Linked by Perry Helion on Fri 15th Mar 2013 18:20 UTC
Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu Ubuntu has come under a decent amount of flack over the past few months, particularly over their decision to use the 'Dash Search' to return results from Amazon by default in their most recent release.
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RE[2]: That's life
by zcal on Sat 16th Mar 2013 21:51 UTC in reply to "RE: That's life"
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For instance, the Linux desktop would be vastly improved if 90% of desktop environments fell on their swords tomorrow, leaving the remaining 10% to focus all 100% of resources on providing the best possible experience to each distinct Linux market ("ordinary joe user", "cutting-edge leet", "crusty conservatives", "lower-power boxes"). But good luck trying to get any Linux desktop project to volunteer themselves as first for the chopping block. And so it goes.

Improved according to whom? Part of the benefit of the Linux ecosystem is the ability to do things differently. I, for one, would hate to lose the choice.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[3]: That's life
by hhas on Sun 17th Mar 2013 14:28 in reply to "RE[2]: That's life"
hhas Member since:

Improved according to whom? Part of the benefit of the Linux ecosystem is the ability to do things differently. I, for one, would hate to lose the choice.

Urghh. It's simple math. You don't get anything for nothing in this world, and Linux developers (amongst other things) are a finite resource. You can either pool those resources into developing a small number of well focused DEs each of which caters to a specific market, or you can spread those resources thinly over a large number of mostly overlapping DEs all trying to cannibalize existing Linux user base (another finite resource) from each other.

This is not to say branching or forking DE projects is a bad thing: it's can be an extremely powerful tool as it allows forks to experiment freely with new ideas. But if it isn't offset by a similar frequency of merges taking the most successful ideas from each branch and folding them back together into a strong and coherent whole, eventually development and support resources are spread so thinly that everyone is resource-starved, and none strong or vigorous enough to face the real competition - Microsoft, Apple, Google, et al - never mind make a dent in them.


To be blunt, any idiot can create a piece of software - it's no big achievement. The really hard part is building a large enough initial market for that product that growth becomes self-sustaining, enabling it to become a popular success. More users for a particular distro makes it more worthwhile for application developers to support that distro, it makes it more worthwhile for writers to produce documentation and training materials for that distro, it makes it easier for business users to find IT personnel to support that distro, and so on. (See: "network effect", particularly as it applies to software and software markets.)

To illustrate the critical importance of building market share above everything else: I've created some really good software over the years, but all that hard work has ultimately been wasted because the project never grew big and strong enough to hold its ground in an unforgiving, ever-changing world. So the first external challenge that did appear just uprooted it and blew it away. So what exactly have I achieved through this, other than upsetting a few thousand committed users by having to pull the plug on the thing right when they were achieving their own goals through it? The best code in the world isn't worth squat once it's dead in the water.


For 99.99% of people in the world, software is merely a means to a much greater end, never an end in itself. The true value of a piece of software is in how much it empowers users to achieve their own life's goals, not in how much it fluffs the egos of a handful of self-indulgent fanboys who've nothing better to do than tinker with "vanity press" projects and proudly proclaim the year of the Linux desktop right around the corner.

Look, I've nothing against hobbyist OSes myself, and if that's your thing then more power to you. But please then don't ever fool yourself that you and your pet indulgence are ever going to do anything that changes or improves the world for everyone else, because you're not.

Companies like Red Hat and Canonical understand this: that the purpose of software is to work for a living, not remain a special pampered flower with an audience of one. Which is why their true contribution to the FOSS and Linux worlds should not be measured in how many lines of code they contribute to other people's projects, it's how much market share they tear away from the powerful grasp of Microsoft and Apple and Google, who would otherwise forever stitch up the whole show to their own benefit.


Reply Parent Score: 5

RE[4]: That's life
by Alfman on Sun 17th Mar 2013 18:04 in reply to "RE[3]: That's life"
Alfman Member since:

You have some valid points, however it's a question of balance.

Very few of us in the linux end of things want a monoculture. Competition is good not just because we have more choices, but because it allows us more freedom to try out different approaches that wouldn't get the chance to evolve otherwise. Another benefit is that isolated projects can incorporate ideas from each other. Also, having a few entities in charge is bad because it results in "feature governance", where those at the top dictate how the system must be for everyone else. This is an equally negative trait whether we're talking about Open Source or not (apple, ms, etc).

I'm not saying the world needs hundreds of distros (which there are), but at the same time it's great to have several popular ones that are actively competing. Most of us do recognize the need for this balance, hopefully you do too.

You brought up dilution of developer efforts, that can be true. Things like drivers shouldn't need to be rewritten by several distros. But there's only so much value in grouping developers under the same organization due to diminishing returns. A team of 100 is going to be somewhat less than 10X productive as a team of 10. A team of 1000 is going to be far less than 10X as productive as a team of 100. A team of 10000 might not be any more productive than a team of 1000. There are so many open source developers that we are already well beyond the point of diminishing returns, the existence of indy distros isn't detracting from the main distros and in fact the main distros may very well take inspiration from the indy ones.

Again, it's a question of balance. I think having so many distros can be a problem for different reasons though, too many choices does confuse new users. But IMHO having some choice in distros is still much better than what we have from commercial offerings (consider how many people would opt for a win8 minus metro distro if they had the choice).

Edited 2013-03-17 18:05 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 4