Nothing is sacred these days. In times of economic crisis, anything could go any way, at any time. Such is the case with Mandriva. By January 16, 2012 we could all see the end of a distribution that was just starting to make itself relevant again. After so many ups and downs, causing it to flounder in obscurity, Mandriva releases its latest Powerpack, which helped to make GNOME 3 a viable desktop for both businesses and home users. And then...a share holder issue reared its ugly head.
Mandriva began as Mandrakesoft and suffered through more ups and downs than most Linux distributions had to endure. In 2006, the company emerged from bankruptcy to become Mandriva and, for the most part, lived in the shadows of Ubuntu, Fedora, Red Hat, Linux Mint (and many other flavors of Linux). But when Powerpack 2011 hit the shelves it looked as if everything was going to finally turn back around for the French distribution. Mandriva finally had what looked like a major hit on their hands and, before Powerpack could gain any traction, the news of a possible shutdown seeped from under the doors of Mandriva.
What's going on?
It's fairly simple. In 2011 rumors began spreading that Mandriva was to be acquired by Linagora. But those rumors turned out to have no validity. That wasn't the end of the rumor mill. Only the next words to be whispered about, weren't so vapid. This time it was a regular contributor to the Mandriva community, Rapahël Jadot. On December 30, he spoke:
"Well, let's make it short: everything was fine, but there is a big problem: a minor shareholder (Linlux) refuses the capital injection required for Mandriva to continue, even though the Russian investor had offered to bear it alone. "Except turnaround Mandriva should cease activity Jan. 16…"
What this means exactly is this. Linlux SARL, a minority investor holding 42 percent of the shares, is blocking a move to raise new capital for Mandriva -- even though the majority shareholder (Townarea Trading & Investment Ltd.) has approved the plans.
Why is this happening?
It seems accusations are pointing the finger of blame at Marc Goldberg, the lead at Linlux, who doesn't want to see his personal investments in Mandriva reduced. This is not Goldberg's first attempt at blocking investments. It could be his last. With the community driven fork, Mageia, alive and well, it would be a no-brainer for the current community of Mandriva developers to migrate, en masse, to greener (less drama-filled) pastures. But even with Mageia in development, the loss of Mandriva would (and should) be felt across the Linux-verse. Mandriva has done a lot for the development of Linux (and the most recent Powerpack should prove that). Beyond that, losing any Linux distribution at the hands of shareholders who seem hell-bent on destroying something with a storied past is beyond shame.
But what drags this down a darker path is how this reminds me of the changes the Linux community has gone through. I remember well meeting the small crew of Mandrakesoft at a Linux convention. They were exciting, fun, and ready to bust loose on the world a fantastic Linux distribution that would certainly change the way people look at Linux.
Now? That joy-filled group is no more and the distribution they were so proud of is on the brink of disappearing. I hope this doesn't come to fruition. But should Mandriva go the way of Caldera Open Linux (and many other distributions), I hope Mageia continues on where Mandriva Powerpack 2011 left off. As well, I hope all of those that have put so much time, effort, care, and concern into Mandriva find new paths that will bring them success.
As for the shareholder that has done nothing but attempt to bring down Mandriva at every turn? Well, I hope he never bothers to invest in another Linux company again.
The really sad thing about this is that I'm not sure the loss of Mandriva will really effect Linux as a whole. There was a time when this news would have been a serious blow to the Linux platform. Now? Not so much. Mandriva's turbulent past has caused this distribution to all but disappear from the Linux distribution map. I would like to say this would have lasting repercussions on the Linux landscape; but sadly enough, I don't think it will. As much as I enjoyed the latest release of Mandriva, I believe the loss of this distribution will hardly be felt...especially with the Mageia fork in full-blown development.
What do you think? If Mandriva gives up the ghost, would its loss affect you? Do you have fond memories of this turbulent Linux distribution? If so, share them with your fellow TechRepublic Linux fans.
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.