There are over a hundred Linux distributions and more come out every year. Linux gives users the freedom to setup their computer almost any way they want. They are generally more secure and lighter than their Windows and OS X counterparts. Most advanced Linux distributions give users the opportunity to dig deep into their computer to find out exactly what’s happening underneath the hood, and they provide a great way to learn a lot more about how computers work.
Here are 5 advanced Linux distributions that you should try if you are up for the challenge:
1. Arch Linux
Photo by Dxiri Via Flickr Creative Commons
Arch Linux is known for being one of the more “Bleeding edge” linux distributions, meaning it gives users access to software that is still in development, beta, or for some reason has not been released yet on other systems. If you like being the first to have access to technology and are willing to potentially encounter and fix bugs, then you will probably love Arch. Arch Linux is also one of the few “Rolling Release” Systems in use. This setup is awesome because there is no such thing as an “Arch XP”, or “Arch 8”. Arch gets updated on a day by day basis and the user is always running the latest and greatest packages.
Don’t just think you can pop in an Arch disk and be ready to go. Arch starts as bare bones and forces you to install everything manually. You are greeted with the command line, and will pretty much have to do the entire installation inside your terminal. Give Arch Linux a try and you will soon be the owner of a secure, lightweight and ultra customizable computer, making this one of the greatest linux distributions. Their main IRC channel is #archlinux
Photo by Roger Will Comply via Creative Commons
Created in 1993, Slackware is the oldest surviving Linux Distribution, and still going strong. Slackware is known for it’s rock solid stability and security. This distro releases updates slowly compared to other systems, but it’s also released with far fewer security holes making it an excellent option for use as a server. Slackware is one of the harder to install linux distributions and provides ample bragging rights for those who are able to use it as their primary system. Once you learn how to use Slackware, you’ll be rewarded with a system that works almost perfectly, and is “simple” to use, highly secure, and customizable. Give this linux distribution a try and you will not be disappointed. Check out their IRC channel: #slackware
3. Kali Linux
Kali Linux is a very specialized Linux distribution. The sole intention for using Kali Linux is “Offensive Security”. This is the tool that both good and bad guys use to break into and exploit other peoples restricted areas. The good guys use this tool to make their own systems and their clients systems more secure, while the bad guys do bad things that we won’t talk about. Kali provides hundreds of tools out of the box for the security professional – Metasploit, SqlNinja, and WireShark to name a few.
This linux distribution is NOT for general purpose use, and users will most likely use Kali only when doing penetration testing related activities, and then switch to something else for watching cat videos.
If you want to become a successful security professional, or learn how hacktivist groups like “Anonymous” and “Ghost Security” use their hacking skills to fight terrorism online, then you could greatly benefit from learning about “Social Engineering”, using Kali Linux, and learning a programming language like Python or C.
You should definitely give Kali Linux a try! Check out their IRC channel here: #kali-linux
Gentoo is known for being extremely difficult to install. When the topic of installing Gentoo comes up, the average time seems to be around three full days to just get the system installed. Once it’s installed you still need to setup programs for your desktop, sound, wifi, the ability to watch videos, etc… Oh, and every single program is installed and compiled from source, but it’s not always as scary as it sounds. This is probably the most difficult linux distribution that people actually use on a regular basis.
So why would anyone in their right mind use Gentoo? For starters, it’s a fantastic opportunity to learn about the intricacies of how Linux works. About half-way through the installation you decide whether you want to manually configure the “Kernel” or if you prefer to use the “General kernel”. The Kernel can be considered sort of like the heart of linux. It’s also great if you need a very small system. Gentoo is extremely well documented and very flexible. You get to make a decision for what you want on just about everything, including which bootloader you would like to use.
What you end up with is a 100% customized computer that has exactly what you want and use, and nothing more. It’s lightweight, fast, secure, and there’s no other system just like it. Once you have installed Gentoo you already deserve bragging rights, but being able to use it puts you in the ranks of “Super Powered Hardcore User”.
Most of the benefits of Gentoo mean nothing more than mumbo jumbo to a mere mortal, however, ask a Gentoo user why they like the distro and you’ll hear nothing but praises for this advanced linux distribution. Check out their IRC channel at #gentoo and say hello!
5. Linux From Scratch (LFS)
Linux From Scratch is the ultimate educational opportunity. With LFS (Linux From Scratch) you are essentially building your very own linux distribution similar to how you would make your own bread from flour, yeast and anything else that is in bread. Nothing is done for you, and you don’t even have a package manager. LFS is good for university students doing computer projects, or any geek looking to learn more about how a computer system is put together. LFS is not something you would want to use on a day to day basis unless you were to go beyond Linux From Scratch with the next step called “BLFS” (Beyond Linux From Scratch), and even then it’s still not a secure system until you do a lot more work. If you’re wanting to geek out on some computer stuff then head over to Linux From Scratch and get started! Check out their IRC channels #lfs and #lfs-support
No matter what Linux distribution you use, there is plenty of fun stuff to learn and do. Linux offers you plenty of challenges and gives you the freedom that Windows and OS X simply don’t have. Only about 3% of the population uses one of the linux distributions as a desktop, but many people are using Linux in some form and don’t even realize it. If you use a TV, microwave, refrigerator, or some other sort of technology then you’ve been using Linux for a long time and probably had no idea.
There are many benefits to using Linux, especially if your in the tech field, so pop an installation cd into your computer and have fun!
Featured photo credit: dxiri via flickr.com