A Linux distribution, often simply distribution or distro, is a member of the Linux family of Unix-like operating systems comprised of the Linux kernel, the non-kernel parts of the GNU operating system, and assorted other software. Linux distributions take a variety of forms, from fully-featured desktop and server operating systems to minimal environments (typically for use in embedded systems, or for booting from a floppy).

To provide a Unix-like environment, Linux distributions contain a set of Unix-like utilities and the libraries needed to support them. In full-featured distributions these are generally taken from the GNU operating system. Distributions optimized for size tend to use more compact alternatives like busybox and uclibc.

There are currently over three hundred Linux distribution projects in active development, constantly revising and improving their respective distributions. One can distinguish between commercially-backed distributions, such as Fedora Core (Red Hat), SUSE Linux (Novell), Ubuntu (Canonical Ltd.) and Mandriva Linux and community distributions such as Debian and Gentoo. Usually, the procedures for assembling and testing a distribution prior to release are more elaborate the bigger the user base for the distribution is.

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