Linux distributions

Hello, i am new to this forum and a newbee to linux too.
Currently im a windows user but got interest in linux as a matter of fact i have interest in learning about computers and internet techs so started to learn about linux as many other OS are also based on linux.
From surfing many days on net i got some good info but sometimes you cant get every answer to your questions from just surfing so i joined this forum.
Sorry to say but i guess my questions would be beginner’s.So im a little confused on linux OS and linux distributions are these distributions a kind of linux versions or what.Thanks

Hi Pendragon, and welcome to the forum :slight_smile:

OK, “Linux” is realy just the kernel … think of it as the software layer that talks directly to the hardware, but not directly to the user … it cannot really do anything on its own, but it dictates what and how other software accesses the hardware.

Nearly (if not) all Linux Distributions also include (distribute) the GNU toolchain … so you’ll sometimes see it referred to as “GNU/Linux” by the pedantic among us.

A “Distribution” will include the Linux kernel, the GNU toolchain, and a collection of software (including a desktop environment) all distributed as a complete and functional whole … the distribution maintainers also takes care of software packaging and updates through your package manager.

So Linux “distro’s” are collections of other components and software that make a usable and often complete final product … each distro will differ in software choices (some will have the Gnome desktop environment, some will use LXDE, others will have created their own desktop environment such as Ubuntu’s Unity … some will include LibreOffice, some will include Abiword, etc.), and may make those software choices to fill a niche usage case (such as lightweight for older or low spec PC’s, or ease of use but heavier … or software focused on multimedia creation, etc.)

That’s the way in the Linux world, nobody authors everything … the philosophy has been for separate projects to “do one thing, and do it well”, then all the separate projects can be pulled together into a complete whole by the distro’s who choose which projects they think are technically the best or fit their vision.
This “modular” method of development tends to give you a lot of choice, such as multiple desktop environments … where the best few bubble to the top and get used by the major distro’s … but there’s generally nothing stopping you chopping and changing (cherry-picking) your own components … choice is key (if a little overwhelming at first).

Did that make sense ?

Many thanks Mark Greaves, and yes the meaning that i got from your explaination is (please excuse me and correct me if im wrong) that linux itself is a kernel and hence cant be used alone so there are other softwares that are blended in it to support the kernel and if one want to install linux then he has to surely install a distribution right.

You said “all Linux Distributions also include (distribute) the GNU toolchain” . Does that mean the distributions are based on GNU toolchain and if yes then does this (GNU toolchain) also include whole software package(i.e apps and softs for ethical hacking etc) other then windows manager and desktop enviroment
And what other big softs the GNU toolchain include like window manager and desktop enviroment.

if one want to install linux then he has to surely install a distribution right.

Yep you’d install a “distribution”.

Does that mean the distributions are based on GNU toolchain

No … they “include” the GNU toolchain, which is more or less a set of compilers

does this (GNU toolchain) also include whole software package(i.e apps and softs for ethical hacking etc) other then windows manager and desktop enviroment

No … The GNU toochain is not really what you mean by “applications” … more the toolchain for building applications.

the “Distribution” will include a selection of user applications and the desktop environment

And what other big softs the [s]GNU toolchain[/s] *distribution* include like window manager and desktop enviroment.

Those are choices the “distribution” developers make … such as:-

Kubuntu will include the KDE desktop environment
Ubuntu will include the Unity DE
Debian are going back to the Gnome DE
Peppermint use the LXDE DE (with components of the Xfce DE mixed in)
Mint use the Cinnamon DE, but they also do a version with the MATE DE

Same applies to other software … default software will differ from distro to distro.

But remember, we’re talking about the software that comes pre-installed here … Lubuntu comes with Abiword as the word-processor, whereas Fedora comes with LibreOffice, but there’s nothing stopping you uninstalling Abiword from Lubuntu and installing LibreOffice, etc.

So really when choosing your distro, you’re choosing a “starting point” that’s closest to what you want to end up with, then you add/remove stuff … although other things may also play a part in the choice, such as availability of help/documentation, etc.

Are you asking “as a new user, which distro should I choose ?” … if so, is your PC new or old (what’s the spec CPU/RAM) ?
and what are you going to use it for (mainly) ? … ie. what are your requirements ?

Thanks for a sober explanataion, my system is a bit old with nearly 700mb ram 2.8ghz intel pentium 4 and if you will a 256mb ati 9600 GPU.

My motives are just learning purpose including linux ,its way of usage, some knowledge with ethical hacking and using other OS based on linux once i get to know linux better.

Infact, i dont know which one is a distribution which one is a desktop enviroment and which is a window manager like when surfing through net on different places i have read e.g “BackBox is an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution” so if backbox is a distribution then what is ubuntu.

Also like in this statement:
“Kubuntu will include the KDE desktop environment”
so which one is distro,desktop enviroment and window manager. Also i dont know difference between desktop enviroment and window manager. thanks

OK …

I take it you mean Backtrack…

Backtrack is based on Ubuntu … which means they take the Ubuntu distribution, then change some things such as included software, and possibly the desktop environment … thereby creating a new ditribution that’s “based” on Ubuntu yet NOT Ubuntu.

Backtrack, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, etc. are ALL “distributions” … the parent distribution of all 3 of those is Ubuntu (which is itself based on Debian, but has it’s oown software repositories and development cycle)

Think of it as a river with tributaries (or a tree with branches) … Kubuntu is Ubuntu based (but with the KDE desktop environment), so Ubuntu is “upstream”, Ubuntu is Debian based so Debian is “upstream”.

There are a few “top level” distros, then everyone else bases their distro off one of the others … ripping out the bits they don’t want, and adding their own twist.

See this distribution map:

Desktop Environment - usually includes all the components for a working graphical (GUI) desktop, such as login screens /desktop manager, file manager, Window manager/decorator, session manager, panel(s), and the configuration utilities.

There are a number of different desktop environment, or you may choose not to have a graphical desktop at all and do everything from the command line.

Also like in this statement: "Kubuntu will include the KDE desktop environment" so which one is distro,desktop environment and window manager. Also i dont know difference between desktop enviroment and window manager. thanks

Kubuntu is the distro (distribution)
Kubuntu uses the KDE desktop environment
the KDE environment that Kubuntu uses, uses the “KWin” window manager.

Kubuntu is based on Ubuntu, but with the Unity desktop environment replaced with the KDE4 desktop environment … and some changes to default software choices.

I think you’re getting too hung up on component “definitions” … why not get yourself some blank DVD’s (or USB sticks), create some LiveCD’s/LiveUSB of different distro’s and take them for a test drive.
(A “Live” CD/DVD/USB’s will allow you to take a distro for a test drive without changing anything on your hard drive, unless you choose to do so)

Be aware, 700MB RAM isn’t a great deal (and running a distro in a “Live” session uses more RAM than when it’'s installed), so you’d be better off looking at the lighter distros, such as Lubuntu, Xubuntu, Crunchbang, Peppermint, etc.
(Disclosure - I’m part of team Peppermint … read whatever you want into that :wink: )

Hi Pendragon! Welcome to the forums - you won’t regret that you joined! I’m on the same road as you, just a bit further along.

I’ve been an exclusively Linux user now for nearly 3 years having moved from Windows Vista, my last experience of Windows. I’ve never regretted for one moment making the move, even though at times, I’ve been a bit confused over various aspects of Linux and the way it works but I STRESS, this was entirely due to my lack of experience and not with any inherent problems with Linux. In fact, I’ve really had my eyes opened this last few months!

The whole ethos with Linux is completely different to any of the proprietary operating systems, as is the way that help is offered when required. With Linux you can choose exactly the operating system you want and which best serves your needs, as opposed to paying for a system that ‘might’ do what you want (up to a point) but will contain a whole load of stuff you don’t need or have use for, but are paying for nontheless. And all for free… (Naturally, a donation is very welcome if you wish to give one but no-one will ever have a hand in your pocket!) The same goes for advice.

There are literally thousands of applications available to the user and only placed in the repositories when they are all tested, known to work and are safe to use. At first glance, this can be a bit daunting but is actually brilliant! If you use, for example, a media player and you don’t like the look of it, you can easily remove it and try out another in its place. And this goes for practically everything else!

I would say, weigh up your available hardware and go for a distribution that will run ok on it - the suggestions given above are a good start. Try it out in ‘live’ mode (that is - run it directly from the dvd) but be aware that it will run more slowly from there than if from installed :wink: If you like what you see, then you can try installation - either as a stand alone or a dual-boot - and if you need any help, guidance or advice then this site is the place to look! The guys on here are ‘right up there’, if you get my meaning?

Best of luck - and if your experience is half as good as mine has been, you won’t be disappointed!


Thank you very much guys and yes you are right that without experiencing myself i wont understand it good.
so, for installing a distro there are few questions that i want to ask:

Q1 There are some other ways of installing a linux distro that i found while surfing like installing on a
virtual machine so would my pc be able to handle a light weight distro on a virtual machine.

Q2 As you said a live installation will take more RAM then regarding my specifications what do you think
if a heavy distro like samurai,parrot,backtrack or even ubuntu are installed on harddrive would that
be supported and if not then please suggest a good distro that can be supported.

Q3 You said live installation will need a usb stick or a blank dvd so about that i only have combo drive not a super that
dont have a dvd writter(though can read dvd) but a cd writter so would a blank cd would do the job.If not then how much size usb would i need.

Q4 About peppermint what soft packages it include regarding ethical hacking as i want to learn that as well.


You are trying to run before you can walk.

Can you increase the amount of RAM you have?

A virtual machine will use about half of your RAM, so with about 700 Mb Ram (funny number?) you are looking for a distro that will run on about 350 Mb of RAM. You cannot have a lightweight distro and expect to put heavyweight apps on it. It will just become a heavyweight distro.

Do you want to learn about Linux or do you just want to “hack”? It is not surprising that people want to use Kali etc. because they think it is “hip” to do so and then they ask for help because they have run into serious problems. Kali, for example, is based on Debian Testing. It will break. Expect it to break. If you don’t know how to mend it…don’t install it…

An alternative to a virtual machine is to dual boot. That way you are using Windows OR Linux not both at the same time - so you can use all of your 700 MB.

Many of the common distros have access to the same tools as Kali etc., just not installed as default. But they are there and can be accessed.

If you are new to Linux I would advise you to first use a distro which is aimed at new users

+1 what arochester said :slight_smile:

Specific answers to your question

Q1 - No you don’t have enough RAM

Q2 - Peppermint or Lubuntu (easy to install, easy to use, easy to learn on, and as they’re Ubuntu based plenty of available help/docs/tutorials … but I must add that’s just my opinion)

Q3 - Peppermint WILL fit on a LiveCD … most other full fat distros (particularly those based on Ubuntu) now don’t

Q4 - Peppermint is based on Ubuntu and uses the Ubuntu software repositories … so as long as you have internet access, it has access to all the software Ubuntu does (though it comes with little installed by default).

Can I add that nobody here is going to help you with “ethical hacking” … for obvious reasons.
(you’d probably be better off on the Backtrack forum for that)

Then i guess peperment should be my first preference so what file should i get for that an iso image may be.
And i think i should install it on CD as that way i will learn making a live cd too.
And from where should i download the file torrent or an official site.

1+ for Mark
Reading between the lines, i get that your machine is fairly old (cdrom but not dvd) lack of ram etc. It is possible that it will not be able to boot from USB anyway.

Download the Peppermint 32 bit iso from then burn it to CD.
Boot with that LiveCD then we will ask you to run series of commands to ascertain the machine capabilities, then will advise what distro(s) to go for.

Boot with that LiveCD then we will ask you to run series of commands to ascertain the machine capabilities, then will advise what distro(s) to go for

Thanks alot guys with your help and guidance now i have a live pepermint CD and yet im using it.
So now please guide me further with this from where should i start and how do i better get to know it
Besides there is one thing i cant figure out that With running OS space is created in the harddisk for processes but with running os on a live cd
it dont make sense wont this OS need space for processes or what and please guide me further.thanks

Boot the Peppermint LiveCD … select “Try Peppermint”

When at the desktop, open a terminal (Ctrl+Alt+T) and post the output from running this command:

inxi -F

Remember, unlike Windows Linux commands ARE case sensitive … so that’s a capital F

Have you got it connected to the internet yet ?

Yes, The previous post that i put was from usnig live pepermint CD and ofcourse through internet :slight_smile:
But it haven’t asked anything to install in window manager or desktop enviroment as i’ve read for command line a distro is
installed with window manager and for GUI desktop enviroment whats the deal did i do something wrong
Also it didn’t ask for any drivers ???.

Used the command you mentioned it showed system specifications
There is another thing, wont any settings be saved like changing wallpaper,adding desktop icons it shows default after rebooting.

Nothing will be saved when running a live CD, you will be back to default on rebooting, the idea is you can use the live session to assess the system, have a play around with it.
Mark asked for the output from the command he asked you to use, he wanted you to copy and paste the output back to this forum so that he can then give further advice after seeing what your system really is.


Why do you think it would ask for drivers ? … drivers for pretty much everything are contained in the Linux kernel.

What exactly are you expecting it to want you to install ? … the desktop environment and window manager are already installed ???

You can install whatever you want though, just check out the Software Manager (or Synaptic Package Manager) … be aware (as Degsy says) anything you install in a “Live” environment will be lost at reboot.

Booting a LiveCD means the OS is running from a CDROM … as nothing can be written to the CDROM, all changes happen in memory, and as you know memory is volatile and is cleared at reboot/shutdown.

The Only way to save changes is either do a proper install to the hard drive or use a LiveUSB stick (with persistence).

As your answers were exactly what i wanted to know
The reason for i asked you about drivers was just confirming as i had read about linux kernel and(correct me if im wrong)what it made sense to me was nearly all linux distros use monolithic kernel and it has built-in drivers.

And what you said about making changing will go back to default well this was what i also experienced and your answer verified it.

But there is one more thing that as these small changes are saved in volatile memory and on reboot losts this make sense.But what about any large files we download from the internet (e.g a game or software setup) or created inside the operating system does the os use some hard disk space for these and if not then what is the logic please explain this.

It won’t use the hard drive at all (you can boot a LiveCD with no hard drive physically connected!)
If you download a big package, you might crash the system as it runs out of RAM (no biggie, just reboot the thing and start from scratch)

Can you post up the output here from the terminal command below, as asked above:

inxi -F

The logic is a LiveCD is NOT meant to be used permanently … it’s meant to be used:-

a) to test drive the distro, so you can see what to expect

b) as an installation media if you decide you like what you see

c) as a bootable recovery disk if the installed version ever goes wrong and needs fixing.

d) possibly as a (paranoid grade) secure method of say online banking … where you can be 100% SURE no malware/keyloggers are present … because even if you somehow managed to install some malware, it would be wiped at next boot.

That said, it IS possible to create a LiveUSB stick that contains a “persistence” file … so that changes can be saved
it’s possible to do a full “proper” install to a USB stick

The problem is … I seriously doubt your old hardware’s BIOS will be capable of booting from a USB stick (removable media).

So if you want ANY changes to be persistent across a reboot, your only option is to install to the hard drive.