Linked by Kostis Kapelonis on Sat 14th May 2011 15:43 UTC
General Development Application stores are growing everywhere like mushrooms. While users have initially embraced application stores because of the ease they offer with application installation, developers have several complaints. Division of profits from paid application and ineffectiveness of the screening process are among the major issues. Are application stores the best distribution channel possible? Can they satisfy both developers and users?
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jabbotts
Member since:
2007-09-06

The thing to realize is that the distribution is the consumer product not the kernel it happens to be based on or any other separate commodity parts it happens to be assembled from. Debian, Windows, Ubuntu, Mint, Red Hat, osX; all separate distributions at the product level which the consumer interacts with. A shelf of parts and bolts is not a product usable by an average driver until it's assembled into a car.

(now, to see if I can figure out the formatting tags)


IMHO, that's a pretty bad way to differentiate distros, and a pretty bad reason to have so many different ones. If we're going to play this game, I'd rather see 3 different distros with very solid repositories, rather than 900. Or better yet, how about 1 distro with 1 repository? One of the points made in the article is that having a single app store exposes a single point of failure, but if each distro has its own repository, how is this any different? Sure, maybe you can edit your apt.sources file and add in a couple more, but do you really want to explain to my mom how to do that?


I'd agree if the repository was the only attribute that differentiated a distribution from other's. What I said was that it's an attribute; that indicates that it is among other differentiating attributes. For example, how the overall project is managed, what it's production goals are, the cosmetics of the resulting distribution and so on.

Any why is choice suddenly a bad thing when we talk about Linux based distributions? Somehow we manage to choose a toothpaste or breakfast cereal in-spite of having more than three or one choice on the store shelf. Mint should not be allowed to exist because it's production goals differ from Canonical's? Canonical should never have been allowed to exist because it has choices which differ from Debian's? Why on would we want different products within a category focusing on the different needs of different consumers.. that's just madness.

Regarding one point of failure, is the difference between a single repository for one distribution (App store) and separate repositories for separate distributions not obvious? Um, because they are separate products from separate organizations making separate decisions and one is not directly related or comparable too the other?

Let's imagine a world where all Linux based distributions must draw on a single repository:

- how are differences in default config and system layout by different distributions managed?

- how are different distributions able to try out different package formats and managers when all must adhere to a single repository?

- when one of Gentoo's package managers skipped checking the UnrealIRCd source code from a secondary server against the known good MD5 hash from the primary server before packaging it for Gentoo they affected the security of a single distribution. As of yet, I've not seen reports that any other production version of a major distribution was affected. One single repository would have introduced this vulnerability into all distributions. Welcome to Windows, where would you like your 'sploit to go today?

Should Ford's dealerships to sell and support Toyota's cars too? I mean, this multiple dealerships for multiple car manufacturer's is just nuts isn't it?

In terms of adding and removing additional repositories; again, it's something that depends on the distribution. Why do you have her self-managing a distribution focused on more advanced users? Why don't you simply add the repository entry for her by physical presence or through a quick ssh login?

Even still, Debian's sources.list file is pretty easy to update but there's nothing stopping Debian or anyone else from providing repositories in a way that automates the addition. Maemo does just this actually. Third party applications can add there own repository to the list with user consent. Repository entries can also be added as a simple file download. One website provides a list of repositories; select the ones you want by checkbox and have them all setup at once. Don't blame the repository system for how a distribution manages addition/removal of entries. (yet another way distributions differentiate)


Versions of programs are not the latest and greatest (Debian Stable), consider a distribution that provides more bleeding edge with resulting less stability (Ubuntu forked from Debian Testing/Unstable branches).

Yeah, good luck explaining that to the average iPhone owners. This kind of bullshit is EXACTLY why Linux on the desktop never gained any significant marketshare.


First, why is one explaining Debian's repository setup to an Iphone user? Is understanding osX setup now required for Windows users?

Second, Debian focuses on security and stability over having the latest immature software version number. The offer an opt-in for non-free code. How is that bullshit? Products should not value goals related to there target use? If having the latest version number is your preference; pick a distribution that markets itself on being bleeding edge. Go play with Fedora where instability is considered a feature.

I get stable and more secure but slightly older versions without imposing on your preference for the latest possible software version. You get the latest software version without imposing on my preference. We both get update patches. Because of multiple distributions and in some cases, multiple branches within a single distribution; we both win. Both our end user needs are covered; a feature of a healthy market with multiple products within a single category (ie. separate distributions providing there own repositories).

And here's the icing on top; I still get Firefox4 for my html5 requirements and the latest Metasploit with it's most up to date module additions. Both without having to decrease the stability of the rest of my system.

And this desktop market share you mention; would that be the one measured through retail channels which can only understate the true market share of Linux based distributions while overstating the Windows market share by counting Microsoft's licenses sold to stockpiles rather than actually active on end user owned machines? I thought we where talking about technically related attributes of the distribution repository model not retail market metrics.


That is the way it works now, ...


With Google's most recent announcement they've greatly reduced the scope within which a manufacturer can modify Android and still retain use of the brand name. I truly hope it has the desired affect of decreasing the fragmentation within it. It's a big step forward compared to the previous permitted scope of customization.

I'd like to see manufacturers feeding driver code back into the core Android image but can accept a driver bundle flashed in along side Google's firmware image.

I'd like to see more standardized settings management even while allowing different superficial layers for cosmetics. I hear the issue currently is a different way to talk a user through doing things on each different handset that may walk into an organization; sucks for IT support guys.

I'd like to see vendor specific "value add" crapware as an opt-in install rather than a default install the user must then opt-out of by unclean uninstall processes.

I think these things would improve the situation for Android users though my preference for having a more complete traditional distribution will probably keep me on Maemo and Meego provided future hardware is an upgrade from my N900. Stock Debian on a mobile device would probably trump all for me though; Same tool set on all my machines.. oh baby..

Reply Parent Score: 3

WorknMan Member since:
2005-11-13

First, why is one explaining Debian's repository setup to an Iphone user? Is understanding osX setup now required for Windows users?

Second, Debian focuses on security and stability over having the latest immature software version number. The offer an opt-in for non-free code. How is that bullshit? Products should not value goals related to there target use? If having the latest version number is your preference; pick a distribution that markets itself on being bleeding edge. Go play with Fedora where instability is considered a feature.


If someone is considering using Linux as his primary OS, he's probably going to notice pretty quickly that there's more than one to choose from. And when explaining the difference between the different distros, you're going to have to explain what repositories are, and when doing that, you're going to lose 90% of the iPhone users, who know just enough about their iPhones that when they tap the little 'app store' icon, that's where to get new apps and games. Linux needs to work like that.

Of course, I'm sure you would say "it DOES work like that if you choose the right distro". Um, no it doesn't. Let's say Jane and Suzy are Linux users, one running Ubuntu and the other running Fedora. So, one says to the other, "Hey, I just downloaded this cool new game last night... you should check it out!" So the other one clicks on her 'apps store' icon, and the game is not there. Why? Because that particular game is not on her particular repository. THAT is why it is bullshit.

And although it's not nearly as bad as it is on Linux, this kind of thing happens on Android sometimes. When it happens on Android, it's called fragmentation, and is considered a bad thing. But when it happens on Linux, Linux evangelists call it choice, and consider it a good thing.

If you want to make Linux work like the iPhone currently does, you have to start making decisions for people (like selecting a distro) and set it up for them. thereby dictating which apps they're going to have access to, since most of them would never bother to try side-loading in the first place. You asked in your post, why is choice considered a bad thing? Because people don't like to think, and would rather have choices be made for them. And that is what Apple does. I'm not saying that is a good thing; I'm just saying that's the way it is.

Reply Parent Score: 1

jabbotts Member since:
2007-09-06

I see. It's bullshit because you don't care to understand that distributions are separate products from separate organizations. Or maybe you do realize that but prefer to intentionally convolute other's understanding for some self satisfaction you derive from it.

I'll say it again; the Distribution is the Product not what kernel it may or may not be based on. If you install Debian with Hurd or a BSD kernel, it's still the Debian distribution. It doesn't magically stop being Debian because it isn't stacked on top of a Linux kernel. User's don't interact with a kernel, they interact with the distribution; the fully assembled product which happens to include an OS kernel of some form.

What's the difference between your example and Jane recommending a fantastic new game that Suzy can't run because it's not available for osX? If clearly separate distributions should all be one, we should be demanding that Microsoft and Apple merge into one organization and deliver a single OS then right?

We can't have Ford and Toyota confusing the end user by not delivering uniform vehicle specs under a single brand. Demand that those two companies also merge along with anyone else who dares produce a product in the automobile category.

Too much toothpaste to choose from.. what brand model fights tarter, the other whitens teeth. Obviously this can't stand.. demand that those products be merged rather than compete in the same product category.

No sir, the bullshit dictating that separate companies should not be allowed to produce competitive products because they happen to use similar parts in the assembly process.

Yes, when it happens on Android, it's called fragmentation. Fragmentation within the space of a single distribution is the same thing. Fragmentation of a product category produces competitive products under separate brands. It provides value to the end user through healthy market forces. Fragmentation within the space of a single brand dilutes that brand and removes value from the end user by resulting in conflicting products all claiming the same name.

The brand is not "Linux".. the brand is Red Hat or Mandriva or Debian or Ubuntu or Mint or Suse. They may or may not use "Linux" as there OS kernel and to the average user, that's not relevant. Do you really think average users care that Android's java runtime environment happens to sit on top of a Linux kernel? Do you really think Iphone average users care about the BSD back end running behind the runtime GUI the user interacts with? Not really. My wife only cares that she can


If you want to make Linux work like the iPhone currently does, you have to start making decisions for people (like selecting a distro) and set it up for them. thereby dictating which apps they're going to have access to, since most of them would never bother to try side-loading in the first place. You asked in your post, why is choice considered a bad thing? Because people don't like to think, and would rather have choices be made for them. And that is what Apple does. I'm not saying that is a good thing; I'm just saying that's the way it is.


"Linux" not really.. I'm not sure how one would make an OS kernel work like a full distribution being that it lacks the userland and interface which a full distribution stacks on top of a given OS kernel.

A distribution which happens to use the Linux kernel or any other applicable kernel.. sure thing. You've already got Android and Ios doing just that. Those are distributions. It's simply not up to the Linux kernel developers; it's up to the distribution providers who happen to target end users with a repository based software channel.

Folks who don't want to choose between distributions simply won't. They'll take whatever distribution a device happens to come pre-isntalled with. No one cares that Tomtom and Garmin units happen to have a Linux kernel under the hood; they simply use the GPS unit. Do Blackberry users really care what kernel runs on the devices? Nope, and yet it still provides add-on apps. But by your decree, anything that happens to use a Linux kernel should give up it's own development goals and merge into a single distribution. Does that include Android since it happens to use a modified Linux kernel or is it magically except?

Here's the key points:

- Fragmentation of the market by producing separate products under separate brand names is part of a healthy market and provides competitive forces which in turn benefit the end user.

- Fragmentation of a single brand within it's own product is a bad thing because it introduces instability and incompatibilities with no benefit to the end user.

- The Linux OS kernel is not the product, the distribution which may or may not use that kernel is. User's don't interact with a kernel, the interact with the resulting platform assembly which happens to include a kernel. One distribution manufacturer can not impose there product design decisions on another; just like any other product category.

- If it's acceptable for other product categories to have competition through separate products from separate entities. Why is it not acceptable for distributions which happen to use a Linux kernel? Should BSDs be merged into this one mega-Linux distro? Why do Windows and osX get to be separate products within the OS category?

Reply Parent Score: 3