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Exotic Linux distros can come in handy

Among these more obscure flavors of Linux are a few that you may not have encountered, but could be just what you need.
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By Andy Smith on
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Linux seems to offer a distribution for every occasion. Among these obscurer flavors are a few that you may not have encountered, but could be just what you need, says Jack Wallen.

Caine Linux might be one of the niftiest of the niche Linux distributions. Caine stands for Computer Aided Investigative Environment. It's CIS Linux designed for digital forensics. Caine includes TheSleuthKit, Autopsy Forensic Browser, steganography tools, and plenty of utilities for wiping hard drives. This distribution also includes a semi-automated tool for the compilation of the final report on a digital forensics investigation.

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Damn Vulnerable Linux does exactly what it says on the tin. According to this distribution's website, "Damn Vulnerable Linux (DVL) is everything a good Linux distribution isn't. Its developers have spent hours stuffing it with broken, ill-configured, outdated and exploitable software that makes it vulnerable to attacks".

Strange? No. The idea behind this distribution is to train Linux admins — and what better way to train someone than to hand them a broken distribution to fix? Older or broken versions of Apache, MySQL, PHP, FTP, and SSH might present your admins in training with too many problems.

Photo credit: Damn Vulnerable Linux

Captions: Jack Wallen, TechRepublic, ZDNet UK


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Zeroshell is an interesting Linux distribution aimed at embedded systems — specifically, networking hardware. It's administrated through a web interface and can provide all the networking services required for a LAN. Among other things, with Zeroshell, you can set up failover, radius, captive portal, quality of service management, HTTP proxy, wireless access point, host-to-LAN VPN, LAN-to-LAN VPN, and routing with static or dynamic IP addressing.

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Parted Magic is similar to the Gparted Live CD, only it adds a few more tools — such as Clonezilla, TestDisk, Partimage, TrueCrypt, G4L, Super Grub Disk, and Ddrescue. This type of tool is ideal for managing partitions as well as troubleshooting drives and various issues.

This particular Linux distribution works on x86 hardware and requires 256MB of RAM to operate. Parted Magic can work with the following partition types: ext2, ext3, ext4, fat16, fat32, hfs, hfs+, jfs, linux-swap, ntfs, reiserfs, reiser4, and xfs.

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Tiny Core is a tiny Linux distribution that comes in at less than 10MB with a GUI included. But don't think Tiny Core is limited to tiny tasks. Once it's installed, you can begin adding the applications you need. But by default, you will have a minimal X desktop with networking. Tiny Core is based on TinyX, BusyBox, Fltk, and the 2.6 kernel.

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CAELinux focuses on computer-aided engineering. It's based on open-source titles such as Salome, Code_Aster, and OpenFoam. CAELinux is an Ubuntu-based distribution that can simulate physics involving non-linear thermo-mechanics, coupled fluid-structure dynamics, seismic and non-linear explicit dynamics, contacts, visco-plasticity, fluid dynamics, heat exchange, convection heat transfer and radiation, and electrodynamics. This distribution offers a wiki with plenty of documentation for each application.

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Musix is a Knoppix-Debian distribution aimed at artistic and educational uses in the field of music. It's a live CD, so it can be run without installation. The two applications that draw the most attention on this distribution are Rosegarden and Ardour.

These two applications offer everything you need for music composition and recording. You will also find tools such as Inkscape, Blender for 3D animation, and Cinelerra for video editing.

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Slampp is a slackware-based Live distribution that is excellent for system server needs. With this distribution running, you are ready with HTTP, FTP, DHCP, DNS, and many more servers. You can do all of that without even installing the distribution. By using a live DVD, you can have all servers up and running in no time. Slampp is the instant home server distribution.

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Ubuntu Christian Edition is an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution geared toward the Christian faith. This distribution includes a plethora of faith-based software such as Xiphos, OpenSong, and E-Sword, along with tools for parental controls.

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From its name, you might think Ubuntu Satanic Edition (USE) is the opposite of Ubuntu Christian Edition. It's not. According to its website, USE "brings together the best free software and free metal music on one CD". The Undead CD is based on Ubuntu 10.04 and includes all the standard software, along with a mélange of typically dark, heavy-metal themes, as well as a full 50-minute album of the best Creative Commons-licensed metal music.

Your choices?
If you know Linux, you will know that thousands of distributions exist. The list continues to grow every day. Have you come across an obscure Linux distribution that offers either much-needed functionality or something worth seeing or trying?

Photo credit: Ubuntu SE

This story originally appeared as 10 obscure Linux distributions (and why you should know about them) on TechRepublic.

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