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Tyranny of Choices???

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Joined: 2007-04-10

The GNU/Linux community was and is still known for the diversity of distros available. Somebody is bound to find something that fits his needs. However, that diversity seems to be also GNU/Linux Achilles heel. Is it really necessary to make a new distro for every reason out there. Why not flock to a few tried ones and help imrove their performance?

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Joined: 2006-03-28
My reasons for EasyLFS are

My reasons for EasyLFS are the following:

  • educational purpose
  • make installation of an LFS-like system easier for myself, because LFS is what I like using

Then of course there is the question: Why not share it with others? Maybe others also like using Linux from Scratch, but after the third full installation you really get tired of typing all the commands.
That's where EasyLFS comes in, it provides a system pretty similar to LFS, but without all the work (for you, your CPU still has a lot of work).

And I guess other distros might have started in a similar fashion.

tbuitenh's picture
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Joined: 2005-12-21
The reasons I can think

The reasons I can think of:
- projects will refuse "improvements" they don't like
- if you want to make everything the way you like it, it may be easier not to cooperate so you won't have to convince anyone else your ideas are better
- a lot of uses just need special purpose distributions, for example you don't want a firewall to have all kinds of software installed by default.

If all developers moved to just a few distro projects, that would mean:
- a lot of good ideas will never be tried out
- some developers will be much less motivated because they are working on a distro they don't even like
- lots of suboptimal solutions

So my answer is: yes it IS necessary to make a new distro for every reason.

Diversity is not much of a problem to distribution developers (they can copy code from each other if they like), nor is it a problem to advanced users who know what they need.

It is a problem to newbies, though. I agree there are too many different distributions that are general purpose and supposed to "just work".

a thing's picture
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Joined: 2005-12-20
not a problem
tbuitenh wrote:

It is a problem to newbies, though. I agree there are too many different distributions that are general purpose and supposed to "just work".

I disagree; it's not a problem. Everyone, distro devels and newbs alike, has a different vision of what "just works".

libervisco's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-04
All good answers so far to

All good answers so far to this classic question. Smiling

I would also just comment on the notion that it is a problem for newbies. The thing is, it doesn't have to be a problem. If by "newbies" you mean people who would rather have certain choices be pre-selected by others for them, than the solution is quite obvious, have people pre-select it for them.

So if a newbie is scared of choosing because they don't know what to choose, they can simply leave that task to someone they trust will know what's best for them. The role of these trusted "pre-selecters" can be played by computer companies like Dell, next door GNU/Linux geeks or any known computer person with GNU/Linux experience.

That having so much choice necessarily confuses newbies is in my opinion a myth. If they are confused it's not because of choice, but because we who care about proliferation of GNU/Linux failed to choose for them and maybe, instead, expected them to just RTFM. Tell me there isn't some truth in that. Eye

tbuitenh's picture
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Joined: 2005-12-21
The equivalent of RTFM: Q:

The equivalent of RTFM:

Q: How do I choose a distribution?
A: Just go to distrowatch.org.

It happens. I agree preinstalled distributions are THE solution for people who want things to "just work".

libervisco's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-04
I bet it does happen. So

I bet it does happen.

So best solutions would include either recommending one distro to the one who asks, that you can vouch for and can help him with eventual issues or go even further and install the GNU/Linux flavor of your choice to his/her computer and set it up to work well for him/her.

And a third option that may be available soon is to just instruct him to go to this or that computer store and buy this or that computer with pre-installed GNU/Linux. Smiling

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Joined: 2006-03-28
Suggestions
libervisco wrote:

So best solutions would include either recommending one distro to the one who asks, that you can vouch for and can help him with eventual issues or go even further and install the GNU/Linux flavor of your choice to his/her computer and set it up to work well for him/her.

Well, recommending is always good, since we are the people who are supposed to know which distro might fit which user.
But helping somebody to install requires physical access, which isn't something you have on a forum, so that's usually something you could do for friends.

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Joined: 2007-04-10
Wow, I didn't thought my

Wow, I didn't thought my question could elicit such profound discussion. It's only been a year since I ventured into GNU/Linux and I think I found my distro in Ubuntu. Actually, I'm dual booting until I find and learn all the software I need to do my jobs.

My original question is related to the idea that GNU/Linux is the David of Windows. How would Linux geeks (I meant that as a compliment)react to this? I understand GNU/Linux is a community, not just an OS. And if they want to rule the desktop world, they need to band together under a few distros. Or is this simply a marketing thrust?

libervisco's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-04
In a way they already are

In a way they already are band together under a few distros, but it wasn't some concerted effort. It was simply natural. Today Ubuntu is the most popular distribution mostly because most people chose to use it. This popularity in turn pushes the given distro as almost a default recommendation or example of what is GNU/Linux.

I could say it's true free market forces at work. You give all people freedom to enter with new ideas and innovations, they produce a whole load of "products", but the free market in the end resolves a few big ones out of the whole bunch.

This, of course, doesn't necessarily reduce opportunities for others in the bunch that didn't made it to the top. They continue to fill a niche and among some of them there could be some which would, if good enough, move to the top in the future.

In other words, it's a real true free market because there are no constraints to entrance. It is innovative and it is fast changing because of that. This also leads to it being very expansive too, which is why we see GNU/Linux growing so much. Smiling

free-zombie's picture
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Joined: 2006-03-08
10cents wrote: And if they
10cents wrote:

And if they want to rule the desktop world,

this is quite a general assumption. In short, they don't. Some want windows to die. Some want all proprietary software to die. Some want Linux to rule on the desktop. Some want free software in general to rule the desktop. Quite a few just don't care what others use as they have their freedoms. Some want to stay a safe distance from anything used by people who don't fully understand it.

tbuitenh's picture
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Joined: 2005-12-21
The press always presents

The press always presents Linux as an "alternative for windows". It can indeed be used instead of windows, but its original purpose is to be an alternative for UNIX (well, MINIX at first). There also exists a free replacement for windows, it's called ReactOS.

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Joined: 2006-03-28
Well, ReactOS is an

Well, ReactOS is an interesting project and aims to be a compatible replacement for Windows, but it's actually hardly usable at this stage. You can boot and install it, but many important things just don't work yet.
But I'll follow the development of this OS and might, when it finally becomes really usable replace my Win2K with it.

libervisco's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-04
Originally, GNU/Linux is a

Originally, GNU/Linux is a replacement for UNIX indeed, but UNIX is practically dead today (aside from some Free Software re-incarnations like OpenSolaris or few places where it is still used inhouse), but on the desktop, in servers and pretty much everywhere GNU/Linux already won. Hmm well, you know all this anyway. Laughing out loud

I guess it is fit to say then that it is an alternative to Windows, but of course, we don't like calling it that because it puts Windows in the primary position and our OS as a mere replacement. Why not say Windows is an alternative to GNU/Linux? In terms of quality and security it really is. But in terms of popularity, not quite yet.

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Joined: 2007-04-10
I don't think of GNU/Linux

I don't think of GNU/Linux as an "alternative" OS. I like my dual boot but, for me, an OS is only as good as the software it could run. Despite well-meaning developers who are churning out GNU/Linux equivalent of popular proprietary software, it would be better if those companies themselves will port their products in GNU/Linux.

Thanks for mentioning ReactOS reptiler, first time I've heard about it and worth keeping an eye on. But is being an XP alternative means it's going to be virus-ridden too?

tbuitenh's picture
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Joined: 2005-12-21
ReactOS security
10cents wrote:

But is being an XP alternative means it's going to be virus-ridden too?

Not necessarily.

In principle the security architecture of windows NT (that's what XP actually is) is okay, because it is more or less a clone of the UNIX architecture. There's an admin/root who can edit anything, and regular users who can only touch their own files and whose permissions are also limited in other ways.

Then came the 3d party software vendors who didn't feel like adapting their software from DOS-based to NT-based windows (from without to with permission handling), with the result that such software could only be run as admin, which in turn had the result that everyone always used the admin account, which led microsoft to adapt windows XP (home edition, that is) to make admin the default account and hide the possibility of having safer restricted accounts. Goodbye security!

The ReactOS developers could be smarter and make the restricted user the default. Maybe programs that require the user to be admin could be run in a sandbox of some sort.

And then there's the issue of programming mistakes that microsoft just never cared to search for before releasing windows, causing security problems. Surely the ReactOS developers will make different mistakes (causing windows viruses not to work on ReactOS), and I bet they will take more care to prevent them.

But security problems caused by software that runs on windows instead of windows itself will of course continue to exist. Guess what, if you port that same software to Linux, you get those problems too. One example is a problem with acrobat reader (I don't know if it has been fixed), which made it possible to track who, when and where was reading a pdf file containing special javascript code.

The one and only real way to avoid security problems is to avoid software that has been written in a hurry by someone who doesn't care about or doesn't have time for security. One wonders what a binary-compatible windows clone is good for, then.

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Joined: 2006-03-28
The reason for ReactOS
tbuitenh wrote:

One wonders what a binary-compatible windows clone is good for, then.

Well, that's easy to explain: A binary-compatible Windows-clone can be used as a free platform for games that do not exist/run on Linux. ;-)

free-zombie's picture
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Joined: 2006-03-08
the total lack of stolen

the total lack of stolen DOS code in ReactOS should be an enormous benefit .

libervisco's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-04
Talking about ReactOS, I

Talking about ReactOS, I thought it might be a good time for a shameless plug: React OS: Windows done right Eye

You've got some ReactOS shots there too. Smiling

Cheers

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Joined: 2007-04-10
ReactOS
tbuitenh wrote:

Not necessarily.

Sorry I got lost between software architecture and binary-compatible and I'll take that as a maybe. Laughing out loud ReactOS developers has valuable hindsight and I think they'll use it to their advantage. No use tripping over the same stones that Windows did. The screenshots looked like a GNU/Linux desktop.

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