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Time for a Linux Consolidation? 490

Posted by Zonk
from the mebbe dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Are there too many Linux distributions currently available? Can there be too many? This article explores the effect of the large number of distros out right now and suggests that progress could possibly be made through a consolidation. The article is more focused on Linux on the desktop but the ideas presented would impact the entire community, especially as it is seen as a rival to Windows." From the article: "One of the less widely recognized reasons why Linux has not yet toppled Windows, despite it many advantages, is how divided the resources available to Linux are. With dozen of different distributions the Linux community is so diffuse that the power or significance of any specific entity is severally limited."
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Time for a Linux Consolidation?

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  • You mean like... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ylikone (589264) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @03:59PM (#13082885) Homepage
    ... the success called "United Linux"??
    • Yeah. What people fail to realize is consolidation is usually an euphemism for monopolization, technological stagnation and, of course, profit increases for shareholders. The customers be screwed.

      The ultimate consolidated economy was the Soviet Union. Is this what people want?

      • So..
        In Soviet Russia, Linux consolidates you!!
      • by jrockway (229604) <jon-nospam@jrock.us> on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:54PM (#13083235) Homepage Journal
        Exactly.

        "With dozen of different distributions the Linux community is so diffuse that the power or significance of any specific entity is severally limited."

        That's the whole fucking point of Linux.

        I know this makes it hard for joe luser to pick a distro to run an enterprise on, but, like any major software purchasing/deployment scenerio, you need to have intelligent people making these decisions. If you want to use Linux, hire someone who has a favorite distro and use that. They're really all the same, minus some extra shiny icons.
        • by Synbiosis (726818) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:59PM (#13083259)
          They're really all the same, minus some extra shiny icons.

          And the drivers included. And the (non-shell) user interface. And the installation/packaging system.

          Linux could definitely benefit from *some* consolidation.
          • Re:You mean like... (Score:4, Interesting)

            by vsprintf (579676) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @05:53PM (#13083549)

            Linux could definitely benefit from *some* consolidation.

            Every distro out there is an experiment in what works and what doesn't. The variety also makes Linux a difficult target for malware. That's why I don't support the LSB. If some people have a great enough itch to roll another distro, I say go for it. Look at it as insurance against inbreeding and the brain-damaged OS that could be the result - I'm not mentioning any names.

            • by It'sYerMam (762418) <(thefishface) (at) (gmail.com)> on Saturday July 16, 2005 @06:03PM (#13083586) Homepage
              But there are huge benefits to be gained in usability with a consolidated packaging system. Think what it means - projects need to be ported to ONE distribution system. Proprietary drivers need support ONE more system, make sure it works with ONE system. Users would be nearly garunteed to be able to find the program they want if there were consolidated repositories. The repos could be divided a la debian into stable, free, nonfree, testing, unstable - although preferably in my view another that's in between testing and unstable. Thataway every distro could be as stable as debian, as bleeding edge as fedora and whatehaveyou. Also preferably organised by flags as opposed to directories, thatway you can have "nonfree, stable."
              You've gotta admit that the massive web of differing packagin systems is often high up on the list of criticisms against usability, and if there were consolidated repos, then you needn't worry about getting software from dodgy sites as most stuff would be right there in repo.
              • by vsprintf (579676)

                But there are huge benefits to be gained in usability with a consolidated packaging system.

                There is already a single consolidated packaging system with nearly perfect interoperability for Linux distros. It's called source code.

            • by TCM (130219) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @06:28PM (#13083682)
              Every distro out there is an experiment in what works and what doesn't.

              Exactly that's why I can choose the network protocol to reach Slashdot, right? Oh, has to be TCP/IP you say? Where is my choice?!

              Next you tell me I have to use HTTP to read comments and can't pick something I want..

              It's about choice, right?

              Right?

              *crickets*
        • Re:You mean like... (Score:3, Interesting)

          by rayde (738949)
          That's the whole fucking point of Linux.

          I know this makes it hard for joe luser to pick a distro to run an enterprise on, but, like any major software purchasing/deployment scenerio, you need to have intelligent people making these decisions.

          and it's exactly this elitist attitude that has prevented Linux from already eclipsing Windows on the desktop.

          If you want to use Linux, hire someone who has a favorite distro and use that.

          are you serious? So in order to use this free, open source OS, you

      • A Sourceforge search on "make and replacement" turned up about half a dozen projects, omitting a few others I know of like bjam, SCons, and ant.
        What would make some rejoice is a paring down of the wheel re-invention. While you get nothing but flamewar for touting The One True <tool category>, the fragmentation in F/OSS, ultimately, supports the existing monopolists.
        So, maybe we can agree that the combinatorial explosion isn't helping?
    • No. I don;t think it was a reference to UnitedLinux. From the article:

      "With dozen of different distributions the Linux community is so diffuse that the power or significance of any specific entity is severally limited."

      Evidently, they are suggesting that centralized control over the operating system is what is required for Linux to spread. This is not like United Linux because no single entity controlled United Linux. This is instead the Microsoft model, which is why they are wrong.

      Clearly there are a lot of areas that need improvement on unifying the base platform for Linux-based systems. And clearly the fragmentation has caused problems (was that Runlevle 2 or 3? Was that runlevel 3 or 5 in this distro?) but these areas are being worked on. The answer comes in many forms, from FreeDesktop.org to the LSB project.

      The average Linux user should not have to worry about the holy wars regarding KDE v. GNOME. They should be able to get KDE apps and GTK apps running on the same system and integrating seamlessly without any problems. This is happening.

      The average Linux admin should not have to worry about which utilities are on a system, which runlevel is which, what the device name for the serial port is, and half a dozen other annoyances that have at one time or another plagued the Linux world. These things should be standardized. And it is happening.

      In short, consolidation is not the answer. Standardization is the answer. Interoperability is the answer. On top of that, each vendor should be encouraged to extend the standard as a way of trying out new things. Eventually new ideas will make their way in, just like other standards (POSIX, SQL, etc).

      And just to mention this, there may be cases where the standard does not apply. I for one don't think that TiVo's need to be LSB compliant...
  • Politics? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rob_squared (821479)
    Even though open source code promotes a homogeneous enviornment. The companies that are behind the major distros are just that, companies. They happen to be fine with the F/OSS mindset, but they still want to maintain a name. Don't cluster the beads of water that have spilled everywhere, let the small ones evaporate and the rest of them pool on their own.
  • I got it! (Score:5, Funny)

    by captnitro (160231) * on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:03PM (#13082906)
    We should form a committee to consolidate and leverage synergy for our information technology solutions in the marketplace!

    THIS IS A PERFECT OPPORTUNITY FOR BUREAUCRACY!!1
    • Great idea, but s/marketplace/enterprise .

    • by pg110404 (836120)
      We should form a committee to consolidate

      THIS IS A PERFECT OPPORTUNITY FOR BUREAUCRACY!!

      I say we should first form a commitee to weigh the pros and cons of consolidating and leveraging synergy for our information techology solutions in the marketplace. After all, forming a commitee to actually do it might be too costly. We need to know what we're getting into first.

      Also, we should do a separate study to find out if the marketplace is ready for that consolidation in the first place.

      Of course, th
  • Look, the fact is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:03PM (#13082910)
    Linux is never going to reduce the number of available distributions, even if it's what's good for Linux, because the people making these distributions aren't doing it for the benefit of "Linux". They're doing it for the benefit of themselves.

    It's all very well and good to be some kind of columnist, standing outside of Linux and going "well, Linux would be better if Slackware and Gentoo would combine". That's easy to say. But this doesn't help you much if you're a Slackware user; it might be better for Linux if that happened but it wouldn't be better for Slackware and to the Slackware developer, what's better for Slackware is what matters because Slackware is what they want to use. If it wasn't, they'd be using Gentoo instead in the first place.

    Linux development, as an open source process, is fueled by self-interest. This is its greatest strength. That it indirectly produces weaknesses is unavoidable.
    • The article: blablabla

      Division and diversity is the strength of the opensource community. If people still can not see that that is why linux is still alive, and others who tried (Beos, OS/2, the DOS competitors) have failed, then they should not be busy with writing about opensource.

      The big distributions (Red hat, SuSE, debian, and some others) wiil define the landscape for business deployments. In the future software will be chosen more often for a purpose not because of a companyname (at least lets ho
      • Re:Look, the fact is (Score:3, Interesting)

        by shmlco (594907)
        Division and diversity is the strength of the opensource community. If people still can not see that that is why linux is still alive, and others who tried ... have failed...

        Utter nonsense. Linux is alive for two main reasons: it, and most of the applications that run on it, are free and they tend to work. Take away either of those two and we would not be having this conversation.

        Free means that the TCO is low enough to make learning a new system and supporting it worthwhile. But no OS is worth anythin

  • Common technologies (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fulldecent (598482) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:03PM (#13082913) Homepage
    Solution:

    1. Autopackage: autopackage.org becomes more popular and supports integrating natively with major package managers. Binaries are distributed as autopackages.

    2. Have additional levels of optional LSB and make them popular.

    3. ...

    4. Profit
    • Autopackage is really, really nice, but IIRC it requires one to re-package everything in order to be effective.

      What I'd like to see is a GUI based package manager that could just bloody well figure out that your repos are .deb based or .rpm based, and act accordingly. Each distro would delare in a config file "I put admin stuff in this directory, apps in this directory, and all other stuff in that directory" or somesuch to get around the "where files go" problem. Wallah, a common front end for all distros.
      • by Coryoth (254751)
        What I'd like to see is a GUI based package manager that could just bloody well figure out that your repos are .deb based or .rpm based, and act accordingly.

        You might be lookign for Smart [smartpm.org] which is a potential replacement for apt. It does the dependency resolution and installation that apt does but with more advanced dependency resolving algorithms (seee their README for examples). It has command line and GUI modes of operation so there's no need for another program to provide a GUI front-end like Synapt
  • Maybe Not (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the_weasel (323320) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:03PM (#13082916) Homepage
    I am a windows apologist - look at my history and you will see I entirely willing to point out the failings of Linux to the Zealots as the next guy.

    But even I can see that the diversity of Linux is one of its strengths, as well as its weakness right now. Thanks to the sheer variety of work done in exploring slightly different approaches to the same task, we get to experiment with a multitude of approaches and ideas.

    While that may not be a truly better product now, it can only lead to an excellent one in the future.

    I am in no hurry for Linux to take over - I am not even sure that the operating system that does take over will be called Linux. Windows will have to sink a lot lower before its abandoned by the masses.

    I am entirely certain that the work done in Linux over the past 10 years will shape the next generation operating system that finally does defeat windows though.
    • Thanks to the sheer variety of work done in exploring slightly different approaches to the same task, we get to experiment with a multitude of approaches and ideas.

      Yeah, but eventually one of those approaches needs to win and become standard, so that instead of wasting time figuring out how to get all of our multitude of approaches to work together so that we can actually use the system, we can move on to exploring new tasks.

      I'm really tired of having to think about tar files vs. rpms, and gtk vs. qt;

    • I am a windows apologist - look at my history and you will see I entirely willing to point out the failings of Linux to the Zealots as the next guy.

      "I am a Ford apologist - I'm willing to point out the failings of Toyota".
      • Which is a reasonable qualification if you're about to tell somebody that there is ONE good thing about Toyota, but you don't want them to think you're some kind of fan boy.
    • Re:Maybe Not (Score:5, Insightful)

      by The_Mystic_For_Real (766020) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:32PM (#13083112)
      One of the reasons that the number of Linux distros is impairing its growth is that it hasn't presented any one competitor to Windows. If people want Windows, they get Windows. If they want to try Linux, should they use Gentoo, Slackware, Knoppix? Which one supports their hardware better, which one is more user friendly, which one is more secure, which one has a helpful userbase? It's not really easy to answer any of these questions, even for those experienced with Linux. Furthermore, there is no face to Linux (no offense Tux), it becomes something that occasionally goes from one to two percent of the market for much of the other 98%.
      • Re:Maybe Not (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jbolden (176878) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @05:26PM (#13083410) Homepage
        Which should they use to do what? To:

        1) Create a development workstation
        2) Run a small home server
        3) Run a large multiprocessor corporate server
        4) Use for children
        5) Use for a keyboardless sales demo on a plasma screen
        6) Use for a cash register
        7) Use for an embedded system with no user interface at all

        etc... Why would you expect one product to be all of those things. The car industry works fine with having a range of products from small compact cars to large trucks. People in grocery stores can shop for steak or cereal fine. Its Microsoft that has pushed a "one size fits all" approach.
        • Re:Maybe Not (Score:5, Insightful)

          by bhiestand (157373) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @09:37PM (#13084465) Journal


          4) Use for children

          Good job. You managed to pick ONE thing the average home user would actually use a computer for. I guess you just don't realize that the average home user doesn't know the difference between spyware and a virus, has no interest in networking their coffemaker and their fridge (with encryption, of course), and certainly doesn't care for a server.

          Here's what they want:

          1) so easy to use, even they can do it

          2) check their spam daily

          3) all of the programs they already know how to use already work on it.

          4) easy transition (minimize lost settings, files, etc.) This includes things such as iTunes playlists.

          5) the same hardware support they have in windows. That is, everything worked with windows when they bought that computer from Dell/Compaq/HP/Fujitsu, whatever. They didn't have to go hunt down drivers, troubleshoot anything, or settle irq conflicts. In fact, they're not quite sure what a driver is, but are pretty certain about putters.

          6) multimedia support out of the box. They don't want to install their Line-Ux CD just to find out that the media player can't even play their porn or their mp3s. They need codecs? "What are those? Where can they buy them? RTFA? Where can I buy an RTFA? Oh, you mean check the interweb? Google said I should download winamp!"

          I really have no idea why I haven't run into a single linux distro that supports my porn and mp3s without extra codec downloads. I'm not sure why most STILL don't include read-only support for my NTFS partitions. To be honest, I'm amazed they don't have it fully figured out such that I can WRITE to my NTFS partitions as well. Especially since I've got some nifty 300GB external hard drives for my windows laptop. Why is it a windows laptop? See the above issues.

          I realize most of the problems are really caused by crappy licensing agreements by the "owners" of whatever licenses or code, and a lot of the other problems are caused by hardware manufacturers refusing to release drivers or help us to write them, but the end user doesn't really care. The average 50 year old jet mechanic couldn't give a damn if it's because the software author's daughter died yesterday. He wants his shit to work to do the stuff HE does. And most people do the EXACT same thing and little else.

          As for me, I'll switch entirely, and get the rest of my family running it, as soon as all the porn that windows media player plays is playable under linux, red alert 2 works perfectly, and gaim has caught up with trillian. The browser is about the same, evolution and thunderbird are great for email, the hardware support appears half-assed at best, .... I'm done with that.

          To bring back to your point: "The car industry works fine with having a range of products from small compact cars to large trucks" This is a valid point, but also completely off. The true analogy would be going into a car dealership and telling them:

          Buyer: "I just want a car. It has to have A/C, working lights and brakes, and get me to and from work."

          Dealer: "Will you be hauling sand or rocks. What kind of towing capacity do you need?"

          Buyer repeats: "just a car. For transportation. To and from work. And maybe the movies occasionally. I'd like to be able to get it on in the back seat too".

          Dealer: "Oooooh. Ok, yeah, we have that. Here's what we can do for you. We've got this great frame out back, it's really happening. Then you can go across the street and buy the interior. We'll even tow it down the street to the corner for you to get the engine put in. You can repaint it whatever color you want (fully customizable!), but nobody has lights for it, so you'll have to find those before you drive it at night. Oh, and it needs 100 octane, so you'll have to go to one of these special petrol stations."

          Linux's problem is your idea of "why would you expect one product to be all of those things." The truth is, the majo
    • I agree, and would mod you up if I had the points. Overrall, I think we should keep the diversity but standardize the "layers" of a Linux install. What I mean is from kernel space to user space, including graphical functions, should all have written standards as to how they behave. So if GTK wants to draw a button on the screen, fine, but the function would have to conform to the syntax "drawButton( width, height, position )" the same as Gnome, so that any application/toolkit could make use of the function
    • Re:Maybe Not (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cbreaker (561297)
      I think some of the reason that there's this feeling of "hurry up!" in regards to Linux is the recent push for DRM that could lock OSS and Linux out.

      Microsoft knows this, and I'm sure it's in their minds when pushing for it.

      So, the faster we can get Linux marketshare, the slower DRM adoption will be because there will be a larger group of users, potential customers, locked out.

      DRM is the only thing that worries me with OSS/Linux. I'm with you - I'm sure the next big OS will be Linux. But the DRM thi
  • Yes. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrchaotica (681592) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:04PM (#13082917)
    I think there are too many distros, but moreover, I think there are too many competing technologies: QT vs. GTK, dpkg vs. rpm vs. ebuild vs. tgz, etc. If we could work out some good standards -- that everybody followed -- we could have all the distros anyone wanted and it wouldn't be a problem.
    • Re:Yes. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by poopdeville (841677)
      Yeah, having to make a choice on the technical merits of a particular technology sucks.

      Your complaint is the reason why easy to use distros like Mandriva and Ubuntu exist. They make the hard choices so you don't have to. If there were less diversity among Linux distros, the "beginner" end user would have a far harder time making his way into linux.

    • There is goodness in diversity. The sheer fact is that the way someone chooses to do something (like the INANE bookmarks menu in Konqueror) might drive a user nuts. Fortunately (due to the diversity that abounds) there are enough good, competeting alternatives that I can easily find something that I find more palatable.

      There are many dynamics associated with the diversity that we see...so the next distro isn't going to hit it big...so what? Think about the social aspects- it could be perfect for a small gr
    • Re:Yes. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by slavemowgli (585321) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:54PM (#13083231) Homepage
      "Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions." - Terry Pratchett, "The Truth".

      It just doesn't work that way. Most FOSS software is not developed because somebody has a "vision" of "taking over the market" or something similar; it's done because people want to scratch their own particular itches. This is a weakness of FOSS, if you view it from a marketing or management point of view, but it's also the key strength.

      As for Linux taking over Windows and toppling M$... maybe it'll happen, and sure, if it does, that'll be a day to celebrate. But it's not the principal *aim* - Linus himself has repeatedly said that his goal is not to write an OS that is better than competitor X, Y or Z, but simply to write the best OS he can.

      Of course, on top of the actual developer/user community, there is another layer - namely, the companies that produce distros, like Novell (SuSE), RedHat, Linspire (or Lindows or whatever they're called this week) and so on. And yes, if you view it from their perspective, then it very much *is* about beating Windows (as far as possible, anyway), and also about taking as big a slice of the Linux cake for your *own* particular company - this is one reason why distros are different and why UnitedLinux never took off.

      Of course, the same principle applies everywhere in the IT world. And of course, like everywhere else, standards still are important, because even though distros can try to set themselves apart by being being better than their competitors, they will ultimately fail if they're too different from everyone else - in that case, the majority simply has more weight, even if the minority distro is better in technical terms.

      This is a kind of conundrum that you'll encounter everywhere in the computer industry: standards and interoperability are good, not just for customers and users but also for companies that develop software, but if you have *too* much, then products will start to be completely interchangable, and that's something that companies will always try to prevent.

      But to get back to my original point, that's just something that happens in the business layer on top of the actual FOSS communit(y|ies), and it doesn't matter to Linux as such - because, ultimately, FOSS is not developed so companies can build new business models around it, but rather so that users will be able to scratch their own itches in the best possible way.

      That's what it's about: the software. To stay with one of your examples, some people like Qt, some prefer GTK+ (for whatever reasons), but there is no reason why there shouldn't be both. It may be bad for a business trying to maximize its profits, yes. But why should the community members care?

      It doesn't make a difference to us whether Joe Sixpack uses Linux or Windows. Why should we give up our choice so it's easier for a company to sell a Linux distro to him?
      • Re:Yes. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Brandybuck (704397) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @07:53PM (#13084060) Homepage Journal
        "Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions." - Terry Pratchett, "The Truth".

        Awesome quote! The problem with the Free Software community is that too few people understand what "free" means. Everytime someone says we need consolidation, or that KDE and GNOME need to merge, or that we have too many text editors and package managers, all they are doing is admitting that they don't know the first thing about freedom.

        Freedom is messy. It's uncomfortable. It doesn't hold your hand. It doesn't make any promises. Sometimes we need to grow up and stop depending on mommy and daddy or the big nice government or the dictatorial standards committee to wipe our butts and make all of our decisions for us. It's called "adulthood". People who can't handle should go back to a childish OS like Windows.
  • Missed the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bloater (12932) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:05PM (#13082923) Homepage Journal
    > With dozen of different distributions the Linux community is so diffuse that the power or significance of any specific entity is severally limited.

    The author clearly missed the point of Open-Source. *The power or significance of any specific entity is severally[sic] limited* so the users have control. That is *why* people want to use Open-Source. Indeed there are few reasons apart from that one.
  • Wrong questions (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:05PM (#13082928)
    Are there too many Linux distributions currently available? Can there be too many?

    As long as there are "professional" distros out there (Redhat^H^H^H^H^H^HFedora, Debian, and the other big names), how can there be too many distros? If you don't like a distro, chose another one.

    The argument would be different if there was no good distro, but a multitude of not-so-good ones, but it isn't the case, so more doesn't hurt.

    As for unifying Linux, this is an old issue that resolved a long time ago: all distros use one or another variant of the BSD init, they all more or less follow the standard way of putting things on the filesystem (/usr, /lib, /bin, /usr/bin, ...), they all more or less agree on what should go where, etc... Minor differences between distros are easily resolved, as distros where .deb and .rpm coexist prove.
    • Minor differences between distros are easily resolved
      Perhaps, but as long as they exist we have to waste our time resolving them over and over and over again.
      • Perhaps, but as long as they exist we have to waste our time resolving them over and over and over again.

        The people actually doing the programming don't see this as a waste of time, and in the end the only opinion that counts is theirs. They aren't reponsible to anyone but themselves, and no one can reasonably claim otherwise.

        It isn't *you* who's 'wasting time'. You can't make the claim, nor can you insist that others conform to your view on How Things Should Be In The Linux World(TM). If you don't ge
      • Re:Wrong questions (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:27PM (#13083070)
        Perhaps, but as long as they exist we have to waste our time resolving them over and over and over again.

        The question is more like: how much time do you spend working on installing/configuring/repairing the Linux (or BSD or whatever *nix) box of your choice, versus how much time you spend installing/configuring/repairing Windows?

        For me, it's easy:

        1 - Installing Linux: maybe twice as much time as Windows, due mainly to the lack of prepackaged drivers for this or that

        2 - Configuring Unix: 10 times as much time as Windows, because I want to have everything neat and well installed, and KDE can be non-obvious at times.

        3 - Maintaining Unix: 0. Maintaining Windows: it's an endless pain in the butt (patching, running Norton, de-spyware-ing, de-virusing, renewing licenses, etc etc...)

        So, in terms of time, I spend a lot more time installing and configuring Unix, but then after that I'm done for good.

        So even with the minor differences in distros as they are, I'm winning over using Windows anyway. And I'm not even talking about the hard-dollar price of Windows and Windows software, so that's why I'm saying that, for moderately technically-savvy people, Linux is already a better choice than Windows, even with its flaws.
    • Most distros use some variation of sysv init, claiming that "all distros" use a BSD init system is completely absurd.

      And you seriously over-estimate how consistant filesystem layouts are from disto to distro, its still a huge mess.
  • by oneandoneis2 (777721) * on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:06PM (#13082934) Homepage
    Most of the people that *I* talk to who are considering switching to Linux are concerned with nothing but GUIs: So long as there's a decent desktop and the package management has a nice frontend, they couldn't care less about the inner workings of the distro.

    DEs are freely interchangeable between distros, and even package manager GUIs are fairly universal - There may be hundreds of distros, but how many are there that don't use RPMs, apt-get or source code?

    The amount of community time spent on distro-specific stuff is miniscule compared to the time spent on projects that can be used on a wide variety of distros. The number of distros is therefore largely irrelevant, rather than some community-draining problem like TFA says.

    After all, that's the whole point of Open Source, isn't it. . ? Sharing code amongst projects. . ?

  • Hey, I've got an idea, why don't Microsoft, Apple, Sun and all the Linux distros merge? Please. Show me one example of massive centralization that ever made something better.*

    * if your idea of better is to be able to sit atop that massive organization, control it, and wield the power, then don't bother to reply; that's the only reason someone would suggest it, anyway.
    • Umm.. Did you really just use an asterisk and them immediately dereference it? *

      * That's a little bit bizarre.

      Anyway, yeah simplifying the Linux desktop would be nice, but I think it's something that's going to happen naturally, so to speak. i.e. no group/consortium would be able to govern the consolidation, it's something that the users will decide.

      Strong distros will rise above the rest and eventually marginalize the competition. You can already see this happening with distros like Ubuntu. Check ou
      • Did you really just say "dereference" when talking about an asterisk used in ordinary english text? That's very bizzare, dereference involves pointers, which languages like C and C++ have, but languages like english don't.
        • While I am unsure if the word is used for it, the action exists within encyclopedias and other manuals and texts.

          I guess he just didn't know the proper term the bookmakers use, which I don't actually know either.

          Perhaps the term was actually borrowed from somewhere[1].

          Of course, it could just be that I see a link where there isn't one.

          1. a person who had read to many books with references marked.

  • I've tried to start using linux a few times and one of the stumbling blocks has been the choice of distributions. Perhaps a halfway approach would be a consoldiation of those distros aimed at the linux newbie. The first time I wanted to start it was RedHat all the way, unless it was Suse. Now it appears to be Mandrake hands down, if I choose not to go with Core or Linspire or Ubanutu. I've asked on boards too and there doesn't seem to be a consistant response nor is there a compelling reason to choose o
    • Same here... I have installed a few flavors of linux but never had enough time to figure out why one was better than another and always wondered if I was missing something cool on another distro. Currently I am running an XP install that I have to bitchslap to get how I want, but once done it just works. I already know how to do that, and even if it is worse than were I could be with linux I am productive on XP *right now*.

      I would love to have the time in my life to satisfy those that say "if you don't lik
      • I would love to have the time in my life to satisfy those that say "if you don't like one version of linux, pick another" but there are other things to do than install distros all day.

        And in this case you're better served by sticking with Windows than switching to Linux. Look, only the fanatics who view the "Linux vs Windows" thing as some sort of religious crusade actually care about converting you; the rest of us don't give a damn what OS you use.

        Choose what's best for you, stick with it, and ignore t
    • I'm not a newbie, I've used unix for years. I don't use linux because I have yet to find a distro that I like, and suits me. I would rather see far more distros so that everyone can find a distro they like.

      For what its worth, choosing a distro based on uninformed blathering from random forums is not a good idea. Who cares what is the most recommended distro by people who have no business recommending anything right this second? Use one, if you like it keep using it, if you don't then try a different on
  • by dokebi (624663) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:09PM (#13082945)
    First, the hyperlinks in the articles are actually advertisement links. Second, you cannot consolidate distributions when I can start my own distribution tomorrow.

    Dear editors, can we please mod articles? Recently there have been numerous articles that are just thinly disguised advertisements and click-through magnets. Slashdot as a community deserves better.
    • It's Zonk, mostly. He's incompetent. Every third article he sends through is "Rapists Choose Windows", and then you click the link and it's a story about a prison picking Windows. I don't have time to find actual examples right now, but he's an idiot.
    • by slavemowgli (585321) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @05:04PM (#13083280) Homepage
      You're right, of course, but the editors won't listen to you.

      The reason for that is simple: unlike you and me, the editors don't care for Slashdot as a community site; or at least, it's not their top priority. What they *do* care about is their bottom line - i.e., advertising revenue. In order to maximize revenue, they need to have a certain amount of stories each day, and the stories need to be sufficiently interesting. The best story, from an editor's perspective, is one that generates lots of attention and makes people come back the next day to read more.

      Sadly enough, troll stories do fit this bill quite perfectly - they're simply exploiting human nature and its hunger for sensations. Ever wonder why there are so many tabloid newspapers and why they're read by so many people? It's the same thing.

      Of course, Slashdot has a reputation as being a news source for people who're more intelligent and more interested in technical issues than the average Joe Sixpack from the street - but it's still the same fundamental mechanism.

      You can't really change anything about it, either - you could stop reading Slashdot, of course, but chances are that due to the sheer number of users, it wouldn't be noticed. There are alternatives, of course, that you could turn to, but they, too, suffer from the same problem. Kuro5hin, for example, caters to a specific audience just as much as Slashdot does, and uses the same tricks - somebody reading Kuro5hin might condemn Slashdot for what they do, but will probably fail to realize that the same thing is happening on K5, too. Ultimately, all news sources find their target audience and cater to that - if you like it, good, if you don't, not good, but it's not gonna change.

      Incidentally, this is why we get dupes so often, too - contrary to popular belief, editors *are* aware that they're posting dupes, but they need good stories, and if something garners a lot of attention the first time it's posted, then it'll likely be posted again. And of course, if an editor still feels uneasy about it, they can always rationalize it away by pointing out the fact that people from different time zones might have missed the original story and so on.

      But yeah, that's Slashdot. Love it or hate it, but you're not gonna fundamentally change it; and personally, I can live with daily dupes and troll articles as long as *most* articles are good, at least.
    • by William-Ely (875237) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @05:18PM (#13083368)
      I always thought articles were simply prompts for people to make comments about something losely related to its description.
  • by rolfwind (528248) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:09PM (#13082946)
    Competition is good. Ubuntu is a latecomer that just came out September of 2004 and it's one of the best distros for newbies. And most popular.

    Knoppix is good and for a different audience/purpose. Imagine if either weren't out there.

    A little known distro LFS (Linux From Scratch) is great for learning linux deep down inside and for ultimate configuration, but serves neither market the above two do.

    The people who make distros, especially the ones not in the top 20, are people who are doing it for fun. You will not be able to funnel their effort without them feeling forced and ultimately quiting.

    I would also like to have more cooperation in the *nix world, but this would have to do purely with standards and how drivers work, etcetera so that there is a reduction on overlap on projects few people want to work on (to get things working right).

    But Linux's strength comes from diversity, otherwise it wouldn't have come so far. Just look at the Window Managers - specifically KDE and Gnome - without the one, the other wouldn't have been pushed to be better or as good as it is today.

    We don't want to be Windows. A one-size-fits all approach wouldn't have let linux run on servers, as well as PCs, as well as in PDA's and other embedded applications as well as it does.

    Has Windows really improved since 95 that much in any significant way? Is their one-size-fits-all solution what we want?
  • What linux really needs i something a bit like the Milk marketig board here in the UK. All the companies and individuals should pool together to fund marketing into why linux is so much better. Maybe we can have linux tv adverts rather than those shit abstract M$ ones we get.

    A Leason in marketing
    There once was a leading brand of soap powder than had about 80% of the market the brand owners decided they didnt need to market it anymore so they stoped. Within a year their market share was down to 20%! proof
  • Yeah right... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by One Louder (595430) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:12PM (#13082959)
    I see.

    So, a consumer walks into a computer store to buy a computer, and they're overwhelmed by too many choices of Linux.

    Sorry, I don't buy it.

    The problem is that, with few exceptions, you can't buy a machine at retail with *any* Linux on it. The only way Linux ends up on machines now is when a consumer decides to get rid of the OS they got for "free" on the machine.

    Consolidating Linux distros doesn't do anything about getting it into the hands of users and onto machines - an effective sales and marketing organization does that.

    • Re:Yeah right... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Nik13 (837926)
      Yes and no.

      It won't help selling PCs with linux at bestbuy, but it's still slowing down adoption.

      The first couple of times I looked at linux, I had to find out about all the main distros, to then learn there were several desktops (KDE, GNOME, etc) - and I didn't even know what any of them looked or felt like, then next thing was the whole rpm/apt-get/source/etc issue, and the bundled software also varies. It takes a LOT of reading to find what you're looking for, and everybody is tempted to ask "what's be
  • by flood6 (852877) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:13PM (#13082967) Homepage Journal
    I'll go ahead and say it, "I didn't read TFA". But I'm confidant that I've read 20 just like it. The thing is, many of the maintainers and contributors to the "fringe" distributions do what they do because they enjoy it, to learn, or because there is some specific need that they want met.

    They often have no interest in "rivaling" MS.

    The larger distros like SuSE, RH, Mandriva, etc. are companies, they are going to keep trying to make a profit.

    Then you have distros like Gentoo and Debian that are firmly established and will keep producing their fine distros because they have such enthusiastic communities.

    Over time leading distros will emerge and fade away. Some people will see the benefits of consolidating their efforts and others will continue to pursue their goals on their own.

    It's just the way it is; writing one more article about why all the distros (or GNOME and KDE) should "join forces to bring down MS" is not going to change that.

    If I improperly categorized the article I didn't read, I'm sorry, but I still think it's a waste of time to try and "unite the troops".

  • What I don't like (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Andrew Tanenbaum (896883) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:13PM (#13082971)
    is how much wasted effort is spent on "packaging" (which is a concept that doesn't really exist on other operating systems). For any given piece of software there are probably 30 people who all do the same work (more or less) putting it into some quasi proprietary format. That's where consolidation is needed.
    • by Mornelithe (83633)
      What I don't like is how much wasted effort is spent on "packaging" (which is a concept that doesn't really exist on other operating systems).

      That's because other operating systems (I assume you mean Windows and OS X) don't provide the functionality in this area that Linux distributions do. Can Windows tell you when some random program you've installed has an update? Can OS X? They can tell you when some core package requires an update or security patch, but other than that, it's up to every individual pr
  • Here comes the flood of lusers saying how their preferred distro is the king and everyone should get eaten up by it.

    I've used 3 distros (only glanced at the rest...and it's been too long since I've used Slackware): Gentoo, Debian, Redhat.

    Gentoo stands out on its own because it does something the others don't. Debian and Redhat are very similar. They have a canned installer, you grab precompiled packages, and viola.

    Grouping according to similarity rather than announcing your distro is the best would get
  • Call me crazy.. But I want more distros!! More Choice!!

    Yes it is intimidating to new linux users.. But I like having specialized distributions.

    I like having varying filesystem heirarchies and all that shizzle.

    It produces more robust code. Applications get tested on everything from XBoxes to Tea Kettles.

    It allows for more specialization. If there was one distro targetting n00bs... Then what would happen to the 1337 people?

    I think variety is awesome! Find a bug in one distro that is taking time to fix
  • I'm now struggling with a MythTV, HD-3000, FC4 installation, and I absolutely believe it would be easier if more people used a common platform to get this kind of thing working. I look at MythTV documentation and it says stuff like this information is only valid if you have compiled from source. So I can't even rely on the documentation because I use smart to grab the rpms from ATRPMS? Do they think detailed information exists for each distro? This kind of problem simply does not happen under Windows or M
    • Well, MythTV is in my opinion a perfect argument for more, specialized distributions.

      For MythTV, there is "KnoppMyth" which provides a super simple install based on Knoppix (which is derived from Debian). It is targeted at being easy to install.

      There's no way a dedicated PVR box is going to be served best by a vanilla Debian or FC install. Even Microsoft produces "Windows Media Center Edition" as a customized OS to be used as a PVR.

      -- John.
  • Consolidation of marketing efforts. I mean educating consumers and letting them know that alternatives to Windows and Mac OS X exist out there. I saw a comericial last night for the movie "March of the Penguin." I was thinking that it would be great if someone used this to advertise Linux to the masses.
  • Is it a new Windows distribution, when an OEM installs extra tools, such as IBM's laptop utilities? I think there's a tendancy to see division above and beyond where there actually is any, when it comes to Linux.

    Personally, what I would like to see is a "standard source library", where versions of packages known to work together are collected together. That would simplify the work of binary package maintainers and provide a level of unification on the baseline WITHOUT imposing unification in the installat

  • Maybe that "reason" is "less widely recognized" is because it's wrong. Part of the Linux community model is its decentralization. I think that Windows users are taking a risk by depending on Microsoft. Because if Microsoft is forced to do something by a court, or by a competitor, MS users are forced to go along for the ride. But even if Linux users depend on a big, centralized company for their products and service, like Red Hat or Novell, they can much more easily switch to another distro, if RH or Novell
  • I personally love the idea of countless groups building their idea of the eprfect distribution. It's a perfect example of combining freedom and competition.

    While it can be said that consolidation allows for a meeting of the minds, and often faster and more effective development, it also inherently takes people's choices away.

    Just like breweries, I prefer diversity, freedom, and competition. It tastes a lot better.
  • by reallocate (142797) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:30PM (#13083089)
    There's little or no code production going on in most distributions, so their consolidation would accomplish very little.

    With a relatively few exceptions, Linux distributions are packaging efforts, making no contributions, original or otherwise, to the software they contain. Of those that do actually modify the software they've collected, most seem to be content with tweaking a theme or two. (The major exceptions, of course, are folks like Red Hat/Fedora, SUSE, Debian/Ubuntu.)

    So, in that regard, consolidating the efforts of most distributions would result in more tweaked themes and very little actual new code. Not much benefit there.

    A managed consolidation of developer talent is a different kind of thing. For example, identifying and putting the best human interface developers at work on the design of the Linux desktop mightt reap some benefits. Collecting and focusing talent is easier in the proprietary world than it is in the open source world, where developers self-identify their interests and work on whatever interests them, whether or not their skills might be better applied elsewhere.
  • by petrus4 (213815) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:37PM (#13083134) Homepage Journal
    More FUD of the "Eine Reich, Eine Volk, Eine Fuhrer!" variety.

    I'd like to think I'm only going to have to explain this once (yeah, right) so here goes my attempt to explain a few things to the Windows using world.

    1. Windows sucks. NT is probably the single most technologically inferior operating system to have ever seen the light of day. In terms of usability, on the surface it might seem great, but go even a few microns below the surface and it is revealed as an absolute dog. (Keep this point in mind, kids, cos it's a very important one)

    2. Microsoft have taught the computer using world to think in a number of perverted, unnatural, and generally harmful ways. One of these ways is the insistence that one size has to fit all, i.e., the concept of a monoculture. There can't be more than one operating system in existence at any one time, goes the old saw. Unfortunately what Microsoft doesn't understand (aside from virtually everything else, that is) is that diversity is actually good for computer security, rather than bad for it. If different people run different operating systems, or even different versions of a similar or same operating system, it means that the anarchic 14 year olds wanting to break into said computers will have to work harder...because they will need to write versions of a given virus for a greater number of operating systems than just one. We could even hope that faced with that much effort, they won't bother.

    3. Another one of these bad ways of thinking is the insistence that every GUI on the planet be identical to Windows'. You'll normally never hear me praising Apple (takes deep breath, wonders if he can really do this) but they also came up with some great ideas for user interface design, as well. The people currently designing KDE for Linux have even managed to come up with a few.

    4. Yet another of Microsoft's evil ideas is the concept that programs should be designed monolithically. This actually follows on from the "Eine Reich, Eine Volk, Eine Fuhrer!" groupthink mentioned earlier. The Linux way of doing things on the other hand tends towards making various pieces which snap together, so that whoever works on a piece only has to worry about the bugs in said piece, rather than the entire program. Because the pieces are often fairly small, they're also usually a lot easier to understand than the sort of software Microsoft writes, and it's therefore easier to figure out how they work.

    5. So from these few examples, we can see how Microsoft's ideology is bad. Therefore, I humbly beg you to kindly cease and desist authoring screeds about how Linux should supposedly be more like Microsoft's monstrosities...because it really shouldn't. Microsoft should be taking pages from Linux's book, not the other way around...for many different reasons.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Are there too many flavours of ice cream available? Can there be too many?

    Obviously some manufacturers of ice cream should merge or whatever. I mean how can they carry on inflicting this confusion on everybody?
  • I think that the Linux distro landscape will consolidate a bit on its own in the near future. No one can sit back and plan it--if someone told you to stop using your favorite distro and use something else, why should you pay any attention?--but I think market forces will shake out most of the distros and leave a handful as the top ones.

    As long as anyone, anywhere in the world, keeps working on a distro, that distro is alive. So there will always be hundreds of distros. I'm just talking about the top en

  • Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions. -- Terry Pratchett

    Why do people constantly want to declare Linux's lack of central controls a weakness rather than (more truthfully) its' strength?

    Imagination is more important than knowlege. Knowlege is limited; imagination encircles the world. -- Albert Einstein

    By allowing anyone and everyone to make their own Linux distrobution -- or patch, or driver, or X manager or what-have-you, we see the power of u

  • The author is envisioning a utopian world where /everyone/ sets aside their differences and comes together to build something great.

    It never happens that way. What typically happens is accidental successes, such as the success of Linux over Hurd. Someone comes up with a better way of working, whether intentional or not (e.g. Linus and "the bazaar" [catb.org]), and it wins in the marketplace of ideas.

    While there's a lot of distributions out there, I'd argue that the important benefits of consolidation are being rec
  • ...when developers get tired of solving the same problems over and over again. RIght now there is plenty of energy out there. The developer need to get bored, tired or both. Until then the competing file layouts, package systems, and GUI desktops will continue to joust for supremacy... that's just the way of things.
  • Linux is evolving. Distros with reproductive advantage will flourish, while others will die out. Interbreeding, fostered by the GPL, means that advantageous features are spread among the distros while disadvantageous ones wither away.

    I see no reason to believe that some sort of centralized design and control would result in more effective development.
  • I gave up on Linux as my main desktop operating system and keep it around on a seperate partition to play with but not soley use.

    I am a former BSD bigot too so I may be biased here .... :-)

    Linux distributions are not only not incompatible with each other but they are incompatible with themselves.

    Case in point try running quake3, UT2003, UT2004, and other ports on Gentoo?

    It wont compile or not run at all. Why?

    Because api and abi changes are inevitable and newer versions of libraries are incompatible wit
  • When I think of consolidation, I think of Gnome and KDE. Yes, choice is good. Yes, it's lovely that we have such a diversity of effort.

    But doesn't it strike anyone else as fucking stupid that if I want to run Konqueror alongside Evolution, I have to load two cripplingly large environments into memory? That if I want to script KOffice, I can use DCOP, but of course, GNOME has its own scripting interface?

    This is not like having a choice of syslog daemons. This is just fucking stupid.

    So, is there any way to
  • Let me repeat: Monocultures are bad. Doesn't matter what the core is, say it again, monocultures are bad.

    A wise person might look at the plague Microsoft has cursed us with and see the obvious truth; this fool would repeat the same curse but with a different chant.

    Verily, this pundit needs to get himself a clue. Unfortunately, he's not bright enough to see the obvious one so I doubt _any_ clue would do.

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