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A number of Distro pages redirect here. For individual Distros, see Recommended GNU/Linux Distributions, and see if they have their own pages as well

GNU and Tux

Linux at its core is a kernel, the central driving force of an operating system that allocates resources to other aspects of the system. Linux, along with the GNU system (which is closely associated with the Free Software Foundation) are now collectively referred to as GNU/Linux, and make up a complete operating system which is widely used today by millions across the world. To read more about the history of the GNU project and Linux, see this article.

Why use GNU/Linux?

The free software philosophy is about an open and shared operating system which is not only free as in money, but free as in freedom. The GNU/Linux system gives users more control over their computing experience than competing operating systems such as Windows, which could contain malicious features without the user's knowledge.

What's all this about distributions?

There are a lot of GNU/Linux distributions, also known as distros.

Most distros are at least somewhat similar with each other. The main differences are between the init system, package manager (and the repositories it has access to), desktop environment, (bloat) and default configurations. Most distros have their own little niche. Some are FSF compatible (or almost), for ricing, for getting shit done or just because you hate yourself or just love pain (Arch/Gentoo). Always at least try another distro before saying that you hate it. You will find that all of them have their own qualities.

When choosing a distro, keep some things in mind. Linux is about choice. There are stable and rolling distributions. Some stable distros can be made rolling by selecting the proper repositories and vice versa. Some are semi-rolling, they release snapshots of packages. Stable is best for beginners and rolling is best for developers and advanced users who want the latest and greatest.

Almost every distro can be riced by setting up the right DE and/or WM. DEs can be tiling or stacking.

Recommended Distributions

See also: Babbies First Linux

Pick your poison

These are various distros that are recommended by people on /g/ and /tech/. Distrowatch is a good resource for discovering new Linux distributions.


These Linux distributions are descended from Debian GNU/Linux and typically use the .deb package format and the APT package manager.



Debian GNU/Linux


  • Along with mainline Stable release, offers the next Stable as Testing along with a rolling release Unstable
  • Reported to host over 43000 packages in its repository, has more software available to install than any other distribution
  • Available in many architectures that other distributions simply don't support


  • Uses the APT package manager, prone to disastrous dependency problems
  • Following its erratic release schedule, during which Testing will go into a feature freeze, Unstable will also freeze
  • Run by orthodox Stallmanites, may take several extra steps to acquire drivers and other software that they deem nonfree
Logo Linux Mint.png


Linux Mint


  • Completely compatible with Ubuntu; any commercial support Ubuntu receives, Mint will leech
  • Offers the Cinnamon desktop environment, arguably one of the best DEs ever


  • Often further modifies its packages to make them 'Mintier', can lead to problems such as breakage




  • The distro that brought Linux to the common man; if Linux were to ever make a commercial breakthrough, Ubuntu would be on the forefront
  • Has available several live images featuring several different desktop environments, known as flavors


  • Leadership is known for making crazy decisions, such as pushing crappy new software such as the Unity desktop, the Mir display server, and the Upstart init system (deprecated by systemd)
    • patched Gtk in ways upstream would have never approved, I hope you don't particularly like GNOME
  • Is reported to contain Amazon spyware within the Unity desktop


These distributions utilize RPM packages, and stemming from the success of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, tend to be more business-oriented than the community-driven Debian.





  • Cutting edge of the Linux world, new features will be developed here before spreading across every other distro
  • sponsored by RedHat, the most successful and powerful organization Linux has ever seen, gets shit done


  • strict guidelines on what gets into its repositories, acquiring niche software can be a real pain in the ass
  • uses the piece of shit Anaconda installer
  • is rather tricky to install minimally
  • due to its cutting edge nature, is susceptible to instability-related anomalies that can render a system unusable




  • recompiled directly from Red Hat Enterprise Linux source code, is essentially a free version of RHEL
  • receives assistance from RedHat themselves to make it a premier enterprise Linux distribution


  • being a server-oriented enterprise operating system, packages are very stable thus old and not suited for desktop use




  • by default comes with the KDE desktop environment and a patched version of Firefox, negating the File Picker meme
    • KDE applications naturally > GNOME applications
  • every aspect of the operating system can be configured using YaST, heavily lessening the need to use the terminal
  • offers the openSUSE Build Service that enables one to create and share RPM packages for most anything


  • is weird


These distributions are designed for the purpose of giving the user control of their operating system. They are significantly harder to get into than those mentioned previously.





  • features the omnipotent Portage package manager
  • uses USE flags to install dependencies based on specific applications and uses
  • uses a stage 3 tarball instead of a bootstrap script, can be installed anywhere from anywhere
  • every aspect of installing packages can be controlled by a simple make.conf that dictates CFLAGS, build options, and USE flags


  • is famous for an incredibly daunting install process, spawning the 'install gentoo' meme
  • due to the size of the portage tree et.al. is quite large in size, especially compared to the more simplistic nature of other user-centric distros




  • is very small, a full installation is usually less than 2GB in size
  • based on the philosophy of 'keep it simple', uses BSD-style init system and ports for package management


  • only provides software for a basic desktop install, if you require any unique software you may find yourself writing a lot of pkgfiles




  • oldest Linux distribution still in active development, hailed as the 'elder god distro'
  • follows UNIX philosophy to the letter
  • run by a singular benevolent dictator for life, will not change without his sayso, will not push a stable release unless he feels a particular build is good enough
  • is complete in user-centricism, won't even resolve its own dependencies


  • See above

Note: The following distributions are based on Arch Linux, though they are not user-centric per the criteria above.





  • features an extensive wiki that can enable even not very smart people to use their operating system
  • is known for its Arch User Repository, a collection of ports package files written by community


  • uses a binary-based package manager and the systemd init system, both of which ease system management tasks for the user, which no true /g/entooman would support
  • due to being binary-based only, in terms of customizability (particularly since it lacks Gentoo's almighty USE flags), is generally outclassed by other distros.




  • strives to offer a complete out of box experience, green theme coinciding one may compare Manjaro to Linux Mint
  • panders to the 'systemd is evil' crowd by offering a release that uses Gentoo's OpenRC init system
  • holds back software from Arch's repositories for a 'testing' period, hopefully by the time software rolls into Manjaro's repositories the Arch staff would have fixed whatever problems were being caused
  • similar to Ubuntu, offers community-maintained 'flavors' with basically any desktop environment


Antergos logo github.png




  • features a graphical installer with a diverse selection of software to choose from, has the ability to install any of the six major desktop environments (so does every other distro, but since this one is based on Arch it's a good thing)
  • does not at all modify its packages from mother Arch, one can fully convince themselves that they are indulging in the full Arch Experience™


  • incredibly high failure rate for its only installer, calls into question the point in having it in the first place

Stallman-style Free distros

The GNU Project maintain their own list of recommended distros that they deem 'free', as in completely devoid of nonfree software. That list can be found here.


Virtual Machines

If you are not ready to commit to installing a GNU/Linux system, you may want to try one out in a virtual environment first.

Making a Bootable USB Installer

In addition to installing from CD, you can also install from a USB flash drive. A USB installer created using the following steps should work with both BIOS and UEFI systems. However, for UEFI systems you may need to disable "Secure Boot" in the UEFI configuration panel. For UEFI support your flash drive MUST be formatted as fat32 (also called vfat in GNU/Linux) when attempting to boot from it.

  1. Download the disk image of your chosen distribution.
  2. Verify the integrity of the download if a checksum is provided.
  3. Use the image tool recommended in your distribution's install notes to copy the iso to your USB-drive and make it bootable. Note: There are many universal tools available, but they do not always work correctly for all distributions. Some of them include:

GNOME Disk Utility Method

Any Linux distribution running GNOME can easily make a bootable USB drive through nautilus and gnome-disk-utility. Just right click your downloaded .iso file and select "Open with Disk Image Writer." Make sure you don't need any of the data on the USB stick! When GNOME Disk Utility opens, pick the flash drive from the "Destination" drop down menu and click "Start Restoring."

Manual Terminal Method

  • This method requires you are already running Linux and have an iso specifically crafted for USB drives or a "hybrid" CD/USB image. Most distributions will mention the type of iso on their download page.
  • Using the commands lsblk or fdisk -l( as exemplified bellow), find what [drive letter] is the letter of your removable device. Please note that it is the device (e.g. /dev/sdb), and not the partition number (e.g. /dev/sdb1).
   fdisk -l


  • The dd command is also known as "Disk Destroyer" because it is very easy to annihilate the data on a device unintentionally.
  • Make absolutely sure that "of=/dev/sd[drive letter]" is the correct device!
  • Now use run dd to install the iso in your device of choice.
   dd bs=4M if=[/path/to/distro.iso] of=/dev/sd[drive letter]

An example of using the dd command could be:

   dd bs=4M if='/home/moot/Downloads/debian-7.3.0-amd64-netinst.iso' of=/dev/sdb

Remember that to use " " if you path contains spaces.

  • Last, wait patiently until the command has executed. No outputs will be printed until the process is finished. You can check progress of a dd command by finding the process ID with ps aux | grep dd and issuing the kill -s USR1 <pid> command against it. Just don't forget the USR1 signal or you will terminate the process.

GNU/Linux Naming Controversy

The GNU/Linux naming controversy is a dispute regarding whether or not to refer to the operating system commonly known as Linux as GNU/Linux. GNU/Linux was a term originally created by the Free Software Foundation to refer to the combination of the GNU corelibs and the Linux Kernel, which they argued to form a functioning operating system. The Free Software Foundation recommends the term GNU/Linux because it argues the GNU project was part of a project to develop an operating system, from which the kernel was the last piece to complete (see GNU Hurd). The Free Software Foundation suggests that the inclusion of the term GNU in the operating system’s name would recognize their contribution and their free software ideals ("Free Software as a Social Movement". ZNet.). Richard M. Stallman writes:

Today tens of millions of users are using an operating system that was developed so they could have freedom—but they don't know this, because they think the system is Linux and that it was developed by a student 'just for fun'.

On the opposite side of the argument, Linux supporters argue that the contribution of the Free Software Foundation is minimal (for example, GNU components make up only 8% of Ubuntu). Eric S. Raymond writes:

Some people object that the name "Linux" should be used to refer only to the kernel, not the entire operating system. This claim is a proxy for an underlying territorial dispute; people who insist on the term GNU/Linux want the FSF to get most of the credit for Linux because [Stallman] and friends wrote many of its user-level tools. Neither this theory nor the term GNU/Linux has gained more than minority acceptance.

Linux proponents also argue that since the operating system is often referred to as Linux by the mainstream media and most users, that it should be used as such, as opposed to GNU/Linux.

Let's Learn About GNU/Linux

The Terminal

The terminal, also known as the Command Line, Shell, or just cold, emotionless text on a black background, gives you access to the real power and beating heart of Linux. Linux by default uses BASH, or Bourne-Again Shell which is based on the shell program `sh' from UNIX, written by Steven Bourne of Bell Labs. Bash will be all of our terminal interaction.

To manage multiple user sessions on a single machine, Linux (and UNIX) uses what is called a TeleTYpeWriter (TTY) for each user to interface with the main kernel. Each tty is handled by its own special device file, located in the directory /dev. It also uses Pseudo Terminal Slave (pts) to handle other types of terminal interface, but this is beyond the scope of this guide.

You may be wondering what the difference between shell and TTY is. Shell is the command interpreter that runs everything you type in, and TTY is the connection that handles the data between Linux and the shell.

The shell uses files called stdout, stdin and stderr to handle text input and output to and from programs.

  • stdin - Standard Input - All your typed text input goes into programs through here.
  • stdout - Standard Output - All successful program output goes to here.
  • stderr - Standard Error - All error messages and problem codes go to here.

You should get familiar with the man pages, which are essentially the manual, and will display help pages on almost all commands.

   Usage: man COMMAND

Where COMMAND is replaced with whatever command you want help on. Press 'q' to exit a manual page. Alternatively, most commands will allow you to add --help on the end to get their own personal help pages.

Every key pressed sends a character to the terminal and you can send different characters by holding down keys like [Ctrl] or [Alt]. This is how the shell can tell what key is pressed, and thus, allow shortcuts to be defined. Some of the more useful keyboard shortcuts are defined:

  • Up arrow or Down arrow - Scroll through typed commands
  • Shift + Page Up or Page Down - Scroll up or down through shell output
  • Home or End - Move to the start or end of a line, respectively
  • Tab - Autocomplete a file name, directory name or command name.
  • Ctrl + C - End a running process
  • Ctrl + D - End-Of-File (EOF) character (usually ends a process or signifies the end of input data)
  • Ctrl + Z - Send the currently running process to the background
  • Ctrl + L - Clear the screen, same as running the clear command

If you're using BASH as your shell (most distros default to this) you can customize it to your liking.

Common Commands

  • pwd - Print Working Directory. Outputs the full path of the current directory.
  • cd - Change Directory. Used to switch to a different directory.
  • ls - List. Lists files and directories in the current directory.
    • ls -a Lists "hidden" files and directories also. Hidden files in linux are preceded with a full stop.
    • ls -l Lists further information about the files, including size, modify date, owner and permissions.
    • ls -t List by modify date, with the most recently modified files at the top.
  • cp - Copy a file/directory.
    • cp -r Descend into directories (recursively copy all directory contents).
  • mv - Move or rename a file.
  • rm - Delete a file.
    • rm -r Delete directory contents. (Never rm -r /)
  • chmod - Changes file permissions for the Owner, Group and Others.
  • chown - Changes the owner of a file.
  • chgrp - Changes the group of a file.
  • date - Display current date and time.
  • who - Displays a list of currently logged in users.
  • echo - Prints to stdout.
  • cat - Concatenates text to stdout.
  • grep - Searches for strings in a file or stdin.
  • su - Switch user. Defaults to root.
  • sudo - Similar to su but uses your own password instead. Lets you configure access in /etc/sudoers.
  • passwd - Change password. Defaults to current account.
  • rsync - Synchronizes files and directories.
  • halt - halt the system
    • halt -p - also shut off the power
  • systemctl - Interface to SystemD.
    • systemctl poweroff - Shutdown.
    • systemctl reboot - Reboot.
    • systemctl start <service> Start a service.
    • systemctl stop <service> Stop a service.
  • journalctl - Interface to SystemD logging.

Piping and redirection

There are a number of little quirks that the shell has that gives it more functionality. Piping takes the stdout of the left program and connects it (i.e. pipes it) into stdin of the right program with the pipe operator.

For example:

 # Count number of words in helloworld.txt
 cat helloworld.txt | wc -w

Redirection directs data in and out of files, i.e.

 # Redirect stdout to file
 echo "Hello world" > helloworld.txt
 # Redirect stdout to the end of a file
 echo "world." >> hello.txt
 # Redirect a file to stdin
 more < helloworld.txt


The kernel is the central nervous system of an operating system. Luckily, The Linux kernel is still maintained by Linus Torvalds. Find out about the version, kernel hacking and security on kernel.org.

Useful links regarding command-line

  • Linux Command explains the shell, indispensable to users who want to take full advantage of GNU/Linux distributions.
  • Commandlinefu provides a fun experience while offering a lot of useful command-line gems making it a great site to explore and learn more about the command line.

External Resources

See Also

FSF - The Free Software Foundation