Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 19th Aug 2013 17:27 UTC
Linux Steve Cheney:

There's more to the platform wars than mobile - Android is starting to take off in non-mobile markets in a massive way - Internet of Things, Television (Chromecast), etc. To date Linux has been the dominant OS but Android is now taking some embedded designs which would have run Linux. The effective decoupling of Android from carriers for non-mobile markets + the richness of tools and the existing developer ecosystem will likely cement Android as the definitive open source OS of the next decade. This will have pluses for Google but also unintended consequences.

A common misconception among people who don't really understand what Linux is - one that I'm seeing pop up more and more now that people are trying to paint Android in a negative light - i.e., as competition to not just iOS, but also the noble and open source Linux.

Repeat after me: Android is just as much 'Linux' as Ubuntu, Debian, Red Hat, or anything else that uses the Linux kernel. Technically, a better term would be 'Linux distribution', since Linux in and of itself is just a kernel. Wikipedia defines 'Linux distribution' quite well:

A Linux distribution (often called distro for short) is a member of the family of Unix-like operating systems built on top of the Linux kernel. Such distributions are operating systems including a large collection of software applications such as word processors, spreadsheets, media players, and database applications. These operating systems consist of the Linux kernel and, usually, a set of libraries and utilities from the GNU Project, with graphics support from the X Window System. Distributions optimized for size may not contain X and tend to use more compact alternatives to the GNU utilities, such as BusyBox, uClibc, or dietlibc.

Android is a Linux distribution, and is an addition to the Linux ecosystem - not a challenger. Painting it as such is just a sign of ignorance.

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Comment by shmerl
by shmerl on Mon 19th Aug 2013 22:47 UTC
shmerl
Member since:
2010-06-08

A common misconception among people who don't really understand what Linux is - one that I'm seeing pop up more and more now that people are trying to paint Android in a negative light - i.e., as competition to not just iOS, but also the noble and open source Linux.

Repeat after me: Android is just as much 'Linux' as Ubuntu, Debian, Red Hat,


I strongly disagree. Android is a serious impediment for the advancement of glibc Linux on mobile.

The reason is quite simple, but it's hard to overcome - lack of open drivers and stupidity and inertia of hardware manufacturers in producing closed ones.

Android is using bionic libc with the Linux kernel. Bionic is incompatible with glibc, which is used by desktop Linux and conventional mobile distros. What it means in practice is, that some drivers which are tied with bioinc Linux will be useless for glibc Linux (except if you rely on translation hacks like libhybris, but it's a separate subject).

Normal mobile Linux uses conventional middleware (Wayland, ALSA, PulseAudio and etc., the classical Linux stack). It is quite dependent on glibc.

Now imagine, you make a mobile glibc Linux distro (Sailfish, Plasma Active, Nemo Mobile, even Ubuntu Touch though it uses Mir rather than Wayland, but it still needs glibc). You claim Android is also "Linux" and it doesn't create unhealthy competition? Now, when you'll try to pick existing hardware to run your distro on, you'll soon realize that you can't do it. The manufacturer didn't produce glibc drivers for it, and tells you to get bionic ones or to get lost, unless you can present them with sales figures in some huge millions, or you are ready to pay huge sums for producing these drivers. And GPU driver is probably the most complex amongst them. So here you have it. Android is preventing mobile distros from wider adoption.

Edited 2013-08-19 22:53 UTC

Reply Score: 5

RE: Comment by shmerl
by laffer1 on Mon 19th Aug 2013 23:54 in reply to "Comment by shmerl"
laffer1 Member since:
2007-11-09

You are right about making it difficult to compete. The same thing has already happened in the BSD community. See, the X.org guys only write code for Linux these days and they don't want us to have graphics support. They've said it's OK to do this to other operating systems. So, from Google's perspective, they are following the standards set by Linux developers around the world to vendor lock in on their stack.

Google's answer to this complaint should be that you guys should write a compatibility layer to make it work or innovate your inferior glibc to keep up. Throw people at it. That's the comment we always get.

Think it's unfair I used X as an example? Consider wayland or anything from Canonical or the GNOME project as of late. Some of this stuff doesn't even work on other linux distros without a major change in approach.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: Comment by shmerl
by shmerl on Tue 20th Aug 2013 00:11 in reply to "RE: Comment by shmerl"
shmerl Member since:
2010-06-08

I can understand that Linux can have a similar effect on the BSD systems. But there is always a tradeoff. Trying to keep things widely portable can force avoiding using all the features of the specific system. For example that was the reason why systemd decided to be Linux only. However those projects are at least open, and if BSD and other Unix systems need something, they can contribute to X.org for example. Situation with drivers is different. Even if you want something, you can't get it. Unless the driver is open, which is still an exception rather than the rule.

Edited 2013-08-20 00:13 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE: Comment by shmerl
by Vanders on Tue 20th Aug 2013 09:37 in reply to "Comment by shmerl"
Vanders Member since:
2005-07-06

Android is using bionic libc with the Linux kernel. Bionic is incompatible with glibc, which is used by desktop Linux and conventional mobile distros. What it means in practice is, that some drivers which are tied with bioinc Linux will be useless for glibc Linux

How is that different from an embedded system running E.g. uClibc?

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[2]: Comment by shmerl
by shmerl on Tue 20th Aug 2013 15:12 in reply to "RE: Comment by shmerl"
shmerl Member since:
2010-06-08

All these problems are similar. If some dependency like libc becomes a bottleneck, it prevents any kind of healthy competition, seems it bars all alternatives on a given hardware.

Edited 2013-08-20 15:13 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2