2009's 10 Worst Linux Distributions

khess -1 Tallied Votes 2K Views Share

Any list of best or worst will have its opponents and proponents and I foresee that this list of worst Linux distributions will be no different. There were, at last count, almost 300 Linux distributions and they all can't be great. But, this list of Linux distributions are, in my opinion, the worst of the lot. Beginning with the least offensive at number 10 to the least desirable at number 1, this list is a compilation of my opinions and experiences with various distributions over the past 15 years but only current distributions are included.

10. Security-enabled Distributions - If you want to get hacked and owned, just label your next distribution with the word 'Security' somewhere in its name or description and wait about 5 hours. Some offenders in this category are Astaro, NetSecL and Engarde Secure Linux. The biggest problem with these kinds of distributions is that they aren't updated regularly enough to provide the security that they tout.

9. Super-specialized Distributions - A couple of years ago I saw a Linux distribution called something like 8086 Linux. OK, I admit that it's cute but is it practical? Keep those kinds of distros in academia where practicality isn't important. The throwaways in this category include GeeXBoX, LinuxConsole and Zenwalk.

8. Minimal Desktop - How many of these do we need? Seriously, if you want a minimal desktop, install busybox, xfce or lxde and use it. We don't need 50 distros named 'minimal.' Ones to avoid are CrunchBang, INX and LormaLinux.

7. Foreign Language Distros - Most major distros ask during installation which language you want to use so why do we need these? I mean, do we really need an Eskimo Linux? One exception here--I think Red Hat should have kept Redneck as one of their installation language choices--it was the second language after English that they had for Red Hat. There are too many transgressors in this category to list here.

6. Create Your Own Distribution Distributions - Maybe it's just me but I've never successfully created my own distribution with any of these. Either the instructions are too vague or I just don't have the time to waste trying to troubleshoot every dependency under the sun. Big time wasters include LinuxFromScratch, Slax and Cross Linux From Scratch.

5. Unfinished Symphony Distros - These are distributions that either never get finished or somehow stall due to lack of interest but still remain as examples of Linux greatness. The descriptions are awesome but failed due to poor execution. Fine examples are aLinux, BBLCD and NetMAX.

4. Embedded Distributions - OK, not ALL embedded distros suck but, in general, why should I care about these? Aren't they for embedded system builders and such? If a device comes with an embedded version of Linux, great but I'm not tearing open a $400 gadget to try an hack Linux onto it. That's for geeks without families to support. I, for one, don't live in my parent's basement nor do I have that kind of disposable income. No specific examples here--just the category as a whole.

3. Mobile Distributions - Related to, but not the same as, embedded distributions are the Mobile distributions. Again, if it comes with a Linux distribution, cool, I'm happy. If not, who cares? This is one big reason projects like OpenMoko, Moblin and Hackable:1 just don't hold my already too-short attention.

2. Useless Appliances - Look at VMware's Virtual Appliance Marketplace and you'll see a gaggle of virtual appliances in 20 or so different categories. Some are really good but most are worthless and a waste of bandwidth and boot time. I don't have any specific to mention but there are a lot of them, believe me. If you want to use a virtual appliance, decide what you need and, if you can't build it yourself, then go download some from the marketplace to test. One of the big problems with these things is that many are created using non-free software so while the download is 'free' the appliance or some of its components are not. Proceed with caution.

1. Microsoft Killers - It seems that this category is the most popular with bloggers, techies, CXOs and even yours truly. I think I've officially given up on a Linux-based Microsoft killer at least for the Desktop operating system. Love it or hate it, Windows is on the desktop to stay--at least in the foreseeable future. While there are some inspirational and ambitious projects out there, somehow they all fall short of the Windows operating system...even a crap pile like Vista--although Vista almost did the job for Linux all by itself.
I'm not speaking for myself here but for the millions of other business and personal users who use Windows. I personally prefer Linux but no matter how cool the likes of Google's Chrome OS, Presto and Ubuntu are, they will never be Microsoft killers.

There you have them--my list of 2009's worst Linux distributions.

Write back and let me know which distributions you think are the worst.

Member Avatar for dandart

To kill MS, all one needs to do is create a linux distro that is not in the least bit "annoying", which is what Ubuntu's papercuts is trying to do. Include Wine, codecs, graphics drivers. and you have brilliance. I do believe Sabayon rules in that context, but still needs work.
Most still need work, but don't kill LFS - it was nice and easy and I made at least 3 distros with it.

We need one perfect distro, with options at the beginning to specify the desktop out of all choices. We need to choose what to include (various appliances and tools). like checkboxes for Apache. svn. etc, easy. We need a great repository so we don't need to add more like in Ubuntu. Let's-a go!

Dwasifar 2 Newbie Poster

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't this guy just basically include EVERY Linux distro in at least one category of his list?

finito commented: Very True +2
matthewb 0 Newbie Poster

I would say that the validity of the entire post is more than doubtful.

Firstly: foreign languages.
"Foreign" to whom? Needless to say, the native language of Linux should be Finnish. As there is no explanation attached, I have to assume that in the author's mind White Anglo-Saxon Protestants own all the IT world by definition. It seems quite chauvinistic to assume that no one needs Eskimo languages in Linux only because Ken Hess does not speak any Yupik or Inuit languages himself. Ignorance is never a reason to be proud.

Secondly: Google Chrome OS.
How can you criticize an OS that has not even been released? Writing a review of a product you have not tried is simply unethical.

Thirdly: Linux From Scratch.
As anyone can see on the LFS website, LFS is developed for people who want to learn how the system works. Of course it takes a lot of effort to get it running. It is simply the matter of reading the distro description and choosing the right one for a given task.

Anyway, I can see that building LFS can be difficult if you do it cross-platform, but Slax? It is a LiveCD for crying out loud...

khess 95 Practically a Master Poster


You'd be surprised to know that I'm not a WASP as you suggest. I found LFS to be difficult but it's been 3 years since I've tried it...maybe I'll give it another go on Dan's advice. As for SLAX, it's also supposed to be a platform where you'd create your own distros. Many distros are based on it. Here is a partial description: "SLAX-Live CD is a bootable live CD based on Slackware Linux distribution. All the scripts and source code are included to build your own live CD, or just download the ISO image."

matthewb 0 Newbie Poster


Thank you for answering. My experience with LFS started 2 years ago and it was OK (apart from cross-platform, where I still tend to get lost); obviously I need to look into Slax some more. Sorry for any misguided comments.

Whatever your reasons are, I still see no reason to fight internationalization of any OS. But, considering that I run every single OS in English anyway, my opinion here hardly matters.

esavard 0 Newbie Poster

2009's 10 Worst Linux Distributions... What a joke!

And this article is the #1 worst 2009's article about Linux!

Damn, I just lost 5 min. reading it...

necrolin 94 Posting Whiz in Training

How about buggiest Linux distro of 2009. My vote goes to OpenSuse 11.1. They should just call it Linux ME.

ebug 0 Newbie Poster

Hess just mentioned almost all distros of every kind. I almost believed in him but this article is outright misguided. The lowest kind!!! Just got my fortune cookie a while ago that's says "The best remedy for anger is delay". Well, not this time!!!

khess 95 Practically a Master Poster

I mentioned the worst of the lot for each type plus some generic types that are just terrible.

@necrolin: Thanks for that, it is funny.

Bobber47 0 Newbie Poster

You classified distros as poor with some pretty broad categories, leaving few in an undefined group you apparently prefer. After eliminating those you describe, I'm not sure I'd opt for what's left.

Though I disagree with your views, I welcome your opinions. That is, after all, how open-source selection works. Lots of choices and suggestions, and the global community picks/develops what they want or what works best. At the heart of this is diversity and choice, something your list argues against. In fact, a fundamental principle might be to encourage even more distros of all types, rather than fewer.

arochester 0 Newbie Poster

"Ones to avoid are CrunchBang, INX and LormaLinux."

I use Crunchbang and I love it for its simplicity. Who needs whistles and bells? From Boot to working in about 30 seconds. My second favorite is Kubuntu.

Worst distribution? How about "Hannah Montana Linux" ? http://linuxtracker.org/index.php?page=torrent-details&id=95fbb9c8e3055db44dc854c5234c0481ec86868b

cmccullough 0 Newbie Poster

I appreciate your opinions and thoughts on this subject but you are way, way off on just about everything that you wrote. I wish there was a magical way of getting the 5 minutes back that I wasted reading this article. I think it's time to start a list of the top 10 worst Linux articles and put this one at number 1.

What a waste of time......

khess 95 Practically a Master Poster

The thing is...that you said that I'm way, way off...and that is your opinion, is it not?

It's funny how EVERYONE assumes that they are correct and that their opinion is the standard by which all others are judged.

lazlong 0 Newbie Poster

I too disagree with you and agree with many of the other responders.
What a waste of time....
I was looking forward to a useful description of distros to stay away from.
And reasons why.... not only do you slag/dis several good distros, but also some of many of the advantages of Linux... the variety of distros, the speciality distros, and the ability to build your own (if you can't find the one that suits your need, or as a learning experience) Guess you are not that familiar or interested in Linux.

Maybe I am mistaken?

khess 95 Practically a Master Poster

@lazlong, et al.

I think some of you are missing the point here.

I was an early adopter of Linux (1995), started the local Linux Users Group, and have done much work within the Linux community. If people would read what I wrote in the actual tone in which it was written, you'd understand it better. For example, lots of people think I'm dissing Ubuntu...and I'm not. I'm saying that to label a distribution as a Microsoft Killer is bad and Ubuntu has been listed in many places as a Microsoft Killer. That puts it at the top of the list of the worst in that respect.
Security: Astaro is a great distro. However, as I stated, when you label something with "Security", it becomes a target. Check the distros I listed there to see when they were last updated. A secure distro...to remain secure must be updated almost constantly.

Member Avatar for pen66

What a waste of time and bytes. Still, an ... "interesting" way to challenge into discussion.

lazlong 0 Newbie Poster

Maybe I am mistaken?

What I think I see is you trying to be humours (in ways)?

I don't think any distros label themselves "MS Killers" that comes from writers, bloggers/responders or their editors specious headlines.

Do you still use Linux in you day to day work & Play?

I too started to play with Linux in '94, started using it on servers & appliances in '97 for commercial web sites, '01~02 as my primary desktop/laptop/workstation tool.

10. Security
While I have heard of these (that you mention) I have no direct experience.
Depending on one's need/use, there is SELinux, or just a properly set-up firewall. iptables/firestarter etc (of course there is more, if needed)
Still if for a network, a stand alone appliance maybe appropriate.
There are things like, ClarkConnect, IPCop, etc, or devices like the Yoggie gatekeeper/pico, etc, all of which even help secure Windows & Mac systems as well.

9. Super-specialised Distributions
Why you mention Zenwalk in this category I am not quite sure?
GeeXBox has developed into a good media/htc system as well as something for the Xbox.

8. Minimal Desktop
I generally agree, yet some may find them useful or a better fit, then building or stripping from scratch.

7. Foreign Language Distros
Why worry if they don't fit your need.....
At one point I found Parsix (an Iranian Distro) to be the better Live Debian distros.

6. Create Your Own Distribution Distributions
Some of these like LFS is more for the learning experience.
Others have tools to remaster & create your own specific live CD/USB like DreamLinux (Brazilian)

5. Unfinished Symphony Distros
Not sure what you mean by Symphony? I would guess you are not talking about the Symphony DE, but a complete system. Like maybe Sabayon or others?

4./3./2. Embedded/Mobile/Appliancees
These are all relatively the same, and unless you are a developer/hacker/DIYer you would use the device as is. Phone, Smartphone, GPS, DVR, TV, Router, home automation, etc, etc.

1. MS Killer
As I said before, none are presented that way. Yet many can be an alternative for many to MS, if made aware and had parity in the market.

So in summary
It looked like you were complaining about the variety of Linux.
Maybe I took you too seriously and it was a tongue~n~cheek look at some of the Linux advantages.

khess 95 Practically a Master Poster


Now, you're getting it! The foreign language one was kidding...I said that Red Hat should have kept redneck...and there is no Eskimo Linux...at least I don't think there is.

The article is meant to do what it did, start discussions and lead to knowledge transfer. Thanks for reading. Check out my other posts...like The 10 Best Linux Distributions...that one is 100% serious though you might not 100% agree with it.

lazlong 0 Newbie Poster

After your previous response & reading

I see nothing to disagree about (in that one)

Debian has always been my favourite since discovering it (dpkg, apt-get) @
'02~03 during the early Morphix/Knoppix days of liveCd's
I enjoyed the derivatives/compilations as well. Kanotix, Mepis, GeniOS etc.
Back in those days I was pulling for UserLinux, but Ubuntu (and its many derivatives, K, X, Mint etc) have come a long way and agree for general use it is the better if not the best for general/casual use for most. But if aware and/or interested there are others.

Slack & Gentoo & their derivatives, are worth looking at for some.
DistroWatch Weekly has an interesting story & forum on old lost/defunct distros. http://distrowatch.com/weekly.php?issue=20090713
And a good reference for major distros. http://distrowatch.com/dwres.php?resource=major

ebug 0 Newbie Poster

You're article is not funny. Got it?

vhaerun 0 Newbie Poster

This was a VERY shallow overview of SOME of the Linux distributions available. Can you show us the distribution you created, so we can evaluate it?

theally 0 Newbie Poster

Ok, you wanted to get a discussion rolling... So let's discuss your post, and your comments. Firstly I have to agree with many others here that the post couldn't be more shallow. The other one (about the best distros) was slightly better, although I disagree to your favourites, but that's mostly a matter of taste and expectations. I look at distros from a server point of view, hence I wouldn't recommend Debian and distros based on it, after they introduced a huge security flaw to OpenSSL last year by applying their own patches rather than sending them upstream, which invalidated all keys and certs, and also because they keep ignoring SELinux. For servers, I'd always recommend RHEL or CentOS (which is basically the same product), if you want to run Linux. I'm more of a BSD "child". But anyway, back to your post... :-)

Firstly, you made up some of the terms used, like "MS killers". While some wannabe experts (those who just discovered Linux for the desktop, and are excited that they managed to run through the installation without causing any major accidents) certainly _think_ Linux can replace M$, it definitely will not kill it. If you have a look at normal businesses, the vast majority runs Wintendo on their PCs. No distro will deny this fact, hence none will label itself a M$ Killer.

Secondly, just because LFS didn't work out for you doesn't make it bad distribution per se. Others rightly pointed out that its main purpose is education about how the bits and bobs fit together. Nobody would use LFS just to try out Linux on their desktops.

This also raises the question, for which target group you are writing here. (Which also applies for your best distros post.)
Certainly a business will have completely different expectations than someone who is just fed up with M$ for whatever reason. Servers require entirely different focus than custom-built desktops or notebooks (or even netbooks). An XBox owner might find specialised distros just perfect, whereas nobody else would possibly bother to have a look at them at all.

To say that embedded distros are crap, is just wrong. They are slimmed down and hopefully optimised for hardly more than one single purpose. Of course they are useless in any other than the intended scenario.

The thing I laughed most about was the "security" tag, though. Of course a distro isn't secure just because it claims to be. And it might indeed become a challenging target for hackers. That doesn't make it less secure though. Or do you think, just because a distro does not show much interest in security (like your favourite Ubuntu, which per default comes without SELinux, and iptales enabled without any traffic restriction at all, just to give an example) is more secure, because all hackers challenge another OS/distro? Very interesting thought. :-)

Have you bothered to have a look at OpenBSD (not Linux, I know)? They claim to be one of the most secure systems out there, and they are. This is one reason why you find a lot of BSD-based solutions in the networking field, many of them slimmed down and optimised, and used in an embedded way (the BSD license being another strong reason for manufacturers of appliances).

To cut a long story short, if you point your finger at bad or even the worst distributions, you have to be much more specific, and you cannot assume that everybody else expects the same from their Linux distribution.

What you can say for sure is that any Linux distribution which is not (or very rarely) maintained anymore, is bad, because an insecure system cannot be good by any means.

jit_x87 0 Newbie Poster

well, the article shows a shallow and undetailed experience of linux in general. The distros mentioned in section 6 are not only inherently useful (who likes the bloat of the like os suse, fedora, or (my god) sabayon) but are good for learning about linux. It seems that the author is trying to undermine a lot of linux distros (which i notice are w/o corp backing) which actually are very user friendly from the geek point of view!

viralnexxus 0 Newbie Poster

I know this comment is a little late in the game, but after reading this I felt compelled to argue against your opinion on Crunchbang#! I live in my Mother's basement and have had infinite time to spend finding the right Linux Distro for my Desktop PC and my Laptop. In my quest I tried nearly all 300 of those Distros and found Ultimate Edition 2.4 Gamers to replace my Desktop PC and gaming needs, followed by Crunchbang#! to nestle in my Laptop. I am not explaining in this reply because there isn't enough room, but trust me when I say that my choices are good and worked the best for

msuraiz98 0 Newbie Poster

Can you sent me the cd

etech18 0 Newbie Poster

On Minimal Desktop you left our DSL, Puppy Linux which being very lightweight have a lot of use in the real world. At present, I run #! Crunchbang on my Dell Mini 9 and it rocks.

viralnexxus 0 Newbie Poster

"On Minimal Desktop you left our DSL, Puppy Linux which being very lightweight have a lot of use in the real world. At present, I run #! Crunchbang on my Dell Mini 9 and it rocks."

I totally agree with you about Crunchbang#! rocking. That is why I couldn't understand why it made the list. I know there are too many "Lightweight" distros out there, but Crunchbang#! really IS, and the package list is almost everything I normally use. For those of us who hate clutter and bloatware, CB does a good job. I wanted to add that Arch Linux is also another great distro that is fully customizable and "fairly" easy to install\use. You will have to do a lot of reading but the payoff is well worth it.

jtmjtm2001 0 Newbie Poster

What frustrates me about Linux is half the programs out there has to be compiled linked and all this other crap. I would like to see some form of "easy auto compile" feature and better compatibility with Windows programs to make it easier to migrate to Linux. John Morris

Crash~Override 0 Junior Poster

Okay seriously...this is probably the worst thread...how can you possibly put Google Chrome OS in this list when its not even released??????

And Ubuntu? Seriously????? Ubuntu probably is one of the most advanced Debian based linux distro. I've tried a quite a few linux distros and I have to say the amount of community support available for ubuntu is just incredible. Simply put you have to be out of your mind to put it under worst linux distro. It may not be microsoft windows killer but it comes pretty darn close to it!

And LFS is more about learning....If you dont have the patience to go through and learn than dont whine about it please.

This thread is probably the worst one i've seen regarding linux distros...

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