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By using any of these services, or registering any of our software, you are contributing to our mission which is using what skills we may have to be of help to you. You have our deepest appreciation!

CD Gallery

 Here you’ll find many useful software product CD’s that we offer for a small fee to cover materials, postage charges and compensate for a little of our time. These apps have not just been offered "willy-nilly": we have spent considerable time testing before recommending and placing on this page. Some of these are software applications, some are used for security, forensic and system recovery purposes and others are low cost Operating System installations. We welcome any questions, comments or requests (we'll do our best to find a low cost software solution on CD/ DVD), you may have - just email us at mb@code-it.com.

All CDs (or DVDs if more space is required) are legal and derived from reliable sources: tested by us before shipping. Use to save time having to download, restore a system or software application easily: archive software that may turn from free to shareware thus not be available any more. Even scan your system for viruses or backup data without installing any software – run from a “Live CD”.

Disclaimer: you too can create any of these ‘live CDs’ by downloading the ISO image (may take up to two hours) then using your CD Writing software to convert the ISO image to a CD or DVD. We are just providing this service so you don’t have to spend your time crafting them and be paid for materials and postage used - plus make a very little profit for our time/work.

Upon ordering - we ship your CD via USPS within 24 hours. You should expect to receive within 3 to 5 days after ordering (unless noted in the product description or order date falls on the week end).

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CODE-IT SOFTWARE PRODUCTS:

  • All current versions of Windows and Linux software plus BASH scripts that we have developed, and offer to the general public (including the source code for all our Linux software): Full installation binaries and Linux source code on CD-R with Legal Registration key-code if needed. Can be installed on as many personal systems as desired. Cost is $19.95 + $3.00 shipping/ handling.

 

WINDOWS PC OPERATING SYSTEMS:

Offering Windows 10 PRO 32 and/ or 64-bit - on DVD: 100% legal activation key-code.

Used for a new install on any PC that meats the operating specs. IMHO - I would NOT recommend installing and using Windows 10 for your operating system - but of course your mileage may vary! Way to much spying going on with it for my taste. This has been put on this page in case someone might need it for testing purposes.

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster processor or SoC

  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) for 32-bit or 2 GB for 64-bit

  • Hard disk space: 16 GB for 32-bit OS 20 GB for 64-bit OS

  • Graphics card: DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver

  • Display: 800x600

Windows Operating System Software

 

WINDOWS PC SOFTWARE APPLICATIONS ( personally recommend)

WireShark for Windows (32 or 64-bit): Wireshark® is a network protocol analyzer. It lets you capture and interactively browse the traffic running on a computer network. It has a rich and powerful feature set and is world's most popular tool of its kind. Network professionals, security experts, developers, and educators around the world use it regularly. Full instillation CD: no Registration key-code needed. Can be installed on as many systems as desired. Cost is $5.95 + $3.00 shipping.

PortableApps for Windows: I've always been a fan of what's know as "Portable Software"; meaning, software apps that will run off a thumb drive or for that matter any type drive. Sure, they run a little slower but  the big advantage is that the software is not installed on your systems hard drive -  All Your Favorite Apps, Everywhere.

Lets you have all your favorite apps self contained to use from a synced cloud folder, on a local PC's internal or external drive, or carried on a portable device. Your browser with your bookmarks and extensions, your office suite, your photo editor, your music collection, your games, your development tools and more. Everything you need for work and play with you on every PC you use. Work, home, school, visiting family and friends, even while traveling. And everything stays in that one location, too, making it easy to install, update, and backup. Carried on a portable drive, every PC becomes your PC. Oh, by the way - all of the over 200 apps are 100% free - open source. Cost is $5.95 + $3.00 shipping.

GIMP v2.8 for Windows (32 and 64-bit): GIMP is an powerful image editor. Whether you are a graphic designer, photographer, illustrator, or scientist, GIMP provides you with sophisticated tools to get your job done. Full instillation CD: no Registration key-code needed. Can be installed on as many systems as desired. Cost is $5.95 + $3.00 shipping.

Apache OpenOffice for Windows (32 and 64-bit): is easy to learn, and if you're already using another office software package, you'll take to OpenOffice straight away. And if you already have files from another office package - OpenOffice will probably read them with no difficulty. Full instillation CD: no Registration key-code needed. Can be installed on as many systems as desired. Cost is $5.95 + $3.00 shipping.

ClipGrab for Windows v3.6.6 (32 and 64-bit): ClipGrab is a downloader and converter for YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook and many other on-line video sites. It converts downloaded videos to MPEG4, MP3 or other formats in just one easy step. Full instillation CD: no Registration key-code needed. Can be installed on as many systems as desired. Cost is $5.95 + $3.00 shipping. Compatible with Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8.

    Windows Software on CD - all just $5.95 + S/H

LIVE CDs USED FOR VIRUS SCAN OR DATA RECOVERY WITHOUT HAVING TO INSTALL ON YOUR SYSTEM:

So what the heck is a “Live CD” you might be thinking. A live CD is something that most Windows users aren’t too familiar with – it’s a CD that if inserted in the CD Drive at startup it loads into memory and runs without installing anything on the hard drive. It’s a great tool to run a virus scan or to recover data from a corrupt Windows (or Linux) system.

AVG Virus Scan on Live CD: AVG Rescue CD attempts to repair system crashes and returns your systems to operating at full capacity. If malware gets past your security software, you can quickly get your PC back up and running smoothly. Option to update virus definitions if connected to the iNet: for Windows 98/Me/NT/2000/XP/2003/Vista/Server 2008/7/8/10 and all Linux Distros. It's a clean bill of health for your system — without the bill. Live CD: no Registration key-code needed. Can be used on as many systems as desired. Cost is $5.95 + $3.00 shipping.

Hiren Boot Live CD: The tagline for Hiren Boot CD reads “a first aid kit for your computer” – and that it is! Hiren Boot CD is one of the more popular Rescue CDs out there and contains a wealth of tools including defrag tools, driver tools, backup tools, antivirus and anti-malware tools, rootkit detection tools, secure data wiping tools, and partitioning tools, among others. No self respecting hacker would be without this classic forensic tool! Live CD: no Registration key-code needed. Can be used on as many systems as desired. Cost is $5.95 + $3.00 shipping.

FalconFour’s Ultimate Boot CD:based upon the Hiren Boot CD with a customized boot menu and a whole bunch of updated tools thrown in. F4’s UBCD contains tools that provide system information, tools that recover/repair broken partitions, tools that recover data, as well as file utilities, password recovery tools, network tools, malware removal tools and much more. Live CD: no Registration key-code needed. Can be used on as many systems as desired. Cost is $5.95 + $3.00 shipping.

    Name of 'Live CD' wanted - all just $5.95 + S/H

 

LIVE CDs FOR MOST ANY LINUX DISTRO (version):

UberStudent is an operating system and suite of programs for everyone, especially higher education and secondary students, those who teach them, and their schools. Based on Linux technologies, UberStudent is a complete, ready-to-go, and "out-of-the-box" platform that is ideal for every computer user, not just newcomers to Linux. Learning UberStudent means learning the tasks and habits common to all high-performing students, while also enjoying immediate user-friendly productivity and learning cross-platform computer fluency for life.

UberStudent is designed around a "core academic skills" approach to student success—the research and writing, reading, studying, and self-management skills that are essential to all students regardless of their academic major, as well as secondary students who are preparing for college. UberStudent can be easily extended for specific academic disciplines, especially STEM areas, using its on-board tools for discovering and installing software.

As the user's Linux for everyone, UberStudent is also decked out for graphics, multimedia, messaging, and even games for not only learning but needed down time, all with the needs of especially students in mind.

Personal Note: I ran across this Distro - sounded interesting so gave it a try. I quickly experienced why they say it's mainly for students and writers - but you know what? Most all of us is a "student" of some kind - even old geezers like me! I LOVE THIS LINUX DISTRO - it's a "live CD" that can be used from memory or installed, at any time, if you decide to.

Name of 'Live CD' wanted - all just $5.95 + S/H

 

Revive Your Old Hardware With Linux

Bring your old PC or removable media back to life with any of these super small Linux distros. This could be a great way to provide a simple computer for a relative who doesn’t need all the bloat of a more complex operating system. These Linux distros will allow them to surf the web, watch and listen to media, check email, and create simple documents.

ArchBang

ArchBang is based on Arch Linux and inspired by CrunchBang, which was another lightweight Linux distro. It’s is essentially Arch Linux made easier. It includes the power and flexibility of Arch Linux without the complex setup and installation.

ArchBang works on i686 or x86_64 compatible machines, uses 700MB of disk space, and requires 256MB of memory. It uses the OpenBox window manager

You can use ArchBang as a fully featured desktop operating system or as a portable, live OS. It’s fast, stable, and always up to date.

Damn Small Linux

Damn Small Linux, or DSL, was designed to run graphical applications on older PC hardware. Think machines with early Pentium processors (such as the 486 series) and very little memory. It’s light enough to run with as little as 16MB of memory, and it can also be run fully in memory with as little as 128MB.

DSL started as an experiment to see how much software could fit into 50MB, but it eventually evolved into a full-fledged Linux distribution. It can be installed onto storage media with small capacities, like USB flash drives and memory cards, and onto a CD. You can also do a traditional installation onto a hard drive as a Debian desktop OS.

DSL includes a nearly complete desktop, and a very small core of command line tools. The applications available in DSL have been chosen for the best balance of functionality, size, and speed.

Elive

Elive is a lightweight Linux distro with its own custom desktop environment. It’s based on Debian and comes pre-installed with all the apps you need, including games.

If you’ve used a Mac before, you should be comfortable using Elive. It has a Mac-like dock and virtual desktops like Mac’s Spaces.

The desktop in Elive is a customized version of Enlightenment which offers a light and beautiful experience. It works well, even on very old PCs. The minimum requirements for Elive are a CPU speed of 300MHz, 700MB of disk space, and 128MB of memory.

Porteus

Porteus is a lightweight, but complete, Linux distro that is optimized to run from a USB flash drive. Don’t have one? Don’t worry! Porteus will also work on an SD card, CD, DVD, hard drive, or other bootable storage media. It’s small and insanely fast, allowing you to boot and get online while other operating systems are still thinking about booting.

Porteus runs on any Intel, AMD, or VIA x86/64 processor, requiring only 512MB of disk space and 256MB of memory. No hard disk is required, as it can run from removable storage media. If you use Porteus on a removable storage media device, you can take advantage of its “Persistent” mode, which saves data directly on the storage device.

It is available in both 32-bit (perfect for older PCs) and 64-bit. A kiosk edition is also available, which is a minimal system that is locked down for use by the public on web terminals.

Puppy Linux

Puppy Linux is a very lightweight Linux distro that should only be installed on and run from a USB flash drive, SD card, CD, DVD, hard drive, or other bootable storage media.

The minimum requirements include a 233MHz processor, 512MB free hard drive space (to create an optional save file), and 128MB of memory. The optional save file allows you to save your data directly on the removable media and run the system, with your saved data, on any computer.

SliTaz

SliTaz, or Simple Light Incredible Temporary Autonomous Zone, is a lightweight, fully-featured, working graphical Linux distro that’s small, fast, stable, and easy to use.

The minimum hardware requirements include an i486 or x86 Intel-compatible processor, 80MB of disk space, and 192MB of memory (or as low as 16MB, depending on which version of SliTaz you use).

While SliTaz is running, you can use the removable media for other tasks or even eject it. The system runs in memory. SliTaz also has a “persistent” feature that allows you to store your data and personal settings directly on the removable media.

When the system is running you can eject the LiveCD and use your CD drive for other tasks. The Live system provides a fully-featured, working graphical distro and lets you keep your data and personal settings on persistent media.

wattOS

WattOS is a lightweight, fully featured Linux distro based on Ubuntu that you can run from a USB flash drive, CD, or other removable media, run in kiosk mode, or install to a hard drive.

The minimum hardware requirements include any Intel or AMD processor, 700MB of disk space, and 192MB of memory for the Microwatt edition of wattOS (more if you use the LXDE edition).

The Microwatt edition is extremely lightweight and based on the i3 tiling window manager. It offers low resource requirements and simplicity. The LXDE edition is a lightweight, fully featured, and customizable desktop operating system that is great for beginners.

Note: When asked for a login in wattOS, enter “guest” as the user name and no password.

Name of 'Live CD' wanted- all just $5.95 + S/H

 

WANT A MORE POWERFUL AND POPULAR LINUX DISTRO?

The bewildering choice and the ever increasing number of Linux distributions can be confusing for those who are new to Linux. This page section lists the most popular Linux distributions (plus an honourable mention of FreeBSD, by far the most popular of all of the BSDs), which are generally considered as most widely-used by Linux users around the world. There are no figures to back it up and there are many other distributions that might suit your particular purpose better, but as a general rule, all of these are popular and have very active forums or mailing lists where you can ask questions if you get stuck.

Ubuntu, Linux Mint and PCLinuxOS are considered the easiest for new users who want to get productive in Linux as soon as possible without having to master all its complexities. On the other end of the spectrum, Slackware Linux, Arch Linux and FreeBSD are more advanced distributions that require plenty of learning before they can be used effectively. openSUSE, Fedora, Debian GNU/Linux and Mageia can be classified as good "middle-road" distributions. CentOS is an enterprise distribution, suitable for those who prefer stability, reliability and long-term support over cutting-edge features and software.

Linux Mint Linux Mint


Linux Mint, a distribution based on Ubuntu, was first launched in 2006 by Clement Lefebvre, a French-born IT specialist living in Ireland. Originally maintaining a Linux web site dedicated to providing help, tips and documentation to new Linux users, the author saw the potential of developing a Linux distribution that would address the many usability drawbacks associated with the generally more technical, mainstream products. After soliciting feedback from the visitors on his web site, he proceeded with building what many refer to today as an "improved Ubuntu" or "Ubuntu done right".

But Linux Mint is not just an Ubuntu with a new set of applications and an updated desktop theme. Since its beginnings, the developers have been adding a variety of graphical "mint" tools for enhanced usability; this includes mintDesktop - a utility for configuring the desktop environment, mintMenu - a new and elegant menu structure for easier navigation, mintInstall - an easy-to-use software installer, and mintUpdate - a software updater, just to mention a few more prominent ones among several other tools and hundreds of additional improvements. The project also designs its own artwork. Mint's reputation for ease of use has been further enhanced by the inclusion of proprietary and patent-encumbered multimedia codecs that are often absent from larger distributions due to potential legal threats. Perhaps one of the best features of Linux Mint is the fact that the developers listen to the users and are always fast in implementing good suggestions.

While Linux Mint is available as a free download, the project generates revenue from donations, advertising and professional support services. It doesn't have a fixed release schedule or a list of planned features, but one can expect a new version of Linux Mint several weeks after each Ubuntu long term support release. Besides Mint's two "Main" editions which feature the MATE and Cinnamon desktops, the project also builds editions with alternative desktops, including KDE and Xfce. These editions are often completed several weeks after the two "Main" editions and may sometimes miss some of the "minty" tools and other features found in the project's flagship products. Another variant of the Mint line-up is a "Debian Edition" based on Debian's Stable branch. The Debian edition of Linux Mint provides a very stable base while the desktop packages are updated more quickly than in Mint's "Main" editions. Linux Mint does not adhere to the principles of software freedom and it does not publish security advisories.

  • Pros: Superb collection of "minty" tools developed in-house, hundreds of user-friendly enhancements, inclusion of multimedia codecs, open to users' suggestions

  • Cons: The alternative "community" editions don't always include the latest features, the project does not issue security advisories

  • Software package management: Advanced Package Tool (APT) with mintInstall using DEB packages (compatible with Ubuntu repositories)

  • Available editions: A "Main" edition (with MATE and Cinnamon), "Community" editions (with KDE and Xfce), Linux Mint "Debian" edition (with MATE or Cinnamon)

  • Possible alternatives: Ubuntu, elementary OS, Zorin OS, Lubuntu, Xubuntu, Peppermint OS

Ubuntu Ubuntu
The launch of Ubuntu was first announced in September 2004. Although a relative newcomer to the Linux distribution scene, the project took off like no other before, with its mailing lists soon filled in with discussions by eager users and enthusiastic developers. In the years that followed, Ubuntu grew to become the most popular desktop Linux distribution and has greatly contributed towards developing an easy-to-use and free desktop operating system that can compete well with any proprietary ones available on the market.

What was the reason for Ubuntu's stunning success? Firstly, the project was created by Mark Shuttleworth, a charismatic South African multimillionaire, a former Debian developer and the world's second space tourist, whose company, the Isle of Man-based Canonical Ltd, is currently financing the project. Secondly, Ubuntu had learned from the mistakes of other similar projects and avoided them from the start - it created an excellent web-based infrastructure with a Wiki-style documentation, creative bug-reporting facility, and professional approach to the end users. And thirdly, thanks to its wealthy founder, Ubuntu was able to ship free CDs to all interested users, thus contributing to the rapid spread of the distribution.

On the technical side of things: Ubuntu is based on Debian "Sid" (unstable branch), but with some prominent packages, such as GNOME, Firefox and LibreOffice, updated to their latest versions. It uses a custom user interface called "Unity". It has a predictable, 6-month release schedule, with an occasional Long Term Support (LTS) release that is supported with security updates for 5 years, depending on the edition (non-LTS release are supported for 9 months). Other special features of Ubuntu include an installable live DVD, creative artwork and desktop themes, migration assistant for Windows users, support for the latest technologies, such as 3D desktop effects, easy installation of proprietary device drivers for ATI and NVIDIA graphics cards and wireless networking, and on-demand support for non-free or patent-encumbered media codecs.

My personal view: Ubuntu is the only Linux Distro, that I know of, that has Amazon Ads pre-installed - they figured out how to make a revenue from "free" long before M$ did with Windows 10. I don't really blame them for wanting to make some $ from link revenue but IMHO violates the "Linux Spirit". Reminds me of "Adware" - don't know what else you'd call it ;-(

  • Pros: Fixed release cycle and support period; long-term support (LTS) variants with 5 years of security updates; novice-friendly; wealth of documentation, both official and user-contributed

  • Cons: Lacks compatibility with Debian; frequent major changes tend to drive some users away, the Unity user interface has been criticised as being more suitable for mobile devices than desktop computers; non-LTS releases come with only 9 months of security support

  • Software package management: Advanced Package Tool (APT) using DEB packages

  • Available variants: Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu GNOME, Ubuntu MATE, Ubuntu Budgie, Ubuntu Kylin, Ubuntu Studio for 64-bit (x86_64) processors;

  • Suggested Ubuntu-based alternatives: Linux Mint (desktop), elementary OS (desktop), Zorin OS (desktop), Pinguy OS (desktop), Trisquel GNU/Linux (free software), Bodhi Linux (desktop with Enlightenment)

Debian GNU/Linux Debian GNU/Linux
Debian GNU/Linux was first announced in 1993. Its founder, Ian Murdock, envisaged the creation of a completely non-commercial project developed by hundreds of volunteer developers in their spare time. With sceptics far outnumbering optimists at the time, it seemed destined to disintegrate and collapse, but the reality was very different. Debian not only survived, it thrived and, in less than a decade, it became the largest Linux distribution and possibly the largest collaborative software project ever created!

The success of Debian GNU/Linux can be illustrated by the following numbers. It is developed by over 1,000 volunteer developers, its software repositories contain close to 50,000 binary packages (compiled for 8 processor architectures), and it is responsible for inspiring over 120 Debian-based distributions and live CDs. These figures are unmatched by any other Linux-based operating system. The actual development of Debian takes place in three main branches (or four if one includes the bleeding-edge "experimental" branch) of increasing levels of stability: "unstable" (also known as "sid"), "testing" and "stable". This progressive integration and stabilisation of packages and features, together with the project's well-established quality control mechanisms, has earned Debian its reputation of being one of the best-tested and most bug-free distributions available today.

However, this lengthy and complex development style also has some drawbacks: the stable releases of Debian are not particularly up-to-date and they age rapidly, especially since new stable releases are only published once every 1 - 3 years. Those users who prefer the latest packages and technologies are forced to use the potentially buggy Debian testing or unstable branches. The highly democratic structures of Debian have led to controversial decisions and gives rise to infighting among the developers. This has contributed to stagnation and reluctance to make radical decisions that would take the project forward.

  • Pros: Very stable; remarkable quality control; includes over 30,000 software packages; supports more processor architectures than any other Linux distribution

  • Cons: Conservative - due to its support for many processor architectures, newer technologies are not always included; slow release cycle (one stable release every 1 - 3 years); discussions on developer mailing lists and blogs can be uncultured at times

  • Software package management: Advanced Package Tool (APT) using DEB packages

  • Available editions: Installation CD/DVD and live CD images for 12 processor architectures, including all 32-bit and 64-bit processors from Intel, AMD, Power and others

  • Suggested Debian-based alternatives: Ubuntu, SparkyLinux (Enlightenment, JWM, LXDE, MATE, Openbox, Razor-qt, Xfce), SolydXK (Xfce or KDE), KNOPPIX (LXDE), Tanglu (GNOME, KDE), siduction (LXQt)

Mageia Mageia
Mageia might be the newest distribution on this list, but its roots go back to July 1998 when Gaël Duval launched Mandrake Linux. At the time it was just a fork of Red Hat Linux with KDE as the default desktop, better hardware detection and some user-friendly features, but it gained instant popularity due to positive reviews in the media. Mandrake was later turned into a commercial enterprise and renamed to Mandriva (to avoid some trademark-related hassles and to celebrate its merger with Brazil's Conectiva) before almost going bankrupt in 2010. It was eventually saved by a Russian venture capital firm, but this came at a cost when the new management decided to lay off most of the established Mandriva developers at the company's Paris headquarters. Upon finding themselves without work, they decided to form Mageia, a community project which is a logical continuation of Mandrake and Mandriva, perhaps more so than Mandriva itself.

Mageia is primarily a desktop distribution. Its best-loved features are cutting-edge software, superb system administration suite (Mageia Control Centre), ability to attract a large number of volunteer contributors, and extensive internationalisation support. It features one of the easiest, yet powerful system installers on its installation DVD, while it also releases a set of live images with either KDE or GNOME desktops and comprehensive language support, with the ability to install it onto a hard disk directly from the live desktop session. The distribution's well-established package management features, with powerful command-line options and a graphical software management module, allow easy access to thousands of software packages. The unique Mageia Control Center continues to improve with each release, offering newcomers to Linux a powerful tool for configuring just about any aspect of their computer without ever reaching for the terminal.

While Mageia has been off to a flying start since it was established in September 2010, there is some concern over the developers' ability to maintain the distribution over the long term where much of the work is done on a volunteer basis. Also, it lacks the buzz and infrastructure accompanying some of the bigger and more profligate Linux distributions. The project's documentation could also do with some improvement, while its 9-months release cycle can also be viewed as a disadvantage in terms of generating news and media excitement, especially when compared to other major distributions which use a shorter, 6-month development process.

  • Pros: Beginner-friendly; excellent central configuration utility; very good out-of-the-box support for dozens of languages; installable live media

  • Cons: Lacks reputation and mindshare following its fork from Mandriva, some concern over the developers' ability to maintain the distribution long-term on a volunteer basis

  • Software package management: URPMI with Rpmdrake (a graphical front-end for URPMI) using RPM packages

  • Available editions: installation DVDs for 32-bit (i586) and 64-bit (x86_64) processors; installable live CDs for 32-bit (i586) processors

  • Possible alternatives: OpenMandriva, ROSA

Fedora Fedora
Although Fedora was formally unveiled only in September 2004, its origins effectively date back to 1995 when it was launched by two Linux visionaries -- Bob Young and Marc Ewing -- under the name of Red Hat Linux. The company's first product, Red Hat Linux 1.0 "Mother's Day", was released in the same year and was quickly followed by several bug-fix updates. In 1997, Red Hat introduced its revolutionary RPM package management system with dependency resolution and other advanced features which greatly contributed to the distribution's rapid rise in popularity and its overtaking of Slackware Linux as the most widely-used Linux distribution in the world. In later years, Red Hat standardised on a regular, 6-month release schedule.

In 2003, just after the release of Red Hat Linux 9, the company introduced some radical changes to its product line-up. It retained the Red Hat trademark for its commercial products, notably Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and introduced Fedora Core (later renamed to Fedora), a Red Hat-sponsored, but community-oriented distribution designed for the "Linux hobbyist". After the initial criticism of the changes, the Linux community accepted the "new" distribution as a logical continuation of Red Hat Linux. A few quality releases was all it took for Fedora to regain its former status as one of the best-loved operating systems on the market. At the same time, Red Hat quickly became the biggest and most profitable Linux company in the world, with an innovative product line-up, excellent customer support, and other popular initiatives, such as its Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) certification programme.

Although Fedora's direction is still largely controlled by Red Hat, Inc. and the product is sometimes seen -- rightly or wrongly -- as a test bed for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, there is no denying that Fedora is one of the most innovative distributions available today. Its contributions to the Linux kernel, glibc and GCC are well-known and its more recent integration of SELinux functionality, virtualisation technologies, systemd service manager, cutting-edge journaled file systems, and other enterprise-level features are much appreciated among the company's customers. On a negative side, Fedora still lacks a clear desktop-oriented strategy that would make the product easier to use for those beyond the "Linux hobbyist" target.

  • Pros: Highly innovative; outstanding security features; large number of supported packages; strict adherence to the free software philosophy; availability of live CDs featuring many popular desktop environments

  • Cons: Fedora's priorities tend to lean towards enterprise features, rather than desktop usability; some bleeding edge features, such as early switch to KDE 4 and GNOME 3, occasionally alienate some desktop users

  • Software package management: YUM graphical and command line utility using RPM packages

  • Available editions: Fedora for 32-bit (i386) and 64-bit (x86_64) processors; also live CD editions with GNOME, KDE, LXDE, MATE and Xfce desktops

  • Suggested Fedora-based alternatives: Korora (live DVD with GNOME, KDE, LXDE or Xfce)

  • Suggested Red Hat-based alternatives: CentOS, Scientific Linux

openSUSE openSUSE
The beginnings of openSUSE date back to 1992 when four German Linux enthusiasts -- Roland Dyroff, Thomas Fehr, Hubert Mantel and Burchard Steinbild -- launched the project under the name of SuSE (Software und System Entwicklung) Linux. In the early days, the young company sold sets of floppy disks containing a German edition of Slackware Linux, but it wasn't long before SuSE Linux became an independent distribution with the launch of version 4.2 in May 1996. In the following years, the developers adopted the RPM package management format and introduced YaST, an easy-to-use graphical system administration tool. Frequent releases, excellent printed documentation, and easy availability of SuSE Linux in stores across Europe and North America resulted in growing popularity for the distribution.

SuSE Linux was acquired by Novell, Inc. in late 2003, then fell into the hands of Attachmate in November 2010. Major changes in the development, licensing and availability of SUSE Linux followed shortly after the first acquisition - YaST was released under the General Public License (GPL), the ISO images were freely distributed from public download servers, and, most significantly, the development of the distribution was opened to public participation for the first time. Since the launch of the openSUSE project and the release of version 10.0 in October 2005, the distribution became completely free in both senses of the word. The openSUSE code has become a base system for Novell's commercial products, first named as Novell Linux, but later renamed to SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.

Today, openSUSE has a large following of satisfied users. The principal reason for openSUSE getting high marks from its users are pleasant and polished desktop environments (KDE and GNOME), excellent system administration utility (YaST), and, for those who buy the boxed edition, some of the best printed documentation available with any distribution. However, the infamous deal between Novell and Microsoft, which apparently concedes to Microsoft's argument that it has intellectual property rights over Linux, has resulted in a string of condemnation by many Linux personalities and has prompted some users to switch distributions. Although Novell has downplayed the deal and Microsoft has yet to exercise any rights, this issue remains a thorn in the side of the otherwise very community-friendly Linux company.

  • Pros: Comprehensive and intuitive configuration tool; large repository of software packages, excellent web site infrastructure and printed documentation

  • Cons: Novell's patent deal with Microsoft in November 2006 seemingly legitimised Microsoft's intellectual property claims over Linux; its resource-heavy desktop setup and graphical utilities are sometimes seen as "bloated and slow"

  • Software package management: YaST graphical and command-line utility using RPM packages

  • Available editions: openSUSE for 32-bit (i386), 64-bit (x86_64) processors (also installable live CD edition); SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop/Server for i586, IA64, PowerPC, s390, s390x and x86_64 architectures

Arch Linux Arch Linux
The KISS (keep it simple, stupid) philosophy of Arch Linux was devised around the year 2002 by Judd Vinet, a Canadian computer science graduate who launched the distribution in the same year. For several years it lived as a marginal project designed for intermediate and advanced Linux users and only shot to stardom when it began promoting itself as a "rolling-release" distribution that only needs to be installed once and which is then kept up-to-date thanks to its powerful package manager and an always fresh software repository. As a result, Arch Linux "releases" are few and far between and are now limited to a basic installation CD that is issued only when considerable changes in the base system warrant a new install media.

Besides featuring the much-loved "rolling-release" update mechanism, Arch Linux is also renowned for its fast and powerful package manager called "Pacman", the ability to install software packages from source code, easy creation of binary packages thanks to its AUR infrastructure, and the ever increasing software repository of well-tested packages. Its highly-regarded documentation, complemented by the excellent Arch Linux Handbook makes it possible for even less experienced Linux users to install and customise the distribution. The powerful tools available at the user's disposal mean that the distro is infinitely customisable to the most minute detail and that no two installations can possibly be the same.

On the negative side, any rolling-release update mechanism has its dangers: a human mistake creeps in, a library or dependency goes missing, a new version of an application already in the repository has a yet-to-be-reported critical bug... It's not unheard of to end up with an unbootable system following a Pacman upgrade. As such, Arch Linux is a kind of distribution that requires its users to be alert and to have enough knowledge to fix any such possible problems. Also, the infrequent install media releases mean that sometimes it is no longer possible to use the old media to install the distribution due to important system changes or lack of hardware support in the older Linux kernel.

  • Pros: Excellent software management infrastructure; unparalleled customisation and tweaking options; superb online documentation

  • Cons: Occasional instability and risk of breakdown

  • Software package management: "Pacman" using TAR.XZ packages

  • Available editions: Minimal installation CD and network installation CD images for 64-bit (x86_64) processors

  • Suggested Arch-based and Arch-like alternatives: Manjaro Linux (live with Cinnamon, Enlightenment, KDE, LXDE, MATE, Openbox, Xfce), Antergos (live with GNOME 3), ArchBang Linux (lightweight with Openbox), Chakra GNU/Linux (live CD with KDE), Bridge Linux (live with GNOME, KDE, LXDE and Xfce), Parabola GNU/Linux (free software), KaOS (live with KDE)

CentOS CentOS
Launched in late 2003, CentOS is a community project with the goals of rebuilding the source code for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) into an installable Linux distribution and to provide timely security updates for all included software packages. To put in more bluntly, CentOS is a RHEL clone. The only technical difference between the two distributions is branding - CentOS replaces all Red Hat trademarks and logos with its own. Nevertheless, the relations between Red Hat and CentOS remain amicable and many CentOS developers are in active contact with, or even employed directly by, Red Hat.

CentOS is often seen as a reliable server distribution. It comes with the same set of well-tested and stable Linux kernel and software packages that form the basis of its parent, Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Despite being a community project run by volunteers, it has gained a reputation for being a solid, free alternative to the more costly server products on the market, especially among experienced Linux system administrators. CentOS is also suitable as an enterprise desktop solution, specifically where stability, reliability and long-term support are preferred over latest software and features. Like RHEL, CentOS is supported with approximately 7-10 years of security updates.

Despite its advantages, CentOS might not be the best solution in all deployment scenarios. Those users who prefer a distribution with the latest Linux technologies and newest software packages should look elsewhere. Major CentOS versions, which follow RHEL versioning, are only released every 2 - 3 years, while "point" releases (e.g. 5.1) tend to arrive in 6 - 9 month intervals. The point releases do not usually contain any major features (although they do sometimes include support for more recent hardware) and only a handful of software packages may get updated to newer versions. The Linux kernel, the base system and most application versions remain unchanged, but occasionally a newer version of an important software package (e.g. LibreOffice or Firefox) may be provided on an experimental basis. As a side project, CentOS also builds updated packages for the users of its distributions, but the repositories containing them are not enabled by default as they may break upstream compatibility.

  • Pros: Extremely well-tested, stable and reliable; free to download and use; comes with 7+ years of free security updates;

  • Cons: Lacks latest Linux technologies; occasionally the project fails to live up its promise to deliver timely security updates and new stable releases

  • Software package management: YUM graphical and command line utility using RPM packages

  • Available editions: Installation DVDs and installable live CDs (with GNOME) for i386 and x86_64 processors; older versions (3.x and 4.x) also available for Alpha, IA64 and IBM z-series (s390, s390x) processors.

  • Other RHEL clones and CentOS-based distributions: Scientific Linux, Springdale Linux, SME Server, Rocks Cluster Distribution, Oracle Enterprise Linux

PCLinuxOS PCLinuxOS
PCLinuxOS was first announced in 2003 by Bill Reynolds, better known as "Texstar". Prior to creating his own distribution, Texstar was already a well-known developer in the Mandrake Linux community of users for building up-to-date RPM packages for the popular distribution and providing them as a free download. In 2003 he decided to build a new distribution, initially based on Mandrake Linux, but with several significant usability improvements. The goals? It should be beginner-friendly, have out-of-the box support for proprietary kernel modules, browser plugins and media codecs, and should function as a live CD with a simple and intuitive graphical installer.

Several years and development releases later, PCLinuxOS is rapidly approaching its intended state. In terms of usability, the project offers out-of-the-box support for many technologies most Windows-to-Linux migrants would expect from their new operating system. On the software side of things, PCLinuxOS is a KDE-oriented distribution, with a customised and always up-to-date version of the popular desktop environment. Its growing software repository contains other desktops, however, and offers a great variety of desktop packages for many common tasks. For system configuration, PCLinuxOS has retained much of Mandriva's excellent Control Centre, but has replaced its package management system with APT and Synaptic, a graphical package management front-end.

On the negative side, PCLinuxOS lacks any form of roadmap or release goals. Despite growing community involvement in the project, most development and decision-making remains in the hands of Texstar who tends to be on the conservative side when judging the stability of a release. As a result, the development process of PCLinuxOS is often arduous. For example, despite frequent calls for a 64-bit edition, the developers held off producing a 64-bit build until fairly recently. Furthermore, the project does not provide any security advisories, relying instead on the users' willingness to keep their system up-to-date via the included package management tools.

  • Pros: Out-of-the-box support for graphics drivers, browser plugins and media codecs; rolling-release update mechanism; up-to-date software

  • Cons: no out-of-the-box support for non-English languages; lacks release planning and security advisories

  • Software package management: Advanced Package Tool (APT) using RPM packages

  • Available editions: KDE, KDE Full Monty, KDE Minime, LXDE, LXDE Mini, Openbox, Openbox Bonsai, KDE for 64-bit (x86_64) processor architectures

Slackware Linux Slackware Linux
Slackware Linux, created by Patrick Volkerding in 1992, is the oldest surviving Linux distribution. Forked from the now-discontinued SLS project, Slackware 1.0 came on 24 floppy disks and was built on top of Linux kernel version 0.99pl11-alpha. It quickly became the most popular Linux distribution, with some estimates putting its market share to as much as 80% of all Linux installations in 1995. Its popularity decreased dramatically with the arrival of Red Hat Linux and other, more user-friendly distributions, but Slackware Linux still remains a much-appreciated operating system among the more technically-oriented system administrators and desktop users.

Slackware Linux is a highly technical, clean distribution, with only a very limited number of custom utilities. It uses a simple, text-based system installer and a comparatively primitive package management system that does not resolve software dependencies. As a result, Slackware is considered one of the cleanest and least buggy distributions available today - the lack of Slackware-specific enhancements reduces the likelihood of new bugs being introduced into the system. All configuration is done by editing text files. There is a saying in the Linux community that if you learn Red Hat, you'll know Red Hat, but if you learn Slackware, you'll know Linux. This is particularly true today when many other Linux distributions keep developing heavily customised products to meet the needs of less technical Linux users.

While this philosophy of simplicity has its fans, the fact is that in today's world, Slackware Linux is increasingly becoming a "core system" upon which new, custom solutions are built, rather than a complete distribution with a wide variety of supported software. The only exception is the server market, where Slackware remains popular, though even here, the distribution's complex upgrade procedure and lack of officially supported automated tools for security updates makes it increasingly uncompetitive. Slackware's conservative attitude towards the system's base components means that it requires much manual post-installation work before it can be tuned into a modern desktop system.

  • Pros: Considered highly stable, clean and largely bug-free, strong adherence to UNIX principles

  • Cons: Limited number of officially supported applications; conservative in terms of base package selection; complex upgrade procedure

  • Software package management: "pkgtool" using TXZ packages

  • Available editions: Installation CDs and DVD for 32-bit (i486) and 64-bit (x86_64) processors

  • Suggested Slackware-based alternatives: Zenwalk Linux (desktop), Salix (desktop, live CD), Porteus (live CD with KDE, LXDE, MATE, Razor-qt or Xfce), VectorLinux (desktop)

  • Other distributions with similar philosophies: Arch Linux, Frugalware Linux

FreeBSD FreeBSD
FreeBSD, an indirect descendant of AT&T UNIX via the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD), has a long and turbulent history dating back to 1993. Unlike Linux distributions, which are defined as integrated software solutions consisting of the Linux kernel and thousands of software applications, FreeBSD is a tightly integrated operating system built from a BSD kernel and the so-called "userland" (therefore usable even without extra applications). This distinction is largely lost once installed on an average computer system - like many Linux distributions, a large collection of easily installed, (mostly) open source applications are available for extending the FreeBSD core, but these are usually provided by third-party contributors and aren't strictly part of FreeBSD.

FreeBSD has developed a reputation for being a fast, high-performance and extremely stable operating system, especially suitable for web serving and similar tasks. Many large web search engines and organisations with mission-critical computing infrastructures have deployed and used FreeBSD on their computer systems for years. Compared to Linux, FreeBSD is distributed under a much less restrictive license, which allows virtually unrestricted re-use and modification of the source code for any purpose. Even Apple's Mac OS X is known to have been derived from FreeBSD. Besides the core operating system, the project also provides over 24,000 software applications in binary and source code forms for easy installation on top of the core FreeBSD.

While FreeBSD can certainly be used as a desktop operating system, it doesn't compare well with popular Linux distributions in this department. The text-mode system installer offers little in terms of hardware detection or system configuration, leaving much of the dirty work to the user in a post-installation setup. In terms of support for modern hardware, FreeBSD generally lags behind Linux, especially in supporting cutting-edge desktop and laptop gadgets, such as wireless network cards or digital cameras. Those users seeking to exploit the speed and stability of FreeBSD on a desktop or workstation should consider one of the available desktop FreeBSD projects, rather than FreeBSD itself.

  • Pros: Fast and stable; availability of over 24,000 software applications (or "ports") for installation; very good documentation

  • Cons: Tends to lag behind Linux in terms of support for new and exotic hardware, limited availability of commercial applications; lacks graphical configuration tools

  • Software package management: A complete command-line package management infrastructure using either binary packages or source-based "ports" (TBZ)

  • Available editions: Installation CDs for AMD64, ARM/ARMEL, i386, IA64, MIPS/MIPSEL, PC98 PowerPC, SPARC64 and Xbox processors

  • Suggested FreeBSD-based alternatives: PC-BSD (desktop), GhostBSD (live DVD with GNOME)

  • Other BSD alternatives: OpenBSD, NetBSD, DragonFly BSD



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