Ode to Open Source: Linux Distributions Past and Present

| linux | foss | tech |

The Going Linux podcast recently did a show about this same topic, and it was full of great information. I am only going to hit on the main ideas in this post, but check out the show for more information.

They shared this AWESOME family tree of linux.

As we learned in the last post, a kernel is simply the backbone of an operating system. Essentially it does not really “do” anything until certain programs request things from it. It keeps everything working together. Initially, the Linux operating system was divided into three different distributions. The distribution (or distro for short) is nothing more than a collection of software, applications, and utilities that make the computer usable.

Long story short: Linux Kernel + GNU + (insert favorite distro) = awesome computing experience.

If you look at the family tree you will see that following the creation of the Linux Kernel, things began to escalate at a very fast pace. I like to call the original linux distributions “The Big 3” These are Slackware, Red Hat, and Debian. The main difference between these three distributions was the packaging system. Slackware used .tgz , Debian used .deb, and Red Hat used .rpm. Essentially these were the formats of the filed that would be used to install and run applications within linux.

Since the initial release of these three distributions there have literally been hundreds released since. Most of them fizzled out after a few years, but many remain active to this day. Distro watch is a great resource to explore to find out more information about the various Linux distributions. They have a comprehensive overview of some of the major ones on there as well.

My first Linux distribution was Suse, I got it from Micro Center and I was so excited to finally be able to rid my computer of that virus known as Windows 98. :) After installing it I immediately fell in love and have never looked back since then. I have tried all sorts of various distributions over the years but ever since Ubuntu (A derivative of Debain) came out in 2004 - It has been my primary Linux Operating System.

Discussing all of the distributions is a topic that can take up an entire book (And who knows maybe one day I will :) ) - so I hope that I have posted enough links for everyone to be able to appreciate the sheer amount of distributions out there on the market. There is a distribution to fit anyone’s needs. Whether you are running it on a brand new computer, an old machine that was collecting dust in the basement, a portable device, and even an xbox - there is a distro out there for you.

Tomorrow we are going to be looking at the various desktop environments that are available in Linux. In the mean time I have a questions for anyone out there reading this. What was your first distribution? And what is your favorite today. :)

Further Reading: List Of Linux - Wikipedia

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