GNU/Linux Distribution Timeline shows how many have been derived from fewer.

Overview of Linux-based operating systems
[#linuxdoc]: Documentation about Linux

Here are some sites that provide some documentation about Linux and/or related topics.

[#ltdp]: TLDP (“The Linux Documentation Project”)
...
HowToForge.com

The name seems reminiscent of a well-known site called SourceForge.net (@ sf.net).

linux.die.net Manual Pages

The domain name might lead some English speakers to think of death. However, from a graphic on the site, it is clear that this site is named after a single half of a pair of dice.

This software contains a fair amount of “manual pages” for software commonly found installed on machines that use the Linux kernel.

[#lnxtutor]: Linux-Tutorial.info
...
Well-known people/personalities
Linus Torvalds

The Linux kernel was made by Linus Benedict Torvalds. Born into a household of Swedish-speaking Finns, he has moved from Finland to California and then Oregon.

[#debianfm]: Debian-based “family” of options

These operating systems support *.deb files for software package management.

Debian operating systems

Here are some of the more well-known Debian-based operating systems. (More might regularly be mentioned on DistroWatch.)

Debian

Debian became quite popular, and this site has quite a few further details in the sub-section about Debian.

[#knoppix]: Knoppix

(The project's home page is in German. However, the above hyperlink goes to the English variation. The upper-right corner of the page shows flags that can be used to choose the desired language for the web pages.)

Knoppix was well-known for being a rather functional “Live CD” (which is a CD designed to be used for booting the computer, and then being rather useful, rather than being focused just on installing the operating system to a disk). This feature has become less significantly unique now that several other Linux distributes have Live CDs. Knoppix family tree shows that several successors (like Backtrack) have been known to be based on Knoppix. As shown on the chart, Knoppix came out in 2000, and many of the shown successors did not come out until 2003 or later. Around the year 2000, Knoppix was more notable than today, largely because several other current alternatives did not exist back then.

The distribution is named after Klaus Knopper. Wikipedia's article on Knoppix explains that his wife “phas a visual impairment, and has been assisting Klaus with the development of the software.” Her name is Adriane, and the name of the “Audio Desktop Reference Implementation And Networking Environment” variation has a name with initials that match the spelling of her first name.

The operating system's main page says, “Due to on-the-fly decompression, the CD can have up to 2 GB of executable software installed on it”. (Since CDs hold only about 0.65 GB, this demonstrates the viability of compression. Some people tend to be opposed to encryption of most of a disc, perhaps largely due to compressed (hard) disk images: myths.)

After June 24, 2014's release of Knoppix 7.2.0, newer releases have not been based on a CD image for years (at least all of 2014 and 2015). Instead, newer versions have been using DVD images.

Operating System's License
Knoppix-INfo: License says, “If not otherwise specified, the software on the CD falls under the GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE.” However, some software packages, like Firefox, use different licenses.
Focus/purpose

Designed to cram usefulness onto “Live” images that can be booted. General purpose.

History

Wikipedia's article on “list of live CDs”, “Debian-based” section describes Knoppix as “The "original" Debian-based Live CD”.

User interfaces
Terminal Multiplexing
screen (GPL3+) is included (checked with Knoppix 7.2.0 CD). tmux is not included (by default) (on the CD release).
shells
/etc/shells mentinoed programs in /bin/ and /usr/bin/ including: sh, ksh, dash, csh, tcsh, es, bash, rbash, rc, tcsh, esh, screen. Some show up listed in the text file multiple times, as the text file mentions the executable in both directories (/bin/ and /usr/bin/), even if the executable is not actually in both directories.
[#ubunbasd]: Ubuntu-based options
[#ubuntfam]: Ubuntu-based official “family” of options

(This section is about the official Ubuntu releases, and is simply the first part of the larger section on Ubuntu-based options.)

There are several Ubuntu-based operating systems, including many with similar names (such as the official variation named Xubuntu). A key difference between Ubuntu and some official variations is which window manager is used. (Having software, including a window manager, included is one of the main differentiations between Ubuntu and its parent project, Debian. If there is interest in a variety without a graphical interface, check out Debian, though Debian-current might not be tested as fully as an average Ubuntu release and Debian-stable releases are not made as frequently.)

Historical note: ShipIt Ubuntu. Canonical used to mail out physical media free of charge. Not only di they not charge for a user to use the software, they paid to help get the software to end users. Cool, but: no more.

[#ubuntu]: Ubuntu

(Note: The hyperlink anchor for #ubuntu now comes here. Previously it hyperlinked to the top of the Ubuntu family section: Ubuntu-based options or Ubuntu family.

Ubuntu is the most famous operating system in the family of Ubuntu-based operating systems. Ubuntu itself uses Debian code. Ubuntu has a few very notable differences from Debian. It provides a graphical environment (which has traditionally been GNOME-based, and there are some other official derivatives that are based on other window managers for the X Window System), whereas Debian is text mode (with the capability of adding X if desired). Secondly, Ubuntu has an official new version released every six months (towards the end of April and the end of October). (The version numbers are meant to reflect the year and month of each release date.) Additionally, Ubuntu is distributed on Live CDs, whereas Debian contains many more CDs (Debian 5.0.7 had 30 Install CDs for i386, 30 different install CDs for amd64, and surely other install CDs for the other architectures). Although the Debian releases include a lot of additional software beyond just the minimum required for the operating system, that can be quite a bit of data to be downloading, so Ubuntu's releases seem simpler in comparison.

Editions

There are various editions. In addition to the Desktop Edition and the Server Edition, there is now also the Notebook Edition. (Historical note: a note was made that the Notebook edition might not yet be an option supported by the free Shipping Ubuntu option. However, that entire option is no longer currently available.)

Business Desktop Remix

Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix offered an LTS release (12.04 LTS, even after 12.10 was shipped) that required a free registration (filling out information) before download options were presented. The page noted, “adding business-focused tools from the standard Ubuntu and partner archives and removing home-user oriented apps. There are no modified or enhanced packages in the remix and it gets its security updates from the same place as standard Ubuntu; itís just a convenient starting point that includes many common changes made by IT administrators deploying Ubuntu in a corporate setting.” “This first LTS-based release includes the Adobe Flash Plugin, VMware View, and the OpenJDK 6 Java run-time environment, while removing social networking software, file sharing apps, games and development/sysadmin tools.” “Users also benefit from great new features like built-in Microsoft Windows RDP 7.1 support and the Microsoft Visio diagram importer in LibreOffice Draw.”

The author of this text found this release by going to Download Ubuntu Server for cloud (and also available on the Download Ubuntu Server web page) and seeing the “More options” section (of either of those pages).

Downloading information

Technicians may enjoy the straightforward interface available at http://releases.ubuntu.com (and sub-pages). When visiting the main Ubuntu Download section in March of 2013, it seemed like options for downloading Ubuntu Server included 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Ubuntu 12.04.2 LTS or 64-bit version of Ubuntu 12.10. However, http://releases.ubuntu.com/12.10 did also have an X86 server install image for 12.10 available. So, for less marketing and more functionality when full-sized disc images are being sought, that's the method currently recommended by this website.

Alternative downloads provided more options, such as a network installer. (In March of 2013, the network installer was available for 12.04.1 LTS and 12.10. Interestingly, 12.04.2 was not listed as an option. The actual download page only listed 12.04 and made no mention of whether it was 12.04.1 or 12.04.2, so presumably it was 12.04.1 (as mentioned by the other web page)).

It seems that http://www.ubuntu.com/desktop/get-ubuntu/cds once offered CDs for download, but now redirects to a page at shop.canonical.com. (At the time of this writing, Ubuntu 12.10 Server CD was available.) To obtain Ubuntu Desktop CD images, see: http://www.ubuntu.com/desktop/get-ubuntu/cds.

Release info: http://www.ubuntu.com/community/countdown has various graphics (which people can put on their sites) which show how many days are left. They may be specific to the specific version of Ubuntu. For example, banner4.png may show some animals, presumably a penguin (representing Linux) as well as the animal that the Ubuntu release will be named after. Before Xubuntu 9.04 “Jaunty Jackalope”, there was: http://www.xubuntu.org/jaunty/countdown

[#ubuderiv]: Official Derivatives

Most of the official derivatives are mentioned on the Ubuntu derivatives page in the section called “Recognised derivatives”. (Note to Americans: the word “recognised” is considered a valid British spelling of the word recongized.)

Another derivative, JeOS, was once a separate ISO to be downloaded but now is installed using the official media, and since it is described by the official Ubuntu documentation, it also may be a recognized derivative. Community documentation on JeOSVMBuilder notes, “JeOS is discontinued as a standalone product. An equivalent installation can be done now with the standard Ubuntu Server installer by pressing F4 at the first screen”.

[#xubuntu]: Xubuntu
XFCE
[#kubuntu]: Kubuntu
KDE. https://wiki.ubuntu.com/KubuntuDerivedDistros Kubuntu: Kubuntu wiki,
Edubuntu

Edubuntu's page about free high school science texts notes, “In Edubuntu, these texts will also be packaged and available from within the Edubuntu system in a future version.” This particular article was about the texts from a site called Free High School Science Texts which has two subjects: Mathematics and Physical Science. Previous versions of FHSST text books show that instead of “Physical Science” there were two categories (in addition to “Mathematics”), which were “Physics” and “Chemistry”.

JeOS (“juice”)

Ubuntu 9.04 documentation: section on JeOS and vmbuilder describes JeOS, which is essentially a trimmed version of the Ubuntu Server operating system. The design of JeOS is to be a minimalist operating system specially designed to work well as virtual servers. The earlier documentation notes that this is “No longer available as a CD-ROM ISO for download, but only as an option” involving the standard Ubuntu media CD (or by using some other software, ubuntu-vm-builder).

Ubuntu 9.04 documentation: section on JeOS and vmbuilder indicates that JeOS is pronounced like the word “juice”. The term stands for “Just enough OS”. This represents a concept that can be applied to more than just Ubuntu: Wikipedia's page on “Just enough operating system” refers to some others.

[#oschromi]: Solutions based on code from Chromium OS

Based on some old build instructions (prior to general release), it appears this is based on Ubuntu.

[#chromios]: Chromium OS

The Chromium OS (by Google) consists of most/much of the software code used by Google's ChromeOS. Chromium OS FAQ: downloading Chromium OS says, “Keep in mind that Chromium OS is not for general consumer use.” There is support for developers to be able to download and use this platform.

Chromium Terms and Conditions says, “The Chromium software and sample code developed by Google is licensed under the BSD license. Other software included in this distribution is provided under other licenses, as listed in the” “Included Software and Licenses section” of Chromium's Terms and Conditions page. The text of the BSD license is included. Most of the other included code is based on some sort of BSD-style (or MIT-style) license, and most other licenses may use LGPL (and perhaps others).

It appears this is based on Ubuntu.

Chromium OS Developer Guide has sections, including Preliminary requirements for developing Chromium OS (which may include statements about what version(s) of Ubuntu may be recommended for developing Chromium OS, or version(s) of Ubuntu known to not work so well), Getting Chromium OS Source Code, and details how to use that source code.

Quick usage tip: Chromium OS Developer Guide: Details on how to get to a command prompt suggests Ctrl-Alt-F2, or to log in (as “guest” if desired) and press Ctrl-Alt-T, and then use the “shell” command. (Note: Is that a command line that may be CSS'ed?)

Design: Chromium OS Design Docs: Developer Mode, Chromium OS Design Docs: Disk Format

[#chromeos]: ChromeOS

Used on Google's Chromebook line of computers. These include systems from Chromebooks on Amazon (via hyperlink provided by Google's Chromebook launch page), BestBuy site for Google Chromebook. More information may be available at a page for Developer Information for Chrome OS Notebooks.

System Startup Process

Google's “verified boot” process may initially restrict what code is directly runnable. Chromium OS Developer Guide: section on “Getting your image running on a Chrome OS Notebook” explains that code needs to be signed with a key in order to run code that isn't signed by a key (which is likely to be controlled by a hardware manufacturer), one may need to perform the following two steps: First, follow the steps of Chromium Developer Guide: section about how to “Get your Chrome OS Notebook into Developer Mode”. Namely, this notes that the process “is different for each computer, but it usually involves flipping a switch that's under the battery (and sometimes also under a sticker). You'll want to reference the documentation for your” device. (See Chromium OS Developer Information for Chrome OS Devices.)

Presumably the disk may be accessed fairly early in the process. Chromium OS Design Documents: Disk Format contains information.

Installation guide
Running ChromeOS image in a virtual machine
[#mintlinx]: Linux Mint

(Note, this does not appear to be related in any way to Mint.com's free financial software called Mint.)

Perhaps due to a combination of Ubuntu's loss of popularity over Canonical's embracing of some different user interfaces (such as using Unity), and Linux Mint's creation Cinnamon which provides an environment that generally feels more familiar, DistroWatch has now ranked Linux Mint considerably above Ubuntu: on April 23, 2013 the Hits Per Day score was 3,824 compared to 1,964 (1.947 times as many).

This distribution is reported to have more popular software pre-bundled. This is not necessarily preferable for people who have strong desires related to software licensing. Inclusion of some software, such as software that can decrypt commercial DVDs, may be something that is considered to be less preferable for some professional organizations who do not need to play DVDs and prefer to avoid unnecessary use of software that has had disputes or questions regarding legality. (Some organizations have made the cliam that the software is not legitimate.) Other people can simply install such software onto another operating system installation like Ubuntu, and so might not need the software to be pre-bundled. However, just because they can install software manually does not mean that is a preference. Some popele might just prefer Linux Mint because of the simplicity that exists by having certain software pre-installed (by default).

Others
Ultimate Edition (DistroWatch page on Ultimate Edition), Lubuntu (“light Ubuntu for faster computing”), HackToLive's Super_OS (formerly “Super Ubuntu”) which uses Reconstructor (the home page of which redirects to Reconstructor's Wiki).
System startup processes

Debian documentation about run levels and /etc/init.d scripts, discusses some files that are used. This is section 9.3 of the policy documentation (at the time of this writing). The following section, Debian Policy documentation section 9.4 discusses console messages.

[#redhat]: RedHat-based

This software tends to use *.rpm files for software package management.

[#centos]: CentOS

A release involving using the freely available code from Red Hat's releases, and generating freely available code to replace the non-free code from Red Hat's releases.

[#rhel]: RHEL

Red Hat Enterprise Linux

Sometimes pronounced with a silent H (REL). Those who which to make a religious derogatory connotation could easily refer to this as “R Hell”, which may sound particularly bad in English because some speakers will sometimes make the word “our” incorrectly sound more like the single-syllable “are” than the double-syllable “hour”.

PNAELV

Red Hat made a dubious claim that CentOS should not refer to Red Hat's website, as the hyperlink was causing CentOS to rank higher than Red Hat's own website when “Red Hat” was being searched for. CentOS decided to comply, and removed references to Red Hat. However, as Red Hat continued to develop software used by CentOS, the CentOS team was placed in a position of needing to credit Red Hat without mentioning Red Hat's name. Failure to provide credit would be disrespectful at best. CentOS started referring to Red Hat by a new name: the PNAELV, which stands for “Prominent North American Enterprise Linux Vendor”.

Others
[#fedoracr]: Fedora Core
Backports news (about a Debian repository) says (linking to Fedora Project) that “Fedora, for example, is known for having the very latest software”.
Scientific Linux
...
Other info
Hardware
Hardware info

Red Hat Hardware Catalog (Hardware Compatability List)

Others
SuSE
The name

The name is derived from the German phrase Gesellschaft für Software und System Entwicklung mit beschränkter Haftung. Gesellschaft = Society. für = for. und = and. Entwicklung = Engineering. mit beschränkter Haftung equates to “company with lmiited liability” (per Wikipedia's article on GmbH, Wikipedia's article on SUSE Linux distributions, section called “The developer”).

People working for the organization tend to pronounce the abbreviation as two syllables: soosay. Sometimes people say the word as one symbol: soos.

Wikipedia's article on SUSE Linux distributions: section called “Expansion” refers to “S.u.S.E.” but later says, “In October 1998, it was renamed SuSE (without dots).” Then, as described by the section called “Novell”, sometime before Feburary of 2004 SUSE “changed the company name to SUSE Linux”

OpenSUSE
Hardware support
System requirements

See SUSE Documentation and then choose a release, such as OpenSUSE Documentation/OpenSUSE Official Documentation.

Some more specific URLs: OpenSUSE System Requirements (seems more direct, but might be a less stable URL in the long term), OpenSUSE 11.3 documentation (for that version of OpenSUSE).

Additional notes on hardware compatability

SUSE operates a program called YES. End users can search for support at SUSE: YES CERTIFIED Bulletin Search. (Presumably Novell Development: YES Search is simply an older location.) Hardware vendors can view at: SUSE Independent Hardware Vendors: YES

OpenSUSE: Hardware, OpenSUSE Hardware Portal

Some additional resources may be found at: Forum post: archived info about hardware compatability.

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (“SLES”)

How to Buy

Linux from scratch

This “distribution” is based on a book. (“Linux From Scratch” 7.1 book, web page by Amazon (affiliated hyperlink). Similar content: Wikibooks book named “Linux From Scratch”. (Apparently the Wikibook site is not officially related to the first book, but has similar content.)

People interested in this may also be interested in a book called “The Elements of Computing Systems (From NAND to Tetris)”. Resources for that include: “The Elements of Computing Systems (From NAND to Tetris)”, web page by Amazon (affiliated hyperlink), nand2tetris.org , DIY Computer Science: “The Elements of Computing Systems (From NAND to Tetris)”.

Arch Linux

The Arch Way describes the goals to use “an elegant, minimalist approach” offering substantial simplicity. This is simplicity from the perspective of the operating system developers and people who are very familar with the code, rather than having more complex code trying to provide more “user-friendly” experiences. Text files may be a common method of specifying options, as is command line usage. (This summary was made based on some quick review of documentation from the Arch Linux team and some third parties.)

This approach may be more intimidating to new users, but at the benefit of offering simplistic functionality to power users.

Review on Arch Linux notes following the KISS software design and states, “Archlinux is really great, but it is not for people wanting a stable desktop or server system.” The review compares to OpenBSD, as does Arch Linux compared to OpenBSD.

Gentoo

Gentoo's is designed to have most software be distributed via source code. A “Linux From Scratch” wikibook states “Gentoo is pretty close to installing everything from scratch.” ... “after the compiling of the kernel, it's highly automated from there on, using the emerge tool to download, build, and install everything.” (The phrase “build” refers to using source code to create binary executables.)

There is hope that machine-specific optimizations by the compiler may be able to lead to faster performance, and the name “Gentoo” comes from the “Gentoo penguin” which is type of penguin that swims underwater the fastest. Exceptions may be made for applications which are known to be slow to compile. (As examples, Wikipedia's page on Gentoo Linux cites Mozilla Firefox and the OpenOffice.org software.)

Slackware
...
Linspire (Lindows, Xandros)
...
Speclialized
[#syststos]: System testing

If an operating system designed with the goal of hardware testing is of interest, perhaps some other software mentioned in the section about hardware testing may also be of interest.

System testing warning

Many of these programs may, by intentional design, be particularly likely to use hardware very heavily. It is possible that such software may cause unwanted effects that might not happen if such software isn't used. Most of the time such effects can be fixed by quickly turning the power off of the system and leaving it powered off for some time. (If there are any file systems mounted as read/write, which generally IS the case if the system did not boot from removable media, then it is generally still recommended to carefully close any unsaved work, saving as appropriate, and to shut down the operating system cleanly if possible.) However, some of these programs may provide warnings such as the text, which comes from the documentation of a program called cpuburn, which notes the software may cause “data loss (filesystem corruption) and possibly permanent damage to electronic components.

In essense, all system testing should be considered to have a higher-than-average potential of causing damage, particularly if a system has a problem which might not ever occur or impact anything if it weren't for the additional stress caused by such software. The software which is most likely to cause such errors may be software designed to maximize usage, including CPU testing software that tries to get a CPU to work extra hard.

Here are some options.

[#advclbrk]: breakin (by “advanced clustering technology, inc.”)

breakin

The download page (for Version 3.71) described it this way: “Based on Linux(tm) kernel version 3.3.4, breakin loads all cores of your multi-core system with full work-loads and up to 95% of the memory with activity in order to uncover hardware issues. This tool can be used to diagnose: power supply shortcomings (or a practical maximum power consumption rate), memory errors introduced by faulty manufacturing, and motherboard flaws.” It looks like this might be a CPU and memory tester: that description notably did not say much about testing other hardware (most notably: there was no mention about testing any long term storage devices). However, a review of breaking does say that this software “thests memory, the CPU, hard drives”, and more.

[#streslnx]: StressLinux

At least many of the applications included in the StressLinux distribution may simply be available separately on other platforms.

Note: The remainder of this StressLinux guide might be moved to a separate page in the future.

The documentation on StressLinux shows some details about getting the distribution up and running, and some tests that may be performed. The StressLinux FAQ is sparse. Since there isn't much documentation on the website, and since (in at least some version(s)) there is no man command, some of the best documentation may be on the websites of the software that is included. These websites are mentioned on the StressLinux.org website on the page listing applications included in the StressLinux distribution.

Logging in can be done with the username of stress and the password which is the same as the username: stress. Superuser rights may be obtained with “ sudo -i ”. The root password is stresslinux.

Upon logging in, the distribution attempts to use keyboard input to determine the keyboard layout. It then runs /usr/bin/sl-wizard.sh (which can be effectively re-run later if /tmp/sensors is deleted (with “ sudo -i rm /tmp/sensors ”).

After /usr/bin/sl-wizard.sh completes, the program shows “message of the day” which may be seen again later by running “cat /etc/motd ” or by viewing StressLinux website's screenshot #6: user session shown.

Some commands can be run extremely quickly. They may not test hardware as much, but running them once may be a good simply to eliminate curiosity. The lshw and x86info commands will likely go fast. It seems that the sensors can be watched continuously by running “ /usr/bin/sensors-watch --” and that this is, in fact, probably already running on tty12 when StressLinux starts. To view that, hold Alt and Ctrl and press F12. (To return back to tty1, use Alt-Ctrl-F1.)

One option is to run stress guide to using the software named stress.

Another option is to use cpuburn, which is a collection of software using commands that start with the word “burn”. For information about using that testing software, see hardware testing guide: section about the software package called “cpuburn”.

After stress has been used for the 10 seconds indicated by the example command line in its online help, and cpuburn has been utilized (running each applicable test for 10 minutes or more, which for three tests could be done in about half an hour), options include: repeat earlier tests (perhaps by letting them run longer), run additional programs (such as additional tests) that are part of StressLinux, or move onto software other than what is provided by StressLinux.

Inquisitor
The URL of http://www.inquisitor.ru/ shows the project's Russian roots.
Phoronix offerings

Phoronix Test Suite is one offering, and may be the flagship offering. PTS Desktop Live PTS Desktop Live, designed for removable media including the option of using a DVD, had earlier been known as “PTS Linux Live” (at http://www.pts-linux-live.com/ ). There may be some remote options using Phoromatic. Wikipedia's Article on Phoronix Test Suite: “Controversies” section.

Side note: phoronix.com is a news site that has lots of entries about Linux-related (and similar, such as BSD) developments.

Forensics
Helix
Kali
Known for including a bunch of software useful for network “penetration testing”. Kali is the new name of software that used to be named BackTrack.

name

(It might be true that Kali is the name of the re-write based on Debian, while BackTrack was based on Knoppix (which was based on Debian). The name “Kali” is also the name of a Hindu goddess who has multiple arms on each side, and who is often associated with destruction.)

Others
DistroWatch Weekly Issue 339 (February 1, 2010) featured article: GNOBSD states “New distributions are submitted to DistroWatch all the time.” It is likely that most of these use Linux (with a second place likelihood of using BSD code).