The best Linux distros you've never heard of

Discover a new breed of distros for 2011

These distros know how to make the most of KDE 4.

Slax Linux


Slax looks like any other KDE distro based on Slackware, but looks are definitely deceiving. Don't get us wrong – you can run Slax as a normal distro. There are the regular apps for productivity, it's got multimedia players that play MP3s, AVIs and DVDs, and it includes Firefox with plugins for Flash. It's rock solid and quick off the blocks.

However, the distro wanders off the beaten track with its package management. Indeed, there's no package manager as such. To install apps you need to head to the Slax website, search for and then grab compressed LZM modules. Once they're downloaded, just activate them via the Slax Module Manager and you're good to go.

The Slax drive is worth a mention too. Similar to Ubuntu One and Dropbox, it's a network drive for online storage and synchronising files between various computers. In addition to Slax's drive client, there's one available for Windows as well.

The real advantage of Slax, though, is its ability to create a custom distro. For that, head to the website, click on Build Slax, then review and choose the suggested modules, such as Slax Core, Slax KDE and Slax Apps. Next, click on Add More Modules to find anything else you need.

When you're done compiling, simply download the collection as an ISO or a TAR archive. It's a fairly simple process, but if you manage to confuse yourself, drop by the Slax forum for some helpful advice.



Kanotix is a KDE-running lightweight Debian Sid-based distro with tools from Knoppix. It was pretty popular several years ago, but momentum slowed due to a lack of installer.

Released just in time for LinuxTag (German for "Linux day", not a computerised variant of the childhood game), the latest version of Kanotix has its very own custom installer, AcritoxInstaller. The automatic installer option in AcritoxInstaller is useful for both new and experienced users alike.

It analyses the partitions on your disk and enables you to choose between several partitioning schemes. Even if you pick an automated scheme, you get the option to alter the default values of the partitions.

Once you're all set up, the distro has the regular set of apps on offer. There's IceWeasel instead of Firefox, with plugins for Java, QuickTime and DivX. There are also several proprietary apps here including Skype and Wine, and the distro plays MP3s, AVIs and DVDs.

Two apps of note are the ScreenTube app for recording screencasts with audio, which you could then upload to YouTube, and the Umtsmon tool to control and monitor a wireless mobile network card.

Any distro is about more than just installed apps, though. Here, the developer has written and maintains scripts that will install the proprietary drivers for Nvidia and ATI cards. There are also scripts for installing Flash, the latest version of MPlayer, XBMC, VLC and so on.

Note that the Kanotix website is in German and English. Though most of the documentation is in German, Google Translate does a nice job of turning it into understandable English. Look out for the extensive hardware information on the wiki too.