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

“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

“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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