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Too Many Linux Distros Make For Open Source Mess 554

Posted by samzenpus
from the 300-flavors dept.
AlexGr writes "Remember the 1980s worries about how the "forking" of Unix could hurt that operating system's chances for adoption? That was nothing compared to the mess we've got today with Linux, where upwards of 300 distributions vie for the attention of computer users seeking an alternative to Windows."
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Too Many Linux Distros Make For Open Source Mess

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  • Not so much nowadays (Score:3, Informative)

    by Wiseman1024 (993899) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @03:16AM (#19911359)
    This was and maybe still is a valid point (although diversity isn't that troublesome for businesses), but now Debian-based distributions and especially *Ubuntu got extremely popular, and are in the way to become the defacto standard for Linux, whereas other distributions will remain domain-specific. For example, if you have a business and want tech service and all that, you may want to try SuSE or Red Hat. And if you are a ricer, you may want to try Gentoo :p .

    Fortunately, natural selection and evolution of distros made one very popular, which means more packages and less compiling for the general public. This is what Linux needs. The fact there are many other distros for more specific or purist purposes is alright - it doesn't affect Linux' adoption because if you're concerned about popularity you get *Ubuntu.
  • by Gopal.V (532678) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @03:18AM (#19911367) Homepage Journal
    A distro is not a fork. It is not a fork if the patches flow upstream.

    I know there are exceptions to this rule (iceweasel, icedove) but in general, all distros contribute back to the same pool.

    The only issue here is consumer choice, not wasted developer power (unlike real forks). And the Novell fiasco shows the problems
    with having a single "one true way" distro - even if it is a community project (in which case its death comes from group
    think and dragging its feet on decisions).

    A distro, 'taint a fork ...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 19, 2007 @03:51AM (#19911527)
    When there were many UNIXes, the problem was that software written on one would not work on the other. Linux has maintained almost complete binary compatibility for applications for ages (I guess a.out binaries could now be considered "not compatible"). All that is needed is to install a compatibility library. This means that essentially all of those different distributions are equivalent to one single UNIX version.

    People really don't remember their history any more. There wasn't even really source level compatibility from UNIX to UNIX. There were two completely different operating systems (BSD and SystemV) both used as the basis for the different incompatible UNIXes. If you used, for example the "ps" command, the arguments would be different from one to the other. This meant that even shell scripts weren't portable. Claiming that the different Linux distributions are like different UNIXes is crazy when you compare the differences between SunOS4 and SunOS5 (also known as Solaris) which are bigger than the differences between RedHat 6 and Gentoo 2007. Damn youngsters.
  • by cp.tar (871488) <cp.tar.bz2@gmail.com> on Thursday July 19, 2007 @05:23AM (#19911919) Journal

    Who has ever heard of a MAD RUSH to get the latest and greatest Linux "distro" - wasn't there a new kernel release a month ago -- did anyone give a rats arse --- nope!

    Us Linux users are not mindless cattle to stampede the shops and get the latest and greatest distro there.

    Instead, we are gentlemen of leisure; our systems are updated via network as soon as the new packages hit the server - we have no need to wait for them to be burnt onto CDs, packaged in pretty boxes, delivered to stores and sold at premium price, while we risk our lives in the stampede.

    Then again, when you wait for a new version of your OS for five years or more, it is understandable that you want to upgrade immediately; you have tested your patience long enough. We, on the other hand, live upgrading what we choose, when we choose; our patience is never tried, never tested, never gone.

    Oh, yes. I nearly forgot. If we really really want the CDs with Linux on them and can't afford to download the ISO, we simply order a bunch from Canonical and have them delivered to our doorstep. And we chuckle when they arrive, for we imagine you standing in line or stampeding the stores to get the bestest and latest, while we sip our drinks and surf the net while our systems upgrade.

    Keep your mad rushes. We don't need them, we don't want them.

  • Re:Lol... (Score:4, Informative)

    by backwardMechanic (959818) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @06:36AM (#19912201) Homepage
    I remember when I was first trying to make the switch - I was completely confused by all the distributions. We need more people saying "it doesn't really matter, pick one". I eventually chose Redhat, because I had a couple of friends running it, and figured they could help out if I got stuck. I've just visited linux.org to see what they say. There is a distributions link on the front page, which is good. But then it gets harder. There is a distribution search facility to get you started. I can choose a language (good), category (what's the difference between mainstream and personal?) and platform (for your average Windows user, what the hell is a platform?). The results are slightly more worrying. Debian comes up first (good so far), Gentoo second (I'm a Gentoo user, but I wouldn't recommend it to noobs), and so on. There are a bunch of links to out-of-date books on Amazon, and information about distros I've never heard of. If we're serious about having more people use Linux, we're not helping ourselves. Maybe the current situation is okay - Linux is largely used by power users, and we enjoy it's power and manage the rough edges. But if we really want Linux to be available to all, we could make it easier to get started. Ubuntu helps a lot in this respect, but you need to know something about Linux to have even heard of Ubuntu. It's easy to forget, having got used to the Linux world, how confusing it looks from the outside.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 19, 2007 @08:13AM (#19912629)
    Can you say Debian?

    I have a machine that is running Debian etch, but started out as a Debian potato installed. That's several major revisions.

    I'm sure I'm not alone.
  • by cp.tar (871488) <cp.tar.bz2@gmail.com> on Thursday July 19, 2007 @08:18AM (#19912667) Journal

    Gentoo 2004.1 to 2006.whatever, I no longer recall (my old machine). Ubuntu 2005.10 to 2006.4 to 2006.10 to 2007.4, if I got my numbers right (my father's machine).

    No problems whatsoever.

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