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
- 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.
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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 jackwallen.com.