Network Administration: Linux Distributions

Because the kernel (that is, the core operating functions) of the Linux operating system is free, several companies have created their own distributions of Linux, which include the Linux operating system along with a bundle of packages, such as administration tools, web servers, and other useful utilities, as well as printed documentation. These distributions are inexpensive — ranging from $25 to $150 — and are well worth the small cost.

The following are some of the more popular Linux distributions:

  • Fedora is one of the popular Linux distributions. At one time, Fedora was an inexpensive distribution offered by Red Hat. But Red Hat recently changed its distribution strategy by announcing that its inexpensive distribution would become a community project known as Fedora, so that it could focus on its more expensive Enterprise editions.

    As a result, you can’t purchase Fedora, but you can download it free from Fedora. You can also obtain it by purchasing any of several books on Fedora that include the Fedora distribution on DVD or CD-ROM.

    All the examples in this book are based on Fedora 12.

  • Mandriva Linux is another popular Linux distribution, one that is often recommended as the easiest for first-time Linux users to install. This distribution was formerly known as Mandrake Linux. Go to Mandriva Linux for more information.

  • Ubuntu is a Linux distribution that has gained popularity in recent years. It focuses on ease of use. For more information, go to Ubuntu.

  • SUSE (pronounced SOO-zuh, like the name of the famous composer of marches) is a popular Linux distribution sponsored by Novell. You can find more information at SUSE.

  • Slackware, one of the oldest Linux distributions, is still popular — especially among Linux old-timers. A full installation of Slackware gives you all the tools that you need to set up a network or Internet server. See Slackware for more information.

There are, of course, many other distributions of Linux available, including Knoppix, Debian, and Xandros Desktop.

All distributions of Linux include the same core components — the Linux kernel, an X Server, popular windows managers such as GNOME and KDE, compilers, Internet programs such as Apache, Sendmail, and so on. However, not all Linux distributions are created equal. In particular, the manufacturer of each distribution creates its own installation and configuration programs to install and configure Linux.

The installation program is what makes or breaks a Linux distribution. All the distributions listed have easy-to-use installation programs that automatically detect the hardware that’s present on your computer and configure Linux to work with that hardware, thus eliminating most — if not all — manual configuration chores.

The installation programs also let you select the Linux packages that you want to install and let you set up one or more user accounts besides the root account.