–Carla Schroder, author of Linux Cookbook
Carla’s rant in response to my review of Vector Linux is well taken if misplaced. Vector Linux has been around since the late ’90s. Her point, though, is very valid. There are literally hundreds of distributions out there if not more. Ryan Lortie made the same point, albeit less clearly, in his article in response to the Free Software Foundation’s Bad Vista Campaign which Chromatic lampooned.
Do we really need a separate distribution like
Carla is right. We don’t need to keep reinventing Linux, creating distributions that put critical bits in interesting and inventive if unusual places. An application written for Linux should be relatively simple to install on any Linux distribution. It ain’t so. Do we really need hundreds of general purpose distributions, all with diffferent tools, different filesystem layouts, variations on three major software package management schemes and a host of oddball ones, and so on? Do we need yet more to crop up?
I can understand why FSF recommends Ututo Linux (a well established if not terribly well known distro) and GNewSense. They match FSF ideology which requires 100% Free Software and ideology is all important to FSF. I’m not at all sure putting that ideology at the forefront helps Linux Torvalds’ half-joking, half-serious goal of “world domination”, though.
Linux has reached somewhere between 30% and 40% of the server market (depending on whose figures you believe) because the major distributions just plain work on most server hardware from major manufacturers like IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Dell. We need to convince enterprise customers who buy servers to demand hardware that can use Open Source drivers. Until that day arrives proprietary drivers remain a necessary evil in a Linux distribution. That’s just as true on the desktop as it is in the server room. Nobody will migrate from Windows to an OS that doesn’t work for them on the hardware they have.
The nice thing about popular distributions is that you don’t have to sacrifice any deeply held beliefs to use them. If you want an truly free as in freedom system you can choose to have it that way. The laptop I’m writing this on doesn’t need any proprietary software to work as it should. I can have a truly ideologically pristine system and I don’t need to reinvent the wheel or change distros to do it.