Top Ten Linux Distributions
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bewildering choice and the ever increasing number of Linux distributions can be confusing for those who are new to Linux.
This is why this page was created. It lists 10 Linux distributions (plus an honourable mention of FreeBSD, by far the most
popular of all of the BSDs), which are generally considered as most widely-used by Linux users around the world. There are
no figures to back it up and there are many other distributions that might suit your particular purpose better, but as a
general rule, all of these are popular and have very active forums or mailing lists where you can ask questions if you get
stuck. Ubuntu, Linux Mint and PCLinuxOS are considered the easiest for new users who want to get productive in Linux as
soon as possible without having to master all its complexities. On the other end of the spectrum, Slackware Linux, Gentoo
Linux and FreeBSD are more advanced distributions that require plenty of learning before they can be used effectively.
openSUSE, Fedora, Debian GNU/Linux and Mandriva Linux can be classified as good "middle-road" distributions. CentOS is an
enterprise distribution, suitable for those who prefer stability, reliability and long-term support over cutting-edge
features and software.
The launch of Ubuntu was first announced in September 2004. Although a relative newcomer
to the Linux distribution scene, the project took off like no other before, with its mailing lists soon filled in with
discussions by eager users and enthusiastic developers. In the few years that followed, Ubuntu has grown to become the most
popular desktop Linux distribution and has greatly contributed towards developing an easy-to-use and free desktop operating
system that can compete well with any proprietary ones available on the market.
What was the reason for Ubuntu's
stunning success? Firstly, the project was created by Mark Shuttleworth, a charismatic South African multimillionaire, a
former Debian developer and the world's second space tourist, whose company, the Isle of Man-based Canonical Ltd, is
currently financing the project. Secondly, Ubuntu had learnt from the mistakes of other similar projects and avoided them
from the start - it created an excellent web-based infrastructure with a Wiki-style documentation, creative bug-reporting
facility, and professional approach to the end users. And thirdly, thanks to its wealthy founder, Ubuntu has been able to
ship free CDs to all interested users, thus contributing to the rapid spread of the distribution.
technical side of things, Ubuntu is based on Debian "Sid" (unstable branch), but with some prominent packages, such as
GNOME, Firefox and OpenOffice.org, updated to their latest versions. It has a predictable, 6-month release schedule, with
an occasional Long Term Support (LTS) release that is supported with security updates for 3 - 5 years, depending on the
edition (non-LTS release are supported for 18 months). Other special features of Ubuntu include an installable live CD,
creative artwork and desktop themes, migration assistant for Windows users, support for the latest technologies, such as 3D
desktop effects, easy installation of proprietary device drivers for ATI and NVIDIA graphics cards and wireless networking,
and on-demand support for non-free or patent-encumbered media codecs.
Pros: Fixed release cycle and support
period; novice-friendly; wealth of documentation, both official and user-contributedCons: Lacks compatibility with
DebianSoftware package management: Advanced Package Tool (APT) using DEB packagesAvailable editions: Ubuntu, Kubuntu,
Xubuntu, Ubuntu Studio and Mythbuntu for 32-bit (i386) and 64-bit (x86_64) processors; Ubuntu Server edition also for SPARC
processorsSuggested Ubuntu-based alternatives: Linux Mint (desktop), gOS (desktop with Google applications), OpenGEU
(desktop with Enlightenemnt), Ultimate Edition (desktop), CrunchBang Linux (desktop with Openbox), gNewSense (free
Although Fedora was formally unveiled only in September 2004, its origins effectively date back to 1995
when it was launched by two Linux visionaries -- Bob Young and Marc Ewing -- under the name of Red Hat Linux. The company's
first product, Red Hat Linux 1.0 "Mother's Day", was released in the same year and was quickly followed by several bug-fix
updates. In 1997, Red Hat introduced its revolutionary RPM package management system with dependency resolution and other
advanced features which greatly contributed to the distribution's rapid rise in popularity and its overtaking of Slackware
Linux as the most widely-used Linux distribution in the world. In later years, Red Hat standardised on a regular, 6-month
In 2003, just after the release of Red Hat Linux 9, the company introduced some radical
changes to its product line-up. It retained the Red Hat trademark for its commercial products, notably Red Hat Enterprise
Linux, and introduced Fedora Core, a Red Hat-sponsored, but community-oriented distribution designed for the "Linux
hobbyist". After the initial criticism of the changes, the Linux community accepted the "new" distribution as a logical
continuation of Red Hat Linux. A few quality releases was all it took for Fedora to regain its former status as one of the
best-loved operating systems on the market. At the same time, Red Hat quickly became the biggest and most profitable Linux
company in the world, with an innovative product line-up and other interesting initiatives, such as its Red Hat Certified
Engineer (RHCE) certification programme.
Although Fedora's direction is still largely controlled by Red Hat,
Inc. and the product is sometimes seen -- rightly or wrongly -- as a test bed for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, there is no
denying that Fedora is one of the most innovative distributions available today. Its contributions to the Linux kernel,
glibc and GCC are well-known and its more recent integration of SELinux functionality, Xen virtualisation technologies and
other enterprise-level features are much appreciated among the company's customers. On a negative side, Fedora still lacks
a clear desktop-oriented strategy that would make the product easier to use for those beyond the "Linux hobbyist" target.
Pros: Highly innovative; outstanding security features; large number of supported packages; strict adherence to the
Free Software philosophyCons: Fedora's priorities tend to lean towards enterprise features, rather than desktop
usabilitySoftware package management: YUM graphical and command line utility using RPM packagesAvailable editions: Fedora
for 32-bit (i386), 64-bit (x86_64) and PowerPC (ppc) processors; Red Hat Enterprise Linux for i386, IA64, PowerPC, s390x
and x86_64 architectures; also live CD editions with either GNOME or KDESuggested Fedora-based alternatives: BLAG Linux And
GNU (desktop, free software), Berry Linux (live CD), Yellow Dog Linux (Apple's PowerPC-based systems)Suggested Red Hat-based
alternatives: CentOS, Scientific Linux, StartCom Enterprise Linux
The beginnings of openSUSE date back to 1992
when four German Linux enthusiasts -- Roland Dyroff, Thomas Fehr, Hubert Mantel and Burchard Steinbild -- launched the
project under the name of SuSE (Software und System Entwicklung) Linux. In the early days, the young company sold sets of
floppy disks containing a German edition of Slackware Linux, but it wasn't long before SuSE Linux became an independent
distribution with the launch of version 4.2 in May 1996. In the following years, the developers adopted the RPM package
management format and introduced YaST, an easy-to-use graphical system administration tool. Frequent releases, excellent
printed documentation, and easy availability of SuSE Linux in stores across Europe and North America resulted in growing
popularity of the distribution.
SuSE Linux was acquired by Novell, Inc. in late 2003. Major changes in the
development, licensing and availability of SUSE Linux followed shortly afterwards - YaST was released under the General
Public License, the ISO images were freely distributed from public download servers, and, most significantly, the
development of the distribution was opened to public participation for the first time. Since the launch of the openSUSE
project and the release of version 10.0 in October 2005, the distribution became completely free in both senses of the
word. The openSUSE code has become a base system for Novell's commercial products, first named as Novell Linux, but later
renamed to SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.
Today, openSUSE has a large following
of satisfied users. The principal reason for openSUSE getting high marks from its users are pleasant and polished desktop
environments (KDE and GNOME), excellent system administration utility (YaST), and, for those who buy the boxed edition,
some of the best printed documentation available with any distribution. However, the recent deal between Novell and
Microsoft, which apparently concedes to Microsoft's argument that it has intellectual property rights over Linux, has
resulted in a string of condemnation by many Linux personalities and has prompted some users to switch distributions.
Although Novell has downplayed the deal and Microsoft has yet to exercise any rights, this issue remains a thorn in the
side of the otherwise very community-friendly Linux company.
Pros: Comprehensive and intuitive configuration
tool; large repository of software packages, excellent web site infrastructure and printed documentationCons: Novell's
patent deal with Microsoft in November 2006 seemingly legitimised Microsoft's intellectual property claims over Linux; its
resource-heavy desktop setup and graphical utilities are sometimes seen as "bloated and slow"Software package management:
YaST graphical and command line utility using RPM packagesAvailable editions: openSUSE for 32-bit (i386), 64-bit (x86_64)
and PowerPC (ppc) processors (also installable live CD edition); SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop/Server for i586, IA64,
PowerPC, s390, s390x and x86_64 architectures
Debian GNU/Linux was first announced in 1993. Its founder, Ian
Murdock, envisaged the creation of a completely non-commercial project developed by hundreds of volunteer developers in
their spare time. With sceptics far outnumbering optimists at the time, it was destined to disintegrate and collapse, but
the reality was very different. Debian not only survived, it thrived and, in less than a decade, it became the largest Linux
distribution and possibly the largest collaborative software project ever created!
The success of Debian
GNU/Linux can be illustrated by the following numbers. It is developed by over 1,000 volunteer developers, its software
repositories contain more than 20,000 packages (compiled for 11 processor architectures), and it is responsible for
inspiring over 120 Debian-based distributions and live CDs. These figures are unmatched by any other Linux-based operating
system. The actual development of Debian takes place in three main branches (or four if one includes the bleeding-edge
"experimental" branch) of increasing levels of stability: "unstable" (also known as "sid"), "testing" and "stable". This
progressive integration and stabilisation of packages and features, together with the project's well-established quality
control mechanisms, has earned Debian its reputation of being one of the best-tested and most bug-free distributions
However, this lengthy and complex development style also has some drawbacks: the stable releases
of Debian are not particularly up-to-date and they age rapidly, especially since new stable releases are only published
once every 1 - 3 years. Those users who prefer the latest packages and technologies are forced to use the potentially buggy
Debian testing or unstable branches. The highly democratic structures of Debian have led to controversial decisions and
gave rise to infighting among the developers. This has contributed to stagnation and reluctance to make radical decisions
that would take the project forward.
Pros: Very stable; remarkable quality control; includes over 20,000
software packages; supports more processor architectures than any other Linux distributionCons: Conservative - due to its
support for many processor architectures, newest technologies are not always included; slow release cycle (one stable
release every 1 - 3 years); discussions on developer mailing lists and blogs can be uncultured at timesSoftware package
management: Advanced Package Tool (APT) using DEB packagesAvailable editions: Installation CD/DVD and live CD images for 11
processor architectures, including all 32-bit and 64-bit processors from Intel, AMD, Power and othersSuggested Debian-based
alternatives: MEPIS Linux, Ubuntu, sidux. Damn Small Linux (for old computers), KNOPPIX (live CD), Dreamlinux (desktop),
Elive (desktop with Enlightenment), Xandros (commercial), 64 Studio (multimedia)
Mandriva Linux was launched by
Gaël Duval in July 1998 under the name of Mandrake Linux. At first, it was just a re-mastered edition of Red Hat Linux with
the more user-friendly KDE desktop, but the subsequent releases also added various user-friendly touches, such as a new
installer, improved hardware detection, and intuitive disk partitioning utility. As a result of these enhancements,
Mandrake Linux flourished. After attracting venture capital and turning into a business, the fortunes of the newly
established MandrakeSoft fluctuated widely between a near bankruptcy in early 2003 to a flurry of acquisitions in 2005. The
latter, after merging with Brazil's Conectiva, saw the company change its name to Mandriva.
Mandriva Linux is
primarily a desktop distribution. Its best loved features are cutting edge software, superb system administration suite
(DrakConf), excellent implementation of its 64-bit edition, and extensive internationalisation support. It had an open
development model long before many other popular distributions, with intensive beta testing and frequent stable releases. In
recent years, it has also developed an array of installable live CDs and has launched Mandriva Flash - a complete Mandriva
Linux system on a bootable USB Flash device. It was the first major distribution that offered out-of-the box support for
popular netbooks, such as ASUS Eee PC.
Despite the technical excellence, Mandriva Linux has had a roller coaster
ride in recent years. This has partly to do with the emergence of other user-friendly distributions that have caught up
with Mandriva, but also with some controversial decisions by the company which have alienated a sector of the distribution's
user base. Mandriva's web presence is a messy conglomeration of several different web sites, while its "Mandriva Club",
originally designed to provide added value to paying customers, has been getting mixed reviews. Although the company has
been addressing some of the criticism, it continues to face an uphill battle in persuading new Linux users or users of
other distributions to try (and buy) its products.
Pros: Beginner-friendly, especially the commercial edition;
excellent central configuration utility; very good out-of-the-box support for dozens of languages; installable live CDCons:
Lacks a comprehensive marketing strategy to compete with other major distributions, non-existent Mandriva books show lack of
"mindshare" among publishing housesSoftware package management: URPMI with Rpmdrake (a graphical front-end for URPMI) using
RPM packages; "SMART" available as an alternative methodAvailable editions: Freely downloadable Mandriva "Free" installation
media for 32-bit (i586) and 64-bit (x86_64) processors; freely downloadable Mandriva "One" installable live media for
32-bit (i586) processors; commercial Mandriva PowerPack edition for 32-bit (i586) and 64-bit (x86_64) processors; also
high-end "Corporate" solutions for desktops and servers, all with long-term support options
Linux Mint, a
distribution based on Ubuntu, was first launched in 2006 by Clement Lefebvre, a French-born IT specialist living and
working in Ireland. Originally maintaining a Linux web site dedicated to providing help, tips and documentation to new Linux
users, the author saw the potential of developing a Linux distribution that would address the many usability drawbacks
associated with the generally more technical, mainstream products. After soliciting feedback from the visitors on his web
site, he proceeded with building what many refer to today as an "improved Ubuntu".
But Linux Mint is not just an
Ubuntu with a new set of applications and an updated desktop theme. Since its beginnings, the developers have been adding a
variety of graphical "mint" tools for enhanced usability; this includes mintDesktop - a utility for configuring the desktop
environment, mintMenu - a new and elegant menu structure for easier navigation, mintInstall - an easy-to-use software
installer, and mintUpdate - a software updater, just to mention a few more prominent ones among several other tools and
hundreds of additional improvements. The project also designs its own artwork, while its reputation for ease of use has
been further enhanced by the inclusion of proprietary and patent-encumbered multimedia codecs that are often absent from
larger distributions due to potential legal threats. However, one of the best features of Linux Mint is the fact that the
developers listen to the users and are always fast in implementing good suggestions.
While Linux Mint is
available as a free download, the project generates revenue from donations, advertising and professional support services.
It doesn't have a fixed release schedule or a list of planned features, but one can expect a new version of Linux Mint
several weeks after each stable Ubuntu release. Besides the "main" edition which features the GNOME desktop, the project
also builds a variety of semi-regular "community" editions with alternative desktops, such as KDE, Xfce and Fluxbox.
However, these are often completed several months after the release of the "main" GNOME edition and may sometimes miss some
of the "minty" tools and other features found in the project's flagship product. Linux Mint does not adhere to the
principles of software freedom and it does not publish security advisories.
Pros: Superb collection of "minty"
tools developed in-house, hundreds of user-friendly enhancements, inclusion of multimedia codecs, open to users'
suggestionsCons: The alternative "community" editions don't always include the latest features, the project does not issue
security advisoriesSoftware package management: APT with mintInstall using DEB packages (compatible with Ubuntu
repositories)Available editions: A "main" edition (with GNOME) for 32-bit and 64-bit computers, a variety of "community"
editions (with KDE, Xfce and Fluxbox) for 32-bit computersPossible alternatives: Ubuntu, SimplyMEPIS
was first announced in 2003 by Bill Reynolds, better known as "Texstar". Prior to creating his own distribution, Texstar was
already a well-known developer in the Mandrake Linux community of users for building up-to-date RPM packages for the
popular distribution and providing them as a free download. In 2003 he decided to build a new distribution, initially based
on Mandrake Linux, but with several significant usability improvements. The goals? It should be beginner-friendly, have
out-of-the box support for proprietary kernel modules, browser plugins and media codecs, and should function as a live CD
with a simple and intuitive graphical installer.
Several years and development releases later, PCLinuxOS is
rapidly approaching its intended state. In terms of usability, the project offers out-of-the-box support for many
technologies most Windows-to-Linux migrants would expect from their new operating system. On the software side of things,
PCLinuxOS is a KDE-oriented distribution, with a customised and always up-to-date version of the popular desktop
environment. Its growing software repository contains other desktops, however, and offers a great variety of desktop
packages for many common tasks. For system configuration, PCLinuxOS has retained much of Mandriva's excellent Control
Centre, but has replaced its package management system with APT and Synaptic, a graphical package management front-end.
On the negative side, PCLinuxOS lacks any form of roadmap or release goals. Despite the growing community
involvement in the project, most development and decision-making remains in the hands of Texstar who tends to be on the
conservative side when judging the stability of a release. As a result, the development process of PCLinuxOS tends to be
long and a new version is not released until all known bugs are solved. There are currently no plans for a 64-bit edition
Pros: Out-of-the-box support for graphics drivers, browser plugins and media codecs; fast boot
times; up-to-date softwareCons: No 64-bit edition offered; no out-of-the-box support for non-English languages; lacks
release planningSoftware package management: Advanced Package Tool (APT) using RPM packagesAvailable editions: MiniMe,
Junior and BigDaddy editions for 32-bit (i586) processor architecturesSuggested PCLinuxOS-based alternatives: SAM Linux
Desktop, Granular Linux
Slackware Linux, created by Patrick Volkerding in 1992, is the oldest surviving Linux
distribution. Forked from the now-discontinued SLS project, Slackware 1.0 came on 24 floppy disks and was built on top of
Linux kernel version 0.99pl11-alpha. It quickly became the most popular Linux distribution, with some estimates putting its
market share to as much as 80% of all Linux installations in 1995. Its popularity decreased dramatically with the arrival
of Red Hat Linux and other, more user-friendly distributions, but Slackware Linux still remains a much-appreciated operating
system among the more technically-oriented system administrators and desktop users.
Slackware Linux is a highly
technical, clean distribution, with only a very limited number of custom utilities. It uses a simple, text-based system
installer and a comparatively primitive package management system that does not resolve software dependencies. As a result,
Slackware is considered one of the cleanest and least buggy distributions available today - the lack of Slackware-specific
enhancements reduces the likelihood of new bugs being introduced into the system. All configuration is done by editing text
files. There is a saying in the Linux community that if you learn Red Hat, you'll know Red Hat, but if you learn Slackware,
you'll know Linux. This is particularly true today when many other Linux distributions keep developing heavily customised
products to meet the needs of less technical Linux users.
While this philosophy of simplicity has its fans, the
fact is that in today's world, Slackware Linux is increasingly becoming a "core system" upon which new, custom solutions are
built, rather than a complete distribution with a wide variety of supported software. The only exception is the server
market, where Slackware remains popular, though even here, the distribution's complex upgrade procedure and lack of
officially supported automated tools for security updates makes it increasingly uncompetitive. Slackware's conservative
attitude towards the system's base components means that it requires much manual post-installation work before it can be
tuned into a modern desktop system.
Pros: Highly stable, clean and bug-free, strong adherence to UNIX
principlesCons: Limited number of officially supported applications; conservative in terms of base package selection;
complex upgrade procedureSoftware package management: "pkgtool" using TXZ packagesAvailable editions: Installation CDs and
DVD for 32-bit (i486) and 64-bit (x86_64) processorsSuggested Slackware-based alternatives: Zenwalk Linux (desktop),
VectorLinux (desktop), SLAX (live CD), Slamd64 Linux (64-bit), Bluewhite64 Linux (64-bit), Wolvix (desktop, live CD),
GoblinX (desktop, live CD)Other distributions with similar philosophies: Arch Linux, Frugalware Linux
of Gentoo Linux was devised in around the year 2000 by Daniel Robbins, a former Stampede Linux and FreeBSD developer. It was
the author's exposure to FreeBSD and its "autobuild" feature called "ports", which inspired him to incorporate some of the
FreeBSD software management principles into Gentoo under the name of "portage". The idea was to develop a Linux
distribution that would allow users to compile the Linux kernel and applications from source code directly on their own
computers, thus maintaining a highly-optimised and always up-to-date system. By the time the project released its 1.0
version in March 2002, Gentoo's package management was considered a superior alternative to some binary package management
systems, especially the then widely-used RPM.
Gentoo Linux was designed for power users. Originally, the
installation was cumbersome and tedious, requiring hours or even days of compiling on the command line to build a complete
Linux distribution; however, in 2006 the project simplified the installation procedure by developing an installable Gentoo
live CD with a point-and-click installer. Besides providing an always up-to-date set of packages for installation with a
single command, the other important features of the distribution are excellent security, extensive configuration options,
support for many architectures, and the ability to keep the system up-to-date without re-installing. The Gentoo
documentation was repeatedly labelled as the best online documentation of any distribution.
Gentoo Linux has lost
much of its original glory in recent years. Some Gentoo users have come to a realisation that the time-consuming compiling
of software packages brings only marginal speed and optimisation benefits. Ever since the resignation of Gentoo's founder
and benevolent dictator from the project in 2004, the newly established Gentoo Foundation has been battling with lack of
clear directions and frequent developer conflicts, which resulted in several high-profile departures of well-known Gentoo
personalities. It remains to be seen whether Gentoo can regain its innovative qualities of the past or whether it will
slowly disintegrate into a loose collection of personal sub-projects lacking clearly-defined goals.
Excellent software management infrastructure, unparalleled customisation and tweaking options, superb online
documentationCons: Occasional instability and risk of breakdown, the project suffers from lack of directions and frequent
infighting between its developersSoftware package management: "Portage" using source (SRC) packagesAvailable editions:
Minimal installation CD and live CD (with GNOME) for Alpha, AMD64, HPPA, IA64, MIPS, PPC, SPARC and x86 processors; also
"stages" for manual installation from command lineSuggested Gentoo-based alternatives: SabayonLinux (desktop, live CD/DVD),
Ututo (desktop, free software only)Other source-based distributions: Lunar Linux, Source Mage GNU/Linux, Sorcerer, Linux From
Launched in late 2003, CentOS is a community project with the goals of rebuilding the source code for Red
Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) into an installable Linux distribution and to provide timely security updates for all included
software packages. To put in more bluntly, CentOS is nothing more than a clone of RHEL. The only technical difference
between the two is branding - CentOS replaces all Red Hat trademarks and logos with its own. But the connection between
RHEL and CentOS is not immediately visible on the CentOS web site; due to trademark laws, Red Hat is referred to as a
"Prominent North American Enterprise Linux Vendor", instead of its proper name. Nevertheless, the relations between Red Hat
and CentOS remain amicable and many CentOS developers are in active contact with Red Hat engineers.
often seen as a reliable server distribution. It comes with the same set of well-tested and stable Linux kernel and
software packages that form the basis of its parent, Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Despite being a community project run by
volunteers, it has gained a reputation of being a solid, free alternative to the more costly server products on the market,
especially among the experienced Linux system administrators. CentOS is also suitable as an enterprise desktop solution,
specifically where stability, reliability and long-term support are preferred over latest software and features. Like RHEL,
CentOS is supported with a minimum of 5 years of security updates.
Despite its advantages, CentOS might not be
the best solution in all deployment scenarios. Those users who prefer a distribution with the latest Linux technologies and
newest software packages should look elsewhere. Major CentOS versions, which follow RHEL versioning, are only released
every 2 - 3 years, while "point" releases (e.g. 5.1) tend to arrive in 6 - 9 month intervals. The point releases do not
usually contain any major features (although they do sometimes include support for more recent hardware) and only a handful
of software packages may get updated to newer versions. The Linux kernel, the base system and most application versions
remain unchanged, but occasionally a newer version of an important software package (e.g. OpenOffice.org or Firefox) may be
provided on an experimental basis. As a side project, CentOS also builds updated packages for the users of its
distributions, but the repositories containing them are not enabled by default as they may break upstream compatibility.
Pros: Extremely well-tested, stable and reliable; free to download and use; comes with 5-years of free security
updates; prompt releases and security updatesCons: Lacks latest Linux technologies; by the time of release, most software
packages are outdatedSoftware package management: YUM graphical and command line utility using RPM packagesAvailable
editions: Installation DVDs and installable live CDs (with GNOME) for i386 and x86_64 processors; older versions (3.x and
4.x) also available for Alpha, IA64 and IBM z-series (s390, s390x) processors.Other RHEL clones and CentOS-based
distributions: Scientific Linux, SME Server, StartCom Enterprise Linux, Fermi Linux, Rocks Cluster Distribution, Oracle
FreeBSD, an indirect descendant of AT&T UNIX via the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD), has a
long and turbulent history dating back to 1993. Unlike Linux distributions, which are defined as integrated software
solutions consisting of the Linux kernel and thousands of software applications, FreeBSD is a tightly integrated operating
system built from a BSD kernel and the so-called "userland" (therefore usable even without extra applications). This
distinction is largely lost once installed on an average computer system - like many Linux distributions, a large collection
of easily installed, (mostly) open source applications are available for extending the FreeBSD core, but these are usually
provided by third-party contributors and aren't strictly part of FreeBSD.
FreeBSD has developed a reputation for
being a fast, high-performance and extremely stable operating system, especially suitable for web serving and similar tasks.
Many large web search engines and organisations with mission-critical computing infrastructures have deployed and used
FreeBSD on their computer systems for years. Compared to Linux, FreeBSD is distributed under a much less restrictive
license, which allows virtually unrestricted re-use and modification of the source code for any purpose. Even Apple's Mac
OS X is known to have been derived from BSD. Besides the core operating system, the project also provides over 15,000
software applications in binary and source code forms for easy installation on top of the core FreeBSD.
FreeBSD can certainly be used as a desktop operating system, it doesn't compare well with popular Linux distributions in
this department. The text-mode system installer offers little in terms of hardware detection or system configuration,
leaving much of the dirty work to the user in a post-installation setup. In terms of support for modern hardware, FreeBSD
generally lags behind Linux, especially in supporting popular desktop and laptop gadgets, such as wireless network cards or
digital cameras. Those users seeking to exploit the speed and stability of FreeBSD on a desktop or workstation should
consider one of the available desktop FreeBSD projects, rather than FreeBSD itself.
Pros: Fast and stable;
availability of over 15,000 software applications (or "ports") for installation; very good documentationCons: Tends to lag
behind Linux in terms of support for exotic hardware, limited availability of commercial applications; lacks graphical
configuration toolsSoftware package management: A complete command-line package management infrastructure using either
binary packages or source-based "ports" (TBZ)Available editions: Installation CDs for Alpha, AMD64, i386, IA64, PC98 and
SPARC64 processorsSuggested FreeBSD-based alternatives: PC-BSD (desktop), DesktopBSD (desktop), FreeSBIE (live CD)Other BSD
alternatives: OpenBSD, NetBSD, DragonFly BSD, MidnightBSD