Free Market Economics

Story: Cutting Through Multiple Linux Distribution ConcernsTotal Replies: 26
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Oct 09, 2005
4:30 PM EDT
This whole subject is entirely moot. The fact of the matter is that it's in the nature of open source that everyone to go off in whatever direction they see fit for whatever reasons. Whether you, or I, or anyone else think there too many Distros of Linux, really makes no difference... the show will go on anyway.

In that sense, this is perhaps the only truly free market situation left in the world and the only limiting factor is how many companies or users support the particular flavor. Ultimately the winners of this contest may (and probably will) be something other than what either Mr. Pannell or Mr. Ferris think would be best for the world. Take any of the top 10 and the users may decide it works for them... even Mepis ;-). Corporations are no different in this respect. Sooner or later enough of them will decide on one or another Distro and the rest will fade into the background. But, I seriously doubt that the diversity of flavors will be limited any time soon.

Oct 09, 2005
4:49 PM EDT
Agreed Jimf.

The whole arguement is moot...talking about it seems to just provide a virtual soapbox on which to hear ones own voice or in this case, see one's own thoughts in print.

They should have thrown you in there for a counterpoint to point and counterpoint ;-)

Oct 09, 2005
5:13 PM EDT
Gosh guys, did you read it or just check the headline?

In case you didn't notice, Paul pretty much agrees with you entirely.

You might wish to look up the meaning of moot, btw.

Just consider on measly little point I made --

People who really want to roll a distro, will. That's fine.

But do we see some distros rolled because inviting, exciting, and satisfying ways to otherwise contribute are not readily available or, worse, easy to find?

If that's the case, some really good and useful contributions may be getting lost.

Or not.


Oct 09, 2005
5:27 PM EDT
I think the whole argument over "too many distros" (I can't help remembering "Too many notes" from the movie Amadeus) is a bit of a straw man, just another tactic to make Linux look bad. As so many folks have said in other forums, no one in the "tech" "press" (how do such sloppy ignoramuses hold jobs, anyway) bemoans the proliferation of Windowses, which have a poor record for backwards compatibility for both software and hardware. Far worse than Linux. Wouldn't it be nice of some of those alleged journalists did some testing and reviewing, instead of whining?

It would be nice if some of that creative energy went into supporting some of the existing major projects, Debian being a prime example. All those shiny new Debian-based distros- Ubuntu, Linspire, Xandros, Libranet, and so forth- how many of them are giving anything back to Debian? None, as far as I know.

But what people are missing is that any fun, exciting, and accessible new technology attracts hordes of hobbyists and professionals who do their own thing. Like in the early days of cars, and powered flight, and shipbuilding, and what-all. The biggest difference is now we have the Internet for easy mass-distribution, so marginal projects get attention that they wouldn't have in the olden daze.

BTW the article was great. I hope to see more of them.

Oct 09, 2005
6:21 PM EDT
tuxchick -


Wish I'd said it that well.

Perhaps it should be Penguin - Counter Chick.


Oct 09, 2005
6:27 PM EDT
Well dinotrac, the definition of moot I was using is "Of no practical importance; irrelevant". Given that, I think I used it correctly :)

I'm not sure that I agree with Tuxchick about it being a purposeful strawman to put down Linux... It could also just be a misunderstanding of the nature of open software... whatever... But the rest of what she is saying is right on the mark. IMO The Ubuntu defection in particular has really hurt the Debian community, although I know others disagree.

Oct 09, 2005
6:49 PM EDT
Jimf -

If it were moot, it would never come up, but it does.

A better word might be unavoidable.

In that event, it would seem to be a call to action for the LSB, along with an open embrace of vendors whose products support the LSB, even if they support no more than RHEL and/or Suse explicitly.

If LSB becomes a meaningful target for developers, then, other than the lamentable loss of talent that might do something more wonderful and useful, it doesn't matter if there are a billion distributions.

Oct 09, 2005
7:02 PM EDT
While LSB is a laudable goal and Debian is appearently commiting to that goal, I doubt that this will effect the number of Distros that are produced. I just don't see the connection.

Oct 09, 2005
7:10 PM EDT
Jimf -

The connection is simple:

If LSB will sufficiently define a core Linux that application developers can exploit, it doesn't matter so much how many wrappers that LSB comes packaged in.

Oct 09, 2005
7:15 PM EDT
Well, I pretty much agree with you jimf, but the main idea of the article (and format) was to generate discussion -- I think it's clear that I think the idea of "too many distributions" keeps coming up. Microsoft has made reference to it in ad campaigns (remember the mutated penguin campaign in Germany a few years back?).

Tuxchick: well said. Neither Dean and I are hard-coded into the format, so if you feel like taking a side with someone sometime, by all means, join the party.

The main rules are, stay on topic, and don't insult your counter-penguin.

Wait, that's not a rule at all. :0)


Oct 09, 2005
7:27 PM EDT
Paulie --

Quoting:don't insult your counter-penguin.


So what next? Are you going to try telling me I can't breathe air or drink water?

Some things are too important to joke about.

Oct 09, 2005
7:27 PM EDT

I certainly enjoyed the "format". Disagreement has never been so much fun! 40% Sixty Minutes, 20% Saturday Night Live, 35% LXer, and 5% June Allyson. It doesn't get any better than that!

Oct 09, 2005
8:30 PM EDT
Times change, and people must change them, or change with them. A core theme of all established religions -- and absolute dogma in Buddhism -- is that nothing of this world is permanent. Whether talking about spiritual combat, or the more worldly types, the keys to martial success is flexibility and balance. It is far too easy to become so accustomed to an approach that we instead act with misguided reflex. All types of combat lead to a type of shell shock where this is likely. This is true of some of you, and even to one whom I admire too much to be more direct.

Ubuntu is far from the only group doing more damage than good. Look also at the behavior of SuSE and Red Hat -- restricting everything but their trial beta versions among other things and EULAing everything else. Look at what even Perens' has done in recent years, and especially the underhanded motivations of User Linux. When the economy suffers, the weaker characters are of course readily exposed. It is the tough times that test men's character. Even a saint becomes a sinner when deprived of his customary dinner. Many good people have left due to more interesting world events, and the turmoil in disto land. Amongst some of us, our zealousness has transformed into a sort of depression concerning how hard we fought, and how close we got -- before an unelected satan worshiping politician, whose grandfather funded Hitler, let the software mafia go, and proceeded to set the rest of the world on fire. Yeah... it gets REAL easy to just throw up one's hands and say "SCREW IT!... I'm going home..." abet sadly. I think if you check around, and ask around, you'll find plenty of people who feel exactly this way. The KDE people were actually slapped around by Peren's -- for having a license too hostile toward proprietary developments: long after having been blasted for having just the opposite during the infamous "Desktop War". Go ask the KDE team if they ever get disgusted, and if they have been hurt. There will be other Perens and Ransom Loves in the future if we don't monitor the dangers of GNOME's tendency towards "extensible" licensing due to its tendency to use the LGPL instead of the shield of the GPL. Where is evil: always where you least expect it.

Things have changed, and for those with the will and strength to continue the good fight, you are hereby warned of what you face, and possibly the greater danger of becoming inflexible. The FUD is practically gone now, except for special places like ZDNet. Don't you ever wonder why the attacks have stopped? I think I know some of the answers:

1 - Red Hat. They "proved" that a "free" software company was not sustainable -- regardless of the facts, their behavior past and present is proof of this to outsiders.

2 - Misinformation and disinformation, corrupting the community, for which some of the people here still bear the battle scars from.

3 - The continued retail Microsoft tax, and the fact that they have been essentially found to be above the law, along with a variety of corporations, media organizations, and politicians.

4 - The economies that are dying everywhere, and I purport with a fiendish intent.

5 - The depressing distractions of world events.

6 - Yes... the loss of standards attempts. Look guys... Linux still doesn't have a unified packaging system after all this time! That just scratches the surface. There has simply been too much "reinventing wheels"... it is a drain on time and talent, and the end result is dissatisfaction everywhere.

Stallman was right about practically everything, and we would not be where we are now had people listened to him who should have known to -- and had we not allowed the johny-come-latelies to shout us down, who knew nothing about the hows and whys things had been done as they were -- who didn't understand the GPL or the mission of the FSF -- who were led astray by that pied piper we call ESR -- as if proprietary open source software were some kind of acceptable middle ground. People just didn't get a core thing, which I think Stallman knew, but was too politically wise to ever declare. Despite the mantra of free is not Free (as in freedom); in actually, the two cannot be separated. Whenever software REQUIRES money, it must also require restrictive EULAs, and copy protection, and it locks out the poor. Free software cannot exist unless it can be obtained without price, and copied without price, and modified without price -- or we're just stuck with the same old rental scheme in which terms can be altered against the greater good at any time.

Gentlemen, and lady, times have changed. FUD is not the greatest enemy anymore. Our enemy lies much closer to us now.

Oct 09, 2005
9:42 PM EDT
I shall quote myself

"Choice, Choice, Choice. That is what Open Standards mean. The ability for anyone who can to choose to work with someone else or work on their own version of Linux is what its all about. Are there too many? so what. If there really are too many then some will go away all by themselves. The ones that work for the most people will move on. Just like it has in the past, I for one think that if there is a distro for every Linux user out there, good, it means that people have taken control of their computers and have decided that they should be in charge. That is what having a choice is all about."

Corriher: "keep your friends close, but your enemies closer" - that way you know what they are up too.

Oct 09, 2005
11:00 PM EDT
Interesting is it not, how the very people who go all dribbly and ga-ga over "choice" under usual circumstances are here trying to portray it as a "bad thing"?

Our enemy is not Microsoft, it's each other?

Led astray by the pied piper we call ESR?

The attacks have stopped?


Get The Facts is still online? Microsoft still telling lies about Linux? Then "the attacks" haven't stopped.

We don't have enemies - we have misinformed neighbours.

ESR? Mad as a fish in a privet bush. (As all the best people are). But he knows his stuff and is passionate about the truth. That's worth a whole lot in these days of easy lies and government sanctioned cover ups. I'd rather have 10,000 ESR's than one Bill Gates. And why shouldn't he and others speak out? Who came up with this silly idea that people who say sharp things should be locked away? (People who have something to lose perhaps?)

Deviate from the corporate norm and you're unemployable/ignorant/untrustable/stupid?

We need more George Galloways and less Tony Blairs, more RMS/ESR's and less Ballmers/Gates/Jobs.

Character defines us, blandness sets every alarm bell ringing in every heart and mind. "Oh here we go, another suit, another corporate PR whore, another preprepared plate of spin - another lie."

We are a community made up of individuals, here through choice (not because we are locked in by some highway man's idea of a license). We disagree and argue and periodically point fingers and utter threats - this is human. Gloriously so. Like the good book says "be angry but sin not".

To glide around in expensive suits and always agree and never say anything wrong is corporate robot behaviour and not human. God preserve us from corporate robots.

Once gain, better a man who knows his stuff in jeans and a t-shirt than some slick shark in a suit, all of whos efforts went into the suit not the mind within it.

We are in the IT equivalent of the Model T-Ford period. You can have any car as long as it's a black Model T (any pc as long as it runs Windows). Now we have folks in garages and sheds and workshops coming up with homemade cars. It's inevitable that all will not survive. Some of the survivors will do so against expectations. No one can tell for sure. Just that Linux will continue.

And finally...

Debian is a bit like Mama, dependable, not as exciting as in her youth but oh my, look at some of her children.


Oct 10, 2005
1:57 AM EDT
Thomas! Awesome to see you. I don't hold the dismal Linux-view that you do, but as always, appreciate your perspective. I also don't think RedHat "proved" that you can't make money as a Free Software company.

What's going on with Ubuntu right now, that might be something no one could have predicted, for example -- Shuttleworth is dumping money in, and who knows how it might end up. Could be he funds his next ride on the space shuttle from sales, for all we know.

Cash: Don't forget that Stallman himself made money from shipping tapes of GNU/Emacs. He never said you couldn't charge, but at the core of what you're saying there is a nugget of truth: The moment the cash is hard-coded into the equation, things do change.

My writing has in the past suffered a similar fate. I can't live under the corporate yoke when it comes to what I have to say, hence I'll likely never make a living as a journalist. (Ugh, leaving myself wide open there.) Some might argue that I've never been one, and that's fine by me given the track record of some of what passes for journalism in over half of the trade press right now.

But the hard truth is that I do indeed make a fine living off of Free Software -- just not in forums like this, and I'm cool with that. The moment you take cash for your opinion, someone needs to fork out the funds -- and that usually means advertising -- and that usually means that Microsoft or other corporate interests whos ideals don't necessarily line up yours appear next to your supposedly unbiased opinion. I know that this is the yoke that some people I truly admire live under at the moment, so it's not impossible to remain unbiased.

Good points -- what's the alternative to companies like RedHat? I don't honestly know at the moment.

Oct 10, 2005
3:37 AM EDT
To all -

Not one to deny that choice is a good thing. So are water and oxygen, but, under the right circumstances, too much of either will kill you.

One need not cling to a mantra as sloths do to limbs.

Oct 10, 2005
5:47 AM EDT
Quoting: Not one to deny that choice is a good thing. So are water and oxygen, but, under the right circumstances, too much of either will kill you.

True, but there is such a thing as balance. For example, is your brain getting enough oxygen lately?!?



Oct 10, 2005
7:23 AM EDT
Just stumbled across this article in which Matthew Szulik chimes in on the distro consolidation issue:

Oct 10, 2005
12:48 PM EDT
We are forgetting one thing. Many of these distros are not for public consumption and they are nothing more than someone publishing what they did while exploring and learning. I say the more of them the better in this case. There hasn't been a distro that didn't come from another but each one has come with new ideas or different approach of doing one thing or another. This contributed to the fast development of all distros and even made the original ones more advanced and feature rich. Yes, too many could be harmful, but the benefits way out weigh the drawbacks.

Oct 11, 2005
7:04 AM EDT
Thank you Colonel Ferris. By the way, you really ought to update your blog sometimes, because I occasionally check-in with it to see how life is going for you; and perhaps others do too. You made a minor misinterpretation of me, in the area we are most likely to experience confusion with: in regards to Red Hat. Once again, your perspective was based upon the truth of the situation, and my comments concentrated instead upon the likely perspective of the situation; which can muddle the truth into oblivion. Someone I once knew was fond of saying: "Don't muddle the issue with the facts." (in sarcasm) There is a great truth hidden in that sarcasm. A false belief, if strong enough, becomes another's "truth"... their reality.

About them in particular: Red Hat was the last, and arguably the best, of a group which made money from servicing and packaging free and yet commercial quality software. Remember how, to so many people, Red Hat WAS Linux? They were profitable doing it, and had cemented themselves a nice niche by being the last and best known to continue in that area. Given all of this, what impression is given to investors of free/Free software? Has any other company actually tried it again? Will it ever happen again? Ask yourself, why.

I did not vote, because I did not want to choose between friends. It wasn't worth the risk. I do believe all of you can determine that I agree with Dean's assertion that anything... and I do mean ANYTHING... in the extreme becomes destructive to both growth and overall health. My ramblings about balance and flexibility are core life lessons which apply to Linux as well.

One person here questioned my character. I tend to react very negatively to that sort of thing; but in this case it is partly humorous, because that behavior was exactly what I spoke of, and in a sense predicted. There will always be people who don't want to hear certain things, but silently allowing beliefs vested in denial are likely the greatest cause of suffering throughout human history.

Let me give everyone a real example of the situation using myself.

I still use an old, but heavily patched version of Red Hat from 2001. This was long before they transformed into the new "Enterprise!" (TM) Red Hat. The configuration methods, internal scripts, and packaging methods for other major distributions are all different, and except for SuSE, none of them are as polished as a Red Hat was back then -- and this includes the Mand($WHATEVER_NAME_THIS_ WEEK) distribution -- which burned up my video card -- yes hardware damage -- from the default "enhanced" frame buffer to display their cutsie logo at boot. I won't do SuSE, because I may as well go Windows if I'm going to have per-seat restrictive licensing for an $80 (per-seat) BASIC VERSION. So, what if my dad asks me to set up Linux for him? What do I do, and what do I say? Do I tell him... "Well... I don't have experience with the newer ones, and I might need to spend a few weeks studying them before we go live"? Just imagine the response... go ahead... picture it. He's going to think, "my son, the technical expert, needs to spend several weeks studying and testing the software just to get it properly installed for me... whoa.... I don't fsck'n think so." What happens when I suggest Fedora, and he later sees at Red Hat's web site that Fedora is just "beta" quality software unlike the "tested" "enterprise" software Red Hat sells?

To those who doubt me, go ahead... take your best shot... and explain how this type of situation is good for Linux. Consider it as a dare. ;) I'm completely ready to hear the rationalizations about it. While your at it, tell me in which isle I can pick up a copy of a free operating system at CompUSA.

Oct 11, 2005
9:24 AM EDT
I agree with what you say about Fedora. I think it's a no-go in any kind of a commercial setting. That said, if you look at the Migrations page on this site there are a couple of companies that have gone with Fedora (or had Fedora installed for them more likely). Not sure about the figures you quote for SuSE. It's given away on all the magazines. We have a 12 seat dual boot training room at work I put together and I used SuSE 9.3 Pro - free from a magazine. It's also freely available on the SuSE ftp servers. Presumably the payment is for support. (?)

Personally I like Debian. Debian's sweet.

In answer to your other point. It's only bad for Linux if we want some sort of "joined up perfect shop front" that is slick and flawless. People understand fallings out and test versions - that's human. I would suggest people are fairly sick and tired of perfectly presented products/companies because it's 99% artificial.


Oct 11, 2005
9:29 AM EDT

"I won't do SuSE, because I may as well go Windows if I'm going to have per-seat restrictive licensing for an $80 (per-seat) BASIC VERSION"

How sure are you about that? Suse has been available for download/install via FTP for a long time. Recently, they started making ISO files available for download too With OpenSUSE 10.0 for both CD & DVD.

Oct 11, 2005
9:55 AM EDT
Abe & Tom:

In addition to the free download, you can buy a supported version of Suse Linux for $60.

I suspect that Tom may be talking about the enterprise product, and I don't know what the licensing is for that.

Oct 11, 2005
12:06 PM EDT
I thought it was $80, Dean. Isn't the download version the "trial" version, that's just a live CD -- ie. no installer? I'm pretty sure that was how it used to be, and haven't heard anything about that changing. I'll check into it, but feel free to make corrections, as I keep getting distracted away from here.

Oct 11, 2005
12:32 PM EDT
Much has changed between the time that Novell bought SuSE and today.

Today, SUSE development is becoming similar to Fedora's. YAST is completely open source, with no restriction on distribution. iso and ftp availablility coincide with the release of the boxed sets. And the boxed sets are cheaper than they used to be. (I was thinking more like $49.) Also, with the old boxed set "professional" version, you got stuff that had licensing that prevented it from being distributed in the download version. For example, SuSE was the first to have a complete virus filtering email server solution available out of the box. This was before ClamAV, so they needed AntiVir, which had restrictions. That sort of thing may or may not be your cup of tea. But it, and official support, were value for the money spent.

All in all, Novell's SUSE has been a *better* OSS player than the old SuSE. In fact, it's hard to imagine a Linux company that has changed more than SUSE over the years... except Caldera...

Oct 11, 2005
12:38 PM EDT
$80 for the desktop version, the Enterprise server version is more expensive (~$300) since it comes with one year support. I think Corriher is referring to the Suse Linux Professional which is $90 last I heard. But, like I said, you can download it from mirrors for free but will have NO support and NO books, which by the way are excellent. It is my distro that I have been using for 6 years. I purchase it once a year after I install it via ftp (no need to download). Here is a link

This is one by you Dean but no Suse 10.0 yet

This one has 10.0 & 10.1 in Frisco

Both are fast (500KByte) if you have cable

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