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Weekend Project: Linux Distros You Never Heard Of

This weekend why not go crazy, and try the most offbeat, obscure Linux distributions you can find?

Ubuntu this, Fedora that, Mint the newest Linux darling-- it's as though all those other hundreds of Linux distributions don't exist. Let's throw caution to the winds and seek out new distros, and boldly go where we have not gone before. Here are three I'm thinking of installing on my test machine and torture-testing this weekend.

Hanthana Linux

Linux is making inroads into all corners of the globe, and creating opportunities that proprietary software vendors will never be interested in. Hanthana Linux is part of the Hanthana School Labs Project in Sri Lanka. The goal of the Hanthana project is

"The main aim of our project isKAlgebra on Hanthana Linuxto bring the community together to help and improve IT education in rural Sri Lanka. “Knowledge is power” and we strongly believe that all young Sri Lankans should have access to a fully functional computer laboratory"

Hanthana Linux is based on Fedora, with additional codecs and multimedia players. It runs from a live DVD, and can be installed to a hard drive. The community behind Hanthana are making smart use of Linux and open source: the Website is on WordPress, and they're taking advantage of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook that are Linux and open-source powered.

ROSA Linux

ROSA Linux is based on Mandriva, with a highly-customized, leaner, simplified KDE4 desktop. ROSA also maintains a Red Hat and Mandriva-based server edition, the ROSA classroom server for teachers, and the ROSA Sputnik infotainment system for vehicles. Automotive Linux is growing like crazy, so why not get a preview?


A number of Arch Linux-based distros are materializing, and Cinnarch looks like a good candidate for a sleek, elegant desktop system. It uses the Cinnamon desktop, the excellent lightDM display manager, and is a rolling release distro just like Arch. The appearance and layout are highly-customizable, and it's just plain pretty.

That's enough to keep me busy this weekend. What distros are you trying?



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  • Kralj Matjaž Said:

    never heard of ROSA Linux and it looks very promising. I have to check it out closely.

  • Doug Lawson Said:

    Recently trying out PeppermintOS on an older netbook. So far it is working out quite well!

  • ianpock's Said:

    Rosa linux is a Russian Distro , Im sure with Sudhir Khanger Cinnarch is quite popular. But Hanthana Linux I've never heardt it! The world of the Linux is bigger than the world of the Bsd...

  • Randy Said:

    This weekend I will be trying Magaia 2 KDE. I have never really tried this distro so it should be an exciting weekend!! Looking forward to it.

  • John Said:

    Randy, why not join us on the irc channel and say hi, after installing Mageia. Its friendly and helpfull if you have any problems. We are on freenode #mageia for help.

  • Randy Said:

    I tried Rosa briefly a while back. I think I will reinstall it and give it another go around.

  • Billie Cowie Said:

    I have recently downloaded and fully installed Cylon Linux , another Sri Lankan distro with Tor Browser included and preconfigured. Very fast boot and great splash screen. I use it with Gnome desktop and it works like a dream. For the new kid on the block it has tremendous potential. No Forum yet but I recommend giving the distro a spin.

  • Aras Said:

    I have been happily using mainly Ubuntu for 6 years now and have been using a few other popular distributions along the way, but never thought of giving some of the less poular ones a shot. Cinnarch looks pretty interesting, I will try that pretty soon. Thanks for the article!

  • Richard McNamara Said:

    I run Ubuntu on my ancient Dell Laptop with a huge monitor as a desktop system, and play with DSL on older systems too. But, today I set up my Raspberry Pi with Debiun "Wheezy", I hooked it to my 40 inch flat screen - wow! I hope to make the R Pi into a navagation system for my 31 foot Searunner Trimarran running Open CPM. I had to have a Win machine for a business project - the partner had a web site that wouldn't let a linux machine log in - idiots - now what flavor of Linux should I dual load onto it (Hint - Ubuntu)?

  • essa Said:

    I used to have mint 8 for 3 years but now i have Terra linux x64 + hybryde linux 32bit it works fine for me

  • Don Brown Said:

    Carla, I love your stuff and I don't like picking nits, but... ROSA was featured on the front cover of Linux Format Magazine a couple of months ago. However, I hadn't heard of the others and I'll give them a spin. Still, it is great that you bring some of these to the forefront! Take Care and God Bless

  • eMBee Said:

    not exactly the most obscure or offbeat, but take a look at foresight linux, its package manager and build toolchain is different from any other linux distribution out there and much better than any of those together. (neither deb, rpm, gentoo, arch or anything else related)

  • Dave Postles Said:

    .All those have passed through distrowatch. Some of them have problems with the 64-bit installations.

  • Dave Postles Said:

    Re-Mageia - perhaps best to wait for the full release of Mageia 3 now. Trisquel is a Ubuntu-derivative, but is entirely free (as in speech). The latest version (5.5?) is quite pretty too. I declare an interest as a sponsor. If you become a sponsor/associate, you receive a very nice USB 'key' (and it is shaped as a key) of the distro and an e-mail alias. It comes out of the University of Vigo. It crept into the distrowatch 100, but slipped out again. Re-Ubuntu, we are not happy in the UK about the persistence with Google for the integrated search engine and the new introduction of Amazon searches - both organizations avoid UK corporation tax.

  • Jaxmetalmax Said:

    Manjaro, archbased, lightweight, stable and works out of the box, using on my netbook right now and I'm pretty happy with it. Give it a try ;D

  • kenwilliam Said:

    I hadn't heard of the others and I'll give them a spin. HV9910

  • tr Said:

    if anyone hasn't checked (the beta1 is incredible already) I can only recommend.

  • DickSeabrook Said:

    Ubuntu 12.04, ArtistX and UberStudent. My regular work platform runs CentOS 6.3. Thanks for the info.

  • DickSeabrook Said:

    Bio-Linux 7.03 is in the mail -- I'll see how it runs when it gets here.

  • Dave Postles Said: With that Plank dock, it looks like Fuduntu.

  • Stomfi Said:

    If you are visually impaired, try VINUX which is based on Ubuntu but speaks during the install and beyond. Dynabolic is another hand rolled distro specially engineered for live music and video production and streaming. It can be remastered to suit the artist or end user purposes.

  • darkduck Said:

    It's quite tricky to say "never heard of" about ROSA, which is currently #21 in Distrowatch list. That's higher than Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Mandriva and Gentoo.

  • Darkstar Said:

    Check out Pear Linux, its a french distro that's gorgeous and has a Mac OSX look to it, beautiful distro. Also Bodhi Linux is a really awesome Enlightenment distro. Both of these are Ubuntu/Debian derivatives.

  • Dave Postles Said:

    Bodhi ... not with the roaming penguins, thanks. I think E17 is a concept too far.

  • Darkstar Said:

    It's really a great distro and with the impending release of Enlightenment 17 which should happen today, it should be amazing. If you decide to try it Dave, have fun!

  • walter Said:

    Bodhi is fast and light but its configuration system is so confusing. And I've used at least 6 distros (used, not just try). So my preference listed in order would be 1.Manjaro, 2.Mageia 3.Sabayon 4.Bodhi 5.Peppermint - I have dismissed Solus, Zorin, Ubuntu, Pardus, Salix and SliTaz. Some of these were dismissed because they would not install in the two laptops, one netbook and one desktop I own, and others still use Lilo or is resource heavy or cannot use the latest application that I need.

  • Dave Postles Said:

    Rosa 64-bit is another with which I have issues. After installation, the reboot fails.

  • Eddie G. Said:

    I've already installed CinnArch and it really IS a perfect OS! I LOVE the rolling release feature..along with the ease of use that the Cinnamon desktop environment provides. I wish this distro had been around when I first delved into Linux...(back around the release of Fedora 5!....)

  • indiano Said:

    i have used Hanthana Linux it is really good for me to know Linux.. Others i didnt like.

  • Nagin Chand Said:

    I am now using UberStudent, PearOS-8, SparkyLinux, and Rosa (with KDE). All these are quite good. PearOS is excellent, and so is UberStudent in their respective domains. SparkyLinux is also a pleasure to use. In ROSA a different package management system is used that exploits rpm. Really interesting. On the one hand I appreciate the creativity, diversity, and allegiance and commitments and we see a lot of "new" approaches, presentations of almost the same set of packages. However, there is UNNECESSARY duplication of efforts many a times, that is further aggravated by the GNOME, KDE, Enlightenment, XFCE, LXDE, Cinnamon, and Mate wars! I understand there can be a choice of desktop managers, however, most of these linux distros tend to crumble when 'other' desktop managers are deployed. The entire linux/open source community must put their heads together to overcome duplicity, waste of talent and then concentrate on building rock-solid distro from every angle. There could be choice made available based on level of familiarity/expertise, kind of use, and other such factors around the same linux distro. I thank the writer to put together the info/experience with 'little' known distros. I also thank the entire open source community over there as a result of their efforts I am able to write this and communicate with all of you!

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