Dec 042011

Frank Harris-Smith

The Internet is a great place to scratch the itch of curiosity. I’d heard some interesting things about Arch Linux so I Googled it. I wanted to know what the Distro was all about and a bit of it’s history.

I accidentally discovered The GNU/Linux Distribution Timeline which informed me where Arch Linux was derived from (Crux) and what had branched off from it (7 current branches)

It charted the Galaxy of GNU/Linux Distributions. Organized the mess that Linux Distros have become into an understandable chart. A huge svg graphic measuring 2,120 x 8,330 pixels

A chart that is very detailed. Remember that Distro of Linux meant to be a replacement for Windows, “Lindows”, that first appeared in 2001? It had it’s security dumbed down to about the Windows 95 level.

Windows users hated it. Linux users hated it. It was doomed from the beginning

Lindows wasn’t catching on so they changed the name of the Disto to Linspire (NdR: also for legal problems with that name). That didn’t work – perhaps it wasn’t worth the price they were asking. The Distro died out in mid-2008, along with it’s free spin-off, Freespire.

There are three main Distros that most of the others branch off of: Debian (#1), RedHat (#2) and Slackware (#3), with the biggest sub-branch is the *Buntus (Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Edubuntu, etc) with Ubuntu having 45+ Distros branching from it. All GNU/Linux Distros ultimately use the same source (The Linux Kernel Archives) which is the headwaters (source) of all GNU/Linux Distros

Looking over the chart was really an education. GNU/Linux is about freedom and choice. If your favorite Distro has a desktop manager that’s not your favorite, you can usually find a branch off Distro that does have your favorite desktop manager and the stuff you really want “under the hood”.

So you are looking at the GNU/Linux Time Line and you see a Distro that looks interesting. If you go to Distrowatch you can look the Distro up. A place to start your research.
Here is what the DistroWatch site looks like


DistroWatch is a very comprehensive site that lists all the top Linux Distributions with very detailed information. For example type “Arch” (or any Distro’s name) into the Orange circled box in the upper left corner and you will get this:


I cropped the bottom as it went on with detailed charts of main and secondary packages available for the Distro. Four things to notice at the top: the latest update of the information (happens to be today), the 9 desktop managers you can use with it, a description of the Distro and status. In Arch Linux’s case it’s status is Active.

Down the main page of DistroWatch on the right side is a Box labeled “Page Hit Ranking”. This is a count of the frequency that Distros have been looked at on DistroWatch. It’s not an “in the field” rating of popularity.

Linux Mint is number one where Ubuntu is number 2? Linux Mint uses the new Gnome 3 desktop. In’s mad dash to “simplify” Gnome they removed many of it’s most effective and efficient features. Linux Mint did a great job of putting those features back into their latest release. Therefor Linux Mint is more interesting to visitors of DistroWatch than Ubuntu. Many that didn’t like Ubuntu’s Unity nor what did to their latest release had an alternative in Linux Mint = Ubuntu minus Unity with a fixed up Gnome (plus all the codecs pre-installed).

The “Page Hit Ranking” of number 6 for Arch Linux was a bit surprising to me. Arch is definitely a Distro for the power user who feels at home with the command line and wants to have control over everything when installing. Plus there is a user’s repository of packages that allow Arch Linux to have a wider variety of “Apps”, unlike many other Distros where package selection is limited to “approved” sources.

This article started out with my Quest for information on Arch Linux. I discovered that Arch Linux will be my next adventure. DistroWatch gave me plenty of good info. Like can I tri-boot my AMD based system (Ubuntu, Windows, Arch) and run it in 64bit?

Answer’s yes.

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  4 Responses to “A galaxy of Linux Distros”

  1. The best 5 out of three years distros.. Ubuntu still rocks!

  2. Arch is not a derivative of Crux actually. And Distrowatch is usually gives some meaningless information about distros like Arch. DE section for example, you can use all DEs and WMs invented for Linux that I know of in Arch, or Debian since they do not come with a DE like Chakra does. I think links and package table is the only important part of Distrowatch.

  3. There is a little inaccuracy in this phrase: “There are three main Distros that most of the others branch off of: Debian (#1), RedHat (#2) and Slackware (#3)”.
    RedHat is a sub-branch of Fedora, so we can say that “There are three main Distros that most of the others branch off of: Debian (#1), Fedora (#2) and Slackware (#3)”.

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