A Response to the Paradox of Choice

This is a reaction to the Article “The Paradox of Choice” by Adam Scheinberg: I’ve held the position that choice is a paradox since my early childhood, and that it is not necessarily a good thing. Remove choice of religion and think of all the wars throughout history that might not have existed.I use this as just an example of how having a choice can cause conflict. How many times in your life have you had stress over what vehicle, appliance, or house to purchase? Yes, this may seem like an extreme way of thinking, but that’s because we have all been programmed to think that choice is a good thing.


Now let’s look at Microsoft Windows and the various distributions of Linux. If you want to use a Microsoft operating system your choices are Windows XP Home or Windows XP Professional – basically the same. I am intentionally leaving out server applications to keep it simple. Now let’s ask the same question of Linux vendors. You have an array of Linux flavors to choose from. Redhat, SUSE, Mandrake, Debian, FreeBSD and about 100 plus others to pick from. Any of the Linux distros would make a fine choice and have much to offer, which is a good thing or is it?


These choices can breed FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) and the fact that they’re all just a little bit different brings on more uncertainty. Your question now becomes “will this flavor of Linux work with my hardware?” or visa-versa. The real choice here is do you want you hardware to work or not? I’ll assume you do. The choice of which distro to use has now been dictated to you by your choice of hardware. Is that choice? This is a choice you should not have to face and the possibility of this choice must be removed. In order for Linux to succeed hardware must work.


A decision has to be made now by the top Linux maintainers to do what is in the best interest of Linux as a whole. Not what’s in the best interest of a particular company or individual. Yes. You now run into the challenge of who will make these decisions for us. Democrats, Republicans, Redhat? Surely not. I’m not putting down Redhat. They made some tough choices over the last couple of years. Choices that I believe propelled Linux forward. By stopping the desktop division and specializing in the enterprise market building their niche and coming back to the desktop. Meanwhile making sure that all their code was still open. Redhat’s stock at time rose above that of Microsoft’s and put the word Linux on executives’ lips.


The top creators of Linux must take charge if closing some options were to make Linux more unified is that not a step in the right direction? I’m not talking about limiting applications but a consistent way to install packages across all of distributions available would be nice. It would also benefit to have all packages work on all distros. Instead of having a Redhat and SUSE version of the same program. Most of these changes wouldn’t affect end users anyway. I know you can get the source and compile your own programs, but say the words “source code” to someone and they may start to think Linux is not for them. By all working together in unison and not branching out doesn’t that make you stronger and more powerful? Didn’t the lack of unity kill Unix? By having one standard system, developers would have more time to work on new ideas to further along the migration of Linux.


I realize that this sounds like I want a monopoly for Linux like Microsoft has and that choice is what open-source and Linux are all about. However this would still let you have the choice of what distro you wanted to use. This would be a major advantage for the business community. If a company used brand A Linux and need to switch to brand B Linux changing over would be seamless. Large companies like Novell or Redhat may depend somewhat on vendor lockin, but is that good for Linux or for the company?


Microsoft as we all know is closed source, well, actually, airtight source. Bill says jump and the reply is “how high?”. Undeniably, Microsoft is the undisputed king of the desktop industry. But how did they get that way? By eliminating choice in a negative way, by tying the hands of competitors in legal wrangling. Wasn’t it Microsoft that was supposed to be “helping” Big Blue develop OS/2? Wasn’t it Master Bill who effectively put IBM on hold, put OS/2 on the back burner while Microsoft developers worked on their own OS secretly? Microsoft is the biggest, but are they the best? Certainly not.


It is now time for Linux to rise, unify, and eliminate choice is a positive way. The LSB2 project is a great start to unification of Linux. It is impossible to eliminate all choice. “If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice” (From the song Freewill by Rush.) What the leaders must do is make their choices based on what is good for the Linux community in the long term. The truth is, if you eliminate some choices and dictate others so that Linux can be more united, Linux can only grow and prosper.


OK, what do we really want? How about a working, easy to manage, secure, free as in freedom, operating system for the world to use. If that was available what would would you choose?


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