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LinuxPlanet: comment: Strategic Linux

Sep 26, 2001, 13:06 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Dennis E. Powell)
"...I mentioned the hard times that have befallen the carrion beetles of the plaintiffs bar in part because it is a good thing, and we're in desperate need of good news; in part because it illustrates the unintended consequences of a reprehensible action; and in part because it cuts Linux businesses a little slack at a time when they very much need it. This is important because of the tremendous contributions that those businesses make to Linux and because it is crucial that Linux not become a de facto single source system.

As to the first point, Linux distributors have contributed a number of ease-of-use features that do not fit easily into the scratch-an-itch model of open source programming. A lot of the work done by distributions is not what the excited young programmer diving into Linux would undertake. Many people enjoy cooking, but few like to do the dishes. For this reason it is a very good thing that we have distributions producing installation and configuration utilities.

The second point is more important. I've heard it argued by very intelligent people that we might as well simply surrender to Red Hat, whereupon all issues of incompatibility, file hierarchy standards, and so on would disappear. And I have argued in response that these issues must be resolved outside any one distribution, to avoid any one distribution becoming so dominant that the others really don't matter. (It's worth noting that corporations are recognizing this as well, which is why IBM, for instance, has working relationships with multiple Linux distributors. They were the first to fall victim to the perilous nature of single source software.)

The powers that be have been making very slow progress in adopting a definition of standard Linux. To avoid pre-emption by a dominant distribution -- and by this I mean Red Hat, which produces an excellent distribution but one that must not become the only distribution -- these bodies would have to do a little less meeting and hemming and hawing and a little more producing. Here's hoping that they do just that. Standards are necessary in any operating system, and they are likely to be far better, as we've learned with Microsoft, if they're established by a standards body and not a corporation which, quite rightly, has its own interests chiefly in mind."

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