10 of the most popular Linux Distributions (Distros)
Updated: Apr 21
Linux is the base for many unix like operating systems. Over the years many forks of the project have developed new open source operating systems.
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Here are some popular ones:
Debian also known as Debian GNU/Linux, is a GNU/Linux distribution composed of free and open-source software, developed by the community-supported Debian Project, which was established by Ian Murdock on August 16, 1993. The Debian Stable branch is the most popular edition for personal computers and servers. Debian is also the basis for many other distributions, most notably Ubuntu.
Debian is one of the oldest operating systems based on the Linux kernel. The project is coordinated over the Internet by a team of volunteers guided by the Debian Project Leader and three foundational documents: the Debian Social Contract, the Debian Constitution, and the Debian Free Software Guidelines. New distributions are updated continually, and the next candidate is released after a time-based freeze.
Since its founding, Debian has been developed openly and distributed freely according to the principles of the GNU Project. Because of this, the Free Software Foundation sponsored the project from November 1994 to November 1995. When the sponsorship ended, the Debian Project formed the nonprofit organization Software in the Public Interest to continue financially supporting development.
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Ubuntu was crowned as the best Linux distribution of 2020. The word Ubuntu is a Xhosa term meaning "humanity". It is sometimes translated as "I am because we are" (also "I am because you are"), or "humanity towards others" but is often meant in a more philosophical sense to mean "the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity". It is a Linux distribution based on Debian and composed mostly of free and open-source software. Ubuntu is officially released in three editions: Desktop, Server, and Core for Internet of things devices and robots. All the editions can run on the computer alone, or in a virtual machine.
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Fedora Linux is a Linux distribution developed by the Fedora Project which is sponsored primarily by Red Hat (an IBM subsidiary) with additional support and sponsors from other companies and organizations. Fedora contains software distributed under various free and open-source licenses and aims to be on the leading edge of open-source technologies. Fedora is the upstream source for Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Since the release of Fedora 30, five different editions are currently available: Workstation, focused on the personal computer, Server for servers, CoreOS, focused on cloud computing, Silverblue, focused on an immutable desktop specialized to container-based workflows and IoT, focused on IoT devices.
A new version of Fedora Linux is released every six months, As of February 2016, Fedora Linux has an estimated 1.2 million users, including Linus Torvalds (as of May 2020), creator of the Linux kernel.
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Red Hat, Inc. is an American IBM subsidiary software company that provides open source software products to enterprises. Founded in 1993, Red Hat has its corporate headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina, with other offices worldwide. Red Hat has become associated to a large extent with its enterprise operating system Red Hat Enterprise Linux. With the acquisition of open-source enterprise middleware vendor JBoss, Red Hat also offers Red Hat Virtualization (RHV), an enterprise virtualization product. Red Hat provides storage, operating system platforms, middleware, applications, management products, and support, training, and consulting services.
Red Hat creates, maintains, and contributes to many free software projects. It has acquired several proprietary software product codebases through corporate mergers and acquisitions and has released such software under open source licenses. As of March 2016, Red Hat is the second largest corporate contributor to the Linux kernel version 4.14 after Intel. On October 28, 2018, IBM announced its intent to acquire Red Hat for $34 billion.The acquisition closed on July 9, 2019. It now operates as an independent subsidiary.
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Kali Linux is a Debian-derived Linux distribution designed for digital forensics and penetration testing. It is maintained and funded by Offensive Security. Kali Linux has around 600 penetration-testing programs (tools), including Armitage (a graphical cyber attack management tool), Nmap (a port scanner), Wireshark (a packet analyzer), metasploit (penetration testing framework), John the Ripper (a password cracker), sqlmap (automatic SQL injection and database takeover tool), Aircrack-ng (a software suite for penetration-testing wireless LANs), Burp suite and OWASP ZAP web application security scanners etc.
It was developed by Mati Aharoni and Devon Kearns of Offensive Security through the rewrite of BackTrack, their previous information security testing Linux distribution based on Knoppix. Originally, it was designed with a focus on kernel auditing, from which it got its name Kernel Auditing Linux. The name is sometimes incorrectly assumed to come from Kali the Hindu goddess. The third core developer, Raphaël Hertzog, joined them as a Debian expert. Kali Linux is based on the Debian Testing branch. Most packages Kali uses are imported from the Debian repositories.
Kali Linux's popularity grew when it was featured in multiple episodes of the TV series Mr. Robot. Tools highlighted in the show and provided by Kali Linux include Bluesniff, Bluetooth Scanner (btscanner), John the Ripper, Metasploit Framework, Nmap, Shellshock, and Wget.
The tagline of Kali Linux and BackTrack is "the quieter you become, the more you are able to hear", which is displayed on some backgrounds.
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Linux Mint is a community-driven Linux distribution based on Ubuntu (in turn based on Debian), bundled with a variety of free and open-source applications. It can provide full out-of-the-box multimedia support for those who choose to include proprietary software such as multimedia codecs. The Linux Mint project was created by Clément Lefèbvre and is actively maintained by the Linux Mint Team and community.
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Xubuntu is a Canonical Ltd.–recognized, community-maintained derivative of the Ubuntu operating system. The name Xubuntu is a portmanteau of Xfce and Ubuntu, as it uses the Xfce desktop environment, instead of Ubuntu's GNOME desktop.
Xubuntu seeks to provide "a light, stable and configurable desktop environment with conservative workflows" using Xfce components. Xubuntu is intended for both new and experienced Linux users. Rather than explicitly targeting low-powered machines, it attempts to provide "extra responsiveness and speed" on existing hardware.
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Manjaro is a free and open-source Linux distribution based on the Arch Linux operating system. Manjaro has a focus on user-friendliness and accessibility. It features a rolling release update model and uses Pacman as its package manager. Manjaro is mainly developed in Austria, France and Germany.
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SUSE Linux is a computer operating system developed by SUSE. It is built on top of the free and open source Linux kernel and is distributed with system and application software from other open source projects. SUSE Linux is of German origin, its name being an acronym of "Software und System-Entwicklung" (software and systems development), and it was mainly developed in Europe. The first version appeared in early 1994, making SUSE one of the oldest existing commercial distributions. It is known for its YaST configuration tool.
Novell bought the SUSE (then "SuSE") brands and trademarks in 2003. Novell, one of the founding members of the Open Invention Network, decided to make the community an important part of their development process by opening widely the distribution development to outside contributors in 2005, creating the openSUSE distribution and the openSUSE Project. Novell employed more than 500 developers working on SUSE in 2004. On 27 April 2011, Novell (and SUSE) were acquired by The Attachmate Group, which made SUSE an independent business unit. Later, in October 2014, the ent