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359 Choices

Jul 20, 2007, 22:30 (61 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

For quite a few pundits out there, the fact that there are so many Linux distributions is a bit troubling to them. I am not sure why this argument keeps coming up, but it goes something like this: there are X Linux distros out there, which is too many to choose from for users, and creates a strain on developer resources.

Taking the second argument first, it would seem on the surface that working on all these separate Linux distributions detracts from the advancement of Linux as a whole operating system. And that would be true, except for the fact that nearly all of Linux software is under some form of open source license, usually the GPL. To spell it out in very straightforward terms: if, for example, someone invents something really cool over in Pardus Linux, then chances are it will be picked up and eventually utilized in other Linuxes.

Anyone who takes the time to really look at this different variations of Linux, instead of writing article trolling for hits, will see that the differences are very small. Recently, I just installed Fedora 7 on my laptop, where Ubuntu once resided. Save for the color scheme (brown vs. blue) and a few changed tools, the interfaces and tool functionality were the same.

Then there's the problem of choice. I would agree that the average curious user of Linux could be overwhelmed by the sheer number of distros listed over on Distrowatch. But let's get a grip on reality. Most of the time, such end-users are going to look at the top five distros mentioned there (or on similar sites); not at the 359 total currently listed.

I would also strongly dispute the notion that IT managers would be daunted by these many distros. No offense, but any IT manager worth their salt is not just going to visit Distrowatch to find their first Linux distribution deployment. They're going to research other sources, talk to peers, and very likely contact the larger commercially oriented distribution companies. So again, tossing out the Big! Scary! 359! Distros! number is really just that--a scare tactic.

Yes, there are a lot of distributions out there. Because developers have the freedom to create them and users have the freedom to choose amongst them. It's all about choice. Curiously, choice isn't raised as a problem when it comes to other things that people use or consume. It only seems to be a problem with distributions of Linux.

I wonder why no one ever suggests having only one choice of applesauce on the grocery store shelves. Or antibiotics in the pharmacy. Choice isn't a problem there--so why does it always seem to be a problem for Linux?

For all those pundits who have or are planning to raise up this inane issue, here's a list of 359 things off the top of my head of things we consume or use that we have to make a choice about. Try applying the single-choice only argument to any of these few things from our daily lives. Perhaps you will finally realize your argument isn't worth a hill of

Beans
Squash
Corn
Potatoes
Spinich
Greens
Carrots
Beets
Lettuce
Tomatoes
Apples
Bananas
Lemons
Oranges
Cherries
Limes
Blueberries
Grapefruit
Plums
Peaches
Pears
Grapes
Wine
Beer
Whiskey
Vodka
Rum
Sugar
Ice Cream
Chocolate
Candy
Gum
Pizza
Chili
Pasta
Sauces
Spices
Herbs
Salt
Pepper
Soup
Stews
Gumbos
Jambalyas
Etoufees
Casseroles
Tacos
Burrittos
Tortillas
Bread
Cheeses
Yogurts
Creams
Milk
Cows
Goats
Pigs
Horses
Chickens
Eggs
Turkeys
Geese
Ducks
Dogs
Cats
Hamsters
Gerbils
Birds
Fish
Shrimp
Seaweed
Lobster
Crabs
Eels
Snails
Gardens
Dirt
Daisies
Roses
Lillies
Peonies
Shrubbery
Trees
Wood
Chairs
Tables
Sofas
Recliners
Carpets
Floors
Beds
Bathtubs
Toilets
Desks
Sinks
Countertops
Cabinets
Microwaves
Ovens
Dishwashers
Washing Machines
Dryers
Refrigerators
Freezers
Grills
Patios
Decks
Grass
Fences
Houses
Apartments
Offices
Hotels
Buildings
Bricks
Glass
Stone
Drugs
Bandages
Crutches
X-Ray Machines
MRIs
CAT Scanners
Hospitals
Nurses
Doctors
Firefighters
Police Officers
Speed Limits
Cars
Trucks
Motorcycles
Bikes
Tricycles
Wagons
Toys
Games
Sports
Stadiums
Arenas
Concerts
Musicians
Music
Guitars
Drums
Pianos
Violins
Trumpets
Bugles
Soldiers
Sailors
Ships
Submarines
Boats
Sails
Balloons
Baskets
Picnic Tables
Parks
Dams
Lakes
Ponds
Pools
Swimsuits
Towels
Robes
Pants
Shirts
Underwear
Shoes
Socks
Belts
Wallets
Purses
Bags
Luggage
Airports
Airplanes
Trains
Roller Coasters
Amusement Parks
Merry-go-Rounds
Haunted Houses
Costumes
Holidays
Religions
Faiths
Languages
Words
Books
Comic Books
Ink
Pencils
Paper
Elementary Schools
Erasers
Glue
Chalk
Teachers
Middle Schools
High Schools
Colleges
Univeristies
Sciences
Philosophies
Arts
Museums
Pictures
Brushes
Sculptures
Photographs
Cameras
Camcorders
VCRs
DVD Players
Televisions
Stereos
Radios
Telephones
Cell Phones
Satellite Phones
Satellites
Rockets
Fuels
Robots
Factories
Economies
Money
Stocks
Bonds
Baseballs
Mitts
Bats
Golf Clubs
Golf Courses
Spas
Vacations
Movies
Directors
Actors
Actresses
Producers
Broadway Theatres
Stages
Lights
Makeup
Curtains
Seats
Movie Theaters
Sodas
Posters
Online Forums
Websites
Intranets
Browsers
Mail Clients
Word Processors
Desktop Publishers
Spreadsheets
Online Games
Networks
Television Broadcasters
Television Shows
Cable Channels
Shopping Networks
Fake Jewelry
Real Jewelry
Wedding Ceremonies
Wedding Dresses
Tuxedos
Parties
Appetizers
Toasts
Dances
Discos
DJs
Radio Stations
Radio Formats
Document Formats
Filesystems
Operating Systems
Personal Computers
Keyboards
Monitors
Mice
Mousetraps
Board Games
Handheld Games
MP3 Players
Headphones
Microphones
Webcams
Laptops
PDAs
Tablets
Commandments
Laws
Ordinances
Towns
Villages
Cities
States
Counties
Nations
Continents
Terrains
Climates
Air Conditioners
Furnaces
Lighters
Torches
Pitchforks
Legislators
Bureaucracts
Agencies
Governments
Candidates
Beauty Pageants
Hair Products
Hats
Gloves
Coats
Paints
Painters
Plumbers
Carpenters
Craftsmen
Hand Tools
Power Tools
Batteries
Energy Sources
Superconductors
Processors
Sound Cards
Video Cards
Network Cards
Internet Providers
Web Site Designers
Programmers
Development Languages
Compilers
Package Managers
Delivery Companies
Online Stores
Online Auctions
Auctions
Antiques
Farms
Tractors
Grains
Cereals
Donuts
Restaurants
Grocery Stores
Coupons
Newspapers
Editors
Reporters
Pundits...

...and thank goodness for that, because readers can always move on to another opinion. Another example where choice is very good.

Are we done now?

[Note: For those readers who may have gained a glimpse into the psyche of the author in this free-associative list, I humbly apologize. -BKP]