Linux Distributions (Distros) and
Pick your poison
By Lineage
• Redhat Tree: RHEL, Fedora, Centos, Mandrake (Mandriva)
• Debian tree: Debian, Ubuntu and it’s variants, LinuxMint, Knoppix
• Gentoo
• (Open)Suse: Novell and Europe
• Slackware
• Open/FreeBSD: USL based
• (Open) Solaris: USL based
By Package Management
Package file
Red Hat
Other software management options
“make” and “tarballs”
“txz packages (Slackware)
“tbz” BSD based
Pre-packaged source (Gentoo)
Specialized USL – Solaris, HP-UX, AIX
RedHat Family
Most widely used software distro.
Most distros use .rpm binaries even if not actually based on Redhat
RedHat Enterprise LINUX (RHEL):
- Premier, most widely used commercial LINUX server distro
- Expensive, but good support. Lots of Internet support
- Software administration sometimes problematic
Mandrake (Mandriva):
- Excellent desktop variant
- User group and support is scattered
Fedora (formerly a separate organization):
- Server oriented RedHat Beta(s), usually 2x per year
- Free, but flaky. Bleeding edge.
- Download distribution media of variable quality.
- Newer features and utilities lack stability.
- Server oriented RHEL variant usually 6-12 months behind current release
- Free, stable, not current in features.
- Widely used in commercial network devices
Debian Family
Second most widely used distro
Distros use .deb binaries
- Oldest distro outside of Slackware
- Plenty of packages and support
- Server oriented
- 100+ variants
- Announced two code base options: LINUX and OpenBSD!!!!!!!
- Desktop oriented but server is coming on.
- Ubuntu variant, mainly desktop with improved usability features
- “Live CD” only.
- Used for system backup/recovery.
- Novell Netware LINUX from Europe. Now Attachmate and Microsoft.
- Primarily server version, OES replacement for native Netware OS.
- Desktop is “bloated”, difficult.
- Future questionable as a commercial offering. Time will tell.
- For Windows users, a lot of Mandrake type support tools
- Limited development and support, esp. for foreign languages and (lack of) 64 bit
- Server oriented
- Difficult software admin
- Scattered Internet support
- Lots of platforms
- Oldest distro. Dedicated hardcore users.
- Very server oriented,
- “stripped down” used as basis of a lot of “utility” distros.
- Primitive, line oriented administration.
- Aging, losing Internet support as time goes on.
Others (USL)
Commercial USLs:
- HP-UX (HP)
- Solaris (SUN)
- and others…. frozen in time, and the USL.
- Not LINUX. The original PC based UNIX
- Thought they’d bought the USL from Novell.
- Requisat in Pace
- Not LINUX, based on UNIX Source Code License (USL).
- Inter, Sparc
- Lots of original software (NFS, NIS, Java) came from this OS
- Widely used commercial OS version for database (and bought by Oracle), but losing ground to LINUX
- Free UNIX version (not variant) on AMD, Intel, Sparc
- Not LINUX, based on UNIX Source Code License (USL) free academic version. Still evolving
- The basis for MacOSX
- Primarily Intel at this point but DEC Alpha, Sparc platforms supported.
- Stripped down versions the basis for network security devices and “secure” OSes
- The main LINUX competitor. Widely used freeware UNIX version (not variant) preferred by “LINUX haters”.
Utility distros
• Knoppix: General “Live CD” distro for backup, recovery.
• Easy IDS: Prepackaged “Snort” IDS distro
CoLINUX – Self contained virtualized” LINUX subsystem for Windows,
supports multiple LINUX distros.
• Backtrack: Security analysis, usually “Live CD”
• Coyote LINUX – Micro OS firewall distro
Tiny Core LINUX – specialized “micro” OS
• Damn Small LINUX – specialized “micro” OS
Internet Resources
• FedoraProject
• Sourceforge
(Top 10 comparison)
(technical specifications)
• (Current list)
• (Current list)
The future
Intel, AMD: x86, IA64/AMD64. What can I say?
Sparc from Sun: widely used but declining rapidly
Power PC: Formerly Motorola, used to be the basis for MAC and IBM network devices. Declining, almost gone.
PA-Risc: HP specific; going away.
S390: IBM support for mainframe OS and LINUX under VM. Still crazy after all these years.
MIPS: Requisat in Pace
DEC Alpha: Requisat in Pace
ARM: Theoretically the most widely used chip in the world for intelligent devices – phones, tablets. Lower power
chip for end user devices. Used by most handheld device Oses.
Solid-state drives: Will eventually do away with spinning disk device overhead. Storage = memory (temporary) or
SSD (permanent); same/saem. Increasing speed on internal, external interfaces: USB 3.0, Parallel ATA
Memory is cheap and getting cheaper. Storage density is increasing all the time.
Raw CPU cycles being replaced by multi-core implementations; even for low power end-user systems.
The future
(end user)
To the cloud: Software as a Service (SaaS). Web orientation, browser interface for E-mail, IM, SMS,
data storage, document sharing, basic word-processing and spreadsheeting as a commodity.
Personal computer use declining as a specialized end-user devices. Specialized OS – Windows,
LINUX or Mac requiring expensive support.
Inexpensive browser based devices increasing: phones, tablets, game systems, DVRs, intelligent TVs
and anything in between. Throw it away, keep the SIM card (or whatever) and buy a new one.
Simplified device OSes: (Apple) IOS versus (Google LINUX variant) Android versus (Microsoft)
Windows 7 Mobile.
Also mini (instant-on) OSes usually LINUX variants made possible by SSDs.
(Google) Chrome OS. Will it fly, especially versus Android.
Virtualized desktops. Usually for proprietary applications.
The future
Still trying to drive a stake thru IBM mainframes (see COBOL); but don’t count on it. . Mostly
outsourced as proprietary technology. Mainframe emulation under LINUX (Hercules).
Windows future? Who knows? Could be like mainframes; still hanging around on servers for a long
UNIX stable but slowly declining. The code is basically frozen for 25 years. USL ownership
(Attachmate? Microsoft?) and continuing patent litigation is a problem:
- SCO is dead
- Solaris is open-source. Now owned by Oracle as DB frontend
- Commercial versions AIX, HP-UX, Solaris pretty much frozen with the USL.
- Open/FreeBSD the only one still showing any life
- UNIX year 2038 32-bit clock issue
MacOSX (server/workstation) is really just an operating environment on top of UNIX (OpenBSD)
OSes seem to be going to LINUX and it’s variants
Increasing virtualization for power, economy, scalability.
The future
Smarter clients, smarter servers, more client/server traffic, more downloadable code (e.g. Java VM,
IOS apps, Android apps and the like).
More “canned” applications. The “App Store” for specific vendors/services.
“Hardwire” technologies still leading, but fading. DSL, cable are starting to exceed the bandwidth
requirements for end-user hand-held devices. Hardline phones are fading rapidly; especially with
the younger crowd.
Wireless technologies - bandwidth is critical; both locally (WiFi) and broadband (3G/4G). For
increasing virtualization, SaaS, multimedia and storage requirements. Notice: Apple tablets have
no hardwire connections. Plus wireless infrastructure costs are lower than hardline technologies
encouraging more widespread use in lower density population areas or areas without
infrastructure as in “3rd world” countries .
Security: Are static encryption algorithms dead? Quantum encryption?
Viruses, malware on new OSes. Same old song, different verse (see Google Android Apps

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