Usually when we run a poll we’re not surprised by the answers. We’re certainly surprised by these results, however.
A month ago, on September 2nd to be exact, we asked you, “Does GNU/Linux offer too many choices? Are there too many Linux distros?” As answers we offered the numbers one through five with one meaning way too many, five meaning way too few and three meaning just about right. As we expected, number three received the most votes, but not by a large margin.
An even 100 of you picked the middle ground and said the number of Linux distros is just about right. That’s 29%. What’s surprising to us, however, is the number of you who thought the number of distros was too high. 93 people, or 27%, chose number one, meaning they thought the number of distros is entirely too high. 83 people, or 24%, thought there were somewhat too many distros, meaning they picked number two. 56%, an overwhelming majority, thought there are too many distros. Only 64 people, 19%, thought there are too few distros.
Frankly, we don’t get it. So what if there’s a ton of so-called cookie cutter distros? Nobody’s forced to use them. We think it’s pretty cool that a kid in his garage can fool around with a computer, create his own distro based on something he’s been using and release it to the public. Seems to us that almost a quarter century ago a kid in Finland was working on what could be called a cookie cutter Unix, or was it MINIX…?
Linux. He was working on Linux.
I’ve said it before…..I’ll say it again. I feel that those that complain about there being too many distros are plagued with the inability to make up their minds. I have no problem with the vast amount of distros that exist today, and quite frankly find it interesting to see who comes out with what for a specific need or certain task the they felt was not being met by the commercial offerings out there. Well I guess that’s what makes this country great, the fact that everyone is entitled to their own opinion! LoL!
Too many distros makes it take too long to research to pick a good one, and it also means there is a lot of duplicate effort in creating and supporting that many distros. Some of the distros should merge. Better to have 10 great and unique diverse distros than 100 what’s the difference distros.
Distrowatch has over 300 distros. If you tested 1 distro per week day to evaluate it, it would take over a year. By the time you finish, some of the distros would be a year old and up for reconsideration. Have millions of people wasting time picking a distro, and… not very productive.
What a chuckle. You just don’t get it.
Oh, while you are at it, I’ve noticed what your ip user agent string turns up often on my website indicating you use Windows. What’s up with that!? FOSS advocate using Windows? Come on now Christine.
Isn’t about time you walk the walk instead of just talk the talk?
Your writing might actually improve if you would embrace Linux.
Be honest. You use Windows.
@Dietrich I’ve written articles about this, Mr. Schmitz, right here on FOSS Force, so you’re not breaking any news. Due to software required by our bank for processing credit cards when we take telephone orders on our online store, we have one desktop that uses Windows XP. At present, we have about two years to go on our five year contract for the software, after which time we won’t renew. I doubt we’ll continue using the software that long, however. Next year when XP is no longer supported, the bank will probably require that we “upgrade” to a newer version of Windows, which we are not willing to do. At that time, we’ll probably install something like Mageia on this box. Other than that, we have three laptops, all of which are running Bodhi and from which I do most of my work.
However, now that I see how ethical Linux Advocates is about protecting their visitors privacy, I don’t think I’ll be visiting the site anymore.
The problem as I see it isn’t with the number of distros, it’s with the number of package formats. Commercial software companies don’t want to have to package their software in 3 to 4 formats just to hit the major distros. That may not be important to a lot of people, but if you are wanting to use Linux in a professional environment there is probably going to be some commercial software you need to run.
Oh gee, did I hurt your feelings? You are so tender.
You don’t seem to mind taking shots at me whenever it suits you and I don’t see what you do as having ethics. It’s just a double standard of yours.
You’ll be back to my site because you know I provide honest, intelligent content and you’ll be back with Windows because you really don’t know jack about Linux.
But please. Talk the talk.
Unsure if I voted (probably not), but whilst I perfectly understand the FOSS Force reply; I do fear the ‘wealth’ of distro’s is scary to most non-linux users.
I love having GRUB start my computer; and I select which distro I’ll use today (multiple installed on each of my machines), then which desktop …. love the choices in linux (and that it’s *nix!!!)
However I have software I use, available in debian/ubuntu/mint/.. repositories; that isn’t available for SuSE/Fedora/CentOS/.. (and vise-versa). Some of these wouldn’t install & run from tarball in CentOS/SuSE because of library differences (some dependencies were too ‘modern’, others too ‘old’ due choices made in distro creation)… My point is that all the distro’s does have I suspect cause “scary” fears in IT managers when considering upgrading their m$-virus versions agains alternatives. (linux, bsd or ‘fruity-pirate’s’-BSD)
Anyway – my 2c.
ps: @Christine – great ending to your answer to the ‘flame’
Well, I understand the sentiment behind thinking that there are too many distributions, as long as the people who think this realize that there’s nothing to be done about it. It’s the nature of open source software that this can and will be the case (in fact, if it’s not the case, then it probably means that nobody cares, and that would be much worse than too many distributions).
As long as the poll is just asking if people think that fewer distributions would be better and not asking if someone should do anything about it, then the results are fine. I would hope that a poll that asked if some action should be taken to reduce the number of distributions beyond simply urging people to pool their efforts as much as possible, people would realize that this would go against the principles of open source.
There may be to many distros, but I have only found two that suit my needs. They are Solus and Point. I want Debian stable, with a traditional desktop. If there were less, do you think I could find what I want? I love that I have a choice. I have tried way to many that did not meet my needs.
I agree with you on the software issue, BTW. As long as you don’t have to go off the reservation and install software that’s not in your distros repository, you’re fine but if your distro doesn’t maintain it, you’re on your own.
Indeed, I do think this is one of the reasons why software vendors don’t offer GNU/Linux versions of their products.
@CFWhitman Good point!
Yes, way too many….and a lot of them are basically the same with just a minor change
What would be ideal, I think, if you sill want different “flavors”, would be a default base (think Ubuntu minimal CD, for example) with scripts that would allow you to select your desktop environment and a few key apps that you prefer. IN the end you get the OS just the way you want it, without having to try yet another distro to see if it fits your needs
Looking at some other posts on other sites I think there are a lot of fans of some of the top (according to Distrowatch) distros who just don’t see the need for more than what they’ve got. As they make up a good number of Linux users it would seem probable the opinion would swing the way it has. Personally I use Crunchbang because I like the debian base, great number of packages available but #! has tweaks and configuration that make Debian bearable for me. This is why a good number of distros is a good thing. I perhaps tried about 15 or 16 distros before I got to this one and now used it for the last year or so.
@Dietrich, please keep your arguments to your own site. It’s also not very professional getting personal on third-party sites even if you think it’s ok on your own. Why are you checking user-agent strings against usernames anyway, least of all anouncing the info on someone elses site? As for intelligent content try leaving intelligent comments too rather than just bickering. By the way, been a Linux user since 1999 but as I have 3 Windows machines I use on a regular basis I guess I should just revert to those as I probably know jack about Linux. Sorry about the rant other readers but this kind of attitude infecting proper comments and discussions has got on my last nerve now.
I see the “cookie-cutter” lobby as a bit extremist. If the primary argument for F/LOSS is about choice and transparency, it seems a bit muddied when you say, “but not too much choice.” If too many isn’t good, how many is? Who gets to decide the lucky, say 30? I don’t think 300 is too many personally. Hundreds seems manageable, if there were thousands I would be worried.
[…] confusa encuesta de FOSS Force me ha dado la idea de proponeros una encuesta a los lectores de MuyLinux. Una encuesta sobre un […]
I voted option 2, but I don’t think the problem is quantity but quality: there are (IMHO, of course) too many “me too” distros that don’t offer anything new.
On the other hand, I really wouldn’t want to have only a few distros, diversity is good (certainly much better than a monoculture).
And diversity might give us some bad/lame/unnecesary distros but it also gives us some gems that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
– Do I think we have too many distros?: Yes!
– Would I want it any other way?: No!
@Adam N: you saved me from posting basically the same (though I probably woulnd’t have been so polite) WRT Dietrich Schmitz
You don’t understand it because you don’t understand consumer psychology.
I’ll just leave this here, I need say no more:
‘The Paradox of Choice’. That is the problem.
I don’t think this applies to this case. Distrowatch offers more refined search options where the user (new or not) can search for distros according to Development environment and also according to parent distro (whether that would be debian or Red-hat or whatever else it is).
The number of choices is actually less if the newcomer knows that Linux has many faces and more than one parent-distros.
There’s also the Coding Studion (http://www.thecodingstudio.com/?linux) which has screenshots of many of the distros listed in Distrowatch (for those who choose visually).
But you keep forgetting that many of the people who try (or evaluate) linux come from the Windows world… Where they’ve had a Start button since Windows 95 and
any alternative that doesn’t look and feel the same as either Windows XP’s start button and menu or Windows 7’s start button and menus (and window decoration and and and…) will simply not do for them. So going to one distro after the other looking for the familiar Windows look is going to ruin every attempt to find a distro that is functional the same way as their flavor of Windows.
As cookie-cutter distros don’t cut it for some (pun intended) all we hear is that there are too many of those, but never did we see a proposal for an alternative (although XFCE and LXDE are pretty close to a simple Windows-style DE and KDE a bit more bling and umph).
Unity, MATE, GNOME(3) Shell, KDE, LXDE, XFCE they all solve the same issue in different ways… and so are
the distros… Think about it like this…
Since the Model T came out, we have cars of all makes and models, with different configurations… and different colors different accesories… why are people complaining about too many choices in Linux Distros but not the choices available when they buy a car?
Isn’t it time we stop this madness?
@Dimitris: I couldn’t agree more! I think that those who complain about there being too many distros are unable to make a choice, and so they “blame” their indecision on there being too many choices, but taking the car analogy further: If you walked into Dunkin Donuts…or and ice cream parlor and all they had were five choices….would you really buy from there? The same could be applied to every phase of our lives….if there were only two choices of houses,….banks….clothing….the list is endless! I personally feel that having so many distros is the best thing, it allows for you to find that one “gem” that “does” it for you on every level. I myself have “favorites”,that I use daily…but I also have quite a few “experimental” distros I toy around with. On the subject of the various packaging methods, it’s all par for the course.
Dietrich Schmitz – As someone who moved entirely to linux recently (1+year) but has dabbled with it since the mid 90’s, knocking someone for their use of Windows seems ignorant at best. I mean, 90% of the planet uses Windows. Where do you think future linux users come from anyway?
I don’t know what kind of history exists between you and the author of this article, and frankly I could not care less, but what you’ve posted here just makes you look like an asshat. Also, looking up and posting information regarding people’s user-agent strings makes you look like a stalker and damages any credibility you might have, especially given today’s concerns over user privacy.
Thank you for giving me all the information I need to blacklist your site from all my computers, without going to the trouble of actually visiting it.
Imagine going to a buffet with only 2 or 3 choices, now that would be lame. Same with linux, survey the buffet and take what floats your boat.
There are too many types of food. I never know which ones I should eat.
Now imaging a buffet with 300 choices and this restaurant only servers 3% of the people. It’s not like that other restaurant that only has 10 items on their buffet (mostly the same, but names like home, premium, ultimate, etc…), but services 90% of the people.
The food isn’t very fresh with so many choices feeding such a small population. You will grab too many selections and over eat at the buffet.
Now if some of the chefs would get together and make more appealing dishes things would be better.
@John: I feel that is stretching the limits of credulity, are you telling me…that you (or to be fair someone ELSE!) would be unable to walk into a buffet with 300+ items…and CHOOSE what they want to eat? That almost sounds like a toddler, who will eat until they get sick! Most normal folks can walk into a buffet, and glance over all the offerings, then choose what they feel like eating, and if they want?…they can go for seconds! LoL! Just to say that someone can leave the World of Windows, enter into the FLOSS galaxy, check out some distros, read some reviews, and make a selection, and if it’s not what they feel “tastes” right?..they can always go try something else. It really IS similar to the car analogy, why aren’t people complaining that the Chevy Tahoe, and the GMC Yukon are the same thing? or that the Nissan Maxima and the Infiniti G Series are identical…(and the same can be said for Toyota / Lexus, and Acura / Honda look-alikes!) I just think it’s people being too hmm…I guess “lazy” to make up their minds? After all when you walk into a Toyota dealership.you might be able to choose from mini-van – sedan – SUV – sports car categories, but they’re all Toyotas…taking the choice away from you so to speak. I prefer the vast multitude of selection in regards to my OS. For those who want to be “force-fed” a selection of a few…then they have all rights to do that, but its not fair to “come down” on the enlightened ones!…LOL!
If they have to choose they can, but yes, I am telling you that most people do not want that many choices.
Check out this link:
In my opinion, there should be less base distros, and more customization options (themes, add-on repos, etc…). Not that it really matters to me as I work with about 12 distros of Linux, and 3 distros of Windows every week. However, if we want more people to switch to Linux, the entry point needs to be easier, meaning having them pick from hundreds of distros is ridiculous. It takes more effort to properly sample a distro than it does to try a dish at a buffet.
I don’t understand why some people wouldn’t prefer distros merge and work together, and have there unique features either be integrated into a distro, or as an add-on instead of a whole different distro.
Obviously one size does not fit all… but we don’t need 300…
While this might be true of “most” people, there’s still a select few that thrive on choice and I happen to be one of them….the article was interesting, but one thing stood out that kind of screamed “communism” to me…LOL!
“Eliminate choices to make decision-making easier in your business.”
Now while I have no problem with businesses making more money, I’m not too keen on them eliminating anything, its bad enough we’re being spied on, and are losing our freedoms in other aspects of our lives, but to even lost the freedom to choose? All because some people cannot make up their minds seems ludicrous to me. Better to have to lines…as in the example of the jams and the grocery store:
Line 1 – For people who don’t want too much choice…and
Line 2 – For people who DO!
Simple. Easy. And no one gets hurt! LoL!
@John “having them pick from hundreds of distros is ridiculous”
I think the people who want fewer distros are misguided. Here’s why (based on reasons people commonly give):
1) To attract more users.
I don’t believe fewer distros would do this. Imagine if tomorrow, there were only Ubuntu. How many existing users would be unsatisfied, compared to the number of Windows users who suddenly found Linux attractive? Replace Ubuntu with any other single distro and you get the same results. Would two be enough, or three?
2) To focus development.
Again, imagine only one or two distros. As a developer, I have an idea but it runs counter to what the communtities (or companies) running the big distros want. Should I be able to create my own? Maybe it differs only in some slight way (to you perhaps, but very important to me), leading people to label it derivative and unnecessary. People claim my efforts would be better spent on the big distros, focusing on stuff they want. Do you think I am likely to do that? If you do, you have never met a developer.
In the end, I think people don’t really want fewer distros (even if they think they do), but rather more cooperation among the “big” distros, looking for commonalities that could perhaps lead to standards and a reduction in the duplication of efforts. Packaging systems, updating the FHS, and desktop GUI’s come to mind. Of course, anyone would still be free to ignore the “standards” and do whatever they want, as they should be.
To address John’s premise that having potential new users “pick from hundreds of distros is ridiculous” I’ll just add that I believe this isn’t a problem of too many distros, but rather a lack of guidance for new users.
If you want ot help: Create a website dedicated to helping users become familiar with Linux. Pick a distribution…any distribution, it doesn’t really matter which. Teach them WHY things work the way they do in the Linux universe.
Arguing that too many choices is good (one extreme) because too few choices (other extreme) is just silly. You realize how stupid that argument sounds?
Your point about many developers is correct in that is what lead to this. It causes fragmentation and leads to too many distros. No one is suggesting a single distribution (besides crazy hyperbole arguments from those wanting more distributions). That said, luckily there are many developers do contribute to one or more distros instead of making there own from scratch.
No, it’s not silly. It’s the logical conclusion of saying there are too many distros. In your mind, who decides how many is the correct number? What happens when a developer isn’t happy with any of those?
No…there are exactly as many distros as there need to be at any given time. The open nature of linux ensures that. There is no other workable solution that doesn’t involve dictating from the top down what people can or can not do…which is anathema to the entire idea of open source software.
The idea that if you restrict the number of distros you’ll foster greater collaboration among developers is complete BS. Much of what it takes to maintain a distro…organizing and packaging software, is completely different from what it takes to write a new driver, or GUI widget, for example. There’s no guarantee you’d get faster development with fewer distros…you’d probably just get more arguments over the correct direction to take. Having multiple distros allows more avenues to be explored and only the most successful/popular solutions to be picked up and passed on. It’s a simple analogue to survival of the fittest. Evolution of the distros, if you like.
@ MIke: Well said!
The poll question was ambiguous in the sense that, there was no value judgement.
So it can be interpreted in the same way as a kid in a candy store: “Is there too many candy flavours?” (Of course too many flavours and too little time / money to try them all!)
It can also be interpreted in a negative manner, as many critics have done.
My 2cents (not that it matters), is that a larger number means more tinkers; and assuming that for every hundred linux users / hobbyist / enthusiast, there are 5 tinkers, more distros (self-spun or not) means a larger user base. So all is good!
@Mike, when a developer isn’t happy with any of the current distributions, they either take the high road and work with one that is close so that more users benifit, or they run off like a baby and create their own. I am being a little extreme, but less so than comparing to one distro.
You are not very creative if you think there is no other option, and no way to improve communications and cooperation between developers besides dictating from the top down.
People should have an option to create their own distro, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best option. Also, I am not counting private distros, such as one made by an enterprise for all it’s desktops or servers.
You have the idea backwars. It’s not to restrict the number of distros to foster greater collaboration, but to foster greater collaboration to restrict the number of distros. Having 10s of thousands of those do not dilute the quality of the others.
If having so many distros is great, then come up with 300 unique reasons of why each distro is justified. I can come up with about 50 if I skip the reason that people are too lazy to work together.
“when a developer isn’t happy with any of the current distributions, they either take the high road and work with one that is close so that more users benifit, or they run off like a baby and create their own.”
You speak like there is some moral superiority to not creating your own distro. There is not. Sounds like you have control issues. Did you create a distro, only to see it abandoned when developers wouldn’t bend to your will? You ought to realize the problem isn’t with them…
“You are not very creative if you think there is no other option, and no way to improve communications and cooperation between developers besides dictating from the top down.”
I didn’t say that. I suggested that people would like to see more collaboration from the big distros and less duplication of efforts (it might even have the side effect of reducing the number of distros), but that is a far different thing than saying reducing the number of distros will lead to the former. That would require top down dictating and would not work.
“If having so many distros is great, then come up with 300 unique reasons of why each distro is justified.”
Just because you can’t think of a good reason doesn’t mean there isn’t one. If you want reasons, ask the individual maintainers. Who are you or I to question their reason to exist?
“People should have an option to create their own distro, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best option.”
I’ve heard your arguments before, when people said the same things about forking an open source project. Then along came git and forking became easy. None of the bad things happened and life goes on. Creating a distro is the same, it neither weakens nor slows down existing distros. After all, it’s open source…a distro can take anything it likes from it’s siblings, right?
Anyone being able to create a distro at any time for any reason is a good thing. Perhaps what we really need is a system like git for building and forking entire distros…Hmm, interesting.
Less Distros, more Dietrichs!!!
I wonder about the person who decides there IS no distro that suits their purpose, and so they decide to roll their own. Maybe not makie it public, but a close few friends use it to help with beta testing etc. Is this person being a big “baby”? maybe that same distro gains momentum and traction when a few people from church get ahold of it. and then before you know it you have people volunteering to keep the distro afloat even though the “original” creator only built it for his own use. I guess that’s “Evil Incarnate”?….LOL!
The problem isn’t with deciding who gets to chose the 30 or so potential distros it is a problem of economy of time and the burden of choice. Not every one wants to be or has the time available to them to become a back room computer geek just to be sure they have “the best” distro that suits their needs. The best distro is the one that works out of the box, that comes with all the software they need from the big box consumer store because we are taught to consume everything and to view everything from a point of view of consumption. That we have so many distros is reflective of the fact that people want their consumption seasoned to their tastes.
Consider the simple act of buying wine at diner. No one wants a dialectic on the the wineries of the world and the hundereds of different wines they could taste test before making their choice for diner. They want to eat their food while its hot and enjoy their wine and food over pleasant conversation and get on with their lives.
This is even more so when it comes to a computer software distro.
Try reading some psychology…
and see how it might apply to this situation.
I really like the wine analogy.
Just like the diner choosing a wine, a new Linux user needn’t be concerned with the full spectrum of distros out there. The diner may get guidance from the waiter, and be spared some choice because of the restaurant’s limited selection. With Linux, it is not the sheer amount of choice that is the problem, but rather the lack of guidance.
In my opinion, for anyone using Linux for the first time there are only three distros worth considering: Fedora, Debian, and Ubuntu. Being among the largest, this has a direct impact on the amount of support likely to be available, as well as the likelihood any particular issue has already been seen and resolved by someone else.
All other distros, like exotic wines, are better left for later, when the user has some experience by which to compare. To argue that there are too many kinds of wine and that if we could only reduce the number then we’d get more beer drinkers to ‘convert’ is silly.
Hi Mike! Personally I’d take Fedora and Debian off the newbs list. In their place, I would put Mint on the list as well as Mageia. But that’s just me…
If I expanded the list to five then Mint and Mageia would be next in line, I think.
Regarding my list of three: I would recommend those distros to any new Linux user, no matter what their level of technical skill may be.
I disagree that Fedora or Debian are bad choices. I always hear that Debian especially is difficult/scary for new users but I have never found that to be true. I’ve introduced new (non-technical) users to Debian without complaint.
Overall, I feel community size, age, and experience of a distro is more important than features when considering its use for new users.
The “hardest” part of Debian and Fedora, IMHO, is the installation.
If you give a new Linux user a box with Debian or Fedora already installed, I think they’ll get along just fine.
Nevetheless, I believe Ubuntu, Mint and Mageia might make it even easier for them.
I dunno, I’m kind of torn between two opinions, in regards to the wine comparison, even if there were a list of 300+ wines, there has GOT to be some “responsibility” placed on the diner….surely he/she KNEW they’d be ordering WINE with dinner and not beer, or fruit juice, so then they should have a “concept” of what wines go good with what dishes, and instead of being swamped with an avalanche of choice they themselves can narrow it down by telling the waiter to bring them a small list of the “Reds”…or “Burgundys”…or “Pinot Grigios” etc. Granted to have to research EVERY distro out there WOULD be a bit of a task, but since most of them are similar you don’t REALLY have to go through ALL of them. Just read some of the release notes on a distro you might be considering, and if you see another one that’s similar?….read th9ose as well…you’d find a lot of the material similar, and the changes would stand out…then you can make a more informed decision. As for Fedora & Debian? I would replace Fedora with CEntOS or Scientific, since they’re plain-Jane, vanilla distros that will do whatever you need them to without much fuss. Ubuntu can stay…since its actually aiming at being a desktop OS for the masses, (and laptops and tablets too!) Debian was easy to install, but getting the wireless to work after installation? UGH!! I wouldn’t recommend that for a newbie….and although Fedora was easy to install and the wireless drivers worked,…because they’re aiming at forever being on the “cutting edge” of software and technology…sometimes the laptop / desktop you have might have something in its makeup that doesn’t agree with a certain driver or setting and it becomes a “Raiders Of The Lost Ark” treasure hunt to find the offending piece. And Mageia while it’s easy and flexible enough for a newbie, I feel that its not “mainstream” enough for a newbie to comfortably use it…but hey these are all just my personal observations, and someone else might have a different view…
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