Two improvements for Mint - It must be done!

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Re: Two improvements for Mint - It must be done!

Postby arjay » Thu Feb 12, 2009 3:18 pm

My worry here is what i see as an escalating convergence across the range of distros. I am a bit of a distro junkie and play around with whatever is going at the time, but the fact that there are around 500 distros or whatever, does not of itself, mean that there is real variety. Some of the differences are largely cosmetic these days.

I first tried linux in the bad hat, excuse me redhat days of yesteryear - completley unsuccessfully I might add. I came back to linux three years ago and now have only one box with XP on it which I use for previewing new websites. Five others all run different distros depending on their function.

In just the three years I have been using linux I see a worrying trend. It seems to be harder and harder for the providers to maintain their own uniqueness. As has been pointed out in this thread, most of the differences derive from a person or a team's sense of what could/should be - but they are primarily packagers at the end of the day. If the diversity of packages decreases and the complexity of distros increases, the ability to produce a distro that is truly different, will surely drop.

One problem is that there seems to have been a distinct shift from providing utility to pandering to popularity. Now the distro has to be "top of the charts". As making money out of a distro becomes a more familiar theme (fair enough BTW) people worry about losing a point or two in the chart. I truly admire those who support the likes of Gentoo and Slack or remain loyal to minimalist desktops like xfce or whatever that i can't even use. They work for them and that is what is important. Mint goes the other way - adding value by creating brilliant utilities for easier configuration - bully for them too. My nightmare is I will upgrade one day and find that the Terminal is no longer installed by default, even though the distro now takes up three DVDs.

How long will true variety last - that is my worry. Attracting Windows users who want something even more dumbed down than Windows, but more reliable, may sound the deathknell for the individuality that is at the heart of linux. I hope I am not exaggerating, but look at the market for mid-range cars as an example of increasing convergence. It is harder and harder to tell them apart on a dark night. When Renault tried to do something different (the original Megane) it took a superb ad campaign to get them out of the mire. May that never come to linux...

Well that's my two cents worth.

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AK Dave
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Re: Two improvements for Mint - It must be done!

Postby AK Dave » Thu Feb 12, 2009 7:54 pm

arjay: see above for my discussion on "linux distros as package aggregators". :D

I agree with you. A distro is an aggregate of packages from other sources, with little actual unique to each distro other than how the pieces are (artfully?) arranged together. The select of which packages to aggregate together to form the distro, and what unique spin to put on the distro, set each one apart. A little. Not by much. Most are confined by the limits of what can be packed on a CD.

The individual uniqueness added to any specific distro is ideally picked up and adopted by all. These days Fedora, Ubuntu, Asus, and Mandriva are all working to make linux boot faster. They're doing things a bit differently in each case. A year from now, maybe their efforts converge and we see everyone getting the sub-20sec boot times that my Dell netbook already boasts. Maybe we'll be seeing new hardware with linux BIOS standard on mainstream PCs. Not just this hybrid ARM/PC stuff we're starting to see now, but straight up instant-on to linux or doubleclick to launch Windows if you really insist.

What we do today with linux, virtualization, and a Windows license can be done cheaper and faster and better with hardware integration.

What we're seeing today is how linux development is converging, rather that diverging, which suggests that the technology is maturing.

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