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Is Red Hat becoming too powerful? 155

Robert McMillan writes "Nick Petreley answers the question "Is Red Hat becoming too powerful" in hist latest LinuxWorld column. We also have an interesting opinion piece by Bob Young on the site explaining why Linux won't Balkanize. " I feel like throwing more bait into the ring :) Anyway, I think Nick hit on something big - if Red Hat tries to bully an OEM, the OEM laughs rather than trembles in fear like they might with a certain other vendor. Maybe that is stretching it too far, but it's food for thought. What do you think?
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Is Red Hat becoming too powerful?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Right now I'm more worried about the following two possibilities:

    * IBM Linux. Ok IBM's pretty hip to the open source scene, but you gotta admit this would become the number 1 business linux overnight.

    * Microsoft Linux. The very idea makes my flesh crawl and the only thing that's preventing it is the overwhelming pride of Microsoft. As soon as the overwhelming business sense of Microsoft starts to overwhelm the pride... look out...
  • linuxci wrote:

    I agree. The more software included the better whether it's free or proprietry.

    I almost agree. The more software, the better, but it needs to be easy for the consumer to tell what is Free and what is merely costless (or hidden cost, like xv). Freedom is important to many people, particularly in the Linux world. I'm not saying that every distribution should beat people over the head with the concept, but it should be easy to find out how much Freedom you get with your Linux distro.
  • Alof of you guys just sit here and bitch to each others instead of remembering what Linux is all about... It's about choice... Like Redhat?? Use it...Like Debian ??? Use it... Like Hal911 ?? Use it.... Like all of them?? Use them all then...

    Why don't people just respect each other and remember that they have a choice....

    And for gods sake...Stop that bitching...It's worse than listening to 10 teenage girls...
  • Posted by Rezidew:

    Sure. Uh...which AC are you again?

    Bill Kocik | Blackspring Communications |

  • Posted by obituary:

    Hahaha. Yes, I discovered that "depmod -a preferred" bug for myself when a friend of mine asked me to fix the pages of "unresolved symbol(s)" messages he got from his newly compiled kernel and modules. After locating the problem, I nearly fell out of my chair in hysterics ;-)

    I advised him to use Slackware. He is now a happy man.

    Simplicity is devine.
    Long Live Slackware!
  • Posted by Scott Francis[Mechaman]:

    ..I must be evil incarnate, and a masochist, since I've been using RH5.0 of a Cheapbytes CD for the past few months. Never bothered to "upgrade my distribution" either; in fact I spent a few hours on Thursday and Friday last week making sure dependencies were up to date(and 5 needed a lot) for 2.2.1. A distro, for me, isn't a version to be upgraded like a software package, but merely a place to start a system. I'll just keep upgrading minor bits and tweaking it until for some reason I can't. :)
    As for RPMs, I agree they're no good when you're installing applications(in fact, the RPM of yagIRC won't run on my system, since it assumes you have GNOME installed). What I do think they're useful for are the nitty-gritty bits; like modutils, util-linux, other things that aren't apps per se, but that run in the background. Eh, that's just me. :)
    As far as the monopoly thing; the part about OEM's laughing them off goes. And for the NDAs that one poster commented, weren't those for the XBF program, since the video card makers are paranoid someone could steal their secrets?
  • Read the license []. It seems like a semi-free license -- you may distribute YaST and the sources and modify it if you clearly state that it's a modified version, but you may not charge for it (w/o permission).

    Just because you can download the source code doesn't meen it's Free Software.

  • I read halfway through this thing and thought to myself: "Wow, this article is way too long.. It's almost like Mr. Petreley is trying to convince us of what he doesn't believe himself."

    I'm not a Red Hat user (GO SLACKWARE!), but I think they've done some good things, and hell, people seem to forget that Red Hat is in the business of making money.

  • Red Hat really is a buggy thing, but not just bugs. If you install as a server setup RH goes and installs pop2 as default.

    What could be dumber, I have had two people attacked through this and of course when I find out we disable pop2. As a slackware user I never dreamed anyone could be so dumb, so it took the saint to find this.

    The real problem for me is that with all the RH hype all the pointy heads want RH. It's a drag to install and a drag to administer.

  • I got very anoyed with RedHat 5.2 this weekend. ON THREE systems with THREE diffrent ethernet cards, I grab the boot disk, go to do an nfs install (on two of the boxes) or ftp install (on the third) and the bootdisk/supplemental disk won't load the kernel modules for any of the three ethernet cards I wanted to use (NE2000 ISA, NE2000 PCI, and WD8013)!

    So, I just grabed an old SuSE 5.1 boot disk, and it worked flawlessly (and on ONE disk, yes, a ONE FLOPPY, NO CDROM complete install). Of course, then I had to upgrade a ton of packages.

    I have a great deal of respect for Red Hat, and I wish them and Bob Young the best of luck. But, putting out 3-5 versions a year should NOT be a priority, getting it right should. 4.2 was good. Ever since that, I feel they have released to frequently, and too soon. IMHO 6.0 should have Gnome 1.0, and Kernel 2.2.x, and should be blanket tested in a widely distributed prerelease version before shipping. But, I guess I can't complain too much, 80% of my boxes run Red Hat :-/

    I don't fear Red Hat becoming an "Evil Empire at all. It's almost impossable. I would LOVE to see IBM sell a distribution (especially on thier G3 boxen!). I don't think that any of them can be a treat when the source is GPL'ed. The problem comes for the lack of a standard, and that is currently being addressed by the LSB committee (still working slowly and quietly in the background).

    The only real threat would be that with the lack of something like the LSB, if some distribution grows too big, they BECOME the standard, (for example, you _know_ people would port to IBM's or Microsoft's version of Linux), and what if the big name distribution is non standard, leaving apps only working on that distribution.

    Long live the LSB.

  • I disagree, see my previous post one level up, same level as yours. I know my way around a box, and I can spark a shell and insert a kernel module on my own during install. But when they are rejected, the whole thing is fuxered.... Not just some little package that needs to be updated.
  • I remember when we started our developers IRC channel, and we had someone logged 24 hours a day for two weeks, often only opening his mouth to ask every new person that joined if he would like to drop KDE and join GNOME...

    Now, was that lame or was that lame?

    And that person was no fan boy, he was a developer, some would say a respected GNOME developer.

    Of course those of us who saw his lame act do not respect him much anymore.

    And no, I won't name names, unless someone from GNOME denies it, which I hope no one is foolish enough to do.
  • You can get Redhat for the same price at the same place.. or download either one for free.
  • It's not the only Linux, Slackware is Linux too. Why tell someone RedHat isn't Linux? Just tell them that it's just one version of Linux.

    That would actually be overstating it. Redhat is not a version of Linux. RedHat is a distribution of Linux. Versions of Linux bare such monikers as "2.0.36" or "2.2.1" or whatever version you prefer. Two different people may use RedHat but be running different versions of Linux, and two people may be running the same version of Linux but only one be running RedHat.

    People attach far too much importance to what distro you use. Who cares where exactly your rc files are? Who cares where a specific binary is, as long as its in the path? Who cares whether you used rpm or tar to install them? None of this makes any difference to a properly written application...

    Starting reality daemon: realityd

  • The kernel, and all the utilities (except the ones Redhat has developed) are GNU. If Redhat tries to throw weight around with its propriotary utilities, chances are people will get fed up and someone will write GNU versions of RPM and the like.
    Sigh. You mean "all the utilities (including the ones RedHat has developed)". If you'd actually read the article, or bothered to do the slightest bit of research, you'd know the RPM, like everything else Red Hat have ever developed is already GPL. There are no Red Hat proprietary utilities. No, Red Hat is not perfect, but it is very good, and it's all open source. I think the only thing they've ever shipped without source is Netscape.
  • If there only was a version for the Alpha...

    Hmmm... Maybe a good project?
  • Just remember, Redhat has GPLed *everything* of theirs, including the install program. This may have changed, but at one point the same couldn't be said about Slackware & SuSE.

    If you like it, cool, use it. If not, use something else.
  • Look how many programs come out as RedHat 5.x binary RPMs only.

    Bad trend. Bad bad bad.

    Of course any distro could be made to be RH-compatible, but it doesn't seem like they should have to.
  • Is RedHat using it's might to advance Linux, or are they using the might of Linux for their own advancement?

    If RedHat started using the penguin logo rather than plastering their own logo on everything they do, and stop refering to Linux as "their" OS, I would beieve the former.

    Ditto for Caldera.
  • RPM is a tool, released under the GPL. Red Hat designed it, and then gave it up for grabs. It works, and people use it. It's freely downloadable to anyone and everyone. Utilities exist to translate RPM's into tgz's and whatever other formats there are, for those who wish.

    The programs come out as 'RPM only' simply because that's what some developers like to use. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth!

    If you feel really strongly about this issue, you can make a mission of converting all these binary RPM to tgz's or whatever, and send them back to the developer's to be put up for download by anyone. I'm sure they'd appreciate the help!

  • Red Hat has effectively prevented itself from becoming a tyrant by GPL'ing everything it feeds back into the Linux community. This very action has also led many Linux users to trust Red Hat as the "safe" distribution of Linux, because there's nothing proprietary in it. Plus, Red Hat has done much to make Linux easier to install and use. Tyrannical? They can't get tyrannical because the only thing keeping them at #1 is the fact that they have the best, most coherent product, and that's the way it should be!

    Furthermore, RedHat's leadership will allow the rapid emergence of some de facto standards, as long as RedHat does not abuse its leadership position (in which case they will immediately lose it). This will allow GNOME to take its rightful place as the standard Linux desktop.

  • Just because RedHat is the biggest selling Linux Distro doesn't mean they are getting too big. There is a difference between a company that abuses its power (MS) and one that uses its might to improve the community by contributing code, utilities, and promoting GPLed software. All other Linux distributions benefit when one gets publicity, and you can't deny that most Linux coverage has been for Red Hat. In fact, that's the ONLY reason this argument is being made. Mainstream press like ZD are not covering the whole story. People who aren't familiar are bound to get the wrong impression. (No, its not Linux, its RedHat).

  • I started with slackware. Hard but fun and very
    good for getting your hands mucky.

    Then RedHat, simple to install but buggy, buggy,
    buggy. Stupid simple things which I expected
    to be set up weren't.

    Finally, SuSe. It just works! :-)
    Still not perfect but moving in the right

    I'll try MS Linux next, I'm sure it'll be the
    best of the lot ;-) Ideally MS should contract
    out it's Linux distro to RedHat who then go on to
    make billions from it because MS don't think it's
    important enough to do themselves :-). Then
    comes MS Linux/2, a collaboration between MS
    and Redhat on the OS of the future. But RedHat
    will turn their back and leave MS struggling on
    trying to produce it whilst they go on to release
    RedHat Linux NG :-) :-) [NG = New GPL]

    (Funny, I was thnking about a MS Linux a couple
    of weeks ago but decided it was too obsurd to
    post to /.! Doh!)

  • I think we should break up the Slakware project. I think that too many people are using it, and we must put an end to it at once. It has become too powerful and the ability to intimidate large OEMs to see things their way.

    We must also force the KDE and GNOME projects to cease development to allow other projects to catch up.

    Give the people what they want. After all, the consumer is the one who will make the final decisions on issues like this.

    No animals were harmed in anyway during the beta testing of SuSE 6.0
  • Well. .it's your own damned fault.. you tried to ride RedHat's coattails... and when you try and do that to a company, they'll kick your butt for it.. I mean if you had a successful company and I immitated you on name/packaging .. what would you do?
  • The linux world seems to be a hash of various things, anyways, and i don't think that redhat necessarily has much power. If one looks at the distribution lists, there are a lot of redhat derived distributions. As previous comments have mentioned, if any distribution attempts a hostile takeover, people will just move away. This is something to be worried about in 5 years. It's too early now.
  • There is no such thing as a big free software distribution. Don't delude yourself.
  • Red Hat is out ahead because they are being shrewd business people - making good deals and making them before the competition. This is a _good_ quality. Let the market sort it out.

    Obviously most of you agree, as a recent /. poll indicated that RedHat was the most popular distro - you're voting with your wallets.
  • Redhat has done some wonderful things in terms of contributing back to the *nix community, don't get me wrong--but I do fear that they will "Microsoft-ify" in a couple of years. By that, I mean that they will change the public's perception of what is allowable for an operating system to require, even if it's unreasonable. For example, their 5.x distributions have unreasonable system and/or installation requirements, which really hurts because I try to use Unix (FreeBSD, Linux, whatever) as an alternative to bloated OSes (like Windows NT) when you are trying to make use of perfectly good old hardware (386s, 486s) for DNS servers. But when Redhat 5.2 requires 8MB of RAM to install and 120MB minimum disk space for 5.2, what can I use?

    (I understand that it's 8MB to install and that you can prune that down to 4MB after you install. But that's little help when all you have is 4MB in the machine. FreeBSD is a little better, but 2.2.* still requires a bit more (5MB to install, 4MB afterwards to run)).

    I remember my original Slackware installing and running in 2MB. And this was before loadable kernel modules. So what am I missing? If Redhat becomes the dominant Linux distribution, and it eventually requires 16MB of RAM, and the other older distributions aren't available any more, how can I make use of perfectly good older machines with, say, 4MB of RAM and an 80MB disk?

    (As a footnote, I attempted an install on an 80MB disk with 5.1, and it insisted on installing over 80MB of stuff, even with most packages deselected and no kernel source. It was a trip to try to delete binaries and directory trees while the install was happening in an effort to get the install to work. :-)
  • Where do you propose I find 4MB of (old) 30-pin SIMMs?

    And for the record, I don't care about a GUI. I want to turn the 30+ 386s here into something useful. DNS, FTP, HTTP servers are not impossible with 386s--hell, that's what they were 9 years ago...
  • I think my only problem with RedHat software is that they sometimes put Linux in a market where it is not fully understood and customers are not ready for it. Some people see RedHat or Linux (and some do not know the difference...) growing popular and they jump on the bandwagon to get those pretty RedHat boxes into their stores. While I'm definately not against mass-Linux in the marketplace, I think some merchants are confused by what RedHat Linux is and can't help their customers get aquainted with their operating system.

    Okay, it seems like I'm rambling, so here's a case of what I'm talking about: When I was at my university's bookstore (you must understand that our school has almost 0 nerd presence) the other day I saw that they had ordered massive amounts of RedHat 5.2 for Sparc and Alpha. When I asked the clerk why there were no copies of it for Intel (which is all anyone uses around here), he looked at me like I'm stupid and told me "Most of our students already have Intel computers and don't need a Unix emulator for that platform."

    Unix emulator, indeed. These are the same people that are supposed to be convincing people to buy the software on their shelves. I think RedHat needs to do something to educate the retail outlets about their software before they continue to flood the market, or else it could give Linux as a whole a bad name (since as far as most people know, RedHat IS Linux).

  • When I first installed Linux three years ago, Slackware was definetly to prominent distro. When RedHat introduced the RPM facility, people migrated over to it because it was easier. One someone comes with something better, people will switch. Why? Because switching from distro to distro is easier than switching from Windows to Linux and vice-versa. There is nothing to tie someone down.

    BTW, isn't Linux all about the kernal anyways? :)

    For me, I am happy with NT, SuSE and soon BeOS!
  • Two weeks ago (in January at least), I saw ad's for the latest Red Hat Deluxe Edition. Media Play had it for $69 or more. CompUSA that had it for $29 (maybe the prices were switched). I don't know how much of this was mistake or stupid marketing.

    Any dominance in the Linux world will come from a company that writes proprietary code. I just don't see how a Linux distributor who writes propritary code and limits the distributions can last very long. Some one can try and convince me otherwise.

    "Man könnte froh sein, wenn die Luft so rein wäre wie das Bier"
    "We could be happy if the air was as pure as the beer"
  • I think this lack of a global roadmap is intimidating and leads lots of new people into the arms of RPM

    There is this, PLUS the elitist attitudes of many of the posters here. Linux has, for better or worse, moved out of the realm of the hobbyist and into the mainstream. And as I have expounded upon many times, Joe Average User has no clue (nor even the desire to) about recompiling the kernel. He just wants his streaming audio to work and play music... he doesn't want to first have to compile the sound module or learn about insmod or any thing of the like.. he just wants to listen to his music.

    To help these new users will require those geniuses amongst us to put aside their massive egos and gently point the new users in the proper directions. Merely saying Read the how-to at Sunsite is not enough. The how-to's were written by the hobbyist for the hobbyist. They were never meant for the typical user.

  • People, people, people...

    If Microsoft really wanted to base their OSes on Unix, they wouldn't mess with Linux. Any of the BSDs would suffice. The BSD license is much less restrictive than the GPL and doesn't require the commercial party to release the source code! Microsoft could, for instance, take the latest snapshot of FreeBSD, make an MS-BSD and end up with an OS that runs BSD, SCO and Linux binaries!

  • Red Hat is also $2 on the cheap cd suppliers, just no books or support. Not that I use Red Hat, I am a slackware user too.
  • You can buy RedHat for the same price
  • RMS didn't write any of the router software that the Internet runs on. He didn't write any of the switching software. He didn't write Apache. He didn't author any internet protocol that I'm aware of. What did he write that "the Internet runs on." Most of the Internet runs on proprietary stuff like Cisco routers and Ascend switches.

    And I highly doubt he's the greatest programmer ever. Even if you could come up with a list of criteria....
  • I have been using Red Hat and Suse for about a year now, and neither is buggy. Any of the bugs I have encountered are also found in Suse and sometimes Debian. The stuff Red Hat writes themselves is usually 100%. If not, it gets fixed quickly, and a patch is soon available.
  • First of all Red Hat isn't even big enough.
    Second They haven't Threatend other companies.
    Third its not in there best interest.
  • While fears and concerns are necessary and just regarding Red Hat's apparent domination in linux distribution, comparisons to, even REMOTE comparisons, to Microsoft are completely uncalled for. Allow me to support my statement.
    First, the obvious: Linux is not a controlled, or proprietary API. Second, there is no Billish prescence in the Red Hat camp. Third, RH's features/additional code
    A: Do not corrupt the kernel
    B: Is actually useable on other distros (after a few hours of CC)
    C: Is available in full source on the web.
    And finally, in a positive not to Red Hat, they've made Linux available in retail outlets.. where as a kid I first started my experimentations, and wasted all my allowance.
    I've seen the 11 year olds in the stores carrying around 5.1. Unfludgingbelievable.

    "To criticize those around you, you must be."
  • See this [] Obviously, not everything is free (applies to Suse too).
  • I guess most people here did not even test an alternate distribution, they simply say Redhat is best. Otherwise, I cannot see how anybody can say that Redhat is NOT buggy.

    Compare it with SuSE 5.3, which is extremly stable. And it comes with KDE (and GNOME as well, if you prefer)

    "99 of 100 people saying "KDE sucks" did not even test it"
  • This is what Linux users say. Most Linux users want it to take over the world. Well RedHat is helping to achive this goal. I would not be using Linux right now without RedHat. I had tried over the last few years several distros and discarded them due to difficulties, mainly with installing. Finally with RH I was able to install and use Linux.

    Most people in my area recommended RH to me as that is what they used, and could help me with problems. This was the same reason that years ago I went with DOS/Windows on my first computer. I knew more people that used MS software than Apple. I am sure that when a better distro becomes avalible that will take over.

    I think the problem is that the hardcore users belive in the GPL. This is not a bad thing, just a conflicting thing. RH is a corporation that is making money. They put out a good product that satisfies a demand for, of all things, free software.

    Yes, they may become as big as MS someday. I wish them well on the trip there. The catch here is that most Linux users don't spend money on software. I am willing to buy one of thier boxed sets for one reason: a good product. Yeah, I can download it for free, go to Cheapbytes, or WC for less money. I buy the box set to support a company that I like and would like to see continue.

    If you don't like RH for one reason or another, that is for you to decide. Use something else and convince your friends to use it.
  • I had an instructor in my network operating systems class (TEC 235 at Pima CC,, try to tell me that "Red Hat is Linux". I pulled out my laptop running Slackware (my favorite distribution). He still thinks that Red Hat is linux.
  • Asking if Red Hat is too powerful is like asking who's the world's tallest midget...

    Compared to Micro$oft, Apple (yes Mackos, Apple contains 7 essential vices and malices, and fortified evil), and even "good guys" like Sun, SGI, HP, IBM, Oracle, AOL/Netscape (who are sorta like Two Face from Batman), etc.... Red Hat are nobodies, but good friends of the Linux world.
    Commercial Linux distributions will allow the commercial world to more readily accept Linux as an OS, and Red Hat seem to be doing a good job of keeping prices low and maintaining the integrity of Linux.

    Personally, I prefer a Linux with a solid base and an easy installer for servers and primary workstations, and more hackish Linux releases for stations dedicated to Linux development. Administering systems is enough of a hassel without making tools that make install and admin easier (like Red Hat and SuSE provide for Linux) into political foes...

  • by DUDESOME ( 17455 )
    I love my RedHat o/s. But they don't own Linux. They shouldn't.
  • RedHat could be a diferent kind of monopoly that we have not seen open source monopoly. I think that this stems from the RPM format in packaging filez, though I think RPMS are easier as long as the dependencies match up. I think that in the future we will see the RPM packaging format become a standard. I think Redhat will be just one of many distributors yet to come. Wait until the bigger companies get involved. Go!!!! SUSE
  • i'm sick of watching everything turn to RPM while tons of mindless drones download and update to a newer buggier release of whatever random package redhat distributes. i'm sick of people coming to me for every single little problem they have simply because RPMs don't fully cover their needed configs. if anything i've seen redhat and RPM's turn more people off than onto linux. after referring people to a simple slackware distribution and some howto docs, i find that they usually have a better outlook on linux in general than during their redhat experiences.
  • Is RedHat using it's might to advance Linux, or are they using the might of Linux for their own advancement?

    The bloke in the interview said, quite plainly, that Redhat is using its might to advance Linux so that the might of Linux can act for Redhat.

    I thought the fact that RedHat is in it for the money was obvious, and I believe Redhat are quite proud of the fact.

If graphics hackers are so smart, why can't they get the bugs out of fresh paint?