Sunday, December 30, 2007

Ubuntu and Linux

So to get the show started, I'm going to do a post along the lines of a comment I made on another blog earlier.

It seems that some people are thinking that because Ubuntu is the one that everyone talks about lately that it will become synonymous with Linux. They are taking offense to people posting comments or doing articles talking about or focusing on Ubuntu.

My response to this: I see the sky is falling again.

First some history. 10 years 3 months ago I installed my first Linux box. I came from a BSD work environment, and was going to go with that. This was before I became an admin. However a couple of friends recommended this thing called linux. At the time, my choices were Redhat, Slackware, and Debian. I went with Debian. Bounced around a few other choices, like Corel Linux (debian based) Progeny, and the like.

Back in the days I first got into it. Everyone was talking about Redhat. Redhat in business, Redhat on the personal computer, Redhat on the laptop. If someone said Linux, the first words or thoughts that came up was Redhat. And Redhat had a good marketing department behind it. I took a training class on Linux Administration from the great guys over at Linux Certified. In fact the guys there in California told me I was their first paid customer. With the class you got a free laptop. Their poison of choice for an os was Redhat. For a 2 day boot camp it worked really well... But again, it added to the whole REDHAT REDHAT REDHAT mind share. People were arguing that there was more to Linux than Redhat.

Some of the arguments made, because Redhat had such mind share and were a valid business, was that Redhat was the Microsoft of Linux. You had the Hatters and the Non-Hatters.

Flash forward today. Rehat, has split into 2 groups. Fedora, and Redhat. They are still popular on the server, and have lots of distros based off of them. Hello CentOS. You also have other vendors in the server game too. Novell's SUSE, and Ubuntu.

Ubuntu came out and was very new user (noob) friendly. It has built on Klaus Knopper's Knoppix live cd system (as I understand it Knoppix was the first, if not, at least one of the first). It's improved hardware support, and created a great user community to get help. It comes with your choice of Desktop Managers (KDE, Gnome, XFCE). The distro has taken quite a bit of the guess work out of setting up a system. Most things work, or you can get decent free advice fairly quickly, less than a Google search away.

Because of this, Ubuntu has become a bit of a name. It makes an option available to those stuck with Microsoft. The typical user, can't even work email consistently, and the people in the Linux Blogsphere (the ones complaining today) forget, most users don't have a clue on how to install an OS. Also remember people on a whole, do not like change. So which are they going to do? Are they going to take the geek route (the route I went; learn Unix, shell scripting, and then Linux. Climb up to it from there, and spend the next 10 years learning a system that isn't as ubiquitous as Microsoft Windows), or are they going to get something that will most likely work when they put it in their Optical Disk Drive (Like a Microsoft install CD)?

Remember kids, distros come and go. They rise to the majority of the mind share and sink back down again. Here it is, 10 years later, and I'm seeing people making a big deal on one Distro getting more mind share. Am I going to see this again in another 10 years? Sadly I think I will.


kozmcrae said...

I do have a problem with Ubuntu capturing the mind share to the exception of all other distributions. Not 30 seconds before I loaded your page, I left this guy's page. He might be a shill, I don't know. But he illustrates a problem I've seen all too often. It's ok for people to think Ubuntu IS Linux when it works, but when it fails, Linux fails. That's it, the end, people give up on Linux because Linux (Ubuntu) doesn't work. They don't even consider trying another distro because they don't even know they exist. Even when they do know they are so used to thinking in one operating system terms that they can't conceive of more than one distribution. So I believe that it's not ok to let people believe that there is one and only one Linux. They need to know that they have a choice. If their first distro fails them, they can try another.

Chris Rattis said...


The point of my argument is, and you illustrate well, is that this is an old pointless argument. Back around 2000 people were saying the same thing about Redhat. Back then people thought Redhat WAS Linux and there was no other choice. Which isn't the case today.

The fact that pottingshed was only using Ubuntu means that he's only heard the few people talk about it, and didn't do more research on the subject.

kozmcrae said...

The difference between then and now is at least two orders of magnitude in the number of new users and a completely different kind of user, the non-nerd kind. It's good to hear some historical perspective on this issue though. And I'm glad to hear people finally address it, in whatever terms. I hope to high heaven I'm wrong, but I've seen too many blogs like the link above (Update: he forgot to post a smiley/winky icon). I'm only basing my argument on what I've seen, and I've seen a lot of it. Another link, one of the first that woke me up to the fact that the meaning of the word "Linux" is slowly changing.

It almost seems as though the people at appscout were looking for failure. But neither appscout or anyone I've seen with a bad Ubuntu experience has said something like "Oh well, I guess I'll try SimplyMepis". It's back to Microsoft.

Chris Rattis said...


I don't think there is that big of a difference between now and then. you have more users on the internet, because more people have computers. that's true. you have more distros too. It wasn't the nerd kind that made AOL so big.

pottingshed's posts in looks were a bit tongue in cheek. However notice he said he got Ubuntu to work before, and that's why he went back to that. That goes with dis-like of change. Part of the aspects I was talking about when talking about users.

Appscout's post sounds like they were not ready for the learning curve. I didn't mean to sound like Ubuntu is perfect in this sense, hell Redhat never got it quite right either. From reading that link, it sounds like they wanted working replacement system out of the box. They didn't want to put the time in to learn that they needed actually do more.

However in both their cases, there are not just more users using and trying Linux, there are more people who they will probably talk to later, that will give them a CD for another distro, or at the least tell them about it.

I think from the way Appscout ended the post, they're not willing to try another distro, which is a little disappointing, but CDs while cheap, do still cost money, and why do they want to pay for something that have the impression does not work.