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Because Linux is open source software, meaning that the source code is free for everyone to download, compile and use, a new industry has developed around the Linux kernel (and the other free components) called "distributions". A distribution (or distro for short) is a collection of the various parts which make up a modern day operating system like the Kernel (the core of the system), the GUI (maybe KDE or Gnome), the applications (like OpenOffice.org) and so on. These distro companies package them together and sell the resulting software with options for support and printed manuals etc. There are several main distros and some very popular minor distros. Here are some details of those distros.
SUSE is a German company which has been making distibutions of Linux since the late 1990's. SUSE Linux is a distribution with a desktop focus. It is easy to use and there is a professional attention to detail.
The latest version, 10, was released in October 2005. It comes on 5 CDs and uses a 2.6 kernel with KDE 3.4.
SUSE LINUX was acquired by Novell, Inc in November 2003. Recently SUSE followed Red Hat in making its distribution more community focused. The openSUSE project is a community program sponsored by Novell. Promoting the use of Linux everywhere, openSUSE.org provides free, easy access to one of the world's most usable Linux distribution, SUSE Linux.
The Fedora Project is a Red Hat sponsored and community-supported open source project. The projects goal is to work with the Linux community to build a complete, general purpose operating system exclusively from free software.
The Fedora Core project is used as the basis of the commerical Red Hat products like Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
Since its start in 2003, the Fedora Core project has had many major releases. The last one, FC 3 was released in June 2005 and included a 2.6 kernel, GNOME 2.10 and KDE 3.4. FC5 is in beta testing now.
Mandriva (formerly known as Mandrakesoft)Mandriva (formerly known as Mandrakesoft) was started in November 1998 when several young Linux enthusiasts met on the Internet and created Mandriva. This start-up has since become an international reference in Open Source software and Linux with its Mandriva Linux distribution.
Mandriva Linux provides a distribution that is easy to install and use as well as being fast and reliable. Today, Mandriva Linux is the most international Linux distribution because its installation is supported in more than 40 languages. The different Mandriva Linux products include the operating system, related programs on CD-ROMs, and installation tools, as well as full documentation and technical support. To go even further, Mandriva offers to its Mandriva Linux users a global support in terms of Services in packaged form.
Debian is a free operating system (OS) for your computer. An operating system is the set of basic programs and utilities that make your computer run. Debian uses the Linux kernel (the core of an operating system), but most of the basic OS tools come from the GNU project; hence the name GNU/Linux.
Debian GNU/Linux provides more than a pure OS: it comes with more than 8710 packages, precompiled software bundled up in a nice format for easy installation on your machine.
The latest stable release of Debian is 3.0.
Ubuntu Linux is a complete desktop Linux operating system, freely available with both community and professional support. The Ubuntu community is built on the ideas enshrined in the Ubuntu Manifesto: 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. "Ubuntu" is an ancient African word, meaning "humanity to others". The Ubuntu Linux distribution brings the spirit of Ubuntu to the software world.
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