It’s long been the case that the world of Linux distributions offers at least one compelling choice for virtually every taste and purpose, but — much like those dissatisfied with the weather in New England — users who don’t see a distro they like need only wait a few minutes.
The open source nature of Linux means that users not only can fork and create entirely new distros of their own at will, but also take advantage of others’ efforts to do so — and those efforts are ongoing.
As evidence, one need only scan the list of distros on DistroWatch at the start of any new year: Chances are, there will be more than a few newcomers on it that weren’t there the year before, as well as a few that have disappeared.
It turns out that’s exactly the situation in the Linux distro world here in early 2014.
We’ve lost a few distros since 2013 began, but we’ve also gained some interesting fresh blood. “You win a few, you lose a few,” as the old saying goes; fortunately, the overall pool of choices remains as rich and diverse as ever.
‘Quite a Splash’
“Two notable distros that disappeared last year were Fuduntu and SolusOS,” DistroWatch founder Ladislav Bodnar told LinuxInsider. “Both became overly ambitious, trying to develop the whole thing from scratch instead of using another project’s packages and infrastructure.”
The result? “Developer burnout, I guess,” Bodnar suggested.
Fuduntu, in particular, “made quite a splash and was popular,” agreed Linux guru Carla Schroder, author of The Book of Audacity and the Linux Cookbook.
A Suggestion of Clover
Originally based on Fedora but later forked, Fuduntu aimed to find a sweet spot in the distro spectrum between Fedora and Ubuntu. It was optimized for netbooks and other portable computers. Born in 2010, the project shut its doors in April 2013. [*Correction – Feb. 24, 2014]
Much of the project team went on to work on Cloverleaf Linux, a new distro that was to be based on openSuse instead, but in September that effort was abandoned as well.
As for SolusOS, it offered a GNOME 3 fork designed to look and behave like GNOME 2, providing a beginner-friendly choice with a taste of the familiar for longtime Linux users as well.
‘Linux Rules the Embedded Space’
Hard on the heels of the SolusOS departure came the birth of Antergos Linux, but it is by no means the only new arrival in recent months.
Particularly notable are the various Raspberry Pi distros to emerge over the past year or two, Schroder noted.
“Linux on ARM is a big, big deal, from dinky little Raspberry Pi and other SBCs to big-ass servers,” she told LinuxInsider. “IBM is putting a billion clams into Linux on ARM.”
Raspberry Pi has taken off because it’s cheap and adaptable, Schroder explained.
“There is at least one commercial Pi vendor using it to power digital signs and kiosks,” she added. “As we become trapped in the Internet of Things, Linux rules the embedded space.”
‘Strong Privacy and Anonymity Features’
One distro that recently has been getting much attention on DistroWatch is Elementary OS, Bodnar said.
“The combination of good looks and quite a bit of publicity in the media helped a lot,” he explained.
Meanwhile, “Tails, a live CD with strong privacy and anonymity features, has been doing extremely well too (no prizes for guessing why ;-),” he added. “Among newer distributions, I hear good things about Point Linux, but I haven’t really tested it myself, so I can’t give you my opinion.”
‘There Is Always Potential for Change’
It’s always “somewhat interesting and entertaining to see the ebb and flow of the top Linux distributions,” Jay Lyman, a senior analyst with 451 Research, told LinuxInsider.
“One of the highlights is typically the Linux operating systems with staying power,” he said. “After years of jockeying, we’ve seen Ubuntu in the top few distributions consistently for some time, which speaks to its desktop and developer popularity.”
Linux Mint is “another distribution that has been around a long time and still manages to garner new users and a top spot among distros,” Lyman added. “In addition to others with staying power — Debian, Fedora, Slackware — we’ve seen some distributions recently making their way to the top of the list, such as Arch Linux, PCLinuxOS and others.”
In terms of enterprise Linux, “it continues to be mostly Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Suse Linux Enterprise Server and Ubuntu, but there is always potential for change with continued growth of cloud computing, OpenStack and other communities and trends,” Lyman suggested.
“Also interesting and impactful is Red Hat’s move to bring CentOS, a community clone of RHEL, in house, and thus expand its Linux community,” he added, “particularly among service providers and hosters that are not Red Hat’s traditional, enterprise market, yet use CentOS regularly.”
*ECT News Network editor’s note – Feb. 24, 2014: Our original published version of this story mistakenly stated that Fedora was born in 2012. Andrew Wyatt started Fuduntu in November 2010, not in 2012.
I was a Solus user. Disappointed to see it close, but not surprised. I have moved on, to Point Linux. I AM still fairly new to Linux. I will end up with Debian eventually, but for now the Debian based distros offer me an easier path to the Operating system I want. When I feel I have the skills I need I will go to Debian. I have tried Debian, but found all open source confusing at times. Adding non-free codecs and repositories to keep things like Firefox and Sea Monkey safely updated have given me problems. The other thing that I want that should soon be included is the Mate desktop. When my skills improve and Mate is standard (yes I know I can add it myself, I have actually accomplished that feat)then I will move to the big one, Debian. Until then, thanks for the spins.
I, personally, AM tired of the distro rat race. I’m beginning to agree with all those Linux naysayers whose main arguing point AGAINST Linux is all the fractionalization, And who call for a "standardized" Linux.
Well, we all know–GNU/Linux being what it is– that THAT will never happen, but some people think that it makes for good–however brainless it may be–press.
However, what I’m really tired of is putting a lot of work into finding what I think is THE ONE distro which meets most of the criteria desired by most people: a hard-working, conscientious, honest developer who cares about his user base; a distro which "just works", and "just works" extremely well; good, solid contributions to the overall Linux experience, honesty, transparency TRUST in the developer and distro (just in case you haven’t figured this out, here, I’m referring to MINT Linux) ,,, and then…WHAM!: along comes Super-Slime-Ball, by name of one Mark Shuttleworth, who wants a piece of everybody else’s action because he can’t make it on his own.
[I maintain that just as Bill Gates has killed off the PC business, Mark Shuttleworth will just as surely kill off all the distro business based on Ubuntu. FORTUNATELY, it will be limited to only Ubuntu-based crap. It can’t happen soon enough.]
My solution: I’m switching to what’s REALLY been around for a long time, has an LTS of ten years, and has just ensured it will be around forever by becoming a part and parcel of Red Hat Linux: CentOS.
Now, perhaps, I’ll have some peace of mind for at least a year or two.
If you think CentOS has been around for a long time…
You should try Slackware. The oldest distribution still in active use, support, and development.
Point well taken. And if you are a Slackware user, my hat’s off to you.
My motivation is that it will probably–PROBABLY– be easier to get help WHEN–not IF– I need it.
There. Now you can say you’ve encountered a Linux user who doesn’t claim to know everything (remember: I DO NOT USE ubuntu. Oh…it’s spelled with an upper-case "u"?. I always thought that nouns had to earn the right to be considered "proper nouns").
hi, … the very last thing anyone wants is a standard Gnu/Linux distro. … the very last thing.
One of the problems with a standard distro is that its standard to the crackers as well… including NSA GCHQ.
We want literally hundreds if not thousands of digital footprints out there… not to mention that variety and choice is the spice of life,… having multiple distributions and kernel images makes it VERY difficult to build malware that will propagate over them in the wild… rare as they are in Gnu/Linux in the first place.
Standardizing Gnu/Linux is not wanted, nor is it necessary.