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For rolling-release cutting-edge I tend to ask "What does it have that Sid Doesn't?" and/or "Does it break less often than Sid?"
Don't get me wrong, I know there are better releases out there than Sid, but I've yet to come across one which makes me want to learn another Distro (I'm sure the same goes for users of Fedora, Slackware Current and others).
I tried gentoo -- made me want to learn Slackware!
Personlly, I have no use for Redhat, but did try Scientific and found it acceptable.
Am now using another one some would not waste their time one, but I find interesting -- Salent OS.
I've just been trying Caixa Mágica, the official Portuguese distro. I picked the KDE version, even though I've never liked KDE. I was surprised to see they've made a better job of producing an Ububtu derivative with KDE than Mint did. If you're a distro-hopper with a liking for deb systems and KDE, give it a try.
In my hunt through the obscure corners of Distrowatch, I've come up with a nice one lurking among the turkeys: Saluki (my 97th). It's Puppy with extra software, and Xfce instead of JWM. It still barks when you start it, and says "goodbye" when you log out too!
I can name two I found interesting, Slitaz and Lunar.
Slitaz is a true independently created distro, it is certainly the fastest distro I have ever tried. The live cd Iso is a whopping 70 Mb, it has its own package manager with a surprising amount of packages. The newest version has a few minor bugs but I would still recommend it to any user capable of running Slackware.
Lunar is the sibling distro to Sourcemage mentioned in a previous post. I ran both for a while but preferred Lunar which I ran for about a year and a half. Lunar is a source based distro and doesn't come with a Gui so you can compile and use any you like. Lunar is a rolling distro so don't let the fact that the last release is a little old put you off. Lunar is for more advanced users or those like me who want to butt their head against the wall for the experience. Lunar is probably slightly easier than Gentoo but I wouldn't imagine much easier.
I don't know why this isn't better known. I've been playing tunes on the tubular bells and will now try controlling my ant with Laby! As Marion Bradley used to say, "It's never to late to have a happy childhood."
Distribution: Devuan, while feeble. Bedrock, when awesome.
this one likely wont pick up a big following these days, but thought it worth a mention since it went through a couple name changes and changes of management(?), and thus slipped further into the "little known".
for the REALLY old hardware, (like early win 95 era, or maybe even older, idk) this would be the first (and almost certainly last) distro i try on it. i still have an old deli linux install on a laptop sporting a pentium 133 with 16mb of ram and no USB. deli(cate) is about as faithful as they come to old revivals.
two side notes:
witch - a distro i started when someone suggested i who dabbled so much in distro-respins should make a distro called witch, so people could "burn them" [to cd]. ~ initially i just wanted put a jumble of my own ideas (tiling ootb, can install any package format, lightness, etc) into it, but it has since morphed into a no-boss wicca-esq microcosm of the gnu/linux distrosphere, and restatement of the importance of the 4 freedoms, particularly "freedom 3" (redistribute modified copies). anyone can release a witch, based on any distro, or construct anything else they like for it... a site, a wiki, a microblog, an irc chan, a logo, whatever you want, with the only real stipulation being not to proclaim it "THE witch", merely "another witch" or "a witch", so people dont get a false impression that your respin is it. creators of witches usually give them a witch sounding name, "griselda", "willow", "rowan" and so on. [/edit] #witchlinux is the most active meeting place i know for it (feel free to play with the [luna]cats in there (!help for a decent starting place). there's at least half a dozen people who've released witches that i know of. ... none of us actually wiccan (afaik), incase you wondered.
bedrock - already got a mention in this thread, but just wanted to add a little cheer of praise for it. once it comes out of beta i plan to get to work on a bedrock based witch.
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