My "10 Best Linux Distributions of 2009" list drew a bit of disdain from some of my readers, so I thought I'd make it up to them by posting a list of Linux distributions that they like to use. Since I have no way of knowing which of these distributions is better or worse than the others, I've place them in alphabetical order instead of any real ranking based on quality, community, development cycle or other criteria. I want to show you, faithful reader, that I do indeed read your comments and take your feedback seriously. You have a voice and I thank you for using it--this is your list--by you and for you.
Since I'm not familiar with some of the distributions on this list, most of the information is taken directly from the distribution's own website.
1. Arch Linux - Billed as a lightweight and flexible Linux distribution that tries to Keep It Simple. Arch Linux is an independently developed, i686/x86-64 general purpose GNU/Linux distribution versatile enough to suit any role. Development focuses on simplicity, minimalism, and code elegance. Arch is installed as a minimal base system, configured by the user upon which their own ideal environment is assembled by installing only what is required or desired for their unique purposes. GUI configuration utilities are not officially provided, and most system configuration is performed from the shell by editing simple text files. Arch strives to stay bleeding edge, and typically offers the latest stable versions of most software. Arch Linux uses a "rolling release" system which allows one-time installation and perpetual software upgrades. It is not generally necessary to reinstall or upgrade your Arch Linux system from one "version" to the next. By issuing one command, an Arch system is kept up-to-date and on the bleeding edge.
2. Gentoo - I included Gentoo in the original list but I thought I'd include it again since so many readers responded positively to it. Gentoo Linux, a special flavor of Linux that can be automatically optimized and customized for just about any application or need. Extreme performance, configurability and a top-notch user and developer community are all hallmarks of the Gentoo experience. Gentoo is a free operating system based on either Linux or FreeBSD that can be automatically optimized and customized for just about any application or need. Extreme configurability, performance and a top-notch user and developer community are all hallmarks of the Gentoo experience. Thanks to a technology called Portage, Gentoo can become an ideal secure server, development workstation, professional desktop, gaming system, embedded solution or something else -- whatever you need it to be. Because of its near-unlimited adaptability, we call Gentoo a metadistribution.
3. Hannah Montana Linux - I laughed out loud when someone asked me why I didn't include it in my top 10 for 2009. It's a real distribution, based on Kubuntu, with a Hannah Montana theme. Hannah Montana Linux is fast, stable and powerful. It includes a Hannah Montana themed boot screen, KDM, icon set, ksplash, plasma, color scheme, and wallpapers. It is not vulnerable to Windows viruses. I've tried to keep my eight-year-old daughter from seeing this one--so far, so good.
4. Mandriva Linux - Very popular in France, Brazil and some African countries. On the consumer side, Mandriva develops and distributes Linux distributions: Mandriva One, the light, easy to use and safe free distro, Mandriva Free, the pure GPL free Linux distro, Mandriva Powerpack, the complete and customizable distro for the power user and Mandriva Flash, the mobile desktop USB key. Free products are available for download from the Mandriva site. Commercial products are available through Mandriva's electronic store, in retail stores and through partners worldwide. The company provides a number of electronic services through its web site. It evaluates its number of users to a few millions. On the corporate side, Mandriva helps large and medium size organizations to migrate to Linux, thanks to its Corporate Desktop and Corporate Server products and helps them administer large number of machines thanks to its system administration tool, Pulse. The company provides to its corporate customers technology, products and services (consulting, training and support). It has about 100 corporate customers.
5. Mepis - Mepis is a Debian-based distro that touts its ease of use, user friendly interface and a live CD image that allows you to try before you commit. The unique nature of MEPIS Linux makes it an ideal foundation for developing a custom version of Linux for large scale deployment. MEPIS is available to work with integrators and end user clients to develop privately branded and optimally tweaked Linux configurations.
6. OpenSUSE - OpenSUSE advertises itself as follows: openSUSE is a free and Linux-based operating system for your PC, Laptop or Server. You can surf the web, manage your e-mails and photos, do office work, play videos or music and have a lot of fun! The openSUSE project is a community program sponsored by Novell. Promoting the use of Linux everywhere, openSUSE.org provides free, easy access to the world's most usable Linux distribution, openSUSE. The openSUSE project gives Linux developers and enthusiasts everything they need to get started with Linux. I didn't include it in my top 10 for 2009 list because it might come in the top 20--just not the top 10. I don't hate openSUSE but it definitely isn't one of my all-time favorites.
7. PCLinuxOS - PCLinuxOS was founded in October 2003. The flagship product, the PCLinux operating system, is a free, easy-to-use Linux-based operating system for the home. PCLinuxOS was founded by Texstar, and is headquartered in Houston, Tx. PCLinuxOS is distributed as a LiveCD, and can also be installed to a local hard drive. LiveCD mode lets you try it without making any changes to your computer. If you like it, you can install it to your hard drive. Locally installed versions of PCLinuxOS utilize the Advanced Packaging Tool (or APT), a package management system (originally from the Debian distribution), together with Synaptic, a GUI frontend to APT. PCLinuxOS has a script called mklivecd, which allows the user to take a 'snapshot' of their current hard drive installation (all settings, applications, documents, etc.) and compress it into an ISO CD/DVD image. This allows easy backup of a user's data and also makes it easy to create your own custom live CD/DVD.
8. Puppy Linux - Puppy Linux calls itself; small, fast and free OS. It is a small but full-featured distribution. Puppy Linux is an operating system for computers. Puppy Linux is based on GNU/Linux. It is completely free and open source software. At ~100MB it's worth checking out for a mini distribution. I put Damn Small Linux in my list because I've used it for some time and this was the alternative that some of my readers suggested.
9. SUSE Studio - While SUSE Studio isn't really a distribution, you can build distributions from it--as long as you want them to be openSUSE-based distributions. SUSE Studio is a website that assists you to build customized appliances for use as standalone machines or as virtual machines. I'm including here simply since it was mentioned by a reader. I love SUSE Studio and highly recommend it for others to use. The only drawback is that you can only use openSUSE. If there was something else this cool that you could use the distro of your choice with, I'd be willing to purchase it.
10. Tinycore - Tiny Core Linux is a very small (10 MB) minimal Linux GUI Desktop. It is based on Linux 2.6 kernel, Busybox, Tiny X, and Fltk. The core runs entirely in ram and boots very quickly. Also offered is Micro Core a 6 MB image that is the console based engine of Tiny Core. CLI versions of Tiny Core's program allows the same functionality of Tiny Core's extensions only starting with a console based system. It is not a complete desktop nor is all hardware completely supported. It represents only the core needed to boot into a very minimal X desktop typically with wired internet access. The user has complete control over which applications and/or additional hardware to have supported, be it for a desktop, a netbook, an appliance, or server, selectable by the user by installing additional applications from online repositories, or easily compiling most anything you desire using tools provided.
Someone also mentioned FreeBSD, which is not Linux but is still worth a mention. I'm not a huge fan of it and though it touts itself as very secure, it was the only system on my network that ever got hacked. I didn't install or support the system; one of my employees did and noted that one day it was hacked and owned by someone who did a fair job of covering his tracks though we did trace his steps back through several other systems and notified each one along the way.
There you have them, my reader's choice list for their favorite Linux distributions. Do you have a favorite that wasn't covered by either list? Write back and let me know.