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Top Distros of 2005

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2005 has been an exciting year on the Linux distribution front. For some of us, every year is an exciting year in Linux, but 2005 was undoubtedly a banner year for open source and Linux to be sure. We've seen a lot of technological progress as well as some philosophical, personnel, and directional changes. I think it's only fitting to look at some of Tuxmachines' Top Distro Picks of 2005.

  • SuSE Linux

Probably the biggest news of the year had to be Novell's opening up SuSE and helping to form and fund the OpenSuSE team to develop a full, free-of-charge gpl'd version of their previously costly distro. What an exciting year it was watching the first version of this new open SuSE Linux being developed and released to an unprecedented reception. (They have even begun working on the next big release.)

And what a release Suse Linux 10.0 was. It has become many people's favorite distro and for good reason. As I tested each progression to 10.0 final, I saw the professional, stable, beautiful new SuSe Linux come into being. It featured the wonderfully complete and almost flawless installer that has few rivals. The resulting system is an amazing desktop chocked full of just about anything and everything anybody could possibly want. They introduced some new technology and software, updated to the latest and greatest of the time, as well as keeping it all nice neat solid and stable. SuSE went from non-existant to just about Number One in my book. Of course, many folks still complained because of having to add plugins, dvd decoders and such, and sought out help in that area.

The debate whether Novell can pull themselves up by their bootstraps still rages. They have gone thru a coupla ceos and other top executives while laying off hundreds of grunts and closing down some operations. They first panicked users thinking they were going to stop producing SuSe, then enraged others when they declared gnome will be the default desktop from now on.

While the fight continued with SCO, Novell had to fend off another tech tital against slanderous comments and outragous claims. And yet, at years end, SuSE Linux is seeing more and more adoption of their offerings. Rumors of their demise were greatly exaggerated.

So, all this controversy that keeps my news links moving and a wonderful professional desktop to use and review made Novell sponsored OpenSuSE developed SuSE Linux one of Tuxmachines' favorite Distros in 2005.

  • Mandriva Linux

Mandrake's big news was their return to "Back in Black" status. Previously on the verge of shutting their doors and having to appeal to their loyal users for donations, Mandrake pulled themselves out of the jaws of eminent demise to become profittable. Not only that, management is not sitting still. Not only have they made some savvy choices in acquisitions, but have formed partnerships that has blasted them into the 3rd position only behind Red Hat and Novell. They bought out Connectiva and Lycoris and even hired some of their talent. With their latest ventures, Skype technology and portable usb drives preinstalled with Mandriva, they may give Novell a run for their second place standing. They sure are shooting for it.

And who could forget the name change? That story, brought to you first right here on Tuxmachines, circulated around the globe and created one of the most heated debates of the year. Of course as everyone knows, Mandriva was their choice. For better or worse, Mandrake became Mandriva.

Yet as exciting as those stories were, that wasn't even the big news. 2005 saw two milestone releases of this well established operating system. Mandriva 2005 was the first release to feature the new moniker as well as the new naming scheme (of using years rather than release numbers). However, personally, I was taken aback by their new commitment to stability rather than their previous draw of bleeding edge technology (although I was in the minority).

Of course the big news on the Mandriva front was the release of their first "convergence product," better known as Mandriva 2006. Mandriva 2006 brought a new look and new attitude to this popular operating system. Mandriva 2006 saw the inclusion of some of the technologies Mandriva acquired from Connectiva in the form of the Smart package management system and we will probably see more examples in future releases. Finally incorporating some wonderful eyecandy, they dressed up the look to appeal to the desktop user and yet remained professional for the business consumer as well. Tuxmachines was very pleased with this new look.

Never a dull moment with Mandriva around and a great desktop to use and review made Mandriva Linux another one of Tuxmachines' favorite distros of 2005.

  • PCLinuxOS

PCLinuxOS is without a doubt the peoples' Linux. Coming from such a humble beginning and climbing up to one of Distowatch's top 10 or 15 distros is quite the accomplishment. Started by one lone developer in a pure effort to make things better/easier for the average Joe to run Linux, PCLinuxOS has amassed quite a loyal community of users. Throw in Texstar's philosophy that Linux desktop can be beautiful and functional, and we have one of the premier distros around.

We saw two major releases of PCLinuxOS this year. 9.0/9.1 brought an almost flawless hard drive installer to the forefront as well delivering the best looking desktop of the year. Aided by the original artwork of Jose Rangel, aka jrangels, PCLOS 9.0/9.1 was the most beautiful default desktop I had ever installed.

9.2 brought a new look as well as bleeding edge technology. One of the first distros to feature a rc of the newly released Xorg 6.9/7.0 meant many nvidia owners could run xorg server drivers without fear of lock up and data loss. Not only that, 9.2 saw the return of native 3D acceleration drivers for nvidia and ati owners as well. Tireless dedication by it's team of developers keeps the freshest of software in the repositories, as well as almost daily bug fixes. This team is accessible to its users and is most concerned for their experience. I've never witnessed more dedication by a developer than I've seen with Texstar.

Another admirable philosophy of Texstar's is this "install once and just upgrade from now on" also makes pclinuxos most desirable. By using synaptic on top of apt-get, one can keep their system up-to-date with the latest and greatest as well as bug fixes, and then even update to the latest release with just a few clicks of the mouse. Few others offer this convenience to the user, instead having one reinstall or attempt a full upgrade each major release.

Neverending selfless dedication and one of the most beautiful and fun distros to use and review make PCLinuxOS one of, if not the, Tuxmachines' favorite distros of 2005.

  • Arabian Linux

Information on Arabian Linux is a bit sketchy to me. I don't how they started or when they started, their philosophy, or even level of dedication. All I have is my experience with this wonderful Linux distribution. Few distros fill my soul with pure happiness and make me feel the way I did when I reviewed Arabian. I was struck with awe at the pure beauty and functionality of this one of a kind distro. Yes, in my book it is a one of a kind. I believe it derived from Kurumin and thus Knoppix, and as such is Debian based. I'm not a debian fan by any stretch of the imagination. In its purest form, Debian is outdated and plain jane. Yet here comes Arabian to the rescue to offer a Debian for those of us who prefer good looks, ease of use and modern software on top of the stability that is Debian's claim to fame.

Original and highly functional utilities to install and configure the system add to the overall experience of using Arabian Linux. Just judging by the all the work gone into this system, as evidenced by the final product, show a level of dedication not found in print or with my personal experience. I haven't conversed with the developer, I haven't visited the forum much, and I haven't posted at all - yet I can clearly see that this distro is a labor of love. Has to be. It's too good. It's too polished. It's too professional. It's too pretty to be anything but.

Arabian Linux is one of Tuxmachines' favorite Distros of 2005 just because it is.

  • Wolvix

Wolvix Linux is a manually installable livecd featuring xfce4 and is based on Slax technology. It is a new distro this year and has impressed Tuxmachines quite a bit. Started by an average Joe grown-to-developer needing to fulfill his own needs and taking the bull by the horns rather than relying upon someone else, Wolvix offers an insightful array of applications in a small light easy-to-use desktop. Again, it is the overall look and feel that first form the basis of the user experience and Wolvix offers a professional look and uniform functionality to its users.

The developer was found to be friendly and very nice. Wolvix was unheard of a several months ago and yet now I find it one of my "must have" distros. Wolvix is the prime example of how flexible and accommodating Linux can be. If an average user can teach himself how to package a distro, ...a mighty fine distro, ...a great looking and highly functional distro, and have others love it as well - what better testament to Linux (and open source) is there?

For coming out of nowhere to show the world the infinite possibilities of open source, and a great looking and useful desktop to boot, make Wolvix one of Tuxmachines' favorite distros of 2005.

  • FreeBSD 6.0

Ok, not a Linux distro, yet FreeBSD is one of my favorite operating systems of 2005 for their release of FreeBSD 6.0. With this release came the ease of installation and configuration of a real BSD clone unprecedented in the open sourced BSD world.

FreeBSD 6.0 is one of Tuxmachines' favorite systems of the year for bringing the world of bsd to an old country hick like me. My harddrive will always have an a5 partition now and I thank the wonderfully talented devlopers for this.

  • Damn Small Linux

Damn Small Linux is still one of, if not the, smallest little Linux distros around. In 2005 we saw this distro progress from early 1.x releases to now 2.1 release candidates. It is still fairly up-to-date and possesses remarkable functionality and capabilities that rival a full-sized distro and yet fits on a business card sized cdr or an inexpensive usb key. Not only is it highly functional with great original utilities, the developers still make sure to address the need for eyecandy. Despite still using a 2.4 kernel and some issues with wireless in 2.0, the fact that they still offer a pretty, functional, 50mb Linux distribution keep Damn Small Linux on Tuxmachines' favorite distros list.

  • Gentoo Linux

Gentoo Linux has been my distro of choice since November of 2003. I followed the fine handbook and celebrated success my first attempt at installing (and every attempt afterwards). Gentoo was not seen too much in the news and did not make too much noise this year, but its developers quietly toiled away bringing updated ebuilds and stages to the masses. For being my workhorse, my playhouse, my rock of gibraltar and giving me a feeling of ownership and freedom, yet ease of use, unequalled anywhere in the operating system arena today, Gentoo Linux remains forever Tuxmachines' favorite distro of this and every year.

Honorable Mentions

Every since I published this article, I've had this haunting feeling I left two worthy distros out. I'd like to mention them now.

Stx and Mutagenix.

They both are really nice distros with roots in Slackware (or slax). I was impressed with each of them very much, for perhaps differing reasons.

Mutagenix's developer puts out multiple versions to accommodate differing tastes and needs, but each with a focus on security. How time consuming this must be.

Stx offers a wonderfully brave, bold and exciting default desktop to dress up this light weight offering. I see courage in that developer and his contributions to open source are most appreciated.

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You talk the talk, but do you waddle the waddle?

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