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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"??
  • Politics? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rob_squared (821479) <rob&rob-squared,com> on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:03PM (#13082905)
    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. . ?

  • 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.
  • 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?
  • 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.

  • 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 nick0909 (721613) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:17PM (#13082998)
    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 like one version of linux, pick another" but there are other things to do than install distros all day. Yes I know this is slashdot.
  • by diegocgteleline.es (653730) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:18PM (#13083003)
    Well, no, we don't really want this. What we need, more compatibility between different distros, not a single distro

    DEB vs RPM vs ebuilds vs ..., for one. And then, even if we'd use the same packaging format, we'd have lots of troubles anyway: The "package namespace" is different in each distro, xorg can be split up in 50 different packages called "lib$FOO" in debian xand in fedora 25 called "xorg-lib-$FOO", or some shit.

    That's the biggest problem for inter-distro compatibility IMO . And the one way that it can be fixed is by moving the "packagin work" to developers (ie: let the developers write the spec files / debianize them, don't redo all the packaging work yourself as ALL distros currently do). But then, the one packaging format that encourages developers that is autopackage, which nobody is going to use because it's not .deb or .rpm. Sight....
  • by concept10 (877921) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:20PM (#13083018) Homepage
    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.
  • Re:Yes. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by poopdeville (841677) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:21PM (#13083027)
    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.
  • 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.
  • 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 zymano (581466) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:31PM (#13083101)
    My emachine intel extreme graphics chipset is NOT supported by UBUNTU . I go to the intel site and they only have drivers for a certain kernel for Redhat or Suse and no other distro. Get this. I read a suse messageboard and they can't even get it to work. Bahhhh.

    We need to make it easier for hardware support which is another reason for people pulling their hair out with linux.

  • 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%.
  • by the_bahua (411625) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:37PM (#13083140) Homepage Journal
    I couldn't disagree more. First of all. Linux is the kernel. If you could choose a different kernel, it'd be something else. There are other things(BSD, QNX, OS/2, BeOS, Apple), but they are not Linux.

    Second, "overall usability" is a very subjective and(in your case, I think) loaded phrase. I think you refer to "overall usability," in a self-serving manner, that assumes that everyone wants everything to work the same. This line of thinking is contrary to the spirit behind Linux and open source application development.

    Linux wasn't written to be a linear system, with no choices for the user. It was written to be a free alternative, with the ideals of freedom attached to it, to encourage as much independent and diverse development as possible.

    Some things work very well, and some don't. That doesn't mean that the system has failed. The system is still moving, and by the grace of freedom, it always will be. Linux has made massive advances, and continues to do so, without restricting its users' creativity and ingenuity.

    I trust a community a lot more than I trust a committee.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:40PM (#13083153)
    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?
  • Re:Ford? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cmarkn (31706) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:52PM (#13083217)
    And the reason that Ford does not sell enough cars is that it has too many models?
    It's not that there are too many models, it's that they are too different. Some models make you drive on the left side of the road, some you drive on the right side of the road, some you drive right down the middle, and some require you to build your own road.

    Meanwhile, busses carry 95% of the traffic, even though they are uncomfortable and smell bad and break down a lot. To switch to driving yourself requires developing too many new skills that you don't need to ride the bus, and those do not carry over to the different models.

    So it's not necessarily that the number of choices is, in itself, a bad thing; it is that each choice locks you in to that model, so that even though there are 100 choices, once you pick one, you are stuck with it. That makes the cost of picking wrong so high that it just isn't worth getting off the bus.
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Saturday July 16, 2005 @05:13PM (#13083340) Homepage Journal
    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?
  • by glimmy (796729) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @05:18PM (#13083370) Journal
    thats a good point since most package management systems are either based on RPM, Apt, or slackware's {.tgz}s
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • Re:Maybe Not (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cbreaker (561297) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @05:41PM (#13083483) Journal
    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 thing could put a huge wrench in the machine.
  • 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 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*
  • by anwyn (266338) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @06:37PM (#13083734)
    The greatness of the open source development model is that idiots like the author of this article have no way to inflict their totalitarian ideas on us. Hence they have no way to screw us! If all the idiot WINBLOWS users in existence suddenly switched to "mindless lemming-LINUX (TM)", the size of the idiot distro, would numerically dwarf all other distros. However, there would be absolutely NO compelling reason forcing any intelligent person to switch to "IDIOT-LINUX" (TM). There would be nothing to stop any geek from starting a new distro the next day! If the parasitic suits who were running "IDIOT-LINUX" started the usual user manipulating shit, in typical microsoft fashion, there would be nothing preventing "IDIOT-LINUX" users from switching! Even idiots eventually see the handwriting on the wall.

    The Greatness of of LINUX is that it is OUT OF CONTROL, with no way for idiots like the author of this article to impose bright ideas like "consolidation" on it!
  • by cortana (588495) <sam@robots.[ ].uk ['org' in gap]> on Saturday July 16, 2005 @06:50PM (#13083791) Homepage
    It *would* be much better if there was an NNTP interface to reading Slashdot stories and comments.
  • by vsprintf (579676) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @06:54PM (#13083814)

    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.

  • 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.
  • Re:Maybe Not (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 16, 2005 @08:15PM (#13084143)
    There is only one area of Linux I can think of that would benefit from a "one size fits all" mindset: hardware support. It's not uncommon for one distro to support one set of your hardware perfectly but fall flat on its face with others, while another distro might support that other set of hardware perfectly but nothing else.

    This kind of thing is what's impeding Linux. I agree with you: you don't need a one-size-fits-all product as MS has pushed over the years (although recently they've been splitting them -- hence the Home/Pro versions of XP). Almost all seven of those uses you listed are meaningless if the operating system doesn't even work on the hardware.
  • by Mornelithe (83633) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @08:20PM (#13084161)
    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 program to implement some sort of update checker. Or you have to check every website yourself. How is that not duplication of work?

    At the very least, there are automated tools for creating packages for various distributions. Most distributions are differentiated (at the package level) by the filesystem layout, and the versions of installed libraries. Producing correct packages isn't much harder, in most cases, than compiling the software on a particular distribution, with the appropriate configuration parameters. That's not too hard, and is certainly easier than writing an update checker yourself.
  • 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

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