What is a Linux Distribution? What does it mean?

Last updated: March 15, 2022

Most people consider Ubuntu, Debian, etc as Linux. But, those are Linux distributions. When you want to use Linux on your system or server, first you need to select the Linux distribution or Linux-based operating system for installation. There are many Linux distributions are available that you can choose for your Linux server.

In this guide, we learn what is a Linux Distribution and what does it mean.

What is a Linux Distribution?

Linux distribution, also known as “Linux distro”, is a single operating system that is composed of various components. Generally, a Linux distribution is a collection of Linux kernel, gnu shell utilities, an installer, additional software packages, a package management system, a window manager, and a desktop environment.

Linux users may use the term Linux-based operating systems. When you say Linux, it just means the kernel. The kernel is the core of the operating system that interacts more with the hardware. Linus Torvalds released the first version of the Linux kernel in 1991.

Most of the software is developed independently by programmers, it is free and open-source software. This software is available in source code form and compiled binaries. Linux distribution may also include some proprietary software which is mostly available in binary code.

Most Linux distributions provide updates to the Linux kernel and other software to keep all packages updated in your system.

GNU/Linux

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) and its founder Richard Stallman promote the term GNU/Linux for operating systems that use Linux kernel and GNU software.

In the early 80s UNIX was proprietary and expensive, Richard Stallman initiated the plan to complete a Unix-like operating system called GNU. The kernel developed for GNU was named GNU Hurd. But the free software community choose to use Kernel released by Linux Torvald due to difficulty with the microkernel design of GNU Hurd.

Modern free and open-source software operating systems consists of contributions from GNU projects, Linux kernel developers, and vendors. The distributions use GNU C Library, GNU Core utilities, and bash shell. For these reasons, they like to call it GNU/Linux.

Which Linux Distribution to Use

You may choose a Linux-based operating system depending on your personal requirements such as Desktop experience, Gaming, Stylist, Available Software, Community Support, etc.

Ubuntu LTS, Debian, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux are considered stable Linux distributions that will be supported with bug fixes and security updates for many years. 

Some distributions are commercially backed distributions such as Fedora Linux, OpenSUSE, and Ubuntu, and others are community-driven distributions which include Gentoo, Arch Linux, Debian, Linux Mint, Rocky Linux, and AlmaLinux.

Linux Distributions such as Fedora, Pop OS, Linux Mint, and Manjaro Linux work out of the box, easy installation, and many ready-to-use apps. Pop OS based on Ubuntu is more focused on the graphical interface and gaming experience.

Linux distributions such as Linux Arch come with a wide package repository, rolling release model, and package management tools that provide various features. For Windows users to get the same look and feel Deepin Linux and Zorin OS can help.

On top of choosing a Linux Distro, you can choose your favorite Desktop Environments such as KDE, MATE, GNOME, Cinnamon, Xfce, COSMIC from System76 or LXQT. Mostly the Linux Distros comes with a default desktop environment.

Conclusion

There are hundreds of Linux distros that are actively maintained. So you have the choice to choose the best among them.

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