Computers, Science, & Computer Science

Turing Linux


The progenitor of virtualization was Turing’s Universal Machine. Two-way translation between logical functions and strings of symbols is no longer the mathematical abstraction it was in 1936. A single computer may host multiple, concurrent virtual machines; “apps” are coded sequences that locally implement a specific virtual machine on an individual device; Google’s [...] servers constitute a collective, metazoan organism whose physical manifestation changes from one instant to the next.

George Dyson, Turing’s Cathedral

Turing Linux is an operating system (OS) comprising a minimal base just sufficient to support VirtualBox (VB), providing quick access to other OSs. This is useful for teaching or learning GNU/Linux and for testing or exploring other OSs, without having to re-boot to switch between them. Multiple OSs can be run at the same time. It has 2 versions: Basic – just enough OS to run VirtualBox, & the enhanced version which includes a few tools to make the distro usable for a few other basic common tasks (such as web browsing). Either of these could be used as a starting point for a new distro. Each version also contains Remastersys which can be used to generate an ISO file of the current system.

The Turing Linux Operating System, is a Debian-based Linux distro designed to facilitate the creation and running of Linux distros. It is a minimal distro offering little more than a Linux kernel, standard GNU/Linux utilities, a small graphical user interface (OpenBox),  a VirtualBox (VB) in which to run guest Linuxes, and Remastersys (RM) for the creation of distributable copies.  It comes in 2 versions: Basic & Enhanced.

The objectives of TuringOS are to provide:

  • A barebones foundation for building new, Debian-based distros;
  • A distro that facilitates the exploration or demonstration of various other Linux distros.

Use Cases

  • Distro hopping. Explore multiple distros simultaneously, no need to reboot or switch computers, you can have multiple windows each with a different OS.
  • Teaching Linux. Demonstrate the various Linuces to your students easily (a variant of distro-hopping but worth an explicit mention).
  • Use the same computer for multiple purposes, e.g PVR with say Mythbuntu, + general PC with a less stripped-down system.
  • Accomodate multiple users with different OS preferences.

Why is it named Turing Linux?

A Universal Turing Machine is a Turing Machine (TM) that can simulate the action of any other TM – essentially by using a description of the other TM. Similarly this distro can simulate the action of any other distro by using its description, namely the ISO file you put into VirtualBox. And besides, there’s surprisingly little actual (as opposed to theoretical) computer stuff named after Alan Turing. There is a programming language called Turing, which appears to be all but defunct. So, I dedicate this distro to the memory of Alan Turing.

1 comment for “Turing Linux

  1. Arnaud Ziéba
    November 28, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    Great initiative, good to know, a kind of meta Linux distro so to speak. I will give it a shot.

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