Linux kernel runs on a wild variety of hardware, including mobile phone, handheld computer, mainframe server, supercomputers, desktop and many small and embedded devices. In this article we are going to share top ten distributions to explore in 2017. This list is prepared based on usage and target user types. Let’s explore these selected distro. This list is in alphabetical order because it would be hard to do it on rankings as they fluctuate so much per distribution.

Arch Linux

Arch Linux is a Linux distribution for computers based on i686 and x86-64(amd64) architectures. However, it is slowly phasing out support for the i686 architecture, which will be dropped completely in November 2017. Arch Linux is composed predominantly of free and open-source software, and supports community involvement.

The design approach of the development team follows the KISS principle (“keep it simple, stupid”) as the general guideline, and focuses on elegance, code correctness, minimalism and simplicity, and expects the user to be willing to make some effort to understand the system’s operation. A package manager written specifically for Arch Linux, pacman, is used to install, remove and update software packages.

Arch Linux uses a rolling release model, such that a regular system update is all that is needed to obtain the latest Arch software; the installation images released by the Arch team are simply up-to-date snapshots of the main system components.

Similar to Gentoo, and unlike other major distributions such as Ubuntu and Fedora, Arch Linux does not schedule releases for specific dates but uses a “rolling release” system, with new packages provided throughout the day. Its package management allows users to easily keep systems updated.

BlackArch Linux

BlackArch Linux is an Arch-derived Linux distribution designed for penetration testing and security research. It may be used as a standalone live CD or live USB, run from a virtual machine, or be installed to a computer’s hard disk. It is also possible to add its Arch Linux unofficial repo to an existing installation of Arch Linux. It offers over 1700 tools organized by category, for security and forensic specialists.

CentOS

CentOS (/sɛnt.ɑːs/, from Community Enterprise Operating System) is a Linux distribution that attempts to provide a free, enterprise-class, community-supported computing platform functionally compatible with its upstream source, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). In January 2014, CentOS announced the official joining with Red Hat while staying independent from RHEL, under a new CentOS governing board.

The first CentOS release in May 2004, numbered as CentOS version 2, was forked from RHEL version 2.1AS. Since the release of version 7.0, CentOS officially supports only the x86-64 architecture, while versions older than 7.0-1406 also support IA-32 with Physical Address Extension (PAE). As of December 2015, AltArch releases of CentOS 7 are available for the IA-32 architecture, Power architecture, and for the ARMv7hl and AArch64 variants of the ARM architecture.

CentOS version numbers for releases older than 7.0 have two parts, a major version and a minor version, which correspond to the major version and update set of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) used to build a particular CentOS release. For example, CentOS 6.5 is built from the source packages of RHEL 6 update 5 (also known as RHEL version 6.5), which is a so-called “point release” of RHEL 6.

Debian

Debian (/ˈdɛbiən/) is a Unix-like computer operating system that is composed entirely of free software, most of which is under the GNU General Public License and packaged by a group of individuals participating in the Debian Project. The Debian Project was first announced in 1993 by Ian Murdock, Debian 0.01 was released on September 15, 1993,[5] and the first stable release was made in 1996.

The Debian stable release branch is one of the most popular for personal computers and network servers, and has been used as a base for many other distributions. The project’s work is carried out over the Internet by a team of volunteers guided by the Debian Project Leader and three foundational documents: the Debian Social Contract, the Debian Constitution, and the Debian Free Software Guidelines. New distributions are updated continually, and the next candidate is released after a time-based freeze.

As one of the earliest Operating Systems based on the Linux kernel, it was decided that Debian was to be developed openly and freely distributed in the spirit of the GNU Project. This decision drew the attention and support of the Free Software Foundation, which sponsored the project for one year from November 1994 to November 1995. Upon the ending of the sponsorship, the Debian Project formed the non-profit organisation Software in the Public Interest.

While Debian’s main port, Debian GNU/Linux, uses the Linux kernel, other ports exist based on BSD kernels and the HURD microkernel. All use the GNU userland and the GNU C library (glibc).

Elementary OS

Elementary OS is a Linux distribution based on Ubuntu. It is the flagship distribution to showcase the Pantheon desktop environment, similar to how Linux Mint introduced Cinnamon. The elementary OS project aims to solve a number of perceived deficiencies in the established desktop environments-

  • Better global aesthetics by streamlining the user interface
  • Reduce software dependency by using core applications written in the C language or Vala
  • Diminish the need to access the terminal

The elementary OS distribution initially started as a set of themes and applications designed for Ubuntu which later turned into its own Linux distribution. Being Ubuntu-based, it is compatible with its repositories and packages and uses Ubuntu’s own software center to handle installation/removal of software. Its user interface aims at being intuitive for new users without consuming too many resources.

Elementary OS is based on Ubuntu’s Long Term Support releases, which its developers actively maintain for bugs and security for years even as development continues on the next release.

Fedora

Fedora /fᵻˈdɒr.ə/ (formerly Fedora Core) is an operating system based on the Linux kernel, developed by the community-supported Fedora Project and sponsored by Red Hat. Fedora contains software distributed under a free and open-source license and aims to be on the leading edge of such technologies.

As of February 2016, Fedora has an estimated 1.2 million users, including Linus Torvalds, creator of the Linux kernel.

Kali Linux

Kali Linux is a Debian-derived Linux distribution designed for digital forensics and penetration testing. It is maintained and funded by Offensive Security Ltd. Mati Aharoni, Devon Kearns and Raphaël Hertzog are the core developers.

Kali Linux is preinstalled with over 300 penetration-testing programs, including Armitage (a graphical cyber attack management tool), nmap (a port scanner), Wireshark (a packet analyzer), John the Ripper password cracker, Aircrack-ng (a software suite for penetration-testing wireless LANs), Burp suite and OWASP ZAP web application security scanners.

It was developed by Mati Aharoni and Devon Kearns of Offensive Security through the rewrite of BackTrack, their previous forensics Linux distribution based on Knoppix. The third core developer Raphaël Hertzog joined them as Debian expert.

Linux Mint

Linux Mint is a community-driven Linux distribution based on Debian and Ubuntu that strives to be a “modern, elegant and comfortable operating system which is both powerful and easy to use.”[5] Linux Mint provides full out-of-the-box multimedia support by including some proprietary software and comes bundled with a variety of free and open-source applications; however, with the release of v18 “Sarah” some previously included proprietary software such as multimedia codecs was no longer included by default. Its motto is “from freedom came elegance.”

The project was conceived by Clement Lefebvre and is being actively developed by the Linux Mint Team and community.

Manjaro

Manjaro Linux is based on Arch Linux and has its own collection of repositories. The distribution aims to be new user-friendly while maintaining the Arch base, most notably the Pacman package manager and compatibility with the Arch User Repositories. Manjaro itself uses three sets of repositories: the unstable repositories contain the most bleeding edge Arch packages, possibly one or two days delayed; the testing repositories contain packages from the unstable repos synced every week, which provides an initial screening; and the stable repositories contain only packages that are deemed stable by the development team.

In mid 2013, Manjaro was in the beta stages, though key elements of the final system, such as a GUI installer (currently an Antergos installer fork), a package manager (Pacman) with its choice of frontends Pamac (GTK+) for Xfce desktop and Octopi (Qt) for its Openbox edition, MHWD (Manjaro HardWare Detection, for detection of Free & Proprietary video drivers), and Manjaro Settings Manager (for system wide settings, user management, and graphics driver installation and management) have been implemented.

Ubuntu

Ubuntu is built on Debian’s architecture and infrastructure, to provide Linux server, desktop, phone, tablet and TV operating systems. Ubuntu releases updated versions predictably every six months, and each release receives free support for nine months (eighteen months prior to 13.04) with security fixes, high-impact bug fixes and conservative, substantially beneficial low-risk bug fixes. The first release was in October 2004.

A default installation of Ubuntu contains a wide range of software that includes LibreOffice, Firefox, Thunderbird, Transmission, and several lightweight games such as Sudoku and chess. Many additional software packages are accessible from the built in Ubuntu Software Center as well as any other APT-based package management tools. Many additional software packages, such as Evolution, GIMP, Pidgin, and Synaptic, that are no longer installed by default, are still accessible in the repositories, installable with the built in Ubuntu Software Center; or by any other APT-based package management tool and Snappy.