Operating Systems

The Linux kernel is used in many different operating systems. These are commonly referred to as “distributions.” Major distributions sometimes have “derivative” operating systems that are created using the major distribution as a base.

Arch Linux

Arch Linux is a 64-bit operating system whose motto is “Keep it Simple.” There is no graphical installer and the end-user is expected to manually configure their own system to their liking. Unlike Gentoo, compiled system packages are provided. Very detailed documentation about the operating system is provided in the official Arch Linux Wiki: https://wiki.archlinux.org/. [1]

  • Life Cycle:
  • Package Format:
    • Tape archive, LZMA2 compressed (tar.xz)

  • Package Manager:
    • Pacman (CLI)

  • Release branches [14]:
    • stable = Rolling release of packages that have passed quality assurance from the testing repository.

    • testing = Packages marked for testing before being promoted to the stable branch.

    • staging = For developers only. An unstable rolling release of the latest package versions.

  • Popular derivatives [2]:
    • Antergos

    • ArchLabs

    • Manjaro

Debian

Debian was designed to be a free operating. It is built to use the Hurd, FreeBSD, and Linux kernels. [11]

  • Life Cycle:
  • Package Format:
    • deb

  • Package Managers:
    • Apt (CLI)

    • Synaptic (GUI)

[3]

  • Release branches [15]:
    • stable = Released every two years, based on a freeze of testing a few months before the stable release.

    • testing = A snapshot of packages that have been in unstable and bug-free for 10 days.

    • unstable = For developers only. An unstable rolling release of the latest package versions.

  • Popular derivatives [2]:
    • elementary

    • Linux Mint

    • Ubuntu

Fedora

Fedora is a upstream community operating system that is sponsored by Red Hat, Inc. that is designed to test the latest technologies. After years of testing, Fedora is eventually used as a base to create a new Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) operating system that is known for it’s enterprise support and long life cycle. [4] The Community Enterprise Operating System (CentOS) is a rebuild of RHEL without the Red Hat, Inc. branding. [5]

  • Life Cycle:
  • Package Format:
    • rpm

  • Package Managers:
    • dnf (CLI)

    • dnfdragora (GUI)

  • Release branches [16]:
    • updates = The release of minor update packages for the major stable release.

    • updates-testing = Updates to stable packages that are staged for testing.

    • stable = Released every six months, based on a freeze of rawhide a few months before the stable release.

    • rawhide = For developers only. An unstable rolling release of the latest package versions.

  • Popular derivatives [2]:
    • Community Enterprise Linux (CentOS)

    • Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), AlmaLinux OS, and Rocky Linux

    • Yellow Dog Linux (YDL)

Fedora Silverblue

Fedora Silverblue uses ostree (via rpm-ostree) to manage the operating system in a way similar to git. There is a history of each update that can easily be rolled back. The file system is read-only except for writable directories for the user. Beyond the base operating system, it is recommended to install and manage applications as Flatpaks and/or containers. Silverblue may eventually replace the normal Fedora Workstation as the default desktop operating system.

Pros:

  • Automatic updates by default.

  • Easy to rollback updates.

  • Difficult to break due to the read-only file system.

Cons:

  • Does not support dual-booting.

  • Partitions cannot be customized as fully as Fedora Workstation.

  • RPM updates require a system reboot.

  • Cannot search for specific packages (no dnf search equivalent).

[13]

Gentoo

Gentoo is designed to be very configurable and optimized. Most packages need to be compiled from source code that is distributed through the package manager, Portage. This allows customized compilation options and compiler tuning.

  • Life Cycle:
  • Package Format:
    • Tape archive, block-sorting compressed (tbz2) [6]

  • Package Manager:
    • Portage (CLI)

  • Release branches [17]:
    • stable = Stable rolling releases of every package.

    • testing/unstable = For developers only. An unstable version of specific packages.

  • Popular derivatives [2][7]:
    • Calculate Linux

    • Chromium OS

    • Container Linux

Mandriva

Mandriva, which was originally called Mandrake Linux, was a fork of the original Red Hat Linux 5.1 in 1998. After it’s start, Mandriva no longer shares code with Fedora or RHEL and is it’s own operating system. The last release came out in 2011. Several derivatives still keep the Mandriva operating system alive. The Mageia project is the closest spiritual successor to the original Mandriva project.

  • Life Cycle:
  • Package Format:
    • rpm

  • Package Managers:
    • urpmi (CLI)

    • rpmdrake (GUI)

  • Popular derivatives [2]:
    • Mageia

    • OpenMandriva

    • PCLinuxOS

[8]

openSUSE Leap

openSUSE Leap is a upstream community operating system that is sponsored by SUSE. It is a stable release based off of openSUSE Tumbleweed. It is used as a base for the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES).

  • Life Cycle:
  • Package Format:
    • rpm

  • Package Manager:
    • zypper (CLI)

    • YaST (GUI)

  • Release branches [18]:
    • stable = Packages that have been fully tested for release.

    • devel = Packages that are constantly being updated and are in a usable state.

    • staging = For developers only. New packages that are likely to break other packages.

  • Popular derivatives [2][12]:
    • FyreLinux

    • GeckoLinux

    • SLES

[10]

Top Distributions

This is an extremely biased list of the best distribution for each use case.

  • Alternative to Chrome OS = 1. Chrome OS Flex 2. Brunch 3. ArnoldTheBats Chromium OS 4. Ubuntu Web Remix 5. GalliumOS 6. dahliaOS

  • Alternative to macOS = 1. Zorion OS Pro 2. elementary OS 3. Fedora 4. Xubuntu 5. winesapOS

  • Alternative to Windows = Zorion OS Core

  • Arm single-board computer (SBC) = Debian

  • Bleeding edge (stable) = Manjaro

  • Bleeding edge (unstable) = Arch Linux

  • Community support = Arch Linux

  • CPU architectures supported = Debian

  • Customizable installation

    • Hard = Gentoo

    • Easy = Arch Linux

  • Desktop environments:

    • Cinnamon = Linux Mint

    • Deepin = Deepin

    • Enlightenment = Bodhi Linux

    • GNOME = Fedora

    • KDE = KDE neon

    • LXDE/LXQt = Mageia

    • MATE = Solus MATE

    • Pantheon = elementary OS

    • Xfce = Xubuntu

  • Easiest = 1. Zorion OS Core 2. Pop!_OS

  • Free and open source software (FOSS) = 1. Fedora 2. Debian

  • Gaming = 1. SteamOS 3 2. ChimeraOS 3. Pop!_OS 4. Manjaro

  • Hardest = 1. Linux From Scratch 2. Slackware 3. Gentoo

  • Hardware support

    • Modern hardware = 1. Manjaro 2. Arch Linux 3. Pop!_OS

    • Legacy hardware = 1. Slax 2. antiX Linux 3. Debian

  • Lightweight = 1. Tiny Core Linux 2. Slax 3. antiX Linux 4. Linux Lite

  • Longest support = 1. RHEL 2. Ubuntu LTS (commercial) 3. AlmaLinux OS 4. Ubuntu LTS (free) 5. Debian

  • Old computer = 1. Slax 2. Puppy Linux (Ubuntu) 3. antiX Linux 4. Zorion OS Lite 5. Linux Lite

  • Oldest Linux distribution = 1. Slackware 2. openSUSE 3. Debian 4. Fedora 5. Gentoo 6. Arch Linux [19]

  • Operating system of the future = 1. Fedora Silverblue 2. SteamOS 3 3. Clear Linux 4. ChimeraOS

  • Packages available = 1. Arch Linux 2. Manjaro 3. Ubuntu 4. Debian

  • Privacy = Tails

  • Release cycle

    • Slow = Debian

    • Moderate = openSUSE Leap

    • Fast = 1. Fedora 2. Ubuntu

    • Latest = Arch Linux

  • Security penetration testing = Kali Linux

  • Server = 1. RHEL 2. AlmaLinux OS 3. Debian 4. Ubuntu LTS

  • Stable = 1. RHEL 2. AlmaLinux OS 3. Debian 4. Ubuntu LTS

  • Touchscreen = Fedora

  • USB drive / portable = 1. winesapOS 2. Slax 3. Puppy Linux

Bibliography

  1. “Arch Linux.” Arch Linux. November 8, 2017. Accessed January 2, 2018. https://www.archlinux.org/

  2. “DistroWatch.” DistroWatch. Accessed April 27, 2020. https://distrowatch.com/

  3. “Chapter 8 - The Debian package management tools.” The Debian GNU/Linux FAQ. Accessed January 2, 2018. https://www.debian.org/doc/manuals/debian-faq/ch-pkgtools.en.html

  4. “What is the relationship between Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux?” Red Hat. Accessed January 2, 2018. https://www.redhat.com/en/technologies/linux-platforms/articles/relationship-between-fedora-and-rhel

  5. “About CentOS.” CentOS. Accessed January 2, 2018. https://www.centos.org/about/

  6. “Binary package guide.” Gentoo Linux Wiki. November 13, 2017. Accessed January 2, 2018. https://wiki.gentoo.org/wiki/Binary_package_guide

  7. “Chromium OS SDK Creation.” The Chromium Projects. Accessed January 1, 2018. https://www.chromium.org/chromium-os/build/sdk-creation

  8. “Mandriva Linux is dead, but these 3 forked distros carry on its legacy.” PCWorld. June 4, 2015. Accessed January 1, 2018. https://www.pcworld.com/article/2930369/mandriva-linux-is-dead-but-these-3-forked-distros-carry-on-its-legacy.html

  9. “About Gentoo.” Gentoo Linux. Accessed January 2, 2018. https://www.gentoo.org/get-started/about/

  10. “[openSUSE Wiki] Main Page.” openSUSE Wiki. November 16, 2016. Accessed January 2, 2018. https://en.opensuse.org/Main_Page

  11. “About Debian.” Debian. June 6, 2017. Accessed January 2, 2018. https://www.debian.org/intro/about

  12. “Derivatives.” OpenSUSE Wiki. Accessed March 20, 2018. https://en.opensuse.org/Derivatives

  13. “What is Silverblue?” Fedora Magazine. July 12, 2019. Accessed July 29, 2019. https://fedoramagazine.org/what-is-silverblue/

  14. “Official repositories.” ArchWiki. June 8, 2020. Accessed October 11, 2020. https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/official_repositories

  15. “DebianUnstable.” Debian Wiki. September 29, 2020. Accessed October 11, 2020. https://wiki.debian.org/DebianUnstable

  16. “Repositories.” Fedora Docs Site. October 11, 2020. Accessed October 11, 2020. https://docs.fedoraproject.org/en-US/quick-docs/repositories/

  17. “Stable request.” Gentoo Wiki. April 13, 2020. Accessed October 11, 2020. https://wiki.gentoo.org/wiki/Stable_request

  18. “openSUSE:Factory development model.” openSUSE Wiki. October 25, 2019. Accessed October 11, 2020. https://en.opensuse.org/openSUSE:Factory_development_model

  19. “The History of Various Linux Distros.” Make Tech Easier. July 25, 2021. Accessed May 10, 2022. https://www.maketecheasier.com/history-of-linux-distros/