Inquiring minds want to know: What Linux distro is on your computer?
Market share matters, even in the nonprofit world in which most distros live. Most likely, a large user base means more dollars coming in from donations or corporate grants. Also, a popular and much used distro might also prompt more folks with technical skills to volunteer, which might result in an improved user experience — or not. You know what they say about too many cooks in the pot.
The thing is, here in the FOSS world we have absolutely no way of knowing how many people might be using a particular distro. There are no licenses to sign, and companies using Linux aren’t required to take inventory to make sure they’re staying in compliance. So while Microsoft and Apple can give us a pretty accurate figure for the number of times their operating systems have been legally installed in the last few months or so, we can’t. Unlike Windows, Linux doesn’t require users to sign draconian EULAs. Unlike Apple, our distros aren’t performing all of the installs themselves on machines they manufacture.
So we have to come up with other metrics — which are unreliable at best. The most often cited measure, also the easiest to access, is the “Page Hit Ranking” on DistroWatch, which counts the traffic to the pages of individual distros on that site. The problem is that although this does give us a good idea of the public’s interest in a particular distro, it doesn’t tell us anything about the number of downloads.
More importantly, the DistroWatch ranking tells us nothing about the number of installs. Even if we were to contact the administrators of each and every distro for their download figures, we still wouldn’t know how many installs were generated by those downloads. For example, here in the FOSS Force office we have three machines which are all running Linux Mint from a single download, and it’s a certainty that Ken Starks isn’t downloading a new ISO each and every time he needs to install Linux on a new computer for one of his Reglue kids.
So we thought we’d offer a new measure by running a poll, which we’re asking you to take. The purpose this unscientific poll isn’t to replace other established metrics, such as the DistroWatch rankings, but merely to add another measure to the mix. The poll can be accessed here and on our front page.
In our poll, which asks for the distro you use most often, we’re offering up ten of the most popular distros according to DistroWatch. Users of distros that aren’t included can choose the “other” option and cast a write-in vote. Write-in votes must be for only one distro — votes mentioning multiple distros will not be counted. Also not counted will be votes for non-GNU/Linux desktop distros, such as Android, the various Unixes or the BSDs. Our poll will run through 11:59 PM EDT on Wednesday, March 18th and we’ll publish the results the next day.
After you’ve cast your vote, we’d also like to know something about why you choose your particular distro. You can let us know by using the comment section below.