Linux Distro

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"Linux distribution - a specific version of the basic Linux operating system plus additional packages. Distributions are compiled for a number of reasons and often to make particular tasks easier or to make Linux run on specific hardware."



Mike Chege:

“A distribution, or distro, to use the popular term, is an operating system comprising the Linux kernel and an assortment of applications in binary form but also available in source code form. Now, in principle, users could obtain the Linux kernel via the Internet and they could then obtain source code for the applications in the same way, and then compile and integrate the programs to assemble a working GNU/Linux system. However, this process is both very demanding and time–consuming. To avoid the hassle of “rolling” their own distributions, therefore, users often choose to obtain complete, ready–made systems from “distributors,” the companies or individuals that undertake the task of creating such systems.

GNU/Linux distributions come in all shapes and sizes. They range from small, single–CD, single–purpose distros like SystemRescueCd (whose main task, as its name suggests, is to “rescue” systems after a crash) to massive, everything–but–the–kitchen–sink, multiple–CD distros like Debian. Distros can also be distinguished along the lines of software package formats, that is, whether they are RPM–based distros, deb–based distros, or tgz–based distros.” (


"In the Linux world there are several companies providing Linux distributions, each competing in a free market. This means that there is much more choice, many more versions of Linux than there are versions of Windows. Some distributions have specialized uses. For example the Linux distribution Mythbuntu is the equivalent of Windows XP media center edition, a version of Linux expecialy made for home theater computers (i.e. computers that you connect to your TV). Others like the Ubuntu Linux distribution try to provide the best all purpose experience for the home user and would be the equivalent of Windows XP home. Kubuntu offers the same home user experience but with an advanced 3D user interface and would be the equivalent of Vista home Premium. SUSE, a Linux distribution for the professional user and the enterprise, would be the equivalent of Windows XP professional. Some Linux distributions don't have an equivalent in the Windows world e. g. Ubuntu Studio which is a Linux distribution made for musicians.

Like there are applications designed for Windows XP or Windows Vista, some Linux applications are "compiled" for Ubuntu or SUSE, and these don't always work on the other distributions. Most big applications are common to most distributions however. For example Firefox and OpenOffice are available on almost all distributions the same way that Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office are available on all versions of Windows.

To answer the original question of "what is a Linux distribution", I'll conclude by saying that it is just a version of the Linux kernel bundled with a graphic interface and some applications, the same way that there are home and professional versions of Windows. The biggest difference is that there are more Linux distributions than there are versions of Windows. In a later post I will present the most common Linux distribution and explain to which kind of usage they are best suited." (


  1. Red Hat
  2. Debian
  3. Ubuntu#Ubuntu as software

More Information

  1. Distrowatch–a,, attached 13 December 2008.
  2. Distrowatch–b, “Search distributions,” at, attached 13 December 2008.