The 9 Best Obscure Linux Distros You Probably Didn’t Know About

The 9 Best Obscure Linux Distros You Probably Didn’t Know About

The open-source Linux kernel has spawned some excellent distros over time. Unfortunately, not all of these names have managed to turn heads around.

Despite their limited outreach, each distro mentioned below continues to have its own merits, which makes them special in their own unique way. If you are an unconventional user looking for some not-so-common, obscure Linux distros, then read on for some options.

Calculate Linux desktop interface
Image Credit: Chescos7/Wikipedia

Calculate Linux finds use among patrons for open-source software testing and server-side computing. The distro has several versions: Calculate Linux Scratch, Calculate Scratch Server, and Calculate Directory Server with proactive dev support.

Calculate comes with KDE, Xfce, Cinnamon, and Mate desktop; you can try each one for size. Each flavor has excellent out-of-the-box software support as well.


Some pros of Calculate Linux are:

  • It packs all the positive features of Gentoo Linux and its successors
  • The distro helps enable VPS services, even on low configurations
  • The multi-purpose desktop environment and OS versions have diverse use cases
  • The latest version offers app task-scheduling and RAID installation
  • New UI with a Windows-style taskbar and a macOS-style dock


Some drawbacks of using Calculate Linux include:

  • Poor user account configuration options
  • Poor documentation support
  • Lack of GUI support for package installations


Download: Calculate Linux

FreeSpire desktop interface

Freespire is a Debian/Ubuntu-based OS featuring an Xfce desktop environment. Recently, GNOME has been added to the list of environments that ship with the distro. Freespire extends Ubuntu’s support cycle by offering users the latest software components and an updated Linux kernel.


Some advantages of using Freespire are:

  • Out-of-the-box development ecosystem for PHP and Python
  • Extensive desktop app support
  • Low installation/execution requirements
  • Parallel desktop environment and software compatibility support
  • Dedicated GPU support for gaming and multimedia operations


A few of Freespire’s cons include:

  • Poor proprietary software and codec support, even in the latest versions
  • Disproportionately high hardware requirements for advanced multimedia programs
  • Primarily focused on Ubuntu-based innovations only

Download: FreeSpire Linux

Related: The Best Linux Distros for Windows Users

4MLinux desktop interface

4MLinux is also one of the best live, portable distros, thanks to its fundamental four tenets: maintenance, multimedia, mini server, and mystery. This uncommon Linux distro is well-suited for hands-on Linux-based multimedia tasking, gaming, and server hosting.

Users can use it as a bootable rescue CD for maintenance and repairs. 4MLinux, as a Linux distro, can be set up as a multimedia computing environment for desktop execution on a broad array of hardware configurations. You can also use it as a 64-bit server with added LAMP functionalities.


Some pros of 4MLinux are:

  • Excellent server-side hosting capabilities
  • It can support 32-bit and 64-bit applications


A few of 4MLinux’s cons include:

  • Audio processing challenges
  • Inadequate out-of-the-box software support
  • Difficult for novices who have to manually build software without the package manager

Download: 4MLinux

AntiX LInux desktop interface

antiX is a Debian-based Linux distro launched for premium-grade OS experiences running on low configuration systems. antiX’s extensive documentation helps Linux newcomers quickly acquaint themselves with the SpaceFM desktop environment.

Users can easily avail updates via the apt-get package manager and Debian-compatible repositories. Besides bootable OS image downloads, this is one of the few distros that actively promotes live CD installations.


Some pros worth a mention include:

  • Installs and runs on low processing memory ranges of 256MB onwards
  • Association with MEPIS has produced the MX Linux distro for Xfce users
  • Useful for fast-boot, system repair, and maintenance


Some cons of antiX include:

  • Uninspiring, barebones user interface
  • Codecs are not very useful as Windows counterparts
  • Unintuitive file manager

Download: antiX

Q4OS desktop interface

In its latest iteration, Q4OS presents an operating system that can run many resource-intensive applications without stressing out low-config systems. The distro even renders dual-booting and third-party installations for apps with different processing builds.

Q4OS packs a punch with innovative features like the Trinity desktop environment, a Unix-related desktop, usually not supported on Linux distros.


Here are some reasons to try Q4OS:

  • Dedicated dual-boot support for Q4OS on Windows and vice versa
  • Distro installers for Raspberry Pi and ARM devices
  • Ideal for stable API hosting at minimal cost
  • x86/32bit/ARM architecture app installation support


One of the most extensive cons is the limited options available in the app center. You would need the command line or Synaptic Package Manager for extra installations on Q4OS.

Download: Q4OS

MakuluLinux desktop interface

MakuluLinux was released to deliver fast and user-friendly computing, wrapped within a familiar UI, using Debian Testing. The distro invites users with a stable and customizable distro.

Makulu has four specific desktop environments: Cinnamon, standard & customizable Xfce, and GNOME. Makulu’s support for dedicated GPU enhancements and dev-friendly pre-installed software ecosystem makes it an ideal open-source operating system.


Some pros of MakuluLinux include:

  • Multi-version package installation supported
  • Availability of backporting and unstable repositories for development purposes
  • Frequent dev support as per LTS service level agreements


Some drawbacks of installing MakuluLinux are:

  • Firewall and proxy problems while using auto-patcher
  • Audio driver issues on Makulu Flash

Download: MakuluLinux

System Rescue Linux desktop interface

SystemRescue is a maintenance and repair-centric, live Arch Linux-based distro. It’s replete with system repair, boot repair, driver repair, and data rescue tools to repair regular workstations and server infrastructure.


Some pros of SystemRescue are:

  • Repair toolkit for every imaginable Linux distro
  • Used as an open-source repair/rescue tool by Windows users
  • Supports disparate file systems


Some cons include:

  • Not a novice-friendly system repair solution
  • Text-mode lock-ins cause system rescue challenges

Download: SystemRescue

Related: The Best Linux Distros for Power Users

Devuan Linux desktop interface

Devuan is a Debian distro that eschews the systemd service manager in favor of Init Freedom. This Linux distro excels with its stable builds and aesthetic UI.

Devuan is self-proclaimed as a fully-stocked, stable, and fast Linux distribution which allows users to reclaim control over their systems.


Here are some reasons why you should try out Devuan:

  • Rolling-release and LTS options available
  • Multi-environment support for Cinnamon, KDE Plasma, LXQt, MATE, and XFCE
  • User-centric UX


Some cons of the distro include:

  • Fragmentation issues
  • The installation lacks the setup for internet connections

Download: Devuan

Bluestar comes in three versions to offer us a picturesque, clutter-free desktop environment: Desktop, Deskpro, and Developer.

Users can look forward to a web-centric, richly bundled app ecosystem that makes Bluestar a versatile, open-source distro to have.


Some pros of Bluestar Linux are as follows:

  • The distro offers the best of both KDE and Arch Linux
  • Pristine UI that competes with premium OSes
  • Dev-friendly


  • High KDE requirements
  • The distro comes equipped with unnecessary bloatware

Download: Bluestar

Unraveling a Few Obscure Linux Distros

The Linux ecosystem offers a lot of distro options, each of which caters to specific user needs. Nonetheless, each distro continues to be upgraded, so that they can offer the best features to the end-users. So which distro are you choosing today?

Man working on computer
The 10 Best Ubuntu-Based Linux Distributions of All Time

Like Debian and Arch, Ubuntu also acts as a foundation for a multitude of Linux distros, all of them focusing heavily on stability and user security.

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