Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The number of Linux distros - A strength or weakness?

There are lots and lots of Linux distros out there. In fact, if there is one thing that frustrates potential Linux users, then it is the abundance of choice. However, being a an end user myself, I sometimes wonder if the abundance of choice is really a strength or weakness.

In the comment section of a recent post about Element OS, it looked as if people are actually divided on the answer to the above question. Is the abundance of choice a strength or a weakness of the Linux desktop?

Both Helge and Maxx were of the view that there is no need to keep spinning off new distros that only replicate the functions of existing ones. WP however, did not agree with them. He wrote

"I disagree, Helge. I've been using Ubuntu and relatives since 2005 (Fedora before that). Every six months, I spend two evenings installing and re-customizing my OS and software, because Ubuntu / Kubuntu / Xubuntu / Mint is highly-polished, but the default software selection is not very useful.

"If I wanted a media-centric computer, for example, why should I spend the time installing and customizing apps, plus removing unneed ones? If Element OS does this well, then it deserves the time and attention it gets."

The above views are in reality different explanations to the view which I hold about Linux distros and their numbers. I hold the opinion that people be allowed to 'cook' as many distros as they want. The only deciding factor of their survival will be the need of end users that they satisfy.

In other words, as long as the distro adds some value to the life of end users, then it is worth being in existence. If however, it is just a waste of code and time, not doing anything in particular for end users, then it will slowly wilt away into oblivion.

Citing a distro like Linux Mint, it is an Ubuntu clone but has also established itself in the lives of those who want instant multimedia gratification out of the box, that is, generally speaking. There were hundreds of distros before its advent but it has survived based on what it does to end users.

So to sum it up, I don't agree per se that the number of Linux distros is either a good thing or a bad one. It is just a matter of available choices to satisfy different needs of different people from different parts of the globe. What do you think? Are you overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices available? Talkback.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 11 comments

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