The Lighter Side of Open Source with Meme Linux Distros
With April Fools having just passed, I was subjected to many joke videos from across my YouTube subscription feed including one by Brodie Robertson titled “I'm Leaving Arch Linux For A Better Distro!!”.
While I won’t spoil the entire video it did get me thinking about meme Linux distributions. Since the Linux Kernel and much of the software that sits on top of it is open source, it allows for a level of flexibility not possible in other operating systems. A great example of this is Android, the mobile operating system for mobile phones that uses a heavily modified Linux kernel. Ubuntu Christian Edition1 is another example, which from what I can tell is a completely earnest attempt to create an operating system with safe content filtering by default, easy parental controls, and software for churches. This flexibility has led to the explosion of flavors and spins of the main Linux distributions we all know and love, and allows us to pick a distribution just like Goldilocks picked a chair. But not all distributions are serious. Some exist just to make us laugh. Here a few that I’ve come across over the years.
Bring on the Memes
If you thought, If there is a Christian Edition of Ubuntu, is there a Satanic one? You’d be correct, and it’s aptly called Ubuntu Satanic Edition.
The self-proclaimed “Linux for the damned” contains everything you’d expect from a Satanic version of Linux. Pentagrams, flames, skulls, and a dark themed desktop complete with 3d rendered wall papers that look like stills from ID Software’s Quake or Doom.
The website still exists today, though only the about page2 makes reference to the old distribution. Clicking the home page redirects you to a different website which contains tech reviews and how-to blogs. They mention that they purchased the domain in 2021 so it appears the project is no more. You can still find great wallpapers on their website using the way back machine, so if you are looking to spice up your desktop with Satanic themes this distribution will surely satisfy you.
Celebrity Distributions 🎤
Moving on to what is probably the most common type of meme distribution, the pop singer themed distribution. We will start with Justin Bieber Linux, affectionately known as “Bebian”. From what I can tell this distribution has been around since 2011, which makes it as old as Skyrim. Based on the name “Bebian”, you would think it’s Debian based, but it’s actually based off of Puppy Lucid 525, a beloved lightweight Linux distro that can be run entirely in ram.
The website is still up3, though it appears the author has moved on to bigger and better things. The website links to the authors instagram, but when I clicked on it they didn't have any posts.
Next up is RebeccaBlackOS, named after Rebecca Black, who rocketed to fame after her single “Friday” was released in 20114. Many people considered it the worst song ever written, but that only served to increase its popularity.
The screenshots of the desktop give me lots of nostalgia. Old YouTube that showed likes and dislikes, square cornered windows, and a logo reminiscent of old Microsoft logos. It was a simpler time… Going to the source forge link5 yields two interesting factoids. It claims to be "amongst the first live distributions to provide a Wayland server", and the last commit to the SVN repository was yesterday. A visionary and forward looking OS, just like the pop singer it is named after, and still brightening our hearts today just like her as well.
And to round off our list of pop singer based Linux distributions, the OG pop singer distribution herself, Hannah Montana Linux (HML).
Released in 2006, and only 15 years after Linux had been created, it might the oldest meme Linux Distribution. Apparently 2006 was a good year for software as besides HML we got some heavy hitters. The first Macbook Pro was released, based on the Intel Core Duo with its new Magsafe connector6. Google bought YouTube for 1.65b, securing the online video market and ensuring I went to YouTube for all my Naruto vs Sasuke AMVs. Facebook became open to the public`, and Internet Explorer was the dominant browser.
Much ink has already been spilled about Hannah Montana Linux. Both Justin Bieber Linux, and Rebecca Black OS can trace their lineage back to her. The thing that probably impresses me the most is how well the cropped out picture of Miley Cyrus looks. Not many people could do it that well back in 06. For those looking to HMLify their desktops, the icons and wallpaper can be downloaded here7 Now we just need to complete the circle by creating Miley Cyrus Linux, as she has distanced herself from her Hannah Montana image in recent years.
The Cute Distributions
We’ve got pop star themed distributions, and religious themed ones. But what about cute distributions? Well, my friends I have two for you. Moebuntu8 and UwUntu9. Moebuntu is a portmanteua of the Japanese word Moe and Ubuntu. Moe is one of those words I thought I knew what it meant, but after googling have discovered its definition is so nebulous that it can be applied broadly. It can refer to an attraction to an idealized fictional person, cuteness, and intense love or fetish for a particular thing. One thing the internet seems to agree upon is that the word originated from Otaku culture10. Apparently, Otaku's have distanced themselves from the word as it has become more mainstream. Let that sink in... Anyway, here's a screenshot of the Desktop.
Moebuntu has been around for a long time. The way back machine has a snapshot of the website from all the way back in 2009. While not an official “flavor” of Ubuntu it has existed longer than the Mate, and Budgie desktops. This means amusingly, that it is older than the official flavors Ubuntu Mate (2015)11 or Ubuntu Budgie (2016)12 . More impressively it’s up to date. The website proudly claims support for Ubuntu 22.04 LTS and 22.10. So the question you may be asking is "Wheres my official flavor status Canonical?". Moebuntu has more than proven that it is in it for the long haul. I'm actually reconsidering having put it on as a Meme distribution list. Moving on...
Finally we come to UwUntu.
UwUntu proudly proclaims 51,559 downloads on the website, though I no doubt believe that number will increase ten-fold once this post goes viral. UwUntu is a portmanteua of the word uwu, with the word Ubuntu. “uwu” is actually a text emoticon, from before we had emoji. It is used to indicate a cute or blushing face, and the u’s can be interpreted as eyelids with lashes, or cheeks. Text emoticons were all over the internet back in the early 2000s. Here are a few of the more common ones.
:P Teasing/ sticking tongue out
:D Big Smile
:| Neutral/Flat Expression
Their meanings varied slightly depending on the community you were a part of, but that was part of the fun. Uwu is special though because it could actually be pronounced. And because of this has taken on new life in the modern era. I could probably write an entire article just on the word uwu, but I will instead just leave you with video on how to pronounce it.
Probably my favorite thing about UwUntu is the announcement post on Reddit13. In it the creators describe themselves as two IT students with a dream. Reddit user The_Squeak2539 comments
i like the idea. please get an SSL certificate and switch to https
They did. Never change Linux community. Never change.
Final Thoughts 🧠
I’ve hope you enjoyed the whirlwind tour of some of the great meme distributions that are out there. I’ve personally have gained two life goals by writing this article. Become famous enough for someone to create a meme Linux distribution based on my persona, and create my own meme distribution. I’ve already started brainstorming the latter. A Linux distribution who draws inspiration from Moebuntu and UwUntu called Kawaii Linux. Kawaii Linux is a Kali Linux based distribution whose mascot is a female anime cybersecurity professional. Watch out Distrowatch14 Kawaii Linux is coming for the top spot.
Call To Action 📣
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Otaku is a japanese word used to introverted human beings who stay inside and read manga, play video games, and watch anime all day. There is still a stigma attached to being an Otaku, but it has become more normalized in recent years.