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How the Linux Community Ranks Distributions - page 4

Deeds and Words Can Judge

  • February 19, 2008
  • By Bruce Byfield

Like petty officers on a ship, the distributions in this category represent a parallel hierarchy. In other words, while there is a continuity in the rankings of the first and second tier, those in the third tier have settled down to become prominent in their own niches. Unlike those in the first and second tier, these distributions make no attempt to offer something for everyone; instead, they are designed for very specific purposes. For this reason, distros in this category are judged less by popularity or influence than by how useful they are for particular purposes.

The truth is, there are too many specialized distros to list them all. However, here are some of the better known ones:

Damn Small Linux (DSL): One of the first and best-known distributions for small or minimal systems, DSL has developed a community that is unusually loyal for free software. Among its peculiarities is a continued use of the 2.4 kernel and a resolution to limit the size to 50 megabytes.

Foresight: Designed for those who want the cutting edge of GNOME and of cross-desktop tools, Foresight is one of the few distributions to use the Conary packaging system, which combines modern packaging techniques with version control. Although Conary has so far failed to overtake RPMs and DEBs, many of those who have used it regard Conary as the future of package management.

K12LTSP: As the mouthful of a name suggests, K12LTSP is doubly a specialist: It is an educational distro (K-12) designed for use on thin clients (LTSP). Within this space, it has few rivals.

Knoppix: One of the many Debian-derived distros, Knoppix was the first live CD to capture the community's attention. Although it is far from being alone today, it remains many user's choice of rescue disks.

Puppy Linux: Like DSL, Puppy Linux is a minimalist distribution. Built from scratch rather than derived from another distro, it runs off a RAM disk and uses smaller window managers like Fluxbox and IceWM for a graphical interface.

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