Linux Comes Packaged In "Distributions"
The Linux kernel, by itself, is not useful. It provides services for
applications to take advantage of, but without applications there are
only a few things it can do. Fortunately, a wide variety of groups,
organizations, and companies have combined Linux with other
applications in the form of "distributions".
A "distribution" is a combination of the Linux kernel, applications to
run with it, utilities to install it on a computer, and utilities to
manage the system once it's installed. Distributions vary in the
options they offer, the utilities they provide, what commercial
software comes bundled, price, and so forth.
A few of the more popular distributions are:
It's worth noting that, for all their differences, the Linux
distributions are all pretty much interoperable. There is a standard
for how directories are set up, and standards for things like shared
libraries (DLLs) and so forth. This
means that almost all Linux programs can run on any distribution.
- Red Hat - popular for its
ease-of-use, graphical utilities, software management system,
and bundled commercial software.
- Debian - a non-commercial
distribution, Debian concentrates on using open-source software
whenever possible. Popular also for its advanced software
- S.U.S.E. - produced in
Germany, this distribution is very well liked by some for its
administration tools, comprehensive application set and
- Slackware - one of the oldest
distributions, it is popular for its easy maintenance.
Individual applications usually come in "packages", much like ZIP
files. The most popular package format is "RPM", developed by Red
Hat. Almost all distributions either use this format natively, or
offer tools to automatically translate and install RPM files. Choosing
a distribution is really a matter of taste.