It was recently
that there are too many Linux distributions. Apparently
Michael Dell of Dell Computers agrees
is it true?
As of this writing the LWN Distributions List
contains 431 active(*) distributions. (*)Some portion of those are not, in
fact, even remotely active projects. However we are very conservative
about removing projects, and on several occasions when we moved a project
to the non-active section of the list we received email saying the project
was indeed active, just really slow.
This leaves us with some questions. Do we need hundreds of Linux
distributions? How much overlap is there in all those distributions? Why
do people want to create their own Linux distributions?
We probably don't need hundreds of Linux distributions, but there is
actually less overlap than it might seem. Many distributions are created
for a specific purpose. Regardless of the purpose, there is usually more
than one way of doing something so there's likely to be some overlap in
even the most specialized of categories as different projects take a
different approach to solving the problem.
Many distributions are highly customized for a particular organization.
The chances are no one outside of that organization will be all that
interested, but they are open projects so we list them. Likewise there are
many distributions that have been localized for a particular country or
language. There are a wide variety of embedded distributions for an
equally wide variety of hardware and applications. There are distributions
that focus on security or the desktop or education (for children of all
ages), or multimedia experience.
The media tells us that we are "not there yet" on the desktop so we
obviously do need the competition there. Some projects work only with
certain types of hardware, and it is projects like these that allow our
mainstream distributions to support more processors.
When we eliminate the specialized categories we are left with only seventy
distributions. Not hundreds at all. There are several different
philosophies on package management; RPM- based, .deb types, source-based,
and few others like Conary and Pacman. There are many small consulting
firms, who sell and support their own brand of Linux. If these consulting
firms are making a living, more power to them.
For hardware manufacturers like Mr. Dell, focusing on the leading
distributions should be sufficient. If that's still too many, chose a
subset. If Linux runs well on the hardware, then the other distributions
can be installed by those whose tastes are less than mainstream. Natural
selection will take care of the rest, one way or another.
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