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InformationWeek.com: Too Much Linux Isn't Such A Bad Thing

Mar 05, 2001, 14:02 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jason Levitt)

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"Do you think there are too many versions of Unix out there? Maybe you think there are too many versions of the Windows operating systems? Well, forget about those wimpy operating systems. Welcome to the 150th version of the Linux operating system (No one knows exactly how many Linux distributions there are, but the last estimate I heard was 140, so I'll pick 150 since it's nice and even). "Yes, there are only 149 other versions of the Linux operating system that you can choose besides mine. But why not mine? I created JABBER (JAson's Big Bad ERudite) Linux 1.0 in a fit of pique last week, because there wasn't a version of Linux out there with my name all over the source code. I also created it because I can--because "anyone" can. This is part of the beauty of open source. You download the source code to a Linux distribution you like, modify it a bit, recompile it, and presto, you have your own version of Linux."

"The downside for businesses that want to use Linux is that they have to choose which Linux to deploy in their enterprise. If you've shopped around for specific applications to run on Linux, you'll quickly see that they only install and run properly on a small fraction of the Linux versions out there. In Europe, SuSe Linux [www.suse.org] is the dominant version by far, but in the U.S., specific versions of Red Hat, Slackware, Debian, Mandrake, and Caldera Linux are often supported. Some Linux applications can get by with merely the presence of a specific version of glibc, the C library that contains the primary system calls used by Linux applications, but other Linux applications depend on the presence of certain system utilities, installation applications, or other features."

"None of this is news to the Linux community, but their answer, the Linux Standard Base [www.linuxbase.org], "a set of standards that will increase compatibility among Linux distributions and enable software applications to run on any compliant Linux system," is an ambitious, committee-driven project, that's been slow to evolve. In the meantime, the Free Standards Group [www.freestandards.org], "a non-profit corporation organized to accelerate the use and acceptance of open source technologies through the application, development, and promotion of standards," has incorporated and taken over the Linux Standard Base project as well as fast-tracking a simple specification called the Linux Development Platform Specification [www.freestandards.org/ldps], which lists the software packages (kernel, glibc, Xfree86, GCC, etc.) that conforming Linux platforms need to include. The Linux Development Platform Specification by no means guarantees applications will install and run on a conforming Linux operating system, but it increases the chances that they could be tweaked to work. In short, it's better than nothing while we wait for the Linux Standard Base."

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