In this chapter, we will finally talk about individual Linux distros. After reading this chapter, you can dive right in and download any of these to try them out. Chapter B7 is the fourth part of the list of distros and here, we will compile a list of the non-Debian Linux distros we think you should know. They can be based on other distros than Debian, like RHEL or Slackware, but also be their own thing, solely based on the Linux kernel. All these distros look and feel different and they do not use the DEB package format, but other formats like ebuild, RPM and tarballs.
Red Hat has a focus on operating systems for companies. In the past, there was a distro called Red Hat Linux and many current distros descend from it. These distros use the RPM package format. That unfortunately means that there is less software is available in the Red Hat universe. The OS installation is most of the time a bit more challenging than for Debian-based distros, but commercial Red Hat distros have paid support that can help you. We do not see a good reason to use them for the purpose of security and anonymity on your home PC, but they are definitely interesting.
All Red Hat-based distros can be found here. The list includes ClearOS for network gateways and network servers, CentOS for web servers, Fermi Linux and Scientific Linux. They also run Red Hat software.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) is a commercial distro that is used for workstations or servers in businesses. It is open-source, just like most other distros, but not free-of-cost. It is not allowed to redistribute their software, but they still publish all source code, except for a few proprietary device drivers (binary blobs). RHEL uses the GNOME Shell as the default DE.
The selling point of RHEL is the professional support and training. This is very helpful for companies who need a system they can rely on and someone to help with issues. Red Hat provides the system and the applications for free. They only charge you for support subscriptions, which cost around 180€ for workstations and 350€ for servers. Such a package gives companies paid support for a year. With larger deployments, the cost per machine gets cheaper.
There is an OS called CentOS, which is a community-driven derivative of RHEL. It is almost a complete copy of RHEL, but free. The only downside is that Red Hat does not offer support for CentOS, but an advanced user will not need this. Other companies than Red Hat offer support subscriptions for CentOS.
Fedora is a Red Hat–sponsored community distribution project. It is the free-of-cost alternative to RHEL and is intended for home use. Fedora is quite user-friendly and uses GNOME desktop, just like Ubuntu and is quite polished. Other DEs you can get are KDE Plasma, Xfce, LXDE, MATE, Deepin and Cinnamon.
Fedora has been used by Linus Torvalds himself for a long time, until it started using GNOME 3, which Torvalds did not like in the beginning. Fedora is quite popular and installed on around 15% of Linux desktop PCs. There are 3 versions of Fedora: Fedora Workstation is a reliable, user-friendly, and powerful operating system for laptops and desktops. Fedora Server is used for servers and has data centre technologies and Fedora Atomic is a minimal image for cloud deployment. They have different software packages.
On Wikipedia, you can see the different modules for Fedora Workstation and Server. Fedora is the upstream source of RHEL, so new features are sometimes tested in Fedora, before they make it into RHEL.
SUSE Linux is a successor to the Slackware Linux distro family. Today, it does not have much in common with Slackware and is its own thing. The SUSE family of distros is of German origin. SUSE is an abbreviation of “Software und System-Entwicklung”, “software and systems development” in English. The SUSE OSs are very stable and well designed. You can completely customise them with their famous YaST tool, which lets you perform many administrative tasks. SUSE uses RPM packages.
Unfortunately, you do not have access to as much software as on Debian or Ubuntu distros, for example.
All SUSE distros are listed here.
SUSE Linux Enterprise is a commercial Linux distro with paid support, just like RHEL. The company SUSE Linux Gmbh sells subscriptions with paid support, which cost around the same as for RHEL. They have many solutions for server and cloud systems, but the main ones are SUSE Linux Entreprise Server (SLES) and SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED). They have different packages according to their purpose.
The SUSE company moved their development towards the community and eventually created the free-of-cost openSUSE distro. It is released more frequently than SUSE Linux Enterprise, which focuses on stability and support and is released every 3-4 years.
We will now talk about the community distro openSUSE. It is free-of-cost and a great alternative to SUSE Linux Enterprise if you know enough about its administration and do not need paid support. New features and packages for the commercial distro often get heavily tested in openSUSE, before they make their way into the systems of SUSE Enterprise customers.
OpenSUSE is polished and offers multiple desktop environments like KDE (as default), Xfce and GNOME. They can be chosen during the installation. The selection of pre-installed software is great and we absolutely love the general design. We admire how much work went into this refined product and it has the absolute best installer out of any distro we tried. The descriptions of the steps during the installation are very clear and even users not familiar with installing OSs will know what they mean. That applies to the translations as well.
Unfortunately, you do not have access to as much software as on Debian or Ubuntu distros, for example. The software packages must be in the RPM format, like on RHEL, so you cannot install the more widely used DEB files. That is basically the only reason that we recommend Ubuntu/Debian distros instead, it is quite a big one.
OpenSUSE is more intended for software developers and system administrators. There are tools for developers like the Open(SUSE) Build Service to publish software for many different Linux distros. There are fantastic official and unofficial documentations.
openSUSE is very flexible, so you can re-purpose it for specific goals like running a web- or mail server, instead of desktop use. For servers, it is great that it has the option to update the entire system without rebooting or stopping the services. It uses Delta RPMs as installers, which means that the installers only contain the data that changed between old and new version, this keeps them small and reduces the required bandwidth.
There are 4 versions: openSUSE Leap, which is a fixed point release based on SUSE Linux Enterprise and stable, as well as openSUSE Tumbleweed, which has rolling releases with the newest stable packages. openSUSE Factory has unstable rolling releases and the openSUSE Retail edition is a boxed version available in Germany.
Manjaro and Chrome OS/Chromium OS are not on this list, since they are derived from the “hardcore” distros Arch and Gentoo, respectively. We describe Manjaro and Chrome OS/Chromium OS in “Linux Distros 5 - Linux “Hardcore” Distros: Arch and Gentoo Linux”
This chapter is part of our series on^Linux distros. You can also read the other posts at: