Because Linux is free software, no single organization or entity is responsible for releasing and distributing the software. Therefore, anyone is free to put together and distribute the Linux software, as long as the restrictions in the GPL are observed. The upshot of this is that there are many distributions of Linux, available via anonymous FTP or via mail order.
You are now faced with the task of deciding upon a particular distribution of Linux which suits your needs. Not all distributions are alike. Many of them come with just about all of the software you'd need to run a complete system---and then some. Other Linux distributions are ``small'' distributions intended for users without copious amounts of diskspace. Many distributions contain only the core Linux software, and you are expected to install larger software packages, such as the X Window System, yourself. (In Chapter 4 we'll show you how.)
The Linux Distribution HOWTO (see Appendix A) contains a list of Linux distributions available via the Internet as well as mail order. Appendix B also lists contact addresses for a number of Linux mail-order vendors. If you purchased this book in printed the form, the publisher should also be able to provide you with a Linux distribution or tell you who can.
How can you decide among all of these distributions? If you have access to USENET news, or another computer conferencing system, you might want to ask there for personal opinions from people who have installed Linux. Even better, if you know someone who has installed Linux, ask them for help and advice. There are many factors to consider when choosing a distribution, however, everyone's needs and opinions are different. In actuality, most of the popular Linux distributions contain roughly the same set of software, so the distribution that you select is more or less arbitrary.
This book contains information on installing the popular Slackware and Slackware Pro distributions of Linux.