The reference distribution for this book, and my personal
preference, is Debian GNU/Linux, the Linux
for the GNU Generation.
I originally started with Slackware in 1993 but migrated
through Red Hat and then quickly on to Debian in 1995. Red Hat (now
Fedora Core) is a good distribution and is quite popular. However,
Debian fundamentally conforms to the open and distributed development
model making it a very open distribution where even you can make a
change to it, if you so desired. Debian is the basis of a number of
LiveCD and commercial distributions and it also powers quite a few web
sites including Linux.com. Gentoo is an interesting, newer
distribution, primarily for development workstations at the bleeding
edge, using a model of compiling source for the installation rather
than being a binary distribution. However, the same functionality is
available in Debian through the wajig build
command and appropriate tuning of /etc/apt/apt-build.conf.
Distributions based on Debian GNU/Linux are listed at
http://www.debian.org/misc/children-distros and include:
- GNUstep is a LiveCD that contains a lot of software for
GNUstep, a free implementation of the OPENSTEP framework (which was
also the base of Cocoa in Mac OS X). Display Postscript is one of its
powerful features. It includes an excellent application called Gorm for
RAD (Apple Software Design Guidelines). It is available from
- Debian Hardened is a project that brings to Debian
GNU/Linux high security and hardening features, hardened kernels nad
packages (Stack Smashing Protector + PIE compiled), the DHKP and linux
entropy pool enhancements (and the LTRNG) for strong cryptography. It
is available from http://sourceforge.net/projects/debianhardened.
- The Knoppix LiveCD distribution is based on Debian and
allows one to run Debian without installing it! Just boot from the
CD-ROM and Debian will run from there. If you decide to then install
Debian, you can do so from the Knoppix CD-ROM. Knoppix works on most
but not all hardware, trying its best to automatically identify
hardware and set things up appropriately. See
- Linux by Libranet packages commonly used applications onto
an easy to install CD and includes, for example, Gnome.
- A Debian-based distribution being developed by the regional
government of Extremadura (Spain) with the goal of migrating all the
computer systems, from government offices, to businesses to schools
- A Debian-based CDLive distribution with KDE.
- Morphix is a modular LiveCD derived from Knoppix, with
install images for Games, Gnome, KDE, and LightGUI. It is available
- This distributor of laptops pre-installs Debian GNU/Linux
on their laptops. See http://www.tuxtops.com/.
- Based on Debian GNU/Linux, UserLinux provides businesses
with freely available, high quality GNU/Linux operating systems
accompanied by certifications, service, and support options intended to
encourage productivity and security while reducing overall costs. Their
i386 install CD is only 4.5 MB large, with the remainder downloaded
directly from Debian mirrors. The project is led by long-time open
source advocate Bruce Perens. See
You may also be interested in other distributions including
TimeSys for embedded real time GNU/Linux (http://timesys.com/). See
for an example using a LiveCD.