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Editor's Note: Ubuntu Is Not Our Savior

Jun 13, 2009, 00:01 (76 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Carla Schroder)

by Carla Schroder
Managing Editor

The FOSS ecosystem is messy. There are thousands upon thousands of projects, from slapdash learning attempts to highly-polished commercially-supported applications. There is redundancy and overlap. Sourceforge and other public repositories are littered with abandonware. What makes some projects attract contributors and become successful, while other wither away? Who knows. What I do know is all of this splendid chaotic ferment is exactly what makes FOSS so strong.

You've probably heard that FOSS is too fragmented and it needs consolidation. One Distro To Rule Them All. One interpreted language, one compiled language, one mad good rapid development platform, one killer office suite, and so on. Put all that fragmented energy behind a select few projects, and in no time we'll conquer all. Or something like that.

There is some merit to this, and I think it is a good idea for anyone who wants to make a contribution to FOSS to look around for an existing project to join, instead of creating yet another Linux Web site, or yet another Ubuntu-derived Linux distribution, or yet another development framework, or yet another BitTorrent client...

But doing your own thing isn't necessarily bad. It is a learning experience, and that is always good. Once you get deeply into something new you can't predict where it will lead, and it might go somewhere very cool.

Pinning Our Hopes and Dreams on Canonical

The nomination for #1 One Distro To Rule Them All is nearly always Ubuntu, and it seems that a lot of people have high expectations for Canonical and Mark Shuttleworth. An Ubuntu desktop PC in every home and classroom, super-amazing high-quality for free, and Mr. Shuttleworth personally throwing a chair at Steve Ballmer. Mr. Shuttleworth and Canonical have performed amazing feats in a few short years, but they're not the be-all of Linux. Suppose Ubuntu does become the most amazing and splendid and wonderful Linux ever-- is that the end? Of course not, because there is no end. It takes competition to produce the best software, just like anything else.

And no matter how superior Ubuntu becomes, Gentoo, Slackware, Red Hat, Fedora, and Debian are more important because they are the primal Linuxes. Everything else flows from them. They are the progenitors, and are essential.

Let's also remember non-Linux FOSS operating systems such as FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD. From these also come herds of wonderful things such as routers, firewalls, drivers, network stacks, and stout high-demand servers. (Take a look at the top servers on Netcraft.)

We don't need a savior. Saviors make us weak. "The most terrible thing to befall a people is a hero." We need a strong, diverse community chock-full of smart people creating interesting things. Here's to creative chaos, and all the good things it brings us.