Linux distros: love, openwashing & the thousand yard stare

The Linux operating system (OS) will turn 30 in the year 2021.

We know that Linus Torvalds first penned (typed) his work plans for what turned out to be Linux on a Usenet posting as follows:

“I’m doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won’t be big and professional like GNU) for 386(486) AT clones,” wrote Torvalds.

No brief history of Linux is needed here, there are plenty of write ups detailing the origins of UNIX, MINIX, the birth of GNU and Richard Stallman’s creation of the GNU General Public License.

Rather than nostalgia then, in betwixt the 25th and 30th anniversaries as we stand in 2018, let’s look at how far the major distributions (and the smaller but still mighty ones too) have come over the last year and what they might be able to bring forward between now and the 30th celebrations.

The thousand yard stare

Okay then, let’s just have one little piece of history before we look forward.

There’s a fabulous moment at the very start of the ‘Revolution OS’ movie when open source advocate, software programmer and technical author Eric Raymond describes meeting a Microsoft executive in an elevator.

They exchange pleasantries, but Raymond suggests that the be-suited Redmond exec looks down on him somewhat as he asks him: “So what do you do?”… wearing scruffy hacker clothes, as he was.

“I just looked at hime and gave him the thousand yard stare and said ‘I’m your worst nightmare’,” said Raymond.

We’ve come a long way since the time of thousand yard stares, obviously.

In an era when even Microsoft ‘loves’ Linux, even the Redmond team appear to have largely exonerated themselves from any accusations of mere openwashing and much of the proprietary past – even if if the firm’s new religion open strategy does align all roads to the Azure cloud, ideally.

The big three (& the others)

So to the state of the Linux nation then.

Today in 2018 we know that the ‘big three’ open (but commercially licensed, maintained and appropriately support option served) Linux distributions are:

  1. Red Had Enterprise Linux (RHEL) – by Red Hat.
  2. Ubuntu for enterprise – by Canonical.
  3. SUSE Linux – by SUSE, owned by Micro Focus.

The big three are joined by a second group of in some cases quite well-known other operating systems. Never ever referred to as also-rans, lower-tier of lesser in any real sense, the ‘other’ open source operating systems that come to mind include names like Debian, Mint Linux, Arch Linux, Cent OS and the list goes on.

Enough intros to the distros already… let’s dive in and note the most interesting recent developments and ask what to expect on the road ahead.

To be continued in other stories…

Data Center
Data Management