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A Bundle of Updates Give 10 Linux Distributions a Boost

Linux is more than just Ubuntu. New updates to various flavors of the open source OS are constantly raising the bar.

With so many Linux distributions to choose from, it can be difficult to keep tabs on them all. Over the past few weeks I've written about Bodhi Linux--a lesser-known but nice (and increasingly popular) flavor of Linux--as well as Arch Linux and Mandriva. But today I'd like to round up other distributions of the free and open source operating system that have released key updates recently.

Think Linux is just Ubuntu? Think again. Canonical's distribution may still be No. 1 on DistroWatch's list, but there are many other active players. Here are just a few that have been refreshed in the past few months since my last roundup.

1. Tiny Core Linux 4.0

As a 10MB graphical Linux desktop, Tiny Core is billed as "the world's smallest Linux distribution." Originally a fork of Damn Small Linux, the software runs entirely in memory and boots extremely quickly. Users, meanwhile, have complete control over which applications and additional hardware they want supported. Released just today, version 4.0 of this diminutive distribution updates numerous libraries as well as switching to Linux kernel 3.0.3, among other improvements.

2. Ubuntu 11.10 Beta 2

It was just a few weeks ago that I covered the first beta version of Ubuntu 11.10, or "Oneiric Ocelot," and late last week the second beta version arrived. Among the improvements are that GNOME was updated to version 3.1.92 on the way to GNOME 3.2, the Linux kernel is based on version 3.0.4, and OneConf was integrated into the Ubuntu Software Center to help keep your installed applications in sync between computers. Ubuntu 11.10 Beta 2 also improves support for installing 32-bit library and application packages on 64-bit systems, and a new set of community-supported ARM architecture images will be available between now and the software's release.

3. KNOPPIX 6.7.1

Now at No. 25 on the DistroWatch ranking list, KNOPPIX was recently updated to version 6.7.1. The popular Debian-based live CD and DVD features the LXDE desktop. New additions in this latest release include an update from Debian "Squeeze"; Linux kernel 3.0.4 and X.Org Server 1.11; experimental free Nouveau graphics modules supporting Nvidia cards; LibreOffice 3.4.3, replacing OpenOffice.org; Chromium 13.0.782.220 and Firefox 6.0.2 web browsers; and eViacam, a program for controlling the mouse by moving your head using the webcam.

4. Scientific Linux 5.7

Targeting academic environments, Scientific Linux 5.7 is a free, enterprise-class distribution built from source packages for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.7. New in this latest release are Alpine 2.02, a tool for reading, sending, and managing electronic messages; a stackable unification file system; gnuplot 4.2.6; Intel wireless firmware (ucode) Intel wireless; R 2.13.1, a language and environment for statistical computing and graphics; updated kernel modules for the XFS journaling file system; and updated kernel modules for OpenAFS and NDISwrapper.

5. CentOS 5.7

Working from the same version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux is CentOS 5.7, a free enterprise Linux distribution. CentOS is a fully Red Hat-compatible version of Linux intended primarily for organizations and individuals that do not need strong commercial support. Included in this latest release are numerous bug fixes, updates and new functionality.

6. Chakra GNU/Linux 2011.09

This new release of Chakra is a desktop distribution originally forked from Arch Linux that features the latest version 4.7 of the KDE desktop along with Linux kernel 3.0. Chakra is currently No. 12 on the DistroWatch popularity list.

7. Zorin OS 3.1

This latest release of the Windows-like Zorin OS distribution is based on Ubuntu 10.04 and includes a raft of updates. Among them are an updated Linux kernel, security improvements, upgraded programs, application changes and some aesthetic updates. Zorin OS 3 will be provided with security updates until April 2013.

8. Puppy Linux 5.2.8

I've already covered Puppy Linux before, but not long ago version 5.2.8 of the small and fast Ubuntu-based desktop distribution was released. Also known as Lucid Puppy, the software "is the fastest and friendliest Lucid yet," the software's developers say.

9. Gentoo Linux 11.2

Just released last month was Gentoo Linux 11.2, a live DVD with several desktop environments that can be used to install Gentoo Linux to a hard disk. System packages include Linux kernel 3.0; desktop environments and window managers include KDE 4.7.0, GNOME 3.0.0, Xfce 4.8, Enlightenment 1.0.8, Openbox 3.5.0, Fluxbox 1.3.1, XBMC 10.1 Awesome 3.4.10 and LXDE-Meta 0.5.5. Office, graphics and productivity applications include LibreOffice 3.3.3, Abiword 2.8.6 and Scribus 1.3.9.

10. Ultimate Edition 3.0 'Lite'

Last but not least, back in early August the Linux Ultimate team released version 3.0 of Ultimate Edition "Lite," a Lubuntu-based distribution featuring the LXDE desktop environment. As a lightweight operating system targeting low-resource computers such as netbooks, Ultimate Edition Lite contains only the bare minimum, including a browser, a music player and a few other tools. The distribution's desktop environment is LXDE/Openbox, which offers a look similar to that of Windows XP. Version 3.0 of the non-Lite version of Ubuntu-based Ultimate Edition--which now ranks No. 22 on DistroWatch--is now in beta.

If you see something you like in this list, you can take it for a free test drive--and you're likely to find a Linux ready-made for your company's needs.

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