Linux distros

This is not a rant about favorite linux distros. Go here if you were looking for that :-)

No, I just read this article by Ian Murdock. Interesting perspective, especially this:

The Linux distribution industry needs to start looking at Linux in a new and different way–as a platform to be shared rather than as a product to be owned.

Would be nice indeed.

2 thoughts on “Linux distros

  1. amusing tidbit: the advertisement on that page is for the MSN toolbar for IE.

    the problem with his thinking is that “normal” business isn’t done that way. you have a product, the consumer wants to buy your product, so you sell it. already, the commercial distros are a bit off the beaten path with their “subscription services” and “support contracts” – but at least there are strong precedents for these types of things.

    personally, i think a lot of that article is more about a way of thinking than a way of doing business. the main gripe he seems to have (mentioned rather briefly despite its importance) is that distro vendors sell a “one-size-fits-all” product that isn’t really tailored to each individual customer’s needs.

    now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. in a lot of cases, the customers’ needs will be relatively homogeneous. on the business end of things, supporting a common configuration is orders of magnitude simpler than troubleshooting one of thousands of custom setups.

    on the flip side, i think there is a market for selling and supporting a custom distro. but we’re still essentially talking about something that boils down to a product. a customised product, but a product nonetheless.

    on a somewhat-related note… this article almost falls afoul of one of my major pet-peeves. as you quoted: “The Linux distribution industry needs…”. take out “distribution industry”, and you automatically lose any credibility with me. “linux” doesn’t need anything. it’s a kernel, or, if you want to mess with semantics, it’s an OS platform. it doesn’t need a damned thing. similarly, i don’t think the linux community needs all that much either. for me, i’m perfectly happy editing config files and writing and running scripts. and if joe-average user doesn’t want to run linux because it’s not user-friendly enough, frankly, i don’t really care.

    having said that, i think it’s important for society that linux gains wider acceptance. i don’t trust microsoft one bit, and i really see free alternatives like linux and the BSDs as the only things that have a chance in hell of forcing back the tide of restrictions and vendor lock-in that microsoft will be all too happy to impose if given the chance. if all this means that linux has to become more user-friendly, so be it.

    ok, so this comment/reply has turned into a bit of a rant, so i think i’ll stop ^_~.

  2. I believe that many of the developments we see now towards more user-friendly desktop usage, things like hotplug, udev, hal, etc, would have started much earlier if the distribution vendors had not felt the need to differentiate on the basis of system configuration tools.

    System integration needs to start from a common base, hence the development of D-BUS as common event system, without ties to specific vendors or desktops or toolkits.

    Also, I think Ian Murdock should know quite well the difference between linux, the kernel, and a linux distribution ;-) And although his own objective is to push his progeny modular linux distro a bit by talking about the one-size-fits-all mentality, I don’t agree that is the most important observation.

    The call for a business model that is based on linux as a shared platform rather than a unique product is much more interesting. I don’t know if it is possible and I don’t think any distro vendor has found a way yet, neither has Murdock himself.

    Hey, you’re not the only one who can rant, you know ;-)

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