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Linux Software

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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  • Common technologies (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fulldecent (598482) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @03:03PM (#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
  • Maybe Not (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the_weasel (323320) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @03:03PM (#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.
  • Wrong questions (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @03:05PM (#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.
  • by $cullyshouse (684136) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @03:11PM (#13082957) Homepage
    What linux really needs i something a bit like the Milk marketig board here in the UK. All the companies and individuals should pool together to fund marketing into why linux is so much better. Maybe we can have linux tv adverts rather than those shit abstract M$ 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 human beings are sheep!
  • by petrus4 (213815) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @03:37PM (#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.
  • Re:Yes. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by ozamosi (615254) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @03:39PM (#13083149) Homepage
    Even though it seems good at a first glance, that solution is just stupid. There is a reason people like Qt. There is a similar - but not identical - reason why people like GTK. Since the reasons they are being used aren't the same, they can't be combined into something all users will want. Some users actually have good reasons to either develop or use GTK, and others have other reasons to use/develop for Qt. At this stage, everyone can choose if they like Qt or GTK better - and they can even use both! This way, there is something to please all users.

    The same thing goes for package managers. Some people find dpkg terrible broken, while others think rpm sucks beyond comparison. Some don't want to sit and compile programs all day long, while others want complete controll of exactly what deps their program should have. At the current state, while it is messy, everyone still can pick their favourite.

    What would like to see, though, is a way of automate creation of all kind of packages from a autoconfigure-script or something... And (here is the twist) it should work. This means less time spent trying to package things.

    Also, the efforts to make Qt and GTK look the same are more than welcome for some users.
  • by slavemowgli (585321) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:04PM (#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 killerkalamari (528180) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:15PM (#13083354) Homepage
    I've tried a bunch of distros. Here is why I've stuck with Ubuntu (it finally got me away from Win 98, permanently):

    * No guilt trips. Mandrake and Redhat are trying to make money. Ubuntu doesn't seem to be going in that direction.. or at least I haven't noticed yet if they are. I got a stack of Ubuntu CD's for free, including free shipping.

    * Very simple installation. I think this isn't as strong a point as it used to be, because Redhat and Mandrake are easy to install too. I remember installing Linux in the past where there was menu after menu of cryptic stuff (/dev/hda1 means nothing to a Windows user).

    * Detected my hardware. The main reason that I kept switching distros was that my sound card was not working. It worked in Ubuntu. Not only that, but everything I want: scanner, printer, 5.25" floppy, ancient digital camera, joysticks, Roland midi daughterboard. All my hardware works!

    * Friendly support. There is the wiki, message board, and #ubuntu on irc.freenode.net. People there like to help, and do not have an elitist attitude.

    * sudo system. I remember the pains of plain Debian, where if I wanted to configure certain parts of my system graphically, I had to close all my apps and log back in as root. Also frustrating was having to type passwords to log in and out of my system. None of that annoyance with Ubuntu.

    * Easy package installation through Synaptic.. well this isn't a Ubuntu monopoly, but it is a great program. It was a major pain doing all that apt stuff my hand. Now, I have multiple Ubuntu repositories available, searchable.. with easily installed apps. Sometimes I still need to compile an app, but it is not often.

    * Good graphics. I know this seems silly.. but the people making icons and graphics for Ubuntu do a good job and it gives the OS a professional appearance. IMO, it looks even more professional than Redhat.

  • Re:You mean like... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by vsprintf (579676) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @04:53PM (#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.

  • Re:Maybe Not (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mrchaotica (681592) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @05:29PM (#13083691)
    The fun part about a computer is the process involved in getting it set up to do something
    Oh, I agree. I've had great fun in the past installing Gentoo, for example. It's just that at this point I've tired of getting the basic OS to work, and I want to have my fun writing softare or something.

    To use your analogy, installing software is the data entry part and using the software to create something else is the setting up of the database.
  • Re:You mean like... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rayde (738949) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @07:20PM (#13084160) Homepage
    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, your grandmother should have to go hire somebody to make decisions for her, rather than being able to come to the decision on her own based on having only a few, solid choices, rather than dozens of half-hearted attempts?

    They're really all the same, minus some extra shiny icons.

    oh yes, this post certainly deserved a +1 insightful. /sarcasm

  • Re:Look, the fact is (Score:3, Interesting)

    by shmlco (594907) on Saturday July 16, 2005 @08:17PM (#13084391) Homepage
    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 anything if there are no stable applications on that platform. If Apache and mySQL were flakey and crash prone Linux would never have gained enough momentum to get out of the gate.

    The other systems mentioned had issues, never had a large and stable base of applications, and wanted people to pay for those things to boot. Look at Apple, they have an equally stable OS, but had to go and write most of the applications that people use on their platform.

    But look at any market (autos, consumer electronics) and you'll see that, eventually, controls and media and connectors and whatnot do consolidate and standardize, because people also tend to want things to work, and to work the way that they're used to.

    People who buck that trend better have a VERY good reason for doing so. And Linux, unfortunately, with KDE/Gnome, multiple installers, kernels, drivers, and so on, tends to have way too many people who want to do things differently just because they are different.

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