A Common question we hear is “Why are there so many kinds of Linux?” This page is here to, hopefully, answer that question.

Linux is actually not an entire operating system, but a kernel. The “Linux OS” which you download and install is actually called a GNU/Linux distribution, and is a compilation of the Linux kernel and various other applications and utilities to help you use it effectively.

GNU/Linux is available in a number of distributions which contain different configurations designed to meet the goals of the various people maintaining them. As there is no central authority on who can produce a distribution, and what can be in them, there are a variety of free (as in beer) and commercial options available. You can even find sites which help you to “roll you own distro,” such as Linux From Scratch and the nimbleX Generator.

Here is a list of some of the more popular Distributions in alphabetical order.

Damn Small Linux is a business card size (50MB) Live CD Linux distribution. Despite its minuscule size it strives to have a functional and easy to use desktop. Damn Small Linux has a nearly complete desktop, featuring most tools needed for simple to complex tasks. It is an excellent distribution to use with older hardware.
Debian Linux is a non-commercial project that gathers more than a thousand developers throughout the world. A strict organization and clear guidelines made its releases famous for their stability and reliability. Debian holds the lions-share of server room installations around the world.
Fedora Linux is an openly-developed project designed by (and based off of) Red Hat. The goal of The Fedora Project is to work with the Linux community to build a complete, general purpose operating system exclusively from open source software. It is consistently a solidly popular distribution.
Gentoo Linux is a versatile and fast, completely free Linux distribution geared towards developers and network professionals. Unlike other distros, Gentoo Linux has an advanced package management system called Portage, based off of BSD. Gentoo is a source distribution, meaning that it is not provided as installable binary packages, and is meant to be compiled for your machine.
Knoppix Linux is a bootable CD with a collection of GNU/Linux software, and support for many devices and peripherals. Knoppix can be used as a Linux demo, educational CD, rescue system, or adapted and used as a platform for commercial software product demos. Many computer forensics experts use this as their distribution of choice.
Linspire is a full-featured operating system (based on Debian GNU/Linux) like Microsoft Windows XP or Apple Mac OSX. Linspire offers you the power, stability and cost-savings of Linux with the ease of a Windows environment. In addition, Linspire features exclusive Click-N-Run (CNR) technology that makes installing software on Linspire fast and easy. It is a good choice for users new to linux.
Mandriva Linux offers all the power and stability of Linux to both individuals and professional users in an easy-to-use and pleasant environment. It is designed to be a complete, open source, replacement for Windows/Macintosh.
MEPIS Linux is a desktop Linux system that is also very easy to configure as a server. It is designed for both personal and business use. It runs as a live/installation/recovery CD, automatic hardware configuration,a and includes support for a variety of not-so-common linux partitions/formats and a wide range of hardware.
Novell Linux Desktop, powered by SUSE LINUX, provides a leading end-user productivity environment designed specifically to empower businesses to leverage Linux and open source with confidence. It can be deployed as a general-purpose desktop platform or tailored for use in information kiosks, call-centre terminals, or stations for infrequent PC users. This is the commercial distribution.
Redhat Linux is an commercial enterprise-level Ditribution focusing on development, deployment, and management of Linux and open source solutions for Enterprise Systems and Internet Infrastructure – ranging from embedded devices to secure Web servers.
Slackware Linux is the grandfather of Linux, being the oldest surviving Distribution. It provides new and experienced users alike with a fully-featured system, equipped to serve in any capacity from desktop workstation to machine-room server. Web, ftp, and email servers are ready to go out of the box, as are a wide selection of popular desktop environments. A full range of development tools, editors, and current libraries is included for users who wish to develop or compile additional software.
openSUSE Linux is the community program sponsored by Novell. Promoting the use of Linux everywhere, this program provides free, easy access to openSUSE, a complete Linux distribution. The openSUSE project has three main goals: make openSUSE the easiest Linux for anyone to obtain and the most widely used Linux distribution; leverage open source collaboration to make openSUSE the world’s most usable Linux distribution and desktop environment for new and experienced Linux users.
Ubuntu Linux is a complete desktop Linux operating system, freely available with both community and professional support. The Ubuntu community is built on the idea that software should be available free of charge, that software tools should be usable by people in their local language and despite any disabilities, and that people should have the freedom to customise and alter their software in whatever way they see fit. This is the fastest growing distribution.
Xandros Linux (formerly Corel Linux) is a desktop solution that combines the best of open source technologies with a corporate attention to completeness, usability, and support. Version 1 of the Desktop product was based on the award winning Corel LINUX OS and represents the next step in the evolution of the Corel desktop.
Yellow Dog Linux is an operating system that offers the best of Linux for PowerPC. Based at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Loveland, Colorado, USA, Terra Soft Solutions, Inc. is a privately held corporation whose primary market position is to advance the abilities of PowerPC Linux while supporting the open source philosophy of software development. The company has also released an edition designed to be used on the playstation 3.

For a more comprehensive list of Linux Distributions ( and what they include), please visit http://www.distrowatch.com. They are the source for the information provided here. The site includes comprehensive information on hundreds of distributions.