A conventional operating system makes users use identical yet redundant versions. Linux has a little bit of something for different users, which are commonly known as Linux distributions. There are hundreds of Linux distributions catering to different uses like gaming, education, software development, etc.
While most Linux distributions are similar to each other, a few distributions come with a unique user interface and distinct functionalities. These distributions provide more features than their Debian or Arch-based rivals, but only a power user should use them because of the steep learning curve that accompanies them.
Let’s deviate from the usual run-of-the-mill distros and explore the lesser-known operating systems which deserve a mention.
NixOS uses its very own package manager known as the Nix package manager. It uses a unique approach to manage all the packages within the system. It isolates all the packages from one another so that there is no interaction between them.
This isolation-based approach is perfect for a user who loves installing different packages on their machine. You can install anything from the internet without worrying about its effects on other files on the device.
This approach also ensures reproducibility of the packages; if a package works on one machine, it will work on another NixOS enabled device also. It allows you to roll back to a previous version without any hassles; this ensures that no package is in an inconsistent state during an upgrade.
Void Linux is not one of the fastest Linux distributions out there, but it is undoubtedly one of the most stable ones. Like NixOS, Void discards a pre-built Linux distribution since it was developed from scratch.
This OS comes with its own XBPS package management system, which is useful for installing different packages on your machine. This unique package management system also gives you an option to build a package from scratch.
XBPS-SRC is the XBPS package builder, which comes with a 2-clause BSD license. The XBPS package builder builds the software in containers through Linux namespaces, providing isolation of processes and bind mounts (among others).
Void uses runit as the init system and service supervisor. Runit is a practical and straightforward approach to initialize the system with reliable service supervision. This is another reason that makes Void suitable for power users. If you are in search of a stable distro, Void Linux may be the one to fill that void.
Slackware is one of the oldest Linux distributions out there. While most Linux distributions have a GUI, Slackware primarily uses its command-line executions for any action. Slackware draws its inspiration from Softlanding Linux System, released in 1992.
Slackware aims to provide a “UNIX-like” experience to its users. This OS contains updated versions of KDE and Xfce since both these desktop environments bring their native capabilities installed as component packages rather than larger bundles.
This arrangement allows a user to remove unwanted software with ease, making the management process a cakewalk. This ground-breaking feature in Slackware is one of the essential building blocks of the package installation systems available on modern Linux distros.
Slackware has been a primary choice for many advanced users for the past three decades, and you should give it a try if you want to enjoy the legacy of this software.
Gentoo gets its name from the swift-moving penguins from the South Pole. This name is symbolic of the swift performance Gentoo brings to the table. Gentoo comes with a highly configurable and fast software distribution system, which is also known as Portage.
This magical distribution system builds a custom script based on the user’s behavior. Portage uses this script to optimize the installed packages according to the user’s preference and hardware.
The latest updates in Gentoo have brought stage downloads onto a much bigger pool of hardware, including amd64, x86, and ARM. This high-speed operating system is relevant, especially if you have a slow machine and want some extra speed for free.
Clear Linux is not for a general-purpose user first of all. Intel developed the distro for professionals who specialize in IT, Artificial Intelligence, and DevOps. Clear Linux is highly optimized for Intel platforms, which gives it extra speed and performance.
There is nothing typical about the package management system as such. Clear Linux uses swupd, but the installation process is entirely different from other package managers. This distro zeroes in all the files at an individual level; this way, it generates a new version of the OS for every software tweak made on the system.
The latest update in Clear Linux brings in the fanalyzer as the new security pass on the platform. Fanalyzer enables a new static analysis pass and associated warnings. This pass performs an exploration of paths throughout the code in the hope of detecting various common errors.
A few out-of-the-box features and an entirely different UI make Clear Linux an excellent choice for power users.
As the name suggests, Linux From Scratch lets you build a personalized version of Linux “from scratch”. Starting from the installation process, you have to use low-level commands for every single action.
Linux From Scratch is quite different from any other Linux distribution, and it comes equipped with a pre-compiled set of code. This OS takes you through the steps of building your OS, as you go about incorporating elements as per your need.
This OS continues to be a great way to learn the core functionality of the Linux system, and it is undoubtedly not for faint-hearted users.
Mastering Linux Platforms for Power Users
These advanced Linux distros offer unique functionality like isolation-based package building and custom scripts per user preferences. These features are hard to find on commonly used Linux distros, especially those based on more common distros like Debian.
If you feel you have the time and energy to invest in learning a good, unique distro, you must check out these distro options. The functionality differs with each distro, but they promise to give you a much better understanding of the nuances of the Linux system.
Looking for a new Linux experience? Learn about the best Linux distros for all user levels, from beginner to expert.
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