Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?
Linux Business Operating Systems Software

Torvalds Rejects One-Size-Fits-All Linux 791

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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Torvalds Rejects One-Size-Fits-All Linux

Comments Filter:
  • by crivens ( 112213 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:24PM (#26711165)

    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

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:34PM (#26711421)

    -netbooks w preinstalled linux
    -notebooks w preinstalled linux
    -phones (google and also others)
    -e-book readers
    -a large number of set-top boxes.
    -major pc vendors (dell) selling linux preinstalled
    -network hard drives and other intelligent network hardware
    -a the biggest RT operating system vendor cooking some linux
    -ms support for linux
    -a number of up to date embedded development boards from brand manufacturers

    Most of these things have seen a strong rise in the last few years. and for nearly all of them it was mandatory that a specialized distro exists. I don't see how Linux is failing because of not having a single dominant distribution. I see how linux is succeeding because of the number os special distributions.

    Did these people think about why one branch of Dell sell computers with ubuntu and the other one with RH linux?

  • Re:Oh no!! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:38PM (#26711517)

    If by one-size-fits-one then yes.

    Gentoo fans really are a..."special" type of user and most users won't want to even touch gentoo. I'm including those who know what they're doing in that as well.

  • by phorm ( 591458 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:48PM (#26711735) Journal

    Some linux users also use agent-changers, to get around those idiotic sites with hardcoded browser requirements (that work fine in Firefox /w Linux, but display an error message unless you tell them you're running something else)

  • Re:How about... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fractalVisionz ( 989785 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:50PM (#26711793) Homepage

    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 own community, and in turn, provide better uptake of Linux.

  • by hesaigo999ca ( 786966 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:53PM (#26711849) Homepage Journal

    I don't quite agree, I do believe there are just too many distros out there to make the uneducated feel comfortable delving into Linux. If i were a new Linux wannabe user, I want to go look up which is best if there are more then one.

    If there are more then 100, then I feel so uneducated I leave it alone. This hurts linux in the end.
    I would rather that many of the smaller distors that vary by a few added softwares merge into 1.

    So lets say you got 100, and of those 100 you have 50 closely similar buddies, you dropped the choices down by half. Yes yellowdog, is almost as good as turbo but does not come with the extra packaging for lets say wine or etc. So you just add a configuration issue at the beginning of the install (which could actually read Yellowdog install or Turbo install) give them a different menu based on more or less.

    Everyone and their grandmother seems to be using linux to build their own OS, then when they become evolved enough to be listed as just another distro, you see there are so few changes, between them, that you take the stronger supported one, and add config parameters, to allow for the differences.

    I am sure, if someone extremely linux savvy were to review all of them to find which could be plugged together, we would have maybe 20 or 30 REAL distros.

  • by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <> on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:54PM (#26711885) Journal

    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 Drakin020 ( 980931 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:55PM (#26711925)
    Yet I find it funny that Microsoft is bashed for their choice to offer multiple versions of their Operating System.
  • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @12:59PM (#26712017) Journal
    We don't need a new distro. We need Windows 7 to fail miserably.
  • 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.

  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @01:16PM (#26712445)

    But that's mainly a problem with the way that Linux is put together not the distros. The Linux kernel last time I checked was something like 30mb. Admittedly that was years ago, but when you've got a kernel that bloated it's going to be difficult to have it also work on a smart phone.

    That aside, you can fix most of that stuff by creating things in layers. Base system, CLI, X, GUI, Software suite. Probably 90+% of what people really have preferences over is at the GUI level, and probably 95% is X and up. The rest of it is stuff that most people agree on more stability, reliability and speed.

    As for package management, if there's reasonable default chosen, there's really no reason why there can't be a dozen different interface choices. A well designed API and set up should accommodate that.

    You can have an incredible amount of diversity between X, GUI and Package management without having the incompatible patches and drivers.

  • Re:What the hell (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sancho ( 17056 ) * on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @01:25PM (#26712661) Homepage

    Hell no!

    I just bought a new laptop. I usually keep Windows around for the smattering of programs that won't work in Linux, and for which there is no alternative. Since the new laptop came with Vista, I decided that I'd try it out once and for all and see how bad it was.

    To my surprise, I kinda enjoyed it. There were a few glitches, and performance seemed lower than I would have expected (mouse stuttering when the hard drive is spinning, etc.) but overall, it wasn't awful. Frankly, I SSH to other machines to get real work done anyway, and you can SSH from just about any OS.

    Then I went through The Ritual.

    The Ritual is getting rid of crapware. In the past, I've done this by reinstalling the OS and drivers. And that's when I realized how spoiled I was with Linux. Because while Linux supports the drivers out of the box, with Windows, I had to go out and get them. I had to figure out which drivers were appropriate for my machine (Dell often names them similarly, and you have to have intimate knowledge of the hardware and what it does (including controllers, etc.) to find the appropriate driver on their website.) I then had to install them, one at a time, and each one wanted to reboot afterwards (though I chose not to.)

    After a while, I got fed up. I installed Linux on the thing and was done with it. And you know what? The user experience was fantastic. Everything felt smoother and faster in Linux. And I realized once again why I stopped using Windows as my primary OS years ago.

    More on topic, though, there seem to be two camps in the Linux world: those who want to make the best OS possible, and those who want to topple Microsoft. A unified Linux seems necessary for the latter, but would probably make the former goal impossible.

  • by element-o.p. ( 939033 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @01:38PM (#26712949) Homepage
    But that's the beauty of Linux. Linus may be "a geek, a developer" and may indeed be out of touch with what companies need, but that's okay because RedHat and Novell stepped up to fill that need. Meanwhile Daniel Robbins created a distro [] for those who either like to tweak and build bleeding edge systems or who need systems that don't have to be rebuilt every couple of years when the packages are all out of date. Mark Shuttleworth built a distro [] for people who want a version of Linux that just works right out of the box. Klaus Knopper had the great idea to create a distro [] you can run from a CD instead of installing on a hard drive.

    This is cool because you can use the right distro for the job at hand. We use Gentoo where I work because we can keep our servers up to date with minimal downtime -- we don't have to rebuild our servers every time we want to upgrade. I run Slack at home because, well, it's what I learned first. I've got a hard drive install of Knoppix on a laptop because I couldn't boot from CD on that particular machine, so I pulled the hard drive, mounted it in an external enclosure, booted Knoppix on another machine and followed the instructions for a hard drive install using the USB drive, then reinstalled the hard drive in the laptop. I knew Knoppix was very good at automatically detecting hardware, so I felt Knoppix would have a good chance of working on the first install (it did).
  • by theaceoffire ( 1053556 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @01:38PM (#26712963) Homepage
    Imagine that ubuntu released a version without a media player, a version with LAMP installed, a version without compiz, etc, and called each one "Ubuntu 8.10 basic", "Ubuntu 8.10 standard" "Ubuntu 8.10 special super", and the like.

    In my opinion, this would be silly, and I would make fun of this.
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @01:39PM (#26712977) Homepage

    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 erktrek ( 473476 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @02:07PM (#26713585)

    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 EEBaum ( 520514 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @02:11PM (#26713697) Homepage

    Unless the "common system" is the kernel, this is a problem in design of either the package management system or the particular packages.

    It's usually a problem between the repositories and the application in my experience. Scenarios that make this happen:

    • I need a feature that is present in a new version of an application. There is no package available for that version in my distro's repositories.
    • An application has been abandoned by developers, but I still use it. A new feature of a package it depends on breaks backward compatibility. Therefore, to keep my app working, a dependency can no longer be updated. Now I have another application that needs the NEW version of the dependency. I can't have both.
    • There is an application that does not have packages for my distro. It depends on something that DOES have packages in my distro.

    My choices tend to be hacking it together until it works, or waiting indefinitely in hopes that someone will assemble an appropriate package. The former tends to weaken my system's continuity. The latter tends to not let me run software.

  • by EEBaum ( 520514 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @02:16PM (#26713799) Homepage
    The package management systems work fine... IF the package I want is in the repository. Maybe I'm doing it wrong, but I sometimes want applications and versions that aren't in the repository. Maybe I'm just not comfortable with some Linux "sorry, you can't have that version yet" philosophy, even though that version is publicly released and its website offers manual installation instructions. I grew up on Windows, where if an application is available, I can install it right away. If I need that feature now and there's no package, what are my choices that don't involve destabilizing my package dependencies?
  • What the? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @02:35PM (#26714199) Journal

    You never worked with Linux or indeed any OS have you?

    The linux kernel ain't 30mb. For instance mine are around 4.5mb so you are not even close.

    Oh wait, you are talking about the complete source? Yup that is 30-40mb. Why should you wish to put the complete source code on a mobile phone? Anyway, modern phones can easily have several gigabytes storage so even then it isn't that much.

    Oh and while my kernel is 4.5mb, that is because it includes a LOT of drivers that are not needed but I am to lazy to remove. A mobile phone maker would compile the kernel with only the options that are needed for that piece of hardware. The proof? Mobile phones with linux running on it.

    So basically, you are suggesting a fix for something that ain't broken. Oh well that is slashdot for you. What next, you claims Vista is slow because you have to install it from DVD?

  • by Rich0 ( 548339 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @02:51PM (#26714471) Homepage

    Yup - I have more junk than a typical desktop install (netfilter, ivtv, lots of extra lm_sensors), and my kernel is only 3MB (bzip2'ed). And that is on amd64 where code is bigger. No need for an initrd either.

    You can get the linux kernel pretty small if you need to.

  • by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @02:54PM (#26714525)

    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 does go into /etc/httpd but other ones go all over the damn place).

    Just the above would make a huge difference to Linux standardisation without having to stomp on people's independent choices.

  • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @04:12PM (#26716017)

    I suppose it depends what the community's goal is

    That's the misconception right there. "The Community" is not a block of like-minded individuals.

    if it is to increase marketshare and just generally make software better for everyone by decreasing Microsoft's dominance then it has to be more than just a hobby.

    Which is why we have companies like Canonical and the huge community that has grown up around Ubuntu.

    If however it's to remain just a hobby, it can't ever expect to be increase marketshare at an increased rate and may even start to see the trend reverse.

    Which I suspect a lot of Linux hackers would be just fine with.

    but I suspect those who do it just as a hobby are more often than not also those who are guilty of complaining about Microsoft's dominance when they could do something about it.

    You also have those people :)

  • by xenocide2 ( 231786 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @04:20PM (#26716145) Homepage

    All of this conversation leads up to the real point here: combining ideas like git's distributed revision control with Debian's compartmentalization should expand the potential for engineers to deviate where necessary while widely sharing as much as possible. Not everything that's good for the goose is good for the gander (compiling the kernel for optimized size might not be appropriate on the server), but I'm sure there's a few worthwhile modifications to Debian packaging primarily for embedded that won't harm desktop and server, or possibly improve it.

    Unfortunately, the role Debian serves as Stone Soup Chef is not always acknowledged.

  • by socrplayr813 ( 1372733 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @05:33PM (#26717305)

    This is something of a pet peeve of mine...

    Who are those people to judge how I spend my time? Yes, it would be great if we all worked toward a common goal (ie. betterment of society), but there is nothing wrong with taking time to enjoy your life.

    I'd rather spend my 80-whatever years enjoying myself as much as possible rather than working myself nearly to death while being completely miserable, accomplishing only slightly more than my lazier self.

    In the cosmic end, it's most likely a wash anyway, so why not have fun with it?

  • I like choice. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Noxn ( 1458105 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @06:04PM (#26717775)
    I always liked to have the possibility of choice. Even if i don't need it.

    Having many distros means theres something for everyone. I use Ubuntu (Im new more or less new to GNU/linux) because its easy,
    has apt-get and an update manager (And other stuff).
    But maybe someone else wants to personalize his stuff to the max (A thing thats difficult on MS-Windows) use gentoo or something like that.

    So i think having many distributions is good.
  • by renoX ( 11677 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @07:07PM (#26718589)

    [[the kernel _I_ use is not bloated. it's 20 something seconds from tapping enter on grub's menu to the login prompt (i log in text mode).]]

    Uh? In autologin mode, with BeOS, the time from grub to a fully functionnal graphical desktop was 14s on a Celeron333 with 128Mo of RAM and that was several years ago, so I wouldn't bragg to much about 20+ seconds to boot the login prompt on a computer probably much, much more powerful: the Linux kernel you use is definitedly not optimised for fast booting..

    Note that with current hardware it is possible to have fast boot with Linux: Arjan has made his Eee901 laptop boot Linux in 10s (without network and with an HDD, 5s with a SSD) using XFce as a desktop, yet it'll take probably a long time to have this included in a generic desktop distribution, *if* it happens this time, I'm cautiously optimistic as even though Arjan first patch to the Linux kernel was rejected, he rewrote his code and the other one has been accepted so he seems really dedicated to this goal but it'll take time..

  • by lordmetroid ( 708723 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2009 @08:00PM (#26719147)
    Linus Torvalds is definitely not against forking, his the source management tool(GIT) makes a new fork everytime someone clones the and makes a change to it. Their is no official kernel though Linus Torvalds' branch is by historical reasons the one that is being focused on by the community and by Linus Torvalds himself of course.

    GIT creates a completely new way of developing, a distributed source and anyone can use anyone at any time. On a speech held by Linus Torvalds he mentioned that there was this guy that forked and kept updating an old kernel for a very long time. Just cause he wanted to...

The trouble with the rat-race is that even if you win, you're still a rat. -- Lily Tomlin