IntroductionLast week I started a poll.
There was one simple question:
Imagine that tomorrow the world decided there can only be a limited number of distributions. Which distributions would you save?The poll's reception was mixed.
At first the people at Reddit thought it was a dumb idea and the topic got voted down. It then picked up and 13 people commented on the concept.
The people at Linux Today warmed to the idea and the votes came flooding in.
In the end the article itself received 6090 pageviews and 44 comments.
The ResultsBizarrely despite there being so many pageviews there were only 362 votes cast.
The graph above tells you everything you need to know. Debian came out clearly on top followed by the usual suspects of Ubuntu, Mint, Arch, Fedora and openSUSE.
The people who use Luninux, Snowlinux and Rosa were far too cool to vote on such a silly subject and decided to keep away from such a bizarre concept.
But what about my distribution?A common theme in the comments was the question "What about Distribution X?", "Where is Distribution Y".
Well I could have listed all 300+ distributions on Distrowatch but the graph above would then look even sillier than it already does.
Instead I am going to give an honourable mention to the distributions I left out in the poll right here, right now.
What can we learn from these results?
What can we learn from the results of this poll? I would say not a lot.
There are various reasons for this.
The first reason is the number of votes cast. The proportion of people voting is obviously a very small subset of the Linux community.
It also has to be concluded that the bigger distributions received the highest number of votes. This was always going to be the case because they already have a larger user base and people tend to vote for the distributions they actually like as well as the ones that are actually most important.
I think the comments actually provide far more information than the poll results themselves. The conversation that generated from the poll was very good.
It didn't start that well as the first comment received was:
Who would vote against a particular distro, using another? And why should he or she do so? So you get a nice picture about how many users distros have but nothing more.
Furthermore not all are just forks. Some have a specific purpose but for only a few people.
It is a fair point. Why should people vote? Well to be honest I started the poll as a bit of fun and out of interest to see the response that I would get and how the votes would be cast.
The follow comment was interesting because the person who made it interpreted the question to be "which is your favourite distro?"
The whole idea of "better" is entirely subjective. Better for desktops? Better for servers? Better for commercial software support? Better because I said so and I've been using Linux longer than some of you have been alive? Every distro out there was created to "better" meet the needs of someone.
In equal measures came comments from both sides of the argument that I initially laid out when starting the poll.
Some people say though that it would be better if some of the smaller distro creators concentrated on contributing to their upstream project.
You can argue for both camps in this debate. If there isn't a distro doing what you do and it is worthwhile then there is merit to your work. On the flip side if more people worked on the upstream projects they may be even better than they already are.
The text in blue was written by me at the top of the poll.
The following comments suggest that more is better:
I would rather have as many distros as possible than a limited amount. Some people complain about one and enjoy another, I love 'em ALL! Even the ones I don't use have something to contribute!
The idea of spins, to me, is great. I mean, that's how Linux Mint got started, and what a distro that is! Fedora, for instance, doesn't really care about making life easy for the home desktop user. Enter Korora. It blends some things from Ubuntu and uses the KDE and Gnome desktops to make a nice Fedora experience.
I voted for all the ones I know and have used, because they helped me along the way to what I know now, I'm glad there are so many distros around, many are for specific needs, to "scratch a developers itch" as they say.
In more than equal measure came the following responses:
Just too many distro..! If Linux would want to replace iOS or M$, then we need to combine all the effort..
Exactly!The rest of distro there are ... just parasites over these.Although they bring little added value, they cannot survive alone without the hosts they parasite upon.
There were a few very insightful comments such as:
Presumably, people start these spins because the upstream distribution is not interested in the changes they want to make.
Given that,it's pretty unlikely that the upstream distro is going to welcome the same changes in the form of a so-called contribution.
I think the above point is right. If you use a particular distribution and every time there is a new release you have to do certain things to get it back to the way you like it and then you suggest to the distro developers that they add in your changes but it doesn't materialise then there is a justification for creating your own distribution.
How many people do you need to use your distribution to make it a success? The answer: One. Just you. If you can justify the time and effort to spin your distribution even if it is just a re-spin and it works for you and does everything you require from it then you have justified your time and effort. You have also probably learned quite a bit along the way.
One needs a vast knowledge of the Linux world to answer correctly this question. I have no idea about 80% of the distro listed above. Should I *not* save them? May be they have full of merits and actually I would be happy with one of these?
This is why blogs like this exist. I don't just review the big distributions. I review the smaller ones as well which brings me to the next comment:
I'd love to see in your list some of the FREE distros from the list that FSF post in http://www.gnu.org/distros/free-distros.html.April was certainly a month where I targeted reviews of bigger distributions such as OpenSUSE, Debian and PCLinuxOS.
May will be the month for reviewing smaller distributions and I have already lined up reviews of Emmabuntus, Mozillux, SolyDXK and Linux Royal.
Before I finish I'd like to comment on a few of the other comments. Firstly there is the scientific response suggesting that if I had put the items in a different order then the results would have been different.
I'm guessing that if you displayed the choices randomized differently for each voter the results would differ.As is, I'll bet that the choices listed near the top are favored.An interesting point. If you took the Distrowatch rankings and instead of ordering them by downloads you ordered them alphabetically then would people use a different spread of distributions? I think there would be certain people that would take the pin on the paper approach (The same way that I pick horses at the bookies). I think what would really happen is that people would use Google, Reddit and other distro ratings sites to find out which distributions are most popular. In truth if you go to Reddit on any given day there are people constantly asking which distribution to use.
The other question that came up more than once was "Where is Linux From Scratch?" Whilst I have included this in the honourable mentions above I thought I would comment further. I don't really see Linux From Scratch as a full distribution. It is more a guide showing how to build your own Linux system. In a similar way when I buy flat packed furniture from Argos I don't see for example a wardrobe. I see lots of pieces of wood, screws, tacks, drawer runners and wood glue. Along with that I get instructions of how to build the actual wardrobe.
And my favourite comment.....
I may just build a bigger Ark
I would like to thank everyone who contributed into making this poll a success. I hope you enjoyed reading this short review of the results.
So what happens next.... well clearly we now need to strip it down to just 5 distributions and they are Debian, Ubuntu, Mint, Arch and Fedora.
I voted against Ubuntu. It's actually not necessary in 2013
Oh well maybe we won't then. Maybe we will just keep things the way they are. In truth the world has a happy knack of sorting itself out and the best keep on going and those that become redundant disappear into the mists of time.
For those waiting for something more substantial from this blog, check back next week as I am currently running the new version of Fedora and so there will be a review for that and I am trying something out on the Raspberry PI that I need to write up.
Thank you all for reading