About Distributions




There are many different Linux "distributions". A distribution is a collection of the Linux kernel, libraries, applications, a filesystem, and some type of packaging/management system. Together, the elements form a usable operating system which is usually collectively called "Linux".


Usually, distributions target a specific need or segment of the computing population. Here are some examples of some categories that come to mind:

  • Home/desktop
  • Home/desktop/educational/children
  • Home/media/video
  • Work/desktop
  • Work/server
  • Gaming
  • Appliance/specialized/embedded
  • Portable/PDA

And with different audiences:

  • Novice/beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced

Of course, many distributions are very suitable across many categories and for all or more than one audience. Distributions vary mostly in installation, package management, and higher-level system administration tools. Generally, once Linux is installed, all distributions are very similar... far more commonalities than differences.


People choose a distribution based on a variety of factors:

  • What friends or coworkers recommend
  • Experience- trial and error
  • Personal preferences
  • Distribution "philosophy"
  • Features
  • Support options
  • Locale (language/region specific)
  • Application of the machine

There is never a "right" or "wrong" choice. As many in the FOSS world like to say: "Choice is good". One of the great advantages that most Linux distributions share is freedom from cost. Almost all distros are free or have a free version available for download. This means the user can experiment and try different distributions.

Over time, the user is likely to change distros as he/she becomes more familiar with Linux, and the limitations or advantages of each distro for their needs.

If you are unsure about which to try please feel free to ask other linux members and tell them what you are looking for. Word of mouth recommendations setup a dialog that both parties can benefit from.


One great place to find out information about all the distros is on Distro Watch. There you can learn about the various kinds, read reviews, watch for changes, and perform downloads. We usually have several distros available on discs at meetings.

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