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LinuxPlanet: .comment: Separated By a Common Operating System

Jun 27, 2001, 13:43 (59 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Dennis E. Powell)

When Dennis Powell's Caldera installation died, he decided to use the occasion to look at two other Linux distributions: Progeny Linux and SuSE Linux. While he likes both of them, he realized that there's really no such thing as a generic Linux distribution, as both distros -- as well as most other Linux distros -- are set up to box users into relationships with manufacturers, as knowledge of one distribution has little to do with any other distribution. If Microsoft were to cook up a plan to cause Linux to disappear in a virtual Tower of Babel it could scarcely be more effective than that which has been adopted by distributions on their own, voluntarily.

" This column started out in the hope of comparing Progeny with SuSE; that fell apart when I realized that Progeny's take on things, inherited from the Debian to which I understand it remains true, is just too different from the RPM-based-distributions' way of doing things for me to learn it in a short time. What I went on to discover, though, is that the lumping together of RPM-based distros really can't be done, either. They are beset by incompatibilities such that they might as well be different operating systems (with some exceptions for people who compile their own stuff, presuming that they remember to install the -devel version of everything, which is also ridiculous). Knowledge of one distribution has little to do with any other distribution. This sort of thing occasionally results in indignant howls, as when Red Hat shipped gcc-2.96. Usually, though, it goes largely unnoticed. But it has its effect, and that is confusion among prospective users. Not long ago, if you got a Linux distribution you got Debian, Slackware, or something else, and the something elses were largely interchangeable as to what they installed -- the differences were in installation and configuration tools, the newness of the stuff included, and what applications were provided. Upgrading was fairly simple, because an RPM for one would probably work for all. And Linux desktop use grew."

"Now incompatibilities are being introduced hand over fist, as distributions fight for a bigger and bigger piece of a diminishing pie, until oneday one will own all of nothing. Does this do anything useful for the distributions, users, Linux, anybody? Well, no. And while I've singled SuSE out because it's the one where I've most recently encountered this nonsense, no distribution is exempt. If Microsoft were to cook up a plan to cause Linux to disappear in a virtual Tower of Babel it could scarcely be more effective than that which has been adopted by distributions on their own, voluntarily."

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