Linux

Why Linux should celebrate all of its distributions

Find out why Jack Wallen believes that the Linux community should celebrate all of its distributions.

Linux distributions

Q: Which would you rather have: a Linux that everyone could use or your same old distribution that has worked in the same tried-and-true manner for years? I want to attack this without playing favorites to any one distribution... sort of. In fact, let's make up two distribution names to save a host of faces. We'll call them Pepper Linux and Salt Linux. Here's a little history about these two distributions:

  • Salt Linux has been around since the mid-90s. It's been a favorite of Linux advocates since inception. It's always stable, turns ancient hardware into blazing fast, usable machines, and doesn't break any "rules" or hearts within the world of FOSS.
  • Pepper Linux, on the other hand, has only been around since the early 2000s. Its purest of intention is to bring Linux to the masses, regardless of what it has to do. Pepper adopted a brand new interface and does everything it can to modernize the Linux operating system.

Each distribution winds up with its own camp -- similar to that of Windows and Mac. One lays claim to holding market share of the predominant user groups, while one places its flag on being the hippest (and most user-friendly) platform on the planet. It's a modern-day David vs. an ancient, juggernaut Goliath. And while Salt cries foul on Pepper for poisoning the water that is Linux, Pepper shouts to the stars that Salt is spreading FUD to keep Pepper from gaining the traction it needs.

This battle continues on. Neither gains or loses any ground, thanks to the steady pull into the mire of a perpetual war. What these two distributions fail to see is that, like Mac and Windows, their variations on a theme can not only live on side-by-side but can thrive and help one another reach heights Linux might never have otherwise known. This has been, and always will be, the strength of Linux -- a community of developers, users, advocates, and fans always at the ready to guide a distribution through murky and rough waters. At least... in theory. Unfortunately, the path to success is paved with some rather ugly obstacles:

  • Petty in-fighting
  • Jealousy
  • Poor assumptions

Pepper has made drastic changes to how users interact with their desktops, some decisions made without consulting the whole of the community first. But then, it was perfectly within the right of Pepper to do so. The goal of Pepper is to get Linux into the hands of the masses (a lofty and noble goal at that). In order to achieve this goal, toes will be stepped on and egos may be bruised -- all in the name of getting a superior platform into the hands of users. Meanwhile, Salt refuses to evolve away from what has always worked for those already initiated into the “cult of Linux” and even looks down upon anyone trying to evolve Linux away from its roots.

What Salt fails to see is that, at their core, they are both Linux. Both Pepper and Salt are built upon the same (relative) kernel and enjoy the same security and reliability. Both distributions can offer the end user a much more secure, flexible, and robust platform than what they already use. It's a win-win for all involved. Let me repeat myself... they are still both Linux. That is the heart of the issue and the one unifying, important factor. Take away the modern, fancy interface and the non-standard middle layers and what do you have? Linux. 

The Linux community is proud of the fact that Android and Chromebooks have helped bring Linux to the masses. You don't hear anyone bemoaning the fact that both platforms have made drastic changes and are hardly recognizable as Linux. But, in the end, they both are. The same thing holds true with Pepper and Salt. Strip away the superficial variations and they are still Linux. 

And so, ultimately, the answer to my question should be simple: Both. The Linux community should be celebrating each and every success of all distributions, as well as lending a helping hand when failure rears its ugly head. To me, that makes perfect sense -- it's what the Linux community has always been (and should always be) about. Linux.... Salt, Pepper, Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora, Arch, Debian, Red Hat, Puppy, PCLinuxOS, Android, ChromeOS, SteamOS. It's all Linux.

Share your opinion about this topic in the discussion thread below.

  

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.

10 comments
johnmtv
johnmtv

Hey everyone I am new here and love computers. This is an interesting read. I am a Linux lover since about in the 90's wow I just realized how old I am not cool. Anyway I love my Ubuntu and have since the early distros. I would just like to say that I love Linux and wish more people could enjoy it too. But this can't be because every one likes what they like. And it isn't my job to tell them any different. I leave the converting to the Pastors. And thank goodness we live in a country that gives us the freedom  to do so.

alzie
alzie

As for flexibility, one thing that we re supposed to be able to do is switch desktop environments and

have it all, buuut this needs work as the act of installing multiple DEs steps on things and

renders the whole mess idiosyncratic at best and non functional at its worst.

One cant even back out of the process.  I would like to see this cleaned up.

So for now, I ll stick with Unity.

Tinman57
Tinman57

  It don't matter what OS, everyone thinks that what they have is better, and most people are afraid of change.  I can remember back when it was MS Vs Apple Vs Commodore.  Anyone mentioning a different OS would immediately be flamed for having a "inferior" OS.

  As for me, I'm waiting for my new WorkStation loaded with Ubuntu (and ZorinOS) to be delivered.  I know very little about Linux, but I know enough to know that I'm really tired of MS's BS and will soon retire my old XP machine for a supercomputer running Linux.

zeke123
zeke123

This would have been cute at 12-13 but its really annoying having to do the mental math for the two main protagonist and equally annoying for the intentional obfuscation "Did he mean this? " and simplification of many rather different subjects in the "war against Ubuntu' into a few broad caricatures .

The Linux is the kernel and everything else is free game. You want the Gnu family? They are big and varied and they are all Linuxians (!) 

We SHOULD have choices and there is no such thing as useless, each Linux distros is its own reason for existing, whether its Scientific Linux produced by some of the smartest people on the planet ror Satanic Linux. BOTH are Linux and deserve to be. To claim that such and such distro should exist is unacceptable because you dont tell me what I can and cant do with free software as long as I respect the GPL. heck I can murder people from a distance too if I want with it.

We SHOULD have different desktop because people have different tastes. You might hate Gnome with a passion but someone else might like it. Who are you tell me which desktop paradigm I should like? Do you tell me which sort of ice-cream I should like when I go to Baskin Robbins? No. The same applies to desktops. Choice is a users best friend. Choice between vanilla or chocolate or Salt or pepper are reductive. Go to the place with 30 flavours or go to Epic Meal Time and learn to make your own Bacon Ice Cream and you might find out that while your wife likes the Daiquiri Ice and the PCLinuxOS-KDE you are more a rum.walnuts and raisins kind guy who likes Xubuntu.

Weve moved from the proprietary world of no option to one where you kind find what suits you (im really liking E17) and thats a good thing.

Choice is good.

But collaboration within the HUGE amount of projects is as much. ESPECIALLY in the core areas. Huge variety at the user level is great. Further up it creates redundancies that cost precious developer time.

The reasoning behding a Linux Base still holds true now more than ever.

I do find it amazing that a distro like Ubuntu whose name was made because of its great ability to assemble people has done so many wrong steps over the past while when back in 2005-6 they kept saying all the right things.

I remember thinking when the company was created that the word canonical was an interesting name for a company that promoted free software loudly and proudly spoke of cooperation. Now Wikipedia makes more sense when Ive read the definition again.

StolenNomenclature
StolenNomenclature

There is tons of variety within the numerous Linux distros, but unfortunately its useless variety, the kind of variety no one needs - the variety of lots of different sets of bugs. You have the ability to choose which applications you want to malfunction, or better yet, the kind of malfunctions you want in each application. Oh yes, and other really important things like which applications are missing from the repositories, the color of the wallpaper, the boot screen logo, etc. Oh yes, i almost forgot one of the best aspects of this variety, you get to choose which particular directories they have put the script and library files in. All these and an almost infinity of useless nit picking differences are yours to choose from. But fortunately as the article explains, its still all Linux, so you get the best features of Linux whatever distro you pick. Bugs, missing applications, continual change - nothing ever stays the same for long enough to get bored with it. The ultimate distro i think would have some kind of random distro generator that operates at boot up, that randomises the positions of all the script and library file locations, the position of the buttons on the windows of the gui, etc,etc, so that the distro is different every time you boot up. Then Linux will really have arrived. We could call this distro ChaOS - the distro that gives you complete ChaOS. Yeehah!

dustyjurney
dustyjurney

Salt is Debian and Pepper is Ubuntu...

Entertaining...

marcushh777
marcushh777

I agree, Jack...

... with most of your article, and with the grand attempt to bring peace to the geek sphere.

The thing your article misses, and the important factor that most authors miss about the free software movement in general, (beyond choice, which is fantastic too) is that gnu/linux is populating the geek sphere with many unique "footprints" in terms of build, memory, kernel, &c.    This is huge.

With Apple and Windows the stable builds have "exactly" the same foot print. Consequently they can be attacked (with propagation) more easily because the crackers know where everything will reside in memory. With gnu/linux the situation is different.  Every build, every distro, every update to every distro, has a unique footprint and a unique memory signature making wide-spread infection of those systems (rare even as infection is on those systems) even more difficult. It is a *very* good thing to have many distributions of gnu/linux in the wild, in fact, the more the merrier.   Seriously.

I don't know if celebrate is a good word... maybe encourage,  maybe welcome is the best word.  We should welcome every distribution of gnu/linux to the table for obvious reasons, not all of them related to FOSS.

The main point I disagree with in your article is the idea that linux is linux is linux.  Not True.

Linux is just the kernel, and not all kernel images are the same. This is going to become more important as we continue to process the NSA snafu and world-wide freedom from unwarranted and unwanted surveillance. The world situation is that kernel builds "without" kernel blobs is going to become paramount in importance.  The only way to prevent unwanted surveillance is to have "free" software, and that means kernel images free from unwanted "blobs" of proprietary code without source.

There are several gnu/linux distributions listed on the FSF web site that highlight kernels without the "blobs". GnuSense and Trisquel come to mind.  

Also, referring to the distros as "Linux" is very misleading... because the distro is really the Gnu system, primarily.  We should always be referring to the distro as gnu/linux ;  the Gnu system combined with the Linux kernel. 

Cheers


Netteligent
Netteligent

I just installed a latest Ubuntu 13.1 Linux and its applications over weekend as part of a new home project to replacing aging HP Wintel computer. My first Linux based computer on powerful AMD processor with friendly budget.
To show the progression and how it’s being built from start to finish is pretty exciting in a lifetime.
Simply amazing. Even the quietest of computer can make a loud-and-clear design statement, as these applications prove. Housed in architecturally ambitious structures, Ubuntu 13 Linux and AMD system are best system that celebrate human achievement with awesome environments.
Where was I during the past 5 years? Once you test out the new Ubuntu or Mint, you will not want to go back to Intel and Microsoft Windows again. Highly recommended. Don't be afraid to take first step and get out of your comfortable environment.
That is when everything changed..

With overall saving, I finally get myself a new 24' monitor with HDMI connector. Hopefully we continue to see another innovation and breakthrough with support for ARM processors.

ricegf2013
ricegf2013

@Netteligent Welcome to desktop (Gnu) Linux!  I switched to Linux full time at home 13 years ago (running Ubuntu 12.04 at the moment), and while I still use a Windows 7 PC next to my SUSE Linux 11 workstation at work, I do more on Linux than on Windows there. It's just more productive.

I suspect you're using Ubuntu 13.10, though - the "10" refers to the month of release (October), rather than the more conventional sequential release numbers (.1, .2, etc.).  But a version by any other name would still smell as sweet!  ;-)

Editor's Picks