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The aggregation of a Linux kernel, other system software such as a boot loader and applications are called distributions Distributions differ in their philosophy such as being for free or commercial, the targeted audience, distribution medium, added value for example in form of software for installation and system maintenance and the way that support is handled. Another differenciating factor - and the reason for the existence of this page is the degree of support for amateur radio. This page is trying to give an overview.

Live CDs for one thing are meant for trying out things for Linux beginners as they usually don't change the existing system. They also are useful for testing to what degree a computer system is supported by Linux. Live CDs are usually for the i386 architecture and are frequently based on Knoppix (http://www.knopper.net/knoppix/) which against is rooted on Debian. Live CDs are interesting because some are optimized for amateur radio.

Full distributions


Debian is supporting 11 different hardware architectures and comes with a vast collection of amateur collection. Basically there are three version of Debian available:

Mailing list: debian-hams


Gentoo is a highly configurable and adaptable Linux distribution. The Portage system allows you to choose which packages to install and how to configure them on a very fine-grained level.

Amateur radio software can be found in the portage tree mainly in the categories

Additional packages can be found in the sunrise overlay in the same categories. See the Sunrise main page for information how to add that overlay to your system.

For kernel AX.25 support you have to configure and recompile your kernel. Details how to do that can be found in the Gentoo Linux Handbook.

Novell-SuSE / openSUSE

The SuSE/openSUSE distributions all have most of the AX25 drivers built into the kernel as modules. Ham radio packages are now available through the build service repositories. All ham radio packages for SuSE and openSUSE distributions from 10.0 on are now contained in the community repository and are accessed by adding an installation source in YaST. For example, if you are using openSUSE 10.3 you would add an installation source as follows:

protocol HTTP
server download.opensuse.org
directory /repositories/hamradio/openSUSE_10.3/

Mailing list: For further instructions e-mail the lists' robot opensuse-ham+help@opensuse.org.

NOTE: mkiss is broken in SUSE 10.0.

Novell-SuSE 9.3 and 10.0 i386 amateur radio software packages can be installed through SuSE's system management tool YOU/YAST. All it takes for example for SuSE 9.3 is adding


as an installation source.

Upto SuSE 9.0 or 9.1 amateur radio applications were still shipping on all installation media. Later versions had them only on the DVD version. For SuSE Live CDs amateur radio software had to be installed from the internet.

SuSE has changed the "time base" in their kernels for SuSE 9.2 and 9.3 without fixing the timing for AX.25 under /proc/sys/net/ax25. Without change a connection attempt will timeout after 0.3s instead of 300s. NOTE: This appears to be fixed in 10.0 and on.

Redhat / Fedora

Finally! As of Fedora 8, the core AX.25 modules are now included with the kernels. There is also a growing list of Ham Radio software available. Just enable the main Fedora on-line repository and you have them. Additional packages and information available at Fedora Amateur Radio.


Ubuntu is debian-based and is therefore compareable to debian in respect to amateur radio support. Note that in order to install most of the amateur radio related packages, you need to edit your /etc/apt/sources.list file and un-comment the lines which talk about the "universe" repository.

Arch Linux

You can find a selection of amateur radio packages in AUR. Follow the instructions in the AUR User Guidelines to install the packages. Use an AUR Helper to assist with installing packages and dependencies.

For AX.25 you will need libax25, and you may find ax25-apps and ax25-tools useful. If you do not have a hardware TNC then you can use soundmodem. If you want to use soundmodem in MKISS mode, you'll need the kmod-mkiss modules.

Live-CDs build for amateur radio support


AR-Knoppix current version is V3.7 dated January 2005 (based on Knoppix 3.7 from December 2004)


Hamshack-Hack is based on Knoppix, too. Release:????