That’s one you often hear, right? There are too many Linux distributions, and that’s a problem. To some people, who then feel compelled to blog about it. Most of the times, the reasons stated are confusion for new Linux users, and lack of a unified install method for all Linuxes.
Let’s start with that confusion. Apparently, the new Linux user won’t know what to choose when faced with all the (over 300) possibilities, but be honest here, to the “outside world”, Linux has become synonymous with “Ubuntu”. I’m not saying Ubuntu is the best, but when I see Linux mentioned in PC magazines in Belgium, it’s always Ubuntu. That’s not a bad thing…Ubuntu’s pretty easy, so that hypothetical new Linux user shouldn’t have too many problems with it.
In any case, installing an OS is not something you should do without preparation. Someone who searches for a Linux distribution to replace Windows, and decides on Devil Linux (just an example), should have known better.
Then, the different package managers. Yes, there’s rpm, and deb, and tar.gz, and pacman and pisi etc. But why should this matter to end-users? It doesn’t. Yes, it creates extra work for the packagers of each distribution, but the user doesn’t notice that. He’s using the front-end provided by his or her distribution. It doesn’t matter if that piece of software is called Yast, or synaptic, or adept or whatever…it’s always easy. Search for a package. Click. Installed. No hassle.
Are there any real advantages to having so many distributions around? Perhaps not, but I won’t deny anyone the pleasure of releasing his own distro, just because he can. Or her, of course. That’s the fun of it. And every now and then, there’s a new distribution that really makes an impact, like Ubuntu.
In the end, there isn’t any advantage to having only one dominant Linux distribution either. Yes, new users wouldn’t be confused and there would be only one way to install software, making it easier for package maintainers. But what would be the point? To lure in new users? To take on Windows and OS X? Why? There’s this feeling among some people that Linux HAS to grow, that it HAS to become the dominant OS, because it’s (arguably) so much better. I don’t agree. It would be nice if some people knew that the answer to their virus-ridden problems is freely available, but that’s all. Otherwise, let people use what they’re happy with.
Plus, a little competition never hurt anybody. It improves quality. You want to write a CD-burner? You better make it as good as K3b. A music manager? Amarok’s your target there. The same goes for distributions. I believe that Ubuntu gave the other distributions a good kick in the rear. It came on the scene being the best. These days, OpenSuse, Mandriva, even Pardus…are (almost?) as good.
So let Linux users and developers tinker, and write new programs, and create new distributions, and try stuff with their PC, and find new ways to do the same stuff. It’s just Linux way. It’s FUN.