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Open Source Linux

Unusual, Obscure, and Useful Linux Distros 221

angry tapir writes "Most people will be familiar with some of the big names when it comes to Linux — distributions like Ubuntu, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Debian, and Mandriva. Most of the well-known Linux distros are designed to be used as general-purpose desktop operating systems or installed on servers. But beyond these distros are hundreds of others either designed to appeal to very specific audiences or to fulfill the somewhat niche needs of some users. We rounded up some of the most interesting Linux distributions that you might not have heard of."
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Unusual, Obscure, and Useful Linux Distros

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  • by w0mprat ( 1317953 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @01:40AM (#32753786)
    ... the live CD you have with you.
  • Needs a mirror? (Score:5, Informative)

    by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @01:41AM (#32753792) Journal
    We need a new instant mirror site for slashdot. Any suggestions?
    "One of the benefits of open source software that many people are most familiar with is that it's free to download.
    This means you can grab great applications — such as Mozilla's Firefox Web browser, the OpenOffice.org office suite or the GIMP photo editing program — without paying a cent.
    However, the other major benefit of truly open source software (some "open source" software licences are more restrictive than others) is that you're allowed to modify a program and redistribute your altered version so other people can enjoy it.

    Linux is a classic example of this: there are hundreds (at least!) of different Linux-based operating systems. Most people will be familiar with some of the big names — distributions like Ubuntu, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Debian and Mandriva.
    Most of the well-known Linux distros are designed to be used as general purpose desktop operating systems or installed on servers. But beyond these distros are hundreds of others either designed to appeal to very specific audiences or to fulfil the somewhat niche needs of some users.
    We rounded up some of the most interesting Linux distros out there that you might not have heard of.

    Insecure by design: Damn Vulnerable Linux

    Damn Vulnerable Linux is "The most vulnerable and exploitable operating system ever" according to its Web site.
    It's designed for security training; it includes training material and exercises (as well as a whole bunch of flaws to exploit). As Mayank Sharma notes: "Damn Vulnerable Linux (DVL) is everything a good Linux distribution isn't. Its developers have spent hours stuffing it with broken, ill-configured, outdated, and exploitable software that makes it vulnerable to attacks."

    Indulge in paranoia: Tinfoil Hat Linux

    Tinfoil Hat Linux is pretty much the opposite of Damn Vulnerable Linux: it's designed for the paranoid among us.

    "It started as a secure, single floppy, bootable Linux distribution for storing PGP keys and then encrypting, signing and wiping files.
    At some point it became an exercise in over-engineering." According to its developers, a possible reason for using it is that that "Illuminati are watching your computer, and you need to use morse code to blink out your PGP messages on the numlock key." They're joking. Probably. (In case you want more tinfoil protection, there are some links to a site about aluminium foil deflector beanies and tinfoil suits.)

    CSI Linux: CAINE
    CAINE (Computer Aided INvestigative Environment) is probably one of the coolest niche Linux distributions around. It's designed for digital forensics (so sadly, no blood spatter analysis) and was developed at the Information Engineering Department of the University of Modena e Reggio Emilia in Italy. It includes software such as TheSleuthKit and Autopsy Forensic Browser for examining file systems, data recovery applications, steganography tools and utilities for securely wiping drives (you know, in case someone else has a copy of CAINE).
    Open source engineering: CAELinux

    Eminently embeddable: Zeroshell
    Zeroshell Linux gets its name from being designed to be solely administered through a Web interface. It's intended to be used on servers and embedded devices.
    Its features include load balancing, support for 3G mobile broadband connections and RADIUS support.

    Ditch Windows Media Centre: Mythbuntu
    Mythbuntu is not really a niche distribution, but it is designed for a specific task rather than being a general desktop distro.
    Mythbuntu is used to run PVRs and media centre PCs. As its name indicates, it's derived from Ubuntu Linux.
    However, it's ditched the Gnome and by default utilises the relatively barebones Xfce desktop environment.

    Damn Small Linux is damn cool

    Damn Small Linux (DSL) is actually quite a well known distribution. It's not nearly as small as the amazing MenuetOS (which is a non-Linux OS writ
  • by Zombie Ryushu ( 803103 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @01:52AM (#32753824)

    These distros should become meta-packages for larger distros. You should not need to install a specialized OS because you need specialized applications or specialized configurations. The application developer would be better served working with the larger Linux community, to ensure that the usefulness of the given applications is compatible and availible across all distros and platforms. Linux should always have a diverse ecosystem, but Linux should also have a universality about it, that a given meta-configuration can be established to a given Linux with automatic dependency resolution.

  • by srussia ( 884021 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @02:10AM (#32753894)
    It makes the Slug rock!
  • Slashdotted (Score:5, Informative)

    by steveha ( 103154 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @02:14AM (#32753910) Homepage

    Coral Cache:

    http://www.goodgearguide.com.au.nyud.net/article/351651/12_most_interesting_unusual_useful_linux_distros/ [nyud.net]

    List of the distros:

    steveha

  • by Psaakyrn ( 838406 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @02:16AM (#32753922)

    But really, I think this is all the common people would want/need if they want to replace Windows.

    • Re:Gaming distro? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968.gmail@com> on Thursday July 01, 2010 @03:57AM (#32754228) Journal

      You're kidding, right? Because the only games Windows users would want to play is 400 ripoffs of Quake 3 Deathmatch? Hey for some stuff Linux works great, for example it makes a damned good web server or embedded environment, but quality gaming sure as hell ain't one of them. It takes a shitload of money to even make a B class game these days, and getting thousands of guys across the planet to donate their time to the really hard work like designing a top notch game engine? Ain't gonna happen.

      That is why I'd say for the foreseeable future Linux games will be nothing but maps built upon whatever engine the guys at Id are nice enough to donate. Servers and embedded yes, gaming and multimedia? Not so much. The same as I doubt Myth will ever take the place of WMC, or even windows based add-ons like Mediaportal. It takes a hell of a lot of work to support all that hardware, and writing drivers? Really not fun. With Myth I spent nearly a week fighting the damned thing trying to get it stable, whereas with Win7 WMC it was plug and play.

      Which is why I guess I just won't "get it" with regards to all the resources wasted on trying to make Linux do jobs it simply isn't good at, when there are so many jobs that it is good at where those limited resources could be better put to use. Servers, embedded, forensics, HPC, kiosks, etc. Why waste all those resources trying to force a square peg in a round hole?

      • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @08:08AM (#32755838) Homepage

        > The same as I doubt Myth will ever take the place of WMC, or even windows based add-ons like Mediaportal.
        > It takes a hell of a lot of work to support all that hardware, and writing drivers? Really not fun. With
        > Myth I spent nearly a week fighting the damned thing trying to get it stable, whereas with Win7 WMC it was
        > plug and play.

        That's really funny considering all of the stuff you have to add to WMC just to get basic video playback working.

        MCE is NOTHING to hold up as an example.

        HELL, have they even gotten HD-PVR support sorted out yet after 2 years?

        There's even a nice thread on Engadget now about some guy that wants to replace his
        XBMC based setup with MCE. Some of the MCE user responses are a real hoot.

        • Re:Gaming distro? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968.gmail@com> on Thursday July 01, 2010 @09:22AM (#32756814) Journal

          Example please? Because with mine (Windows 7 HP x64) I had a grand total of TWO downloads to have everything as pretty as you please (and one wasn't really necessary as Windows 7 had a driver for my tuner, I simply wanted the latest) and everything purring like a kitten. I simply went to Ninite [ninite.com] and had it auto install the latest Klite Codec Pack (Along with FF, Irfanview, .NET, Foxit, Flash, Silverlight, ImgBurn, great site for new builds) which gave me support for all the funkier formats, installed the latest for my USB Tuner, and Voila! Everything "just worked".Now I can't tell you about HD-PVR, since my cable is analog, but it is certainly less of a PITA than Myth to setup by a LOOONG shot!

          Considering my 67 year old dad, whose is about as PC clueless as they come, was able to set up his own WMC because he decided he didn't want to wait until the weekend when I was free, I'm really gonna have to ask for citation please. Does ANYONE here think my dad could have done the same with MythUbuntu or any other Myth based and had a snowball's chance in hell of having a working system? With WMC it is beyond simple for him to set up recording, schedule shows, pause live TV, watch Internet TV like Netflix or CBS.com, I honestly don't know of any way they could make it more simple.

          So while there are things I would criticize MSFT over (don't like the new system restore layout, you need to make shortcuts to keep from scrolling sub layers to get to common networking tasks) I'd say WMC isn't one of them. It is easy to use, automatically downloads DVD covers for your vids, is plug and play with most current TV Tuners, and like I said if it passes the "dad test" then you know it is easy and intuitive. And it is certainly head and shoulders easier to set up and the client/server model Myth uses and a hell of a lot less of a PITA, at least with my hardware.

          • Re:Gaming distro? (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @10:10AM (#32757624) Homepage

            > Example please?

            You just provided it. This sort of nonsense is why people buy Apple products.

            HELL, Windows 7 doesn't even have out of the box support for simple stuff like ION. That was a nice shocker.

            Sure, it's cool if you can be satisfied with the very basic low level out of the box experience.
            In this case, the Internet TV options you alluded to are nice. Although they are not limited to
            MCE and are available on software that's not Windows only.

            OTOH, Windows in general has a nasty habit of failing in new and peculiar ways like the Netflix MCE
            plugin deciding to complain about how time is setup. As if the Netflix plugin needs to be remotely
            bothered or interested if my system clock is screwed up somehow.

            If you have any of your own media to speak of, XBMC is a much better application to use.

            > Now I can't tell you about HD-PVR, since my cable is analog,

                  You better stock up on tuners. Analog has been killed by the man. It's time to get with the times.

            > is plug and play with most current TV Tuners ...as if a throwback like you would know anything about that. Some of us
            actually use state of the art technology here. You don't. You're in no
            position to talk.

                  This is the monopoly product. MOST really doesn't cut it.

                  Microsoft should not be LAST to the party here or require
            some sort of 3rd party hack to use a device that was ultimately
            created to target the Windows user base.

            Although MCE isn't the best PVR product for Windows. Fixating on it is like
            going into a prize fight with both hands tied behind your back. Although it
            does nicely demonstrate the problem with being brand fixated on Windows. It
            takes a platform with the ultimate potential and flushes it.

            MythTV for all of it's faults is at least designed with the intent of viewing
            whatever you may have. In this respect, it is less cobble-ware than the
            Microsoft version of the same thing. That's terribly ironic.

            This sort of approach is probably why Mac users like Plex so much.

            • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968.gmail@com> on Thursday July 01, 2010 @12:51PM (#32760194) Journal

              You DO realize that you are complaining that Windows isn't BLOATED ENOUGH with drivers for everything OOTB, right? Funny how FLOSSies and Apple guys will bitch on one hand Windows is bloated, and in the same breath say it needs to be MORE bloated with extra drivers, most of which you don't need thanks to windows Update having most common drivers ready to go on first run. And comparing to Apple? The biggest walled garden ever created, where you will do things Apple's way and ONLY Apple's way? Oh and at a minimum 30% markup to boot? THAT is your solution?

              Oh and my tuner is dual, so no worries. But comparing what? Apple TV? To MCE is about as big a joke as you can make. All Apple TV is is a giant iTunes store, not good for much else. And while XBMC is good for XP I'd say the UI on WMC is head and shoulders better, and requires almost NO setup. Finally your complaints about Netflix should be directed where it belongs-MPAA DRM which Netflix has to use, which is why WMC frequently has to jump through hoops to keep it updated. God forbid the MPAA should make anything easy, especially when you could just BT the movie and avoid the crap, but no, that would be logical.

              But complaining about OOBE support in Windows 7 is a joke, since I have been building boxes using Win7 since Oct and have yet to have Windows Update not supply the drivers on first run. Since windows 7 is designed to activate and update itself over the Internet it would frankly be stupid to fill the DVD with outdated drivers when you can get fresh ones at first run.

              And finally I love how you can't come up with any reasonable retort and instead become childish and throw insults like throwback. Don't blame me because your little walled garden doesn't do what you want it to. I have a quad with 8Gb of RAM that handles multimedia like a champ, never screws up, never throws errors, never needs tweaking, updates itself and my TV listings automatically, in short everything "just works". And unlike you I don't feel the need to throw childish insults. If paying 30-60% more for the Apple logo makes you happy, go right ahead. My PC does everything I could possibly want and more for less than $650 including tax. What kind of Apple desktop can you buy for that?

      • by oakgrove ( 845019 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @11:55AM (#32759186)

        Which is why I guess I just won't "get it" with regards to all the resources wasted on trying to make Linux do jobs it simply isn't good at

        Your point? What was Linux good at when Torvalds first started it back in 1991? Should he have just said, oh, this kernel isn't good at anything, I think I'll just stop now.

  • Puppy Linux Arf Arf (Score:5, Informative)

    by oakwine ( 1709682 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @02:31AM (#32753974)
    My favorite, but no longer obscure. Puppy is now v. 5.0 and # 10 in page hit ranking on Distrowatch. Puppy is arguably the cutest distribution, the most sincere distribution, and the most beloved distribution. Not to mention very compact, very capable, very easy to install or run live, and very extensible. Try some now! Try some today! Puppy is good for you! Everyone should know about it!
  • by milbournosphere ( 1273186 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @02:34AM (#32753980)
    At first reaction, I laughed quite hard. Upon further examination, the software included in the distro looks to be quite useful. I have forwarded Xiphos (a piece of bible study software included in the distro) on to my grandfather, who immerses himself in study of scripture. If that's your thing, I would check it out. Guess I learned about a new project today. Look at that, Slashdot taught me something.
  • by jamesh ( 87723 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @02:34AM (#32753982)

    That was how I read the title at first glance. So disappointed.

  • by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @02:48AM (#32754004)
    1. Jesus saves - early and often. Or maybe you could just configure him to auto-save?
    2. Who needs backups when you have faith?
    3. Wait until you see our "firewall"!
    4. Well, good, at least they're trying to convert those Linux heathens.
    5. Some tools not included: head, finger, fsck...
    6. "missionary" the only available filesystem (mount -t missionary - and then only for procreation)
    7. Good news! Jesus healed the Gimp! Zombies raised from the dead!
    8. Thou shalt not take the hostname in vain.
    9. Honor thy PPID.
    10. Thou shall not kill -9.
    11. Those are penguins, not nuns!


    Known bugs:
    Sometimes Jesus thinks he's Richard Stallman.

    vlc only plays G-rated AVIs.

    $ mesg y
    $ write god
    write: god is not logged in
  • by Lexical_Scope ( 578133 ) <dave.one40db@com> on Thursday July 01, 2010 @03:30AM (#32754118)

    Surely BackTrack needs a mention. One stop shop for Penetration Testing, Ethical Hacking, Security Analysis and pretty much anything else security-related. It might not qualify as a fully-blown "distro" depending on your definition, but it's a lot more customised than your standard "Clonebuntu" variants.

    If you are even remotely interested in Network Security or Penetration Testing, it's a really invaluable tool.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 01, 2010 @03:54AM (#32754214)

    I just want a 64-bit distro that has working Flash and sound drivers. Even if I had to buy a specific sound card I'd be happy.

    Of course the first time I updated it would probably switch to some new sound driver which wouldn't work.....

    And then there's the issue of Adobe dropping support......

    I want to use Linux, I really do! But I need to get some work done, not spend all my time tracking down drivers and patches.

  • by noz ( 253073 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @03:56AM (#32754220)

    The original Christian distribution: Jesux [pudge.net]!

  • by blackest_k ( 761565 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @04:58AM (#32754550) Homepage Journal

    The highlights

    DansGuardian http://dansguardian.org/ [dansguardian.org] web filtering not something I'm bothered with for myself but anyone with kids should be concerned with what their children see.

    Its built into ubuntu christian edition along with bible study software and other religious junk but obviously would work for any ubuntu edition.

    http://ubuntusatanic.org/screenshots.php [ubuntusatanic.org] ubuntu satanic edition has some really nice art work not mentioned in the article but in the comments also there is sabily A muslim edition of ubuntu. Other religions are available even one designed to run Amiga software on, http://www.xamiga.net/ [xamiga.net]

    musix is a fully open source multimedia debian based distro
    caine is for digital forensics

    DVL might be interesting if you have an interest in security

  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:48AM (#32754822) Homepage Journal

    Is this like fast, cheap, and reliable - choose any two?

  • by carp3_noct3m ( 1185697 ) <slashdot@[ ]rior ... t ['war' in gap]> on Thursday July 01, 2010 @06:37AM (#32755108)

    I'm suprised no-one has listed backtrack yet. I always have one flash drive and one dvd of it in my kit with me at all times (among some other things listed). It rocks for throwing up metasploit or cracking WEP real fast. It is a merge of Whax and Auditor) I also miss PHLAK.

  • The Ubuntu Satanic Edition [ubuntusatanic.org]. This list had the Christian Edition, it really should have included the Satanic as well, which is just as much of a legitimate distro as they are both based on Ubuntu anyways. Yet for some reason this one gets snubbed regularly, even having difficulties getting listed at distrowatch for some reason (while their Christian brothers have no such problems).

Beware of the Turing Tar-pit in which everything is possible but nothing of interest is easy.

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