What *is* a linux distro, fundamentally?

I'm not asking a basic question—though it sounds like one—but trying to get at something lower level.

When I think of a distro, I tend to think of a package manager and default desktop environment/windows manager. But neither of those are *really* tied to a distro.

If I use i3 (or dwm, or sway, or stumpwm…) as my windows manager and get all my packages from Guix (or snaps, or flatpacks…) what is the distro actually providing?

The init system?


(The answer to "what is a distro really providing" is probably "work through a Linux From Scratch install, and then you'll see" but I'm hoping to discover the answer to my question in a less … educational … way)

@codesections I’m old enough to remember when everybody was installing applications from source, and a “distribution” was just that—an installer for the kernel, bootloader, and some basic software you would then use to bootstrap your working system.

@SuperFloppies @david

I guess I'm also "old enough", but sadly didn't get into Linux until far too late for that

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