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Old 11-29-2010, 12:26 AM   #1
StupidNewbie
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How to find out what your Linux distro is "based on"


Hi guys,

I have been using Linux for quite a while and have gotten pretty good at it, but recently I started using Backtrack in a VM and realized I have no idea what it is based on. Then I got to thinking I have no idea what that even means.

For example, OSX is based on Darwin right, but what does that mean? Ubuntu is another that is based on Debian, but I don't know what that means. The reason I'm asking is because in order to get my screen resolution and networking right in Backtrack I need to know what it is based on so I can download the proper packages to install the VirtualBox guest additions, and I have no idea.

Is there a way to get this information from the operating system? Maybe uname -a is giving me the info and I just don't know where to look in the output? Thanks!
 
Old 11-29-2010, 12:30 AM   #2
MS3FGX
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It is more of a philosophical thing really, it isn't something you can find out by running a command.

In the case of Ubuntu, it is essentially Debian with more packages and a customized look. The same is true for BackTrack, it is Ubuntu with security-related packages and the BackTrack visual theme.
 
Old 11-29-2010, 10:27 PM   #3
frankbell
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See the picture here.

Another way is the package format.
  1. If the distro can use *.deb packages without any problems, it's likely Debian based.
  2. If it uses *.rpm packages without any problems, it's likely Red Hat based.
  3. If it uses something else, it may be Slackware based, as Slackware relies on the user to resolve dependencies and does not maintain an official repo.

That's a very rough rule of thumb, especially as regards item three.
 
Old 11-30-2010, 06:41 AM   #4
TobiSGD
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The easiest way to find out what a specific distribution is based on is to look it up at Distrowatch.
 
Old 11-30-2010, 06:45 AM   #5
XavierP
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http://kde-look.org/CONTENT/content-...218-gldt76.png may be slightly more up to date than the link posted by frankbell. Backtrack is based on Knoppix which is, in turn, based on Debian.
 
Old 11-30-2010, 07:08 AM   #6
TobiSGD
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Quote:
Originally Posted by XavierP View Post
http://kde-look.org/CONTENT/content-...218-gldt76.png may be slightly more up to date than the link posted by frankbell. Backtrack is based on Knoppix which is, in turn, based on Debian.
Sorry that I have to correct you here, but the latest Backtrack (Version 4) is in fact based on Ubuntu. http://www.backtrack-linux.org/wiki/...ackTrack_4_.3F
 
Old 11-30-2010, 07:21 AM   #7
salasi
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StupidNewbie View Post
... and realized I have no idea what it is based on. Then I got to thinking I have no idea what that even means.

For example, OSX is based on Darwin right, but what does that mean? Ubuntu is another that is based on Debian, but I don't know what that means...
Most distros are 'based on' something in the sense that when the founders of the distro started, they said something like 'wouldn't it be even better if there was a distro like distro_x, except with this change of approach'. The changes in question could be a different default GUI, an emphasis on ease of use over eliminating excess bloat, an emphasis on eliminating excess bloat over ease of use, or anything else that appeals to the founders, essentially.

There is an additional sense in which, eg, the Ubuntus are Debian-based; the guys at Ubuntu actually take some version of Debian and work on it to add their special magic (or, unmagic, if that's the way that you feel) to produce something that comes closer to their objectives.

@frankbell
Quote:
Another way is the package format.
  1. If the distro can use *.deb packages without any problems, it's likely Debian based.
  2. If it uses *.rpm packages without any problems, it's likely Red Hat based.
  3. If it uses something else, it may be Slackware based, as Slackware relies on the user to resolve dependencies and does not maintain an official repo.
In the weaker sense, I think rule 1) is pretty reliable. 2) is not so reliable (see SuSE/Novell, which was slackware-derived, uses rpm (but uses different package management from RH) but is in no way a RedHat derivation, and, effectively, has no slack in recent versions. I don't think that Mandriva has any identifiable RH in it, either.)

Rule 3) has the problem that it collects up a lot of 'minor'/'smaller' distros, and the majority of those (the DSLs, the Puppys, the Slitazs as well as LFS-based and the out-and-out obscure...and Solaris, and the BSDs if you don't add a Linux-only condition somewhere) aren't Slack based.

So, very, very much a rule of thumb, which is often useful a useful indication rather than anything else

Last edited by salasi; 11-30-2010 at 07:22 AM. Reason: minor clarification
 
Old 11-30-2010, 10:12 AM   #8
StupidNewbie
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THanks for all the awesome info guys. This is exactly what I needed. I am bookmarking this thread to reference in the future and study when I'm bored.

Interesting that Smoothwall is based on Debian too - there was an article on hak5.org about using smoothwall router software installed on an Intel Mini ITX motherboard with the integrated atom software and a 250gb hard drive w/ 2 gigs of RAM to make a ridiculously high powered router. Cool
 
  


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