Unified Linux Distribution

April 13, 2010 by Noah
I saw a somewhat interesting article on Digg today titled "The trouble with Linux: it's just not sexy." Apart from making some rather ridiculous claims, one interesting idea the article mentioned was that Linux would have to be unified, standardized, in order to succeed.

The article compared Linux to Firefox: with Firefox, if you make any changes to its source code and redistribute it, you're no longer allowed to call it Firefox, but only "Firefox-based." This article mentioned the idea of one distribution of Linux being able to call itself the Linux; all other distributions have to call themselves "Linux-based."

This wouldn't really work out though, largely because there would be too much politics involved in such a thing. If somebody did want to create "THE" Linux distribution, what desktop environment should be chosen as its default? GNOME, KDE, something else? Or, what package management system should it use? Aptitude/DEB, or Yum/RPM?

Debian, being one of the oldest Linux distributions, would naturally prefer that Debian be the package manager of "THE" Linux. And you could add the whole entire Ubuntu fanboy population on that side of the debate; Ubuntu noobs would all support Debian format, just because these noobs were handed Ubuntu and with that, Debian packages were grandfathered to them because Ubuntu is based on Debian. On the other hand though, large corporations like Red Hat would prefer that RPM be used as a package manager.

Because of politics like this there will probably never be an "official" Linux distribution; only a popular one, like Ubuntu currently is.

Here's what I would suggest though to market Linux as a real competitor to Windows and OS X: first, create a completely new desktop environment, not GNOME or KDE or any existing environments. Make something unique about it. Windows has the task bar and start menu, and OS X has the dock and global top menu bar. What does GNOME or KDE have? Bits and pieces from both.

A new desktop environment developed by a large company would help a lot because the entire desktop experience could be controlled and made high quality. Distributions that just build on top of GNOME or KDE only make the problems even worse by adding custom control panel software and further fragment these two desktop environments. A new desktop environment could be better controlled and marketed from a central point.

And, this desktop environment could license itself like Firefox: if you change it, you have to rename it. Linux itself is already too big to change the way its name can be used like this without starting an epic flame war all over the Internet, but a new GUI desktop environment could pull this off.



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Frederik posted on May 30, 2010 @ 15:23 UTC

There is one linux -- which is perhaps the crux of the problem. People don't recongize that there is only one Linux and not a whole bunch of them. Linux is a kernel, not a full operating system (that is a software stack that is actually usefull for some task). Debian (replace Debian with any socalled Linux distribution if you like) is not a Linux distribution but an operating system which includes Linux -- now a days you can even get a version of Debian that uses HURD instead of Linux, which means that Debian really is not a version of Linux or a Linux disitrubtion (of course the HURD version is pretty hard to even install...).

People should stop worrying about "the linux" distribution and start looking at the part of the operating system that matters -- the userland components -- which most of the time is mainly GNU packages or packages that are completly (directly or indirectly) dependent on GNU packages. In fact GNU packages are the best bet for compatiblity, not just between "Linux distributions" but also between those versions and any BSD, Solaris and Mac OS X and other Unix like operating systems. Interfaces are more important than implementations.

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Richard posted on January 18, 2011 @ 09:49 UTC

linux doesn't need to be unified in order to succeed. that scenario is outdated already. it just needs one company to succeed with one distro and kill all the other distros. on the client side, google is doing a really good job with android and chrome os. if linux runs on about 1.2% of worlds computers on the client side, well android already captured 0.45%. you could say that almost half of the people running a linux computer (read phone, tablet, laptop or desktop) runs android and this was before google started getting into the tablet/laptop space which is just about to happen. do you think people will buy a nice $99 chrome os laptop that comes with a free internet plan for one year or buy a $800 windows 7 laptop that they would need to reformat in order to install ubuntu or something?

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