Linux is not as popularly used in both the security- and user-focused computing worlds as other OSes such as Windows and macOS, but it can still be used for both. In fact, depending on your needs, there are many different flavors of Linux you can use.
And the different versions have key differences between them. Aside from security user-focused distros, there are what can be considered unique Linux distros that have their own specific uses, weird as they may be. This article will detail some of the many flavors of Linux available today and will leave you with a better understanding of their differences, and you will be in a better position to select the distro of Linux for your needs.
The Different Categories of Linux
Before we can have a useful discussion of the different flavors of Linux, it’s smart to first establish the different broad categories of Linux. Generally, there are three different categories of Linux flavors with their own particular uses. These categories are Security-Focused, User-Focused and Unique.
Distros from the Security-Focused category are best used in situations where there is an elevated need for security-related features. These users range from businesses and enterprises that have heightened security needs to personal users who are security-conscious. These distros tend to be more for users with advanced Linux experience overall; however, there is a well-represented range of difficulty that this article will focus on.
Qubes OS is the top security-focused Linux based OS system around today. The magic behind Qubes OS’s security prowess lies in the fact that it isolates your files and VMs. This translates into greater protection from malware attacks when they occur. If malware finds its way onto your Qubes OS system, your personal files will be isolated from damage. Keep in mind that with this increased security comes an advanced level of difficulty of system management, so this distro is not the best for beginner and intermediate users.
Kali Linux, a pre-installed Debian derivative, is a loaded forensics and pentesting distro that is popular today. Kali Linux specifically comes loaded with tools including Ettercap, as-Aircrack-ng, Foremost and many others.
A notable feature of Kali Linux is its Armitage cyberattack management tool, which allows you to visualize exploits and get exploit recommendations. This top-rated security-focused distro requires 10gb of hard disk space and 512mb of RAM and can be considered to require a more intermediate level of Linux skill compared to Qubes OS and other Linux-based OSes.
Parrot Security OS
This Linux-based OS has been called a “game-changer” with regard to security and privacy. Parrot Security OS is designed to test your system by staging an authorized attack on your system to assess it for security vulnerabilities and your system’s security strength. It also comes with a full portable vulnerability laboratory which protects you whether you are surfing the Web, playing a video game or anything else.
This distro has been said to be fairly easy to use when compared to other distros like Kali, which will attract less advanced users. This point of attraction is enhanced by its bevy of built-in tools and features.
As the name suggests, this section will detail distros that are more user-friendly. These Linux distros require a lower level of Linux skill and tend to be implemented more for ease and simplicity than for their security features.
Ubuntu is one of the most popular distros available today and for good reason. Ubuntu is very accessible for novice Linux users. Support is also pretty stellar for Ubuntu — standard versions offer one year of support, and the developer of Ubuntu offers a long-term support version of Ubuntu that lasts for five years. Ubuntu also offers Lubuntu, a version which places less strain on your system; this works great with lower-powered PCs with fewer resources. This removes the barrier of entry caused by system resources, as many first-time Linux users experiment with Linux on an aged test environment.
Elementary OS is an easy-to-use distro that capitalizes on a beautiful user interface that reminds one of macOS. This distro features a Gnome-based desktop environment known as Pantheon that is a breath of fresh air from the proverbial nerdy Linux stereotype. To put it simply, Pantheon is quite tech-sexy.
Elementary OS comes loaded with the Epiphany Web browser, and other apps can be easily added to your system from the AppCenter application installer UI. This translates into a lighter resource demand on your system, because you do not have to install apps you never use.
A great option for those getting into Linux for the first time is Linux Mint. One of the main reasons that this option is so user-friendly for those switching to Linux for the first time is that it comes preloaded with the Linux equivalent of the software you are so familiar with on your Windows or macOS systems, such as LibreOffice. Linux Mint is currently on version 19 and comes in three different flavors — Cinnamon and the stripped-down (more basic) MATE and Xfce flavors.
It should be noted that the most recent KDE was Linux Mint 18.3. The different Linux Mint versions have their own different features, and if you want to see your KDE features you will need to install it on top of Linux Mint 19.
Unique Linux distros are those that have a certain specific use which is either specially-focused or novelty.
Suicide Linux is a distro that erases your hard drive if you enter a filename in bash that is so much as remotely incorrect. Instead of correcting the filename and running it anyway, Suicide Linux resolves it into rm -rf/, which wipes your hard drive clean. Yes, this exists, and it’s as crazy as it sounds.
An especially unusual novelty Unique Linux distro is called Hannah Montana. It features a UI based off of the children’s TV show from some years back. This distro is Kubuntu-based and, for all intents and purposes, is just Linux with a Hannah Montana theme. This would have been to go-to for young girls wanting to join the tech ranks circa 2003.
As you can see, there are many flavors of Linux. The most important information to take away from this article is the following: those flavors each have their different uses for people at different levels of Linux expertise. You can generally separate these different flavors as being either security-focused or user-focused.
Keeping these takeaways in mind, and with a little research legwork, you will be able to find the distro of Linux that best suits your needs.
- 15 Most Secure Linux Distros for Privacy and Security Concern Users, UbuntuPIT
- Best Linux distros of 2019, TechRadar
- Hannah Montana Linux, r/linux
- Suicide Linux, GitHub