Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 4th Feb 2009 14:11 UTC
Linux With Linux traditionally coming in many, many flavours, a common call among some Linux fans - but mostly among people who actually do not use Linux - is to standardise all the various distributions, and work from a single "one-distribution-to-rule-them-all". In a recent interview, Linus Tovalds discarded the idea, stating that he thinks "it's something absolutely required!"
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Distributions...
by darknexus on Wed 4th Feb 2009 16:48 UTC
darknexus
Member since:
2008-07-15

The way I see it, we don't have "distributions" anymore. We have operating systems which share a common base. Debian is an os. OpenSUSE is an os, as is Red Hat/Fedora, Slackware, Arch, etc. Those operating systems have derivatives (Ubuntu is a derivative of Debian). They are compatible enough on a source level, though not always at the binary level, though different enough that they can reasonably be called their own operating systems--different folder structures, different defaults, different desktops and system configuration tools, different kernel patches, and of course different package management facilities. I think we need to get away from calling them distributions of Linux. They are GNU/Linux-based operating systems, and when moving from one to the other you are moving from one operating system to another and may have to deal with all the issues that can arise from such a change.
Standardization would be nice, and I for one would love to see it happen. Trouble is, everyone has ideas of how things should or shouldn't be done, so we have different operating systems to fill that need. Eventually, I think, one Linux-based os will take off and be the favored target of ISVs. Which and when? Who knows, and I don't see it happening for a while yet, at least for desktops, as certain elements just aren't polished--ahem, dare I mention audio? It's these unpolished elements that really need the work, and if one os leads the way others generally follow.
Regardless of what anyone thinks, there will always be many systems based on Linux. Why? Because there can be. It's that simple.

Reply Score: 4

jabbotts Member since:
2007-09-06

I've been refering to specific distribution as seporate OS by name for a few years now. For me, it started with trying to avoid the confusion of "Linux" meaning everything remotely related rather than just the OS kernel. New users come from Windows or osX with this idea that it's all "Linux" and suddenly they're overwelmed with the choice and no way to differentiate.

Debian != Ubuntu != Red Hat != Mandriva != Gentoo; they are all truly individual entities that happen to use the same commodity parts for assembly. A problem with Ubuntu or Debian is rarely universally a problem with all other Linux based OS. They integrate between each other well and respect industry standards like protocols and file formats but they are as different as Hyandi and GM or Boeing and Shwitzer.

As a result, it is very rare that I'll say "Linux" rather than "Linux based OS" or the brand name unless I'm specifically meaning the kernel itself.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE: Distributions...
by muda on Wed 4th Feb 2009 20:53 in reply to "Distributions..."
muda Member since:
2008-12-23

I agree. And to extend, none of the GNU/Linux-based operating systems are intended for generic desktop user who can be expected to use variety of software from different vendors. They are aimed towards specialised system builders.

OS vendor can not be expected to package and distribute every piece of software and a application vendor can not possibly support all operating systems/distributions.

I do not consoder myself as a generic user but today I wanted to try out some new software - just felt like that. First, my distributor hadn't packaged this application and its developer didn't provide a package for my system. So I should have grabbed the source but then again, there are dependencies. I gave up as I did not want to add loads of stuff I never use after uninstalling the program I wanted to try.

Therefore, I can't use Linux because it doesn't do what I need. Apologists say that they perform the task using software XYZ (see paragraph above).

As long as there are gazillion distributions the developers can not choose to develop for. And from the end user's perspective, if the OS vendor of choice ceases development for whatever reasons (a new is baby born or a billionaire ran out of cash) he is pretty much screwed. Oh and PC vendors do not start distributing GNU/Linux because in that case they would end up supporting every bloody piece of application software their customers might want to use.

Linux itself is a moving target and there has to be someone between it and end user to straighten things up by providing some sort of stability. See previous paragraph. If such company are nice enough to the customers they might also end up maintaining their own kernel and there is no more Linux but some derivate.

If there was a coherent API for end user applications and a mechanism to keep ~ and /usr/local or a substitute to it fully functional across distributions then the user would be reasonably happy. Oh and everything users install after installing the core system (which provides the APIs)should be in /usr/local. Otherwise it is implied that OS vendor manages the system via repositories and there is no freedom other than as in beer at the alternative cost of switching distros every now and then as required under given application software requirements.

Reply Parent Score: 0

RE[2]: Distributions...
by r_a_trip on Thu 5th Feb 2009 12:04 in reply to "RE: Distributions..."
r_a_trip Member since:
2005-07-06

Some users try to assail the GNU/Linux market with the Windows cookie cutter. It doesn't work that way. You'll never see one entity like MSFT, who controls what GNU/Linux is or isn't.

The GNU/Linux market is actually level and competitive. We see lot's of different OSes with a common core. They do share a lot of similarities, but none of them are the same.

To zoom in on your problem. My OS provider doesn't package the software I want and I didn't want to build it myself, so I can't use < insert specific OS here >.

Suppose you are using Windows and you want to use Garage Band, which incidentally is only packaged for OS X, what are your options? Either you give up on Garage Band or you get a machine with OS X.

The same applies to the GNU/Linux situation. For clarity, lets assume it's between Ubuntu and Fedora. You want to use application X, which is packaged for Fedora, but you use Ubuntu. Here we have two different OSes (Ubuntu =! Fedora, and never will be) and one supports what you want and the other doesn't. Simply answered, your recourse is to either give up on application X or get Fedora as well.

The more complicated answer entails a lot of options and I'll name a few, but I reckon you wouldn't want to hear them, less act on them. One could ask the application X developer if he is willing to package for other OSes also. One could install a Virtual Machine on one OS and run the other OS with application X in the VM. One could ask the distributor or a third party if they are willing to package app. X. One could try the program Alien and try and convert the package for system Y and convert it to system Z. Options enough, but like I said, one has to be willing to go down these routes.

Reply Parent Score: 5

RE: Distributions...
by Lunitik on Wed 4th Feb 2009 22:56 in reply to "Distributions..."
Lunitik Member since:
2005-08-07

This is simply false... and there is work to ensure this is even more false going on...

Every distro uses the same upstream brances, all source code can be compiled without patches on another distro... if you only deal with binary packages, it can seem more separate, but that is the flaw of dealing with only binaries.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: Distributions...
by darknexus on Thu 5th Feb 2009 00:11 in reply to "RE: Distributions..."
darknexus Member since:
2008-07-15

Since when do all Linux systems use the same upstream source? Each one applies their own patches to almost everything, even systems like Slackware and Arch patch a little. Some source will not always compile on every Linux-based system, due to different library version/compile options/file locations. They are largely source-compatible. They are not 100% so.
Your comment about the BSDs "not deciding on a kernel" is trolling if I've ever seen it, and I won't bother to argue with a troll, as it's rather like arguing with a religious zealot, i.e. it will make no difference.

Reply Parent Score: 1