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12 of the most interesting, unusual and useful Linux distros

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Linux

One of the benefits of open source software that many people are most familiar with is that it's free to download. This means you can grab great applications — such as Mozilla's Firefox Web browser, the OpenOffice.org office suite or the GIMP photo editing program — without paying a cent. However, the other major benefit of truly open source software (some "open source" software licences are more restrictive than others) is that you're allowed to modify a program and redistribute your altered version so other people can enjoy it.

Linux is a classic example of this: there are hundreds (at least!) of different Linux-based operating systems. Most people will be familiar with some of the big names — distributions like Ubuntu, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Debian and Mandriva. Most of the well-known Linux distros are designed to be used as general purpose desktop operating systems or installed on servers. But beyond these distros are hundreds of others either designed to appeal to very specific audiences or to fulfil the somewhat niche needs of some users. We rounded up some of the most interesting Linux distros out there that you might not have heard of.

Insecure by design: Damn Vulnerable Linux

Damn Vulnerable Linux is "The most vulnerable and exploitable operating system ever" according to its Web site. It's designed for security training; it includes training material and exercises (as well as a whole bunch of flaws to exploit). As Mayank Sharma notes: "Damn Vulnerable Linux (DVL) is everything a good Linux distribution isn't. Its developers have spent hours stuffing it with broken, ill-configured, outdated, and exploitable software that makes it vulnerable to attacks."

Indulge in paranoia: Tinfoil Hat Linux




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