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Purpose-built: Five specialised Linux distributions

By   |  August 6, 2010

We’ve all heard of Ubuntu, OpenSuse, Fedora and Mandriva. But how about RIP, Damn Vulnerable and Zeroshell Linux? Here are five specialised Linux versions worth bookmarking.

Damn Vulnerable Linux

By its own admission DVL is the “most vulnerable and exploitable operating system ever”. Fortunately those weaknesses are by design rather than by accident, because Damn Vulnerable Linux is designed for security training. The distro includes training materials and exercises and the developers have spent all of their time packing it full of broken, badly-configured and dated applications. So if you want to learn how to exploit Linux, DVL is the way to go.

Tinfoil Hat Linux

While Damn Vulnerable Linux leaves the security gate unlocked, Tinfoil Hat Linux, as its name suggests, is the exact opposite. Designed for the more paranoid user (including those that suspect the Illuminati of spying on them) Tinfoil Hat Linux locks absolutely everything down. THL started life as a single-floppy Linux distribution that could be used for storing PGP keys and encrypting, signing and wiping files. At some point, the developers admit, “it became an exercise in over-engineering”. Tinfoil Hat is not going to replace your pretty Ubuntu desktop but if you need a little bit of tight security, give it a try.

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RIP Linux

Not a memorial for Linux but rather a resuscitation device. RIP stands for Recovery is Possible. RIP Linux is a specialised Linux distribution designed to recover and restore damaged filesystems. RIP can be run from a Live CD or a USB drive and can be used to test drives, recover deleted files, rescue data from a dying disk and much more. There are two flavours of RIP available: one with the X Windows System and one without.

Zeroshell Linux

True to its name Zeroshell Linux is designed to be solely administered through a Web interface. That may not sound all that useful unless you consider its purpose: to be used on servers, routers and embedded devices. All of its features, including load balancing, support for 3G mobile broadband connections and RADIUS support, can be managed through the Web front end. Zeroshell is available in the form of live CD or compact flash image for use on USB drives.

Tomato Linux

Kickstart your old router with a little tomato juice. Tomato Linux is a small distro customised to be installed on Broadcom-based routers such as the Linksys WRT54G/GL/GS routers. Once installed Tomato can be administered through a web interface, Telnet or SSH. But more importantly it adds a bunch of new features to your router, including bandwidth monitor, QoS controls, DynamicDNS support, multiple wireless modes as well as the ability to manage the signal strength of the router. And, because it’s essentially an embedded Linux version, there are all manner of extra things you could configure your router to do. It also works like a bomb. I ‘ve been using it on my home router for the past year.

This article first appeared in the newsletter published last week. Subscribe to get future issues.


One Response to “Purpose-built: Five specialised Linux distributions”

  1. Danielh
    August 7th, 2010 @ 8:57 am

    I just love tomato. Its very easy to use and manage, much easier than all the expensive stuff i manage at work. Never crashes or slow down.

    RIP Linux is something i have to try out.

    Thanks for a great article anyhow =)

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