2. Best-known distributions

(listed in alphabetical order)

The handful of distributions listed here are those which are most widely known by the general public, or referred to most often by the specialist media, or those most commonly found in retail outlets in English-speaking countries. What exact sales percentage of the total GNU/Linux distributions market they represent is unknown — but it is certainly extremely high. Between them, they account for almost all that the (generally uninformed) public knows about "Linux".

2.1. Caldera OpenLinux

Name:

Caldera OpenLinux

Distributor:

            Caldera, Inc.
            633 South 550 East
            Provo
            Utah 84606
    

            E-mail: info@caldera.com
            WWW: http://www.caldera.com/
            FTP: ftp://ftp.caldera.com
            Vox: (801)-377-7678
            Fax: (801)-377-8752
    

Provider's description:

Caldera logo

Caldera is shipping OpenLinux 1.2 in a three-tiered family of products: OpenLinux Lite, OpenLinux Base, and OpenLinux Standard.

OpenLinux Lite is a freely available evaluation of the OpenLinux product (it includes a 90-day evaluation of the Caldera integrated desktop — the full licensed version of the desktop is included in the Base and Standard products). OpenLinux Lite can be downloaded from Caldera's ftp site, or obtained on CD for the cost of shipping. It is also designed for use by book and software publishers to provide a commercially stable Linux offering with their books and software products.

OpenLinux Base contains everything that is in Lite plus it is a complete, easy-to-install Linux operating system, with integrated desktop, Internet client and server components, and Intranet connectivity. OpenLinux Base includes Netscape Navigator and full documentation.

OpenLinux Standard includes what is in Base plus more high-end, name brand, commercial software components (such as Netscape FastTrack Web Server, Netscape Navigator Gold Web browser and authoring tools, ADABAS D database, StarOffice productivity suite, Caldera OpenDOS, and NetWare client and administration tools).

All three tiers of the OpenLinux 1.2 release are currently available.

With Caldera OpenLinux, you can see a whole world of powerful new computing, even the power of a UNIX workstation on your PC! By using a Linux kernel, OpenLinux gives you speed and stability that compare to systems costing thousands of dollars. Open Linux also gives you:

  • Real multi-tasking runs many text or graphical applications at once; no application can cause another to crash, unlike less robust systems.

  • The Linux 2.0 kernel gives super-fast TCP/IP access to the Internet, plus loadable device drivers, for the most efficient use of your system resources.

  • Easy-to-follow, quick installation with menu-based choices and auto-detection of your hardware make installation a snap on most systems. The Getting Started Guide (included) provides a step-by-step illustrated procedure, with troubleshooting tips.

No other Linux system includes a complete, integrated desktop interface with configuration tools and graphical editor. Its powerful drag-and-drop capabilities come pre-configured with thousands of icons and application settings. The Desktop provides a convenient place where you can store your favorite programs and data files for instant access. The Desktop gives you:

  • Drag-and-drop launching of programs with data files.

  • An integrated graphical text editor.

  • Easy access to an array of powerful system configuration tools.

  • A configurable icon bar, custom layouts, and preference settings.

  • Powerful file management using drag-and-drop or graphical dialogs.

Internet access:

            WWW: http://www.caldera.com/
            FTP: ftp://ftp.caldera.com
            

Ordering:

By e-mail with PGP key, by phone, by fax, or by conventional mail. Full ordering details are at http://www.caldera.com/mpro/orinfo/orderinfo.html.

Support:

Caldera is one of the only Linux distributors to offer E-mail and telephone support. OpenLinux Base (E-mail only) and Standard (Telephone and E-mail) users are fully supported (Standard users receive 5 free incident calls during the first 30 days). There is no technical support for the Lite product.

OpenLinux Base and Standard ship with full licensed versions of the Caldera Desktop, which do not expire. OpenLinux Lite ships with a 90-day evaluation version of the Desktop.

Last freeze date:

Entry last modified:

21 January 2001

Reviewer's comments:

2.2. Debian GNU/Linux

Name:

Debian GNU/Linux

Distributor:

            Software in the Public Interest, Inc.
            PO Box 1326
            Boston
            Ma. 02117 USA
    

            Net: info@debian.org
            WWW: http://www.debian.org/
            FTP: ftp://ftp.debian.org/debian
    

Provider's description:

Debian logo

Debian GNU/Linux is the result of a volunteer effort to create a high-quality non-commercial Linux distribution. Debian GNU/Linux 2.2 is a complete and fully-functional Unix-compatible operating system for the personal computer. It contains around 8000 packages, making it by far the largest free software distribution.

Debian GNU/Linux is available for the IBM PC architecture (386/486/Pentium), m68k, SPARC, Alpha, PowerPC, and ARM. Ports to MIPS, HP PA-RISC, IA64 and GNU/Hurd are under way and are likely to be released with the next distribution (Debian 3.0, codename "Woody"), undergoing extensive testing at this time.

Debian GNU/Linux is an easy-to-upgrade distribution that consists of freely redistributable software from a number of different sources and systems. Non-free packages may also obtained, making Debian a well-rounded system. It is noteworthy that the Debian Free Software Guidelines formed the basis of the Open Source definition. Debian proper consists only of free packages which are freely distributable and freely modifiable - Debian "main"; and some packages which, though in themselves free software, rely on non-free software - Debian "contrib".

The benefits of Debian GNU/Linux are its upgradability, well-defined dependencies between packages, and its open development. It is the only GNU/Linux distribution that is being developed co-operatively by many individuals over the Internet, in the same spirit as the Linux kernel and other open-source operating systems. More than 900 package maintainers are working on over 8000 packages and improving Debian GNU/Linux. A sophisticated bug tracking system allows users to easily report bugs and security concerns which are quickly dealt with by the Debian community. A command-line tool, 'apt-get', can be used to dynamically upgrade your system from the large Debian archive network.

Debian GNU/Linux is a very dynamic distribution, although it does prefer well-tested stability to having the very latest available. Major releases are generally made about every year, point releases and security fixes are released as appropriate, averaging one every few months. The current "stable" release is 2.2 release 5 - i.e. major release 2.2, but point release 5. The Debian archives are updated daily ; and upgrading discrete elements of the system is a common and supported operation. A recent change designed to speed the release process has been the creation of package pools. Debian now has three development streams: * "unstable" - changing daily; * "testing" - tracking unstable, but with a delay of a few days and significant further testing; and * "stable" - released as a major version, as above.

The move between each of the development streams also ensures a smooth update process when moving from "old stable -> testing -> new stable release.

For more information about Debian GNU/Linux, please visit our World Wide Web page at http://www.debian.org/. There is also a book, Running Debian GNU/Linux, from O'Reilly & Associates.

If you're interested in joining this project, you are invited to subscribe to either debian-user@lists.debian.org, or debian-devel@lists.debian.org by sending a mail to debian-user-request@lists.debian.org (or debian-devel-request respectively) with the word "help" in the subject line.

Internet access:

Debian GNU/Linux is available for download via anonymous FTP or HTTP; see http://www.debian.org/distrib/ftplist.

Ordering:

A number of vendors can provide CD-ROMs or snapshots.

Support:

Aside from self-serve support via mailing lists, IRC, or the online Bug Tracking System, there is also a number of consultants providing support.

Last freeze date:

10 January 2002 (2.2r5)

Entry last modified:

14 January 2002

Reviewer's comments:

What can I say? I use it every day; the wikiweb version is running on a Debian box; all my machines at home (except one) run Debian; I regularly use it for training Linux sysadmins. All in all, it's cooler than a penguin's backside in mid-winter. -- msw (mailto:msw@startext.co.uk)

2.3. Mandrake Linux

Name:

Mandrake Linux

Distributor:

            MandrakeSoft
            Daniel Morales - MandrakeSoft 818.834.9860
            Caroline Carmagnol - Alizé Public Relations 650.323.1607
            
    

            Net:  mandrake@linux-mandrake.com (orders)
            WWW:  http://www.linux-mandrake.com
            Vox: 818.834.9860
    

Provider's description:

mandrake logo

Mandrake is inspired by Red Hat(tm) Linux, with many improvements and pre-configured applications which make it easier to use for beginners, and faster for everyone.

Mandrake is available both in the GPL Edition and in the PowerPack Edition which includes 5 CDs and commercial applications. The GPL Edition CD (base system and applications) is freely available from the Internet as an iso image.

Mandrake 6.0 won two LinuxWorld Editors' Choice Awards and was a runner up at LinuxWorld Expo, San Jose, CA in August 1999:

  1. Best Linux Product of the Year.

  2. Best Distribution/Server.

  3. finalist for Best Distribution/Client.

Mandrake 6.1 (Helios) features:

  1. Linux-Kernel: 2.2.13 (pre4)

  2. XFree86: 3.3.5

  3. Glibc: 2.1.1

  4. RPM: 3.0.3

  5. Bash: 2.03

  6. KDE: 1.1.2 (with Mandrake customization)

  7. Gnome: built from 1.0.4->1.0.14 versions (with Mandrake customization)

  8. Enlightenment 0.16-dev5, Windowmaker 0.60, AfterStep 1.7.111, XFCE 3.0.2, IceWM 0.9.48

and many applications such as Apache, MySQL etc.

In Mandrake, packages have been compiled with CPU optimizations for pentium-class (intel, amd, cyrix, winchip...) and higher processors resulting in speed improvements up to 30%.

Internet access:

http://www.linux-mandrake.com/en/ftp.php3

Ordering:

Free download available from Internet. The Linux-Mandrake PowerPack price is typically between $45 and $50. Payment method depends on the distributor. Distributor lists available at: http://www.linux-mandrake.com/en/fsinglecd.php3.

Support:

The PowerPack is provided with 100 days of support by e-mail.

Several specialized mailing-lists and a USENET newsgroup (alt.os.linux.mandrake) are available for support between users.

Bynari Systems Group and LinuxCare also provide complete support for Mandrake.

Last freeze date:

Sep 17, 1999 for Mandrake 6.1 (Helios). Update frequency: about 4 months.

Entry last modified:

18 September 1999

Reviewer's comments:

2.4. Red Hat Linux

Name:

Red Hat Linux

Distributor:

    Red Hat Software
            3201 Yorktown Rd, Suite 123 DeKalb Center
            Durham
            NC 27713
    

            Vox: (800) 546-7274 or (919) 572-6500
            Fax: (919) 572-6726
            Net: redhat@redhat.com
            WWW: http://www.redhat.com/
            FTP: ftp://ftp.redhat.com
    

Provider's description:

Red Hat logo

Red Hat 6.1 is based on the 2.2 kernel and is available for Intel, Sparc and Alpha platforms.

Four installation innovations make Red Hat the easiest Linux to install ever. Our graphical installation mode brings you straight up into X for most of the installation. Our boot disk creation script eases selection of the proper boot disk, and it saves your existing network configuration information and XF86Config so you don't have to configure TCP/IP or X! Our FTP install allows you to install simply by downloading 3 floppy disk images — the rest is done automatically! And finally, the installation includes seamless support for PCMCIA devices — install Red Hat on your laptop as easily as on your desktop machine!

After installing Red Hat Linux once, you will never need to reinstall Linux again! The new RPM packaging system is sophisticated enough to allow upgrading to new Red Hat releases without reinstalling your system - no partitioning, no backing up all your files, no headaches.

Internet access:

Ordering:

Available directly from Red Hat Software and most distributors of Linux related products. Please contact Red Hat Software for ordering details (on-line ordering is available through Red Hat's Web). Suggested retail price for the Standard version is $29.95; for the Professional (server) version $149.95; for the Deluxe version $79.95.

Support:

Last freeze date:

Unknown.

Entry last modified:

1 Nov 1999.

Reviewer's comments:

The big selling point of this distribution is RPM, the Red Hat Package Manager. This piece of software is a remarkable advance; it allows you to cleanly install and de-install applications and operating-system components, including the kernel and OS base itself. RPM is now used as well by essentially all other distributions except Debian. [esr]

2.5. Slackware Linux

Name:

Slackware Linux

Distributor:

            Walnut Creek CDROM
            4041 Pike Lane, Suite D
            Concord
            CA  94520
    

            Net: info@cdrom.com (information),
                 order@cdrom.com (orders),
                 support@cdrom.com (support).
            

Provider's description:

Slackware logo

Ftp.cdrom.com is the home of Slackware Linux. We are the publishers of the Official Slackware Linux CDROM. Our distribution is a 4-disc set with the current version being Slackware 96. The current disc is based on the 2.0.34 kernel.

Slackware Linux is a full-featured distribution of the Linux operating system designed for 386/486 computers with a 3.5" floppy and CD-ROM drive.

Internet access:

            WWW:  http://www.cdrom.com/titles/os/slack96.htm
            FTP:  ftp:ftp.cdrom.com/pub/linux/slackware
    

Ordering:

The cost of the CD-ROM set from Walnut Creek is $39.95.

Support:

Last freeze date:

July 1998 (3.5)

Entry last modified:

13 August 1998.

Reviewer's comments:

Unfortunately, Walnut Creek was sold to WindRiver? - who bought the site for the rights to FreeBSD and had no interest in Linux. This meant that Slackware was homeless for a while and is now found at ftp.slackware.com. The lack of commercial support has meant that Patrick Volkerding has had to scale back the project.

2.6. S.u.S.E. Linux

Name:

S.u.S.E. Linux

Distributor:

            S.u.S.E., Inc.
            458 Santa Clara Ave
            Oakland
            CA 94610 - USA
    

            Net: info@suse.com
            WWW: http://www.suse.com/
            FTP: ftp://ftp.suse.com
            Vox: +1-510-835-7873
            Fax: +1-510-835-7875 fax
    

Provider's description:

S.u.S.E. logo

S.u.S.E. Linux offers users of all levels, from novice to expert, quick and easy entry into the world of Linux and Unix. Resources such as a menu-driven installation from CD-ROM, a modular boot diskette, 400-page reference book and S.u.S.E.'s own system administration tool YaST, allow one to quickly get Linux installed and running, and to keep it running smoothly.

Furthermore, S.u.S.E. offers a series of supported X servers, which support the newest graphics cards. These servers are created in co-operation with the XFree86 (tm) development team. See the following url for more details: http://www.suse.de/XSuSE/.

New in S.u.S.E. Linux 5.3:

  • Kernel 2.0.35

  • KDE 1.0

  • GIMP 1.0

  • SaX (SuSE advanced XF86 configuration tool)

Quick overview of other features:

  • The Linux OS, over 875 software packages, including complete sources and live file system on 4 CD-ROMs

  • 400 page reference book

  • Packages in RPM format; TGZ packages installable

  • System V compatible boot concept, compliance with file system standard

  • Installation and administration utility 'YaST' configures network, ISDN, e-mail, printer, X Window System

  • S.u.S.E. X servers which support new graphics cards

  • Administration of file systems, users, groups

  • Automatic configuration of several window managers

  • Online help system and documentation

  • Demo mode, either directly from CD-ROM, or on DOS partition

Internet access:

Ordering:

You can download from ftp://ftp.suse.com/pub/SuSE-Linux. For the CD-ROM with support, order vphone, secure WWW order form, fax, or post. Price is $49.95, or $34.95 per edition by subscription. Use order code LSUE520 for the English version, LSUD520.

Also available: OSF Motif 2.1 for $129.95 (price for update to be determined; order code: LMEA210

Support:

60 days of free installation support are included with each purchase of S.u.S.E. Linux. See the web page for contact info and conditions.

Last freeze date:

Unknown.

Entry last modified:

13 Aug 1998 (5.3)

Reviewer's comments: