It’s long been the case that the world of Linux distributions offers at least one compelling choice for virtually every taste and purpose, but — much like those dissatisfied with the weather in New England — users who don’t see a distro they like need only wait a few minutes.
The open source nature of Linux means that users not only can fork and create entirely new distros of their own at will, but also take advantage of others’ efforts to do so — and those efforts are ongoing.
As evidence, one need only scan the list of distros on DistroWatch at the start of any new year: Chances are, there will be more than a few newcomers on it that weren’t there the year before, as well as a few that have disappeared.
It turns out that’s exactly the situation in the Linux distro world here in early 2014.
We’ve lost a few distros since 2013 began, but we’ve also gained some interesting fresh blood. “You win a few, you lose a few,” as the old saying goes; fortunately, the overall pool of choices remains as rich and diverse as ever.
‘Quite a Splash’
“Two notable distros that disappeared last year were Fuduntu and SolusOS,” DistroWatch founder Ladislav Bodnar told LinuxInsider. “Both became overly ambitious, trying to develop the whole thing from scratch instead of using another project’s packages and infrastructure.”
The result? “Developer burnout, I guess,” Bodnar suggested.
A Suggestion of Clover
Originally based on Fedora but later forked, Fuduntu aimed to find a sweet spot in the distro spectrum between Fedora and Ubuntu. It was optimized for netbooks and other portable computers. Born in 2010, the project shut its doors in April 2013. [*Correction – Feb. 24, 2014]
Much of the project team went on to work on Cloverleaf Linux, a new distro that was to be based on openSuse instead, but in September that effort was abandoned as well.
As for SolusOS, it offered a GNOME 3 fork designed to look and behave like GNOME 2, providing a beginner-friendly choice with a taste of the familiar for longtime Linux users as well.
‘Linux Rules the Embedded Space’
Hard on the heels of the SolusOS departure came the birth of Antergos Linux, but it is by no means the only new arrival in recent months.
Particularly notable are the various Raspberry Pi distros to emerge over the past year or two, Schroder noted.
“Linux on ARM is a big, big deal, from dinky little Raspberry Pi and other SBCs to big-ass servers,” she told LinuxInsider. “IBM is putting a billion clams into Linux on ARM.”
Raspberry Pi has taken off because it’s cheap and adaptable, Schroder explained.
“There is at least one commercial Pi vendor using it to power digital signs and kiosks,” she added. “As we become trapped in the Internet of Things, Linux rules the embedded space.”
‘Strong Privacy and Anonymity Features’
One distro that recently has been getting much attention on DistroWatch is Elementary OS, Bodnar said.
“The combination of good looks and quite a bit of publicity in the media helped a lot,” he explained.
Meanwhile, “Tails, a live CD with strong privacy and anonymity features, has been doing extremely well too (no prizes for guessing why ;-),” he added. “Among newer distributions, I hear good things about Point Linux, but I haven’t really tested it myself, so I can’t give you my opinion.”
‘There Is Always Potential for Change’
It’s always “somewhat interesting and entertaining to see the ebb and flow of the top Linux distributions,” Jay Lyman, a senior analyst with 451 Research, told LinuxInsider.
“One of the highlights is typically the Linux operating systems with staying power,” he said. “After years of jockeying, we’ve seen Ubuntu in the top few distributions consistently for some time, which speaks to its desktop and developer popularity.”
Linux Mint is “another distribution that has been around a long time and still manages to garner new users and a top spot among distros,” Lyman added. “In addition to others with staying power — Debian, Fedora, Slackware — we’ve seen some distributions recently making their way to the top of the list, such as Arch Linux, PCLinuxOS and others.”
In terms of enterprise Linux, “it continues to be mostly Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Suse Linux Enterprise Server and Ubuntu, but there is always potential for change with continued growth of cloud computing, OpenStack and other communities and trends,” Lyman suggested.
“Also interesting and impactful is Red Hat’s move to bring CentOS, a community clone of RHEL, in house, and thus expand its Linux community,” he added, “particularly among service providers and hosters that are not Red Hat’s traditional, enterprise market, yet use CentOS regularly.”
*ECT News Network editor’s note – Feb. 24, 2014: Our original published version of this story mistakenly stated that Fedora was born in 2012. Andrew Wyatt started Fuduntu in November 2010, not in 2012.