Open Source

I am "smolten" with Linux!


Okay it was a bad play on words but, hopefully, it got your attention. Why? Because that's sort of the issue behind this blog. Attention. Or at least gaining the world's attention. Okay let me explain.

Microsoft proclaims that it has X^10 Windows users. How do they get that number? My guess is that every time a copy of Windows sells (no matter if it's to the same user over and over or if it's X amount of copies sold to a reseller - regardless if that copy is installed or not) their numbers increase. So MS can legally claim they have X^10 Windows users. On the other hand, Linux isn't sold generally. The majority of Linux users download a copy or get a copy burned from a friend or pick up their copy from the local LUG. You can't really count those copies among Linux installations because there's no way to track them. Until now...

With the release of Fedora 7 comes a new application called Smolt. This application collects information after installation and, with the user's consent (that's a key factor with the open source community) sends that information off to the Fedora Development team. So now the Fedora team can start counting numbers. But wait, there's a problem! According to Max Spevak (the Fedora Project leader) 95% of the profiles that show up on their smolt servers are coming up as run level 5 - GUI (aka desktop machines). Why is this? During the installation, you are in GUI mode. Even if you are only installing a server, if you have ANY GUI when you first boot your machine, the Fedora Firstboot will begin with a GUI - runlevel 5 (desktop). So what is happening is that all those severs being installed without a single GUI are not being counted.

A glitch in the system!

I have always been one of the naysayers when all those MCSEs chase me down screaming 98% MARKETSHARE! To that I usually reply /DEV/NULL! Why? To date it's been nearly impossible to account for every single Linux installation. Who really knows how many machines have been installed with Linux? For all we know that 98% marketshare could really belong to Linux.

Can you imagine MS's shame to find out that all those basement Linux installations added up to more than Windows installations? Shame! Not that I am implying it would. But what I am saying is that numbers pretty much lie. For example, out of six machines here at home, only one of them has Windows installed (and that is Windows 2000). Another machine has OS X on it. The rest? Linux. Apple knows about the one OS X installation. Microsoft knows about the Windows 2000 installation. But does Ubuntu know about the one installation? Does Fedora know about the 2 installations? Does Puppy Linux know about the one installation? Well, I just ran the command smoltSendReport on the Fedora 7 machine. So Fedora knows about one. Unfortunately, the other machines do not have such an application.

So how do I make myself known? I could go to the Linux Counter and at least make them aware of my systems. As of now the Linux Counter project has counted 153611 systems. That's not much. So that really doesn't work so well.

I would think that each of the Linux distributions would be in a bit of a quagmire about how to keep a count on how many users they have. Should they set up a registration form that would require user input in order to complete and installation? I don't know. Would it suffice if everyone using a particular distribution would pop off an email to that distribution saying "Hey, I have X number of installs of your distribution as of X date!" That couldn't hurt.

I guess what I am saying to Microsoft us tgat I wouldn't bank on the numbers you have vs. the numbers you think the competition has. They don't work. And someday banking on those numbers just might come back to haunt you.

Like I said, I have four out of six installations at home using one form of Linux or another. Of those four, only one is known by the distributor. And I know plenty more people just like me with even more installs at home or at work that have never been accounted for.

So tell me, how many installations of Linux do you have at work or at home? And of those, which are registered? Don't worry - you can't get into trouble like you would if you were fessing up to having X number of unregistered copies of Windows 2000.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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