The Linux Experiment

Choose Your Flavor of Linux

Photograph: Rick Rizner
Linux is available from various organizations that add their own configuration tools and installers to the OS's basic core (or kernel). A couple hundred of these Linux distributions are available to be downloaded for free (see Linux Online for a long list). If you want a boxed copy, you'll have to pay for the privilege. Here are some of the most popular distributions.


This operating system is geared toward newbies with its simple one-click $50 software download service. The boxed copy costs $60 (no free version is available).


Acquired by Novell, SuSE is one of the most popular European distributions. You can opt for an $80 Professional version or a $30 Personal version (among others). SuSE offers lots of easy-to-use configuration tools.


Promising to be the Linux distribution for everybody, Mandrake is easy to install and has a slew of configuration tools. The popular Discovery version costs $39.


Aimed at Linux newcomers, the Lycoris distribution ($40) also comes loaded on Toshiba Portégé Tablet PCs, starting at $999 and on Element Computer's sub-$1000 Helium 2100 Tablet.


The whole distribution fits on one CD: Simply run it from the $4 disc; when you reboot, you're back to your existing OS.


Formerly Corel Linux, Xandros balances the core developed by Debian with tools for new users. It includes CrossOver Office. The boxed version costs $39.

Alexandra Krasne

Edward N. Albro is an executive editor at PC World. Associate Editor Alexandra Krasne and Editorial Applications Development Manager Matthew Newton also contributed to this article.
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