The Linux Distribution Guidebook (A-M)

Last update: 2019/01/11

This page contains short sections on each of the Linux distributions, and covers various details such as when the distribution was started and/or ended, key facts and other historical points of note.

Please note this page is a work in progress.

Antergos

Antergos is based on Arch Linux and began in May 2012. It did however initially release with the name Cinnarch and was shipped with Cinnamon as the desktop environment before moving to GNOME and changing the name in May 2013.

The distribution intends to provide a somewhat simpler option for people wanting to use Arch Linux, and comes with a number of pre-installed applications.

As with Arch, the distribution uses a rolling release model, but publishes updated images at intervals.

Arch

Arch is a rolling-release distribution which saw its first release in 2002 after taking some inspiration from Crux. Being rolling-release, it sees updates continuously with the images released simply being up-to-date collections of the packages.

Two of the most key features of Arch are the AUR – Arch User Repository – which provides community maintained packages which are frequently updated, and the wiki which features some of the best documentation of any Linux distribution.

The popularity of Arch has increased in recent years at the expense of compilation-based distributions such as Gentoo, as the amount of time to maintain the system is reduced due to it being binary-based.

BunsenLabs

BunsenLabs is a community-organised distribution which continues on from the defunct Crunchbang Linux. It continues to be based on Debian stable as with its predecessor.

The distribution targets lower-powered computers and uses the Openbox window manager.

CentOS

CentOS began in May 2004 with a community-based fork of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 2.1. The first version of CentOS was actually numbered 2.0. Prior to being known as CentOS, it originated as a part of CAOS Linux. In 2006, CentOS became the recommended distribution for users of Tao Linux which was retired by its developer.

Releases of CentOS closely match those of RHEL, and follow a major-minor release numbering. The released version is also built from the corresponding version of RHEL.

For a period between July 2010 and January 2012, CentOS overtook Debian as the most popular distribution used on web servers.

Red Hat announced a sponsorship deal with the CentOS project in 2012, and hires a number of developers to work on the distribution. Red Hat also support migration from CentOS to RHEL.

Crunchbang

Crunchbang was an Openbox-based distribution which was aimed at computers with limited resources such as netbooks.

Based on Debian, each release featured a code name from the Muppets television show up until the final release in 2013.

Although discontinued, the distribution lives on in community continued variants such as BunsenLabs and Crunchbang++.

Debian

Debian is one of the most well-known and widely-used distributions since its inception in September 1993. Created by Ian Murdock, the name is actually a combination of his girlfriends name (at the time) – Debra Lynn – and his own.

Releases have been made on a relatively consistent basis every two years, and feature release names for each version based on characters in the Toy Story film series.

Many forks of Debian have been created, with it being the basis of hundreds of other Linux distributions including Ubuntu, MEPIS, and Kali.

Elive

Elive is a distribution originating in Belgium with roots in an attempt to customise Knoppix. The first release was made in January 2005.

Coming with the Enlightenment window manager and being based on Debian, the distribution is very capable on older systems or those with fewer resources available.

Although always available as free software, versions prior to 2.0 required a donation to be made to install the operating system to hard disk. This limitation was lifted with the release of 3.0.

Fedora

Fedora saw its first release back in November 2003 (then known as Fedora Core) and has been one of the most popular Linux distributions since. It provides the base for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and was started as a community project from Red Hat Linux, providing a more up-to-date distribution.

The Fedora Core name was retained until version seven, and featured two repositories – core which contained the necessary packages and extra containing third-party packages and maintained by the community. Different versions were also introduced with Fedora twenty-one named Workstation (for desktops), Server (for servers), and Atomic (for cloud).

Until version twenty-one, release names were also used and included some interesting choices such as Beefy Miracle and Spherical Cow. Releases continue on a six month release cycle. Fedora can also be used on a rolling release model with the Rawhide repository.

Foresight Linux

Foresight Linux was a rolling release distribution which intended to show the latest in desktop technology, including being one of the best distributions to run an up-to-date GNOME installation.

Created by Ken VanDine who worked on the GNOME marketing team, the distribution employed a rolling release model and was one of few to use the Conary package management system. It was also available for pre-installation on some Shuttle computers.

Achieving the Ovatio Award for 2008 Distro of the Year by Ars Technica, the project declined somewhat before shutting down in May 2015.

Fuduntu

Fuduntu was a distributions which was based on Fedora, with similarities to Ubuntu – hence the chosen name. While being a general purpose operating system, the target device was portable devices such as laptops and netbooks.

The first release was made in 2010, and became its own distribution rather than a Fedora “remix” in 2011 when it forked off from Fedora 14. By 2013, the distribution had disbanded as the number of users dropped.

Gobuntu

Gobuntu was a short lived distribution which was released alongside Ubuntu 7.10 and 8.04. The focus was to remove any non-free software from Ubuntu to allow users to run a pure free software system.

The distribution was cancelled after the 8.04.1 sub-release with Mark Shuttleworth suggesting that more focus should be placed on other free software only distributions such as gNewSense.

Use of the distribution was also limited to more experienced users, as the removal of certain drivers and firmware blobs restricted the variety of hardware which the distribution could be run on.

gNewSense

gNewSense is a Debian-based distribution which takes a hardline approach to no proprietary software being included in the install or repositories. This also applies to restricting installation of firmware blobs for hardware.

The first release was made in 2006, and based on Ubuntu for the 1.0 and 2.0 versions. With the 3.0 version release, the switch to Debian was made. 4.0 was made available in 2016 however development appears to have now ended with no further updates.

Kali

Kali is a distribution derived from Debian and started in 2013. The aim is to provide a suite of security-related tools including penetration testing, offensive security and digital forensics.

Running GNOME 3, a variety of architectures are supported including some variants of ARM.

KNOPPIX

KNOPPIX is a distribution based on Debian which has existed since 2000, and became notable for being one of the first live CDs and allow running the operating system without installation.

Although not as popular for general usage, KNOPPIX found a niche in repair of computers due to supporting a wide range of hardware and including a number of utilities to facilitate troubleshooting of the system.

Initially released with KDE, with version 6.0 a switch was made to lighten the system resource usage and use LXDE.

Lubuntu

Based on Ubuntu, Lubuntu is a lighter distribution than its bigger brother and comes with LXQt, and is generally targetted at computers with fewer available resources. Prior to the 18.10 release, LXDE was used and the applications included were generally GTK based.

Applications included with the distribution also target lower resource usage including Trojit√° for email, Featherpad for text editing, and Transmission for BitTorrent.

Each release of Lubuntu is made at the same time as Ubuntu and with an equal support period.

Mageia

Mageia is a continuation of the defunct Mandriva distribution, and continues much of the legacy. Its creation came from a number of former Mandriva S.A. employees along with members of the community.

The first release was made in June 2011, and has released on a rough nine month schedule since. KDE is the default user interface, however GNOME and XFCE are available as a supported alternative.

Manjaro

Manjaro is a Linux distribution based on Arch Linux, with a focus on providing user friendliness and accessibility. It works on a rolling release model alongside periodic snapshot releases.

The initial 0.1 release was made in July 2011, with a switch to the 0.8 branch from 2012 through to 2015. The version numbering system shifted to a date-based system in 2015 and 2016, before changing again with the 2017 release to the 17.x version scheme.

The default desktop environment is XFCE, however KDE and GNOME editions are also available, with other editions published and maintained by the community.

MEPIS

MEPIS is now a defunct distribution which was based on Debian. Starting in 2003 by Warren Woodford, the intent was to create a system which was targetted at the average user.

Most releases occurred on yearly intervals, with a big change being made in 2006 to rebase from Debian packages to Ubuntu. The subsequent 7.0 release changed this again to use MEPIS’ own binaries based on source code from Debian and Ubuntu combined.

Two distributions effectively continue on from MEPIS; antiX and MX Linux.

Mythbuntu

Mythbuntu was a media center based distribution based on Ubuntu which integrated MythTV as its main interface. It was intended to be used on computers which would be attached to televisions and primary accessed using a remote control or keyboard.

The first version was released alongside Ubuntu 7.10 and continued until the 16.04 release when the developers retired the project.