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Torvalds Rejects One-Size-Fits-All Linux 791

Posted by timothy
from the what-does-he-know? dept.
Barence writes "Linus Torvalds has rejected the argument that Linux developers should pool their resources behind a single distribution. 'I think multiple distributions aren't just a good thing, I think it's something absolutely required. We have hundreds of distros, and a lot of them are really for niche markets. And you need that — simply because different markets simply have different requirements, and no single distro will take care of them all.' The calls from the Linux community have been growing due to Linux's failure to show significant market share growth."
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Torvalds Rejects One-Size-Fits-All Linux

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:21PM (#26711103)
    Did you ever think that he might be right?
    • by hahiss (696716) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:23PM (#26711139) Homepage

      I was going to start screaming that he is right, so yes.

      • by Lord Ender (156273) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:56PM (#26711931) Homepage

        Maybe not. At least, not exactly.

        Suppose someone creates a very minimalist linux distro which includes a very good package management system. Suppose this package management system includes nearly all popular linux software packages.

        Now suppose it were rather easy for anyone to install any number of those packages, bundle them together into one meta-package keyword, and call that a distro.

        Then Linux would be as simple as installing the minimalist distro, then doing "apt-get install smartphone-system" for a distro customized for smartphones, or "media-system" for a distro customized for mediacenter PCs, etc.

        I think this would be a superior option to having many completely independent distributions, and it would allow for faster innovation and easier support.

        • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @01:25PM (#26712665) Homepage

          "Suppose someone creates a very minimalist linux distro which includes a very good package management system. Suppose this package management system includes nearly all popular linux software packages.

          Now suppose it were rather easy for anyone to install any number of those packages, bundle them together into one meta-package keyword, and call that a distro.

          We don't have to imagine. Thanks to the diversity of FOSS and the strength of the ability to bundle and innovate at will, there is Gentoo Linux [gentoo.org] and Open Embedded [openembedded.net] (which is based on Gentoo's Portage [gentoo.org] software installation and management tool.)

        • That would be Debian (Score:3, Informative)

          by Nick Ives (317)

          Suppose someone creates a very minimalist linux distro which includes a very good package management system. Suppose this package management system includes nearly all popular linux software packages.

          Now suppose it were rather easy for anyone to install any number of those packages, bundle them together into one meta-package keyword, and call that a distro.

          That's pretty much the stated goal of Debian, it aims to be the universal operating system. You can do just that with APT.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Thaelon (250687)

          This is a really cool idea, but I foresee the implementation falling short.

          In my experience Linux packages have terrible names, non-descriptive names, or both, and usually, worthless or no description.

          So you end up with have several different packages that do similar or the same things with no significantly distinguishing characteristics. For example: smartphone-system, smart-phone-system, smartphonesystem, dtmf-system, smart-phone, and smartphone. Then you'll have 5 different distros that use different b

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          "I think this would be a superior option to having many completely independent distributions, and it would allow for faster innovation and easier support."

          Until it didn't. You're right that this would have a large number of superior characteristics as long as it was working.

          The trouble is that you need to pick who is going to run it, what system will be used, what packages are included, and so on. And when the decision-making process breaks, the whole thing collapses.

          Here is an example of a very si

        • by Burz (138833) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @02:58PM (#26714617) Journal

          Platforms do.

          And except for Android, I know of no Linux-based platforms aimed at normal users and/or app developers.

          Distros are too fluid and there are too many of them anyway. This situation makes coding-for and independently distributing PC applications very confusing.

          The only things that would rectify the situation would be to create a fully-spec'd out and vertically-integrated (up through the GUI) platform like Android, or have the community get behind something like LSB Desktop. The latter does not seem to be happening though because it it being marketed to neither users nor app developers AFAIK.

          Notice there was no mention of LSB in the article -- There's almost zero awareness of it.

          I would like to point out that Linus is against forking the kernel, and his group essentially demands a unified kernel and toolchain (with different distros having different configurations of these pieces).

          But when it comes to higher-level stuff that end-users require, they complain about one-size-fits all. Frankly, that attitude says to me that the audio and video architectures in Linux-based desktops will continue to be slipshod and wobbly (unstable performance and unstable APIs), and you can forget about widespread adoption at the consumer level until either the Torvalds mentality dissipates or an Android moves into the desktop space.

          I think Torvalds & Co. are hypocrites who prefer showing off to their coder pals, users be damned. Even worse, they're foul-mouthed trolls who regularly make personal attacks on people they dislike while insisting on civility being directed towards themselves.

          Linux will continue to act as repellent to ambitious application developers looking to make their mark or a buck. We'll have to be content for the forsee-able future with ham-fisted G-, K-, X- apps that are usually mere shadows of what they imitate.

          Alas, even excellent software like Firefox doesn't get major UI flaws (like radio buttons always disappearing) because of this situation... Mozilla doesn't even bother packaging their apps for "Linux" anymore... you gotta unzip it to /usr and make all the correct linkages and icons yourself.

          The other great FOSS app, OpenOffice.org, is fairly complex to install/upgrade even with rpm/deb packages... and proper desktop integration will be either absent or badly broken. Again, SUN/OOo would rather attempt a fit-and-finish on proper platforms like OS X and Windows than play the bitten-by-a-hundred-repository-hackers game.

          • by Eneff (96967) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @07:19PM (#26718711)

            I would like to point out that Linus is against forking the kernel, and his group essentially demands a unified kernel and toolchain (with different distros having different configurations of these pieces).

            [Citation Needed]

            Torvalds's copy isn't deployed by most people. Red Hat does its own fork (or patchset), as does Ubuntu. TiVo certainly keeps its own copy. Andrew Morton has gone on record saying that a competing fork would be impractical, but I haven't seen anyone "against" such a thing.

            If someone really wants to create a dependent sound system, I'm sure Mark Shuttleworth would like to hear from you if you can make the experience better.

            Frankly, for most people, they can just use Ubuntu and forget about every other distribution on the desktop.

      • by marco.antonio.costa (937534) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @01:09PM (#26712283)

        He's absolutely right. The point of open source is freedom. People should be free to work on whatever distro suits your fancy. The market will decide which of them wins out the dominance in each of the 'sectors' be it a big one, like Desktop OS or really small like Studio64 and UbuntuStudio.

        Freedom works, freedom's great, try to take it from us and you'll be shot. ;-)

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by von_rick (944421)
          You are overlapping technology and economics, and they don't quite intersect (on the points you mention). Unless you have a level of uniformity, you cannot expect any kind of market significance, much less market dominance. While I agree with Torvalds that its not possible to have a one size fits all distro, you at least need to come to common ground about the hardware drivers, networking tools, filesystems, shells, etc.
    • by TheKidWho (705796) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:34PM (#26711395)

      Not only that, but it's a free world, who gives them the right to tell ME what to work on?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CarpetShark (865376)

        Not only that, but it's a free world, who gives them the right to tell ME what to work on?

        No one. But just remember that won't remain the case, if you build that up into a (free or not) product that many people start to rely on. Do that, and you'll have a responsibility to your customers, free or not.

        • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice@nOSPam.gmail.com> on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @01:08PM (#26712261)
          No, no responsibility exists at all, in any situation - I can produce either a free or a pay for product, and I can happily walk away from it at any point, taking with me my tools and code and no responsibility to support you exists at all. There is no way in hell you can tell me to keep working on something that I don't want to keep working on.
          • by EEBaum (520514) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @01:34PM (#26712855) Homepage

            No, no responsibility exists at all, in any situation - I can produce either a free or a pay for product, and I can happily walk away from it at any point, taking with me my tools and code and no responsibility to support you exists at all.

            You, sir, are the reason for the screaming noises emanating from my office on a daily basis. You are correct, but you are the reason for my screaming nonetheless.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by erktrek (473476)

            Uh - I may be missing the point but if you charge for a product then it seems to me you might have some sort responsibility to your clients (maybe even legal though IANAL).

            Also depending on the OSS license you use you might have the responsibility of providing source code to those people whom you distribute it to.

            I guess these things wouldn't prevent you from walking away but they might make it somewhat more annoying/painful.

            Just saying..

            • by LateArthurDent (1403947) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @02:51PM (#26714475)

              Uh - I may be missing the point but if you charge for a product then it seems to me you might have some sort responsibility to your clients

              Not unless there's a support contract in the purchase. You've paid for the copy of the software, you have the copy of the software, transaction is completed. No further work required on the part of the developer.

              Of course, if you build a reputation for ignoring complaints and not supporting the software you make, you might find it more and more difficult to sell your software. That's a risk the developer is free to take, though.

              Also depending on the OSS license you use you might have the responsibility of providing source code to those people whom you distribute it to.

              I guess these things wouldn't prevent you from walking away but they might make it somewhat more annoying/painful.

              If you plan it right, thinking that you might want to walk away in the future, you just include the source code with the binary distribution. This way everybody who is entitled to the code already has it and your responsibility is complete. You're not required to forever distribute the source code, you're just required to give it to anyone to whom you (not somebody else) gave the binary to, if they want it.

              Of course, if you really do it right, you just put your source code on sourceforge or somewhere like it. Anytime you walk away, the code is still there, and others can fork/restart the project anytime they want in.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Xest (935314)

      Kind of.

      We do need different distros for different needs, the problem is there's also a lot of distros filling the same needs and some do a pretty poor job of it such that the resources would be better spent on a competing distro. We don't want to lose all competition altogether but there are certainly some distros out there that are wasting time duplicating effort and bringing nothing to the table to show for it.

      • by MightyYar (622222) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:41PM (#26711595)

        some distros out there that are wasting time

        Yeah, but so what? If wasted time were a bad thing, we'd have to kill all the gamers and couch potatoes. Not everyone's hobby needs to be productive... in fact they rarely are productive.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        We do need different distros for different needs, the problem is there's also a lot of distros filling the same needs and some do a pretty poor job of it such that the resources would be better spent on a competing distro.

        However, competition is good. If one of the distros clearly sucks, that's a waste, but otherwise, it becomes a bit like GNOME/KDE.

      • by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @01:17PM (#26712471)

        We do need different distros for different needs, the problem is there's also a lot of distros filling the same needs and some do a pretty poor job of it such that the resources would be better spent on a competing distro.

        I suspect that most people agree with that.

        Where they disagree is on which distros are doing the right thing and which are wasting their time. Its pretty obvious that they disagree on that, because if they didn't, everyone would be working on the same distros now, and there would be no issue.

        Also, its not like the developers that are scratching their own itch working on "distro x" would necessarily be as interested in working on "distro y". The Linux Community isn't a corporation with fixed resources and a central command that can redistribute them wherever it wants. If people aren't working on what they want to be working on, those resources don't go somewhere else, they just go out of the community entirely.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by oodaloop (1229816)
      I don't think anyone's screaming just yet, and perhaps he's right that we don't need or want ONE distro. But how about a little less fragmentation? Having hundreds of distros, not all of which work with each other, is probably not helping mainstream adoption. I mean, what's the niche that Puppy serves that Feather doesn't, and vice versa?
      • by turgid (580780) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:45PM (#26711681) Journal

        And just how to you propose to regulate, police and enforce the production of Linux distributions? Perhaps each should pay a fee to use the name "Linux?"

        Linux distributions are like god: there as many different ones as there are people that believe in it.

        Trying to artificially limit the production of Linux distributions would be complete against the whole Open Source and Free Software philosophies, and against freedom and human nature in general. It's an absurd idea, and Linus is right on this issue.

      • by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @01:20PM (#26712543)

        But how about a little less fragmentation?

        Fine. Everyone should stop working on your favorite distro now, and work on my favorite distro instead, okay? That'll get us "a little less fragmentation".

        Calls for "less fragmentation" are vacuous without a call to unite behind something specific; then we can debate the pros and cons of what would be gained and what would be lost. Of course, the people you really have to convince are the people working on whatever would be axed, since its an open source community and the only way to make that happen is to convince those people to stop working on what they've been working on and start working on something else.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Lumpy (12016)

        What I want.....

        a single filesystem design ENFORCED. I mean that Linus comes over and kicks all the developers in the nuts HARD if the filesystem design is not enforced. Configs reside in /etc DAMMIT! not in opt/user/strange/kinda/etc/myconfigs/are/in/here/ok

        tires of looking yet somewhere else for the damned configs for distro Y compared to X.

        Curb stomp app developers that also break this rule. PLEASE!

    • by SCHecklerX (229973) <thecaptain@captaincodo.net> on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:47PM (#26711709) Homepage

      He is.

      I certainly don't need the 4GB+ of crap in some mainstream distros just to set up an iptables firewall and IPSec gateway. Better, I like using the automation tools of one distribution over another's for automating deployment to some 200+ systems I currently administer.

      Linux wins *because* you can tailor it easily to your needs, and choose the best distribution for what you are trying to accomplish.

      I do agree that the base should be better standardized (where files are for network config, etc). It's getting better, but everyone still does it a little different.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by BrokenHalo (565198)
        I do agree that the base should be better standardized (where files are for network config, etc). It's getting better, but everyone still does it a little different.

        Yup. And everyone should standardise on Slackware's init scripts. (OK, I'm joking, but not much... :-))

        Almost the first thing that pissed me off about Ubuntu (apart from the coprophiliac theme) was the fact that they had arbitrarily fucked around with inittab, and I had to go looking for it. I've nothing against change where it's useful, but
    • I think we need multiple distros. (In fact, I once wrote an article to that effect.) However, I also think that we need more focus inside those distros. Rather than being good at being a desktop or being good at being a server, Linux distros tend to try and be all things to all people. Which makes them a jack of all trades, master of none.

      What's needed are fundamental operating system components that support the desktop and/or support the server and/or support the supercomputer and/or support the embedded device, etc. It should all be a matter of how the OS is built.

      Unfortunately, we seem to end up with all the disadvantages of choice in distros and none of the advantages. Why do GNOME and KDE both have their own hardware config tools that conflict with the underlying tools? Shouldn't there be OS-level services available that these desktop environments plug into?

      Why is sound such a mess? That was a solved problem 15 years ago!

      Why do X-Servers have the graphics drivers rather than the kernel or HAL? The X-Server should only be a consumer of graphics services!

      So on and so forth. Make the individual distros more cohesive and things will get a lot better. Stop focusing on retreading the same ground that GNOME and KDE have tread a billion times before, and start working on a few standard, low-level APIs that can be compiled in to the OS to give the GUI Windows or Mac level control over the underlying system. THEN things will get better.

      Oh, and stop with the packaging for crying out loud! A desktop system is antithetical to a centralized software repository. Desktop systems should have a standard method of software distribution that accepts any software from anywhere, commercial or OSS. Take Indie Gaming or Shareware developers as an example. Why should they submit their software to 30 different package repositories rather than providing a single, simple download on their website? (Worst case, two or three to support competing standards.)

      And no, I'm not talking about installers. Unix systems and installers don't usually get along. (I remember back when the shortcut spec was changing every other week. And yet distros were deploying a different standard in each minor revision. GAHHH!!!) Rather, I'd prefer to see App Bundle distributions similar to OS X. Such a concept is simple to download, install, and run without the fuss of messing with shortcuts, restarting your desktop, installing packages, or the gazillion other minor barriers Linux desktop systems have put in the way over the years.

      (I did create a Proof of Concept [sourceforge.net] on Solaris a while back, but lacked time to follow up on it. This problem is solvable if distro makers are willing to dedicate the resources.)

      I will give Ubuntu some credit here. Shuttleworth has been trying very hard to push the community in the right direction. But in order to "arrive" we need to actually embrace the ideals of OSS rather than hanging on to this idea that packaging repositories == Linux == OSS freedom.

  • No its just that : (Score:5, Insightful)

    by unity100 (970058) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:22PM (#26711115) Homepage Journal

    We need a main, reliable, one size fits all DESKTOP distro. that's what we need.

    and yes, all other distros should continue, for really many of them are for niche markets.

    linux basically equals webserver as of now. whereas many IIS servers house 1-2 company sites (and many of them are in-house boxes), linux distros host hundreds each.

    but on desktop we dont have a strong name presence so that when you name it, everyone will know. we need that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by crivens (112213)

      You mean a one size fits all distro for each niche/market? Like one desktop, one server, one netbook, one phone, one embedded.....? They could all come from one distro, but that'll never happen unfortunately.

    • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:32PM (#26711331)

      Debian / Ubuntu could easily be this 'one size fits all' distro with apt-get. I use the 50MB bare bones install of Debian for all my servers and build from there.

      You want a desktop?
      apt-get install gnome*

      You want a desktop on a 500 mHz computer?
      apt-get install xfce

      You want a webserver?
      apt-get install apache php5 perl

      You want a media encoding server?
      apt-get install ffmpeg mencoder

      You want it cutting edge?
      apt-get -t unstable

      You want it rock solid?
      apt-get -t stable

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        So either everyone learns what "apt-get" does (not to mention how to use a command line interface in the first place), or everyone runs commands and has no idea what they are doing. Then a hardware issue comes up with their video card. Oops.

        Plus, why apt-get? Why did we decide to use debian over rpm? hmm.

        One problem, if it's a problem, with Linux is that those that have learned to use it (read: taken time) presume everyone else can learn, too (read: has time). That's not the case.

        • by ethana2 (1389887) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @01:02PM (#26712079)
          alias frigging='gksu' alias fricking='sudo' alias install='sudo apt-get install' alias uninstall='sudo apt-get remove' alias check-update='sudo apt-get update' alias update='sudo apt-get upgrade' alias murder='sudo killall' alias get='wget' alias GET='sudo wget' alias enter='cd' alias up='cd ..' alias home='cd ~/' alias unmount='umount' alias restart='sudo shutdown -r now'
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Spatial (1235392)

        You want a desktop on a 500 mHz computer? apt-get install xfce

        Indeed! XFCE is running fine on my 500 millihertz, hydraulic logic-gate CPU. :)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DiegoBravo (324012)

        From the "package installation" point of view, almost any mayor distro solved that problem (even for Slackware you can get any unstable tgz and "install" it.)

        But other aspects are rather important:

        1) Provide developers (even of closed source coders like autocad or grand-theft-*) with a single target platform (as Vista proved, it is really difficult to support several OS flavors)
        2) Provide a standard set of GUI tools; for example, I'm used to the Ubuntu admin tools, but get totally lost when trying to use a

    • THE obvious choice has changed over the years. THE right decision is wrong several years later. So who gets to make the call?

      • Big Brother Government? - They do some much perfectly.
      • A Standard Organization? - They handled office file format standard so well.
      • Stock Market? - They can no longer afford anything.
      • The United Nations? - Which language version?
      • An Internet Poll? - so scientific
      • Free Market Choice? currently in use.
      • Cowboy Neal?
    • by Sir_Lewk (967686) <sirlewk&gmail,com> on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:37PM (#26711475)
      Clearly you are not very familar with the linux (or OSS) community. Ever notice the wide range of opinions concerning things like design, inclusion policies, licensing, etc? Have you thought what would happen if you tried to make all those people share a distro? There are plenty of flamewars already, do that and the community would tear itself appart. New distros don't pop up for the hell of it, they pop up because people want something that fits *their specific needs*. Their needs are often unique. People need to get off this whole idea that linux is about "sticking it to the man" and that it needs to change in order to get better marketshares, just for the sake of marketshares. Linux is meant to be useful for people who want it, if it's not for you, then who cares? We're not out to become rich billionaires by toppling microsoft and apple, we're just making a nice operating system for ourselves. This is something the majority of the world can't seem to understand.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)

        As it is, without better visibility and viability, it's pulling teeth to get hardware makers to either provide drivers, or provide specs good enough to make good drivers. I think that's why some people want better market share for Linux. It's not so bad with server hardware as Linux has a good profile there, but for consumer equipment, it has been a lot more difficult.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Yvanhoe (564877)
      We don't need a new distro. We need Windows 7 to fail miserably.
  • What the hell (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kcbanner (929309) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:25PM (#26711189) Homepage Journal
    The reason I love linux is because I have the choice. Minimal distro, server oriented distro, etc. Trying to make one big distro is absolutely the wrong thinking, it would be impossible to decide on anything first of all, and its been proved this concept doesn't work already, by a company called Microsoft.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by east coast (590680)
      Trying to make one big distro is absolutely the wrong thinking, it would be impossible to decide on anything first of all, and its been proved this concept doesn't work already, by a company called Microsoft.

      Yeah, I'd never trust the company that has ~88% market share. It's absolute proof that they know nothing.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tbannist (230135)

        Well they've proven they know marketing and how to form anticompetitive agreements with end user computer sales companies. Beyond that Microsoft has rarely shown that they know anything else.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by WoLpH (699064)

      Indeed, one size simply doesn't fit all.

      Personally I prefer to work with KDE (3.5 mind you) but I know enough people that really like Gnome. Does this mean that either of these should stop to exist? No... most of us chose for Linux because you get the choice, not because you want everything to be chosen for you. If you prefer that, go for a Mac or something.

      I think it's a great thing that there's diversity in Linux distributions, although I have to agree that there are some obsolete distros around. A lot of

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ZeroPly (881915)

      Yes, but the reason you can't get support for printer XYZ is exactly due to that choice. No company wants to offer "Linux support" for their peripheral and have someone call in who is using whackadoodle-encrypto-tiny-footprint-Linux version 7 alpha.

      Get one main distro which is THE official desktop distribution. Everything else is experimental. Then you can go to Epson and ask them to support that when they bring out their new multifunction printer. If you're not using the official distro then it's on you to

  • Oh no!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:28PM (#26711255)
    Yet another distro. Anybody have a link where we can download this One-Size-Fits-All Linux?
  • by Emperor Skull (680972) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:29PM (#26711271)
    Linux Starter
    Linux Home Basic
    Linux Home Premium
    Linux Business
    Linux Enterprise
    Linux Ultimate
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Though funny, at the same time this plagues Microsoft's end users,in the form of what does each package actually get, it is used as a great power for Linux, in the form of different niche distributions which have (mostly) defined markets.

      We all know some distros for Linux starters, and we all know some for business, and some for the ultimate geek card score. Because these options are provided not as a single product, but as a variety of distributions and even sub-distributions, each product can gain their o

    • Re:How about... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by element-o.p. (939033) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @02:29PM (#26714079) Homepage
      Linux Starter --> Knoppix (no install required!)
      Linux Home Basic --> Ubuntu
      Linux Home Premium --> Fedora/Debian
      Linux Business --> Suse
      Linux Enterprise --> RHEL
      Linux Ultimate --> Gentoo, of course

      :)
  • by Vthornheart (745224) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:31PM (#26711311)
    Perhaps instead of worrying about the specific distro being worked on (and distro-specific apps), developers could unite to improve the libraries, services, and interfaces that are used universally. Gnome and KDE, for example, are the "face" of Linux to the average user. And let's face it... KDE is modern but broken in many ways, and Gnome is stable but behind the times in many ways. The specific distro being improved is less of a concern if the focus is on bringing stability, visual appeal, and new user interface innovations to the frontend of Linux itself: the GUI interfaces that the average user works with on the system. Working on that aspect would make every distro benefit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gbjbaanb (229885)

      Nice idea, but I don;t think it'd really fly in the real world.

      So, how about we just go with something slightly more easy to implement: a standard base of where stuff goes. (yes, I know the LSB). So far m biggest problems with Linux is trying to remember where this distro has put something, and what it's called it - eg apache on 2 different distros will be called different names (eg apache, httpd), run as different users (apache, nobody, httpd), and have its config put in different places (ok, usually it do

  • No kidding. (Score:4, Informative)

    by palegray.net (1195047) <{philip.paradis} {at} {palegray.net}> on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:33PM (#26711357) Homepage Journal
    I use different distros for different tasks, because the distros themselves place different weights of importance on various factors.

    For years, my servers have run on Debian plus the odd BSD box here and there. Rock solid reliability with very little maintenance overhead, but you don't get the latest and greatest stuff in the repositories.

    I've got a couple of servers running Ubuntu with VMware Server on top for internal VPS work. Again, very few problems aside from a couple of issues related to kernel upgrades.

    My laptop runs Ubuntu Desktop edition, which works great for me. I have almost no trouble with package management, even for cutting edge stuff, and the driver support is great.

    I use a couple of live CD distros for repairing Windows systems when they get out of whack. The list goes on and on. It's kinda like programming languages; use the right tool for the job. While you *could* use most modern languages for just about any task, some are better for "X job" than others.
  • by Davemania (580154) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:33PM (#26711389) Journal
    Although its good that certain distribution cater for different markets, the problem is the over saturation of one area with too many choices.
  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:38PM (#26711495) Homepage Journal

    You could say we really only need one Desktop distro. But... People work on what they like. You can not force them to work on what they don't want too.

    We have Ubuntu which has a big lead on the desktop so we have some some of those benefits. The problem with Linux is the lack of commercial software and support.
    You can not call the manufacture for help or geek squad. You can not go and buy software you want. There are a lot of free packages and many of them are great. The problem is the average person doesn't know what is good and what isn't. Even when the software is really good the documentation often isn't. Out side of GIMP and OO.org you will have a very hard time finding books for FOSS applications.

    I know that Click and run failed but I still think a application and media store is EXACTLY what Linux needs. A super easy built in solution just like what you see on the Wii, XBox 360, and iPod/iPhone.

  • by Facetious (710885) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:38PM (#26711501) Journal
    I grow weary of people citing a single, dubious source and saying, "See! See! Linux has failed on the desktop." The problem is that the methodology for gaging adoption is almost always in the form of web trackers, and people have really bad assumptions about user and system behavior. For example:
    • The sample of websites used is non-scientific because they are paying for the tracking service.
    • The assumption is made that people using Linux are interested in the same things as everyone else.
    • There is a massive difference in reporting numbers based on the source of the data. Some claim Linux users are less than 1% of total traffic. Others claim more than 3%. (Similary, Mac is as low as 3% and as high as 9%.)
    • Linux users use browsers with pop-up blockers. A good many Windows users still don't use pop-up blockers, and every pop-up counts as a hit for a Windows user.

    I could go on, but you get the idea. Don't believe everything you read.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SirGarlon (845873)
      I don't really see why "market share" is that important. Linux works for me, and is a whole lot more suited to what I want to do and how I want to do it than Windows or OSX is. I can buy hardware that will run Linux just fine; I can get tech support if I want it; there are plenty of development projects turning out high-quality software. In a nutshell, it works for me. Isn't that what matters?
    • by commodoresloat (172735) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @01:07PM (#26712219)

      He's right! Linux has secretly taken over the desktop while pretending to have little to no market share. Most everyone uses Linux these days, it just doesn't show up on these web tracker thingies.

  • by LittleLebowskiUrbanA (619114) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:39PM (#26711563) Homepage Journal

    because we're not making money at this and seriously, who cares? Linux is a choice, not a goddamned marketing campaign.

  • by CHK6 (583097) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:48PM (#26711745)
    Three distros for the geeks under the sky,
    Seven distros for the admins in their halls of stone,
    Nine distros for coporate boards doomed to die,

    One kernel for the Lord Torvalds on his throne,
    In the land of the free where beers lie.
    One kernel to rule them all, One kernel to find them,
    One kernel to bring them all, and in the freedom bind them,
    In the land of free where the beer lie.
  • by Locutus (9039) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:53PM (#26711861)

    practices. When a company or government finds Gnu/Linux fits the bill better than Windows, Microsoft comes in and essentially pays them to stick with Windows. Governments like Egypt where the OLPC people had a MOU from them but then Microsoft goes over, they talk, Egypt accepts something like $50 million in stuff from Microsoft and when OLPC shows up all they get is "Does it run Windows".

    And let's talk about how HP, Dell, Lenova, etc can not advertise their Gnu/Linux products. Leaked MS memo's already showed Microsoft's hand in this too. They basically said, "you can not lead with Linux" and that meant advertise and the threat is most likely to be those millions of dollars in Marketing Program kickbacks for putting those little MS stickers on everything and saying crap like "Runs best with Windows", etc.

    _That_ has been what has limited marketshare growth to a large degree. IMO. Remember, we are a world full of followers so if too many start going to Gnu/Linux, the horde will follow. That's why Microsoft spends hundreds of millions to stop the switch.

    LoB

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eulernet (1132389)

      No, they didn't spend millions, since copying a CD only costs a few cents.
      Of course, Microsoft counts the donated software at the full market price, but they just provide cheap copies.

      Microsoft is just counting on the fact that they are the first ones, but we'll see if this strategy will continue to work once everybody will be more fluent with computers.

  • by Dripdry (1062282) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @01:03PM (#26712115) Journal

    If Linux wants more market share it needs a face, it needs something people can point to and say "Linux".
    That's the way this sort of thing works.

    From someone who is no longer in the tech community but is a big geek and has geek friends, we have the wrong aim, people.
    We need good communication, not analytics. Yes the OS should be improved, but in order for lots of people to adopt it we need to communicate a fairly unified, confident idea.

    If Ubuntu is that face, great! Let's work on that.
    If KDE is that face, great! Let's work on that.
    If Gnome is that face... you get the idea.

    People love consistency. We geeks want to analyze and pick apart everything, change it and tweak. Your average person DOES NOT CARE! They want something that works. Until we get that through our oversized brain/ego/whatever then Linux is not likely to take off in a really big way.

    Will this sacrifice a few things? Sure it will. However, since it is Open Source those little niche OS's can still exist! That is the problem with the big players now. We can still tweak things to make them better.

    Geeks like to be RIGHT and not make mistakes. I think it has something to do with smarts, or not being hugged enough as kids, or something. Their confidence/power comes from analyzing and making the "right" decision, which is why science is an analytic's passion. We can be "Right". People do not always want that. They want something that makes them feel good, simple and easy that they don't have to think about. If that thing is windows or Mac for them then so be it!

    The bright spot: What if we did this and got more market share, huh? We'd be in the spot where software SHOULD be. The geeks run things behind the scenes, tweaking and improving, altering and modifying for their user base, while the average person (99% of peopl out there) can use an innovative, slick interface that runs on cheap hardware. When they want to use their special application it works! When they need software or processes tailored to what they are doing, it will be easier. Businesses will run better since there will be less down time on the user side (i think), fewer upgrade$ to the newest Mac/Windows Neon Bloat Fantastic, and fewer headaches with techies trying to make programs/systems work together.

    All we have to do is learn to set aside our infighting because we want things to be scientifically "perfect) and market some form of Linux, anything, and unify behind it for the user base at large. Yes there should lots of distros for niche markets, but a general distribution would be very helpful.

  • Arch Linux (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @01:07PM (#26712227)

    I use Arch as a one-size-fits-all distro. pacman is awesome. I have built desktops and servers dealing with many different tasks from the same ISO. It really is a benefit if you take time to learn it.

    Ubuntu is a necessary evil. For some reason, we need a distro for the Windows masses. But it's better that than Arch mailing lists spammed to the brim with "How do I listen to my MP3s? Linux is dumb."

    While a one-size-fits-all distro might sound like a good idea in theory, in practice it's very bad. Unless you want a Linux-based Windows.

    • Re:Arch Linux (Score:5, Insightful)

      by burning-toast (925667) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @08:01PM (#26719153)

      Ubuntu is a necessary good. For some reason, we need a distro for the Windows masses.

      Fixed that for you.

      I'm surprised that the reason behind having a distribution with a more consistent look and feel and a bit of "polish" to it would be quite so hard to understand for a lot of the Slashdot crowd.

      From the perspective of end-users who like to change some advanced settings, without becoming a certified sysadmin in the process; Linux as an OS is a stubborn, inconsistent, misleading, and often frustrating piece of crap by and large. Some parts of it are examples of exceptional engineering and sleek design (I can't think of one at the moment though). Other parts leave you wondering if anyone has even looked at it from the mindset of a user in the 2000's instead of the 70's when everything was timeshares and terminals.

      There is a large subset of users between the type like someone's grandmother who never touches or needs to understand a thing (only be shown how to do it one way to follow their written instructions) and a system programmer (who knows how it all connects on the inside) which want to have some control over things like printers, modems, dual-monitor displays, VPN connections, network file sharing, media playback codecs / applications, games, wireless internet, Firewalls, Digital Cameras, MP3 Players, and such but not be inundated with mundane, backwards, or otherwise archaic nonsense when trying to change only semi-complex settings. Things like which of two monitors is the primary desktop, how to set their printer to a different paper size, configure their default browser for links opened throughout the system, how to get a software firewall to auto configure based on network they attached to, setup their wireless network connection to always connect to their home network when it's in range, how to open files on another machine in their house, how to setup their scanner, etc. These are some tasks which still have a long way to go to be reasonable for the average sorta-knows-whats-going-on Joe under many circumstances because they have little "gotcha" type bugs which crop up frequently or simply poor design from the beginning. Unfortunately these little "gotcha" bugs tend to come with 40 pages of reading about every other technology even remotely related to try and understand the problem.

      Some people want to actually use their mp3 player instead of learning how shitty the sound system in their operating system is or why their sound card only runs with one program at a time (depending on Distro). Some people want to play games without learning what a binary video driver is or how it taints the kernel licensing / support. Some people want to print their business cards without learning all about CUPS. They just want to plug, click, go. There is nothing wrong with that really.

      Also, Ubuntu has something to offer the Mac users in the same vein which other distributions may not have done quite so well with in the past. As Apple is considered to have one of the more "polished" operating systems of the three I am discussing for end users.

      Most people just want consistency and functionality. Some others want security and flexibility. Everyone wants something a little different. All (K)Ubuntu attempts to do is bridge the consistency/usability and security/flexibility gap. Judging by their popularity they must be doing a decent job so far.

      - Toast

      P.S. Now while my post may read as a flame on Linux it is not. Linux is only what people make of it and it is constantly evolving and for the better in my opinion. My post is a flame on the prevailing attitude around here of everyone needing to understand the really useless crap and have a well formed reflex to having to learn a little about 40 things to make 1 simple thing happen, and that they should like it. Linux is just as complex of a beast as Macintosh and Windows just below the surface, it just doesn't hide that fact as well as some of it's competitors and tends to drown the "power user but not administrator" types with it's incessant little quirks for a great many "normal" activities which people have grown accustomed to being "easy" and relatively "thought free".

  • by Dr.Dubious DDQ (11968) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @01:11PM (#26712329) Homepage
    "[...]failure to show significant market share growth."

    Thing is, most of the time when I see these "market share" figures it turns out to be measured by revenue from new sold units during the most recent [quarter|year|whatever].

    Someone erasing their "Windows 2000" system and turning it into a Linux server doesn't show up at all on this measure. Someone who has to "upgrade" their Windows server repeatedly while their Linux box sits and runs without needing any additional spending on it distorts these numbers, as do the people who spend twice as much on each server due to software licensing fees.

    This is going to be even more distorted if they're specifically talking about non-server "market share", since it's so hard to find pre-installed Linux desktop systems most of the time. I have a suspicion that a lot of Linux desktop machines - even the NEW ones - came with "lowest-common-denominator" Windows OS and were subsequently wiped and replaced with a Linux of the installer's choice rather than showing up as an explicit "linux desktop" purchase somewhere.

  • by macemoneta (154740) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @02:17PM (#26713835) Homepage

    Market share is the number of copies sold as pre-installs (e.g., netbooks) and retail boxes. For Linux, this number is really immaterial.

    The number of interest is the 'installed base', which is the number of copies installed on hardware. For Linux, this number is hard to get. Some of the larger distributions have started making (low-ball) estimates, but even they admit the numbers don't really reflect the number installed, for various reasons.

    Another question is whether or not to count the number of embedded Linux copies. If my TV, DVR, PMP, MP3, PDA and other devices run Linux (they do), should those count toward the installed base? Or should we be counting general purpose computers only?

  • by Eil (82413) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:09PM (#26716911) Homepage Journal

    The calls from the Linux community have been growing due to Linux's failure to show rapid market share growth."

    There, fixed that for you.

    Linux already has significant market share. Look at the web and the Internet infrastructure: the vast majority of it is powered by Linux, technologies that are based on Linux, or utilize Linux in some indirect way. Linux is gaining traction left and right in the embedded market. No competent system administrator hasn't at least fired up a LiveCD to see what all the fuss is about.

    It's true that Linux isn't as strong on the desktop as many advocates would like, but that's mainly because there's not yet any big company throwing their weight behind it to leverage business deals and spend billions in marketing to the consumer. (Canonical is trying, but they're still pretty small fish at the moment.)

    As I've written repeatedly, ever since the very beginning Linux has had steady but slow growth. This isn't a good thing, nor is it a bad thing, it's just how it is. I think what we're seeing now is that more and more people are looking at Linux and open source and saying, "now, how can I make a quick buck off of this?" and realize they really can't and then spend all day lamenting about it in their blog.

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