Distrohoppers suffer from “Cable Television Syndrome”

When I was a child there were only three television channels in the United Kingdom, BBC1, BBC2 and ITV. The only programmes dedicated to children were shown between 4pm and 5.30pm every weekday and between 9 am and 1pm on a Saturday morning.

The choice of programmes on offer were Dangermouse, Scooby Doo and Knightmare on ITV and lord knows what on BBC because they were usually pretty poor affairs until after 5pm when Grange Hill would start.
Every night after school I would walk the 2 miles back to my nan’s house and my nan would invariably let my sister and I choose the viewing. Of course on occasion this led to arguments and my poor nan and granddad would have to adjudicate based on reasonable arguments put forth by us squabbling kids.
In the mid to late 1980s something bad happened. Something very bad happened. Channel 4 made its way onto our television screens and our viewing pleasure was ruined forever. Channel 4 had a new television series called Countdown and if you are in the UK you will appreciate the effect this has on old people and students.
My nan was instantly hooked on the word and numbers gameshow and no longer did we have control over the television. I never did find out what happened in Jossie’s Giants or Press Gang.
As childhood turned to adulthood I became addicted to all things football and cricket. On ITV there was “The Match” and during the summer the BBC would show all the test matches (which my mum moaned about during Wimbledon fortnight, “Why do they show so much cricket, we are missing the tennis”).
There was a scheduling problem for the BBC. Only 2 television channels and 2 major sporting events but they couldn’t possibly give 2 whole channels over to sport.
Alas this wasn’t a problem that ITV and BBC had to contend with for long because a new television phenomenon was just around the corner in the shape of Sky television.
Sky brought satellite television to the UK and promptly set about stealing the football, cricket, golf, motor racing and any sport that had more than 5 people interested in it.
For a while Sky was prohibitively expensive and so my enjoyment of football and cricket was limited to highlight packages and the odd cup game.
Every now and then a new competitor to Sky would come along like the ill-fated OnDigital and latterly Setanta sports but they disappeared without a trace leaving Sky with complete domination.
Fortunately Sky reduced their prices and satellite television was available to the masses including myself.
Suddenly 5 channels (I neglected to mention that Channel 5 came to the UK because on the whole it barely registers as a television channel with the exceptions of “The Gadget Show” and “Cowboy Builders”) became 50 and 50 became 100 and still you will hear the following:
“What is on television tonight?”
“Nothing. It is all rubbish”.
This is of course nonsense. There are plenties of programs on television but because we are so spoilt now we dismiss things that in the 1980s we’d have been happy to watch.
For instance when they used to show re-runs of “Some mothers do ‘ave ‘em” in the 1980s you would have heard a collective “brilliant, I like that” but now if you see re-runs of anything you think “Are they really showing that again?”.
In the 1980s I would happily have watched game shows like “Bullseye” and endless repeats of “Knight Rider”, “The A-Team” and “The Fall Guy”. Nowadays, unless it is new I don’t really want to watch it.
Of course the truth is I still watch endless re-runs, shows that are default options when there is nothing else to watch such as “Peep Show”, “The IT Crowd” and “The Big Bang Theory”. I don’t really want to watch them but if there is nothing else available, they will have to do.
At this point most of you will be wondering what any of this has to do with Linux and distro-hopping. Distro-hoppers suffer from what I like to call “Cable television syndrome”.
“Cable Television Syndrome” is the act of stating that there is nothing available on any of the 100s of television channels and is a direct cause of too much choice, therefore settling for none of them.
Distro-hoppers clearly suffer from the same affliction. They like desktop A but like the applications in distro B but the installer from distro C. Distro C doesn’t come with Flash yet distro D has Flash and all the multimedia codecs already installed but for some reason can’t run Steam. Distro E can run all of the above but has been dumbed down too darned much.
Sky television has done something to help those of us with “Cable Television Syndrome” by giving us “Sky Plus” which lets us look in advance to what is coming on and record and watch programs as and when we choose to watch them thereby giving us our own virtual television channel. If that isn’t enough there is an on demand channel which lets us watch 3 months of Sky movies by pressing a little red button.
It isn’t just Sky helping the “CTS” sufferers. As good as Sky plus is you can only record 2 programs at the same time or record 1 program whilst watching another. There are occasions when you want to record 2 programs but watch a third program that is on another channel. Luckily the clever television people have given us +1 channels which show the same program just one hour later. All in all there really is no excuse for ever saying “There is nothing on”.
Distro-hoppers have a choice as well and it is called the Ubuntu Minimal ISO or the Debian Minimal ISO. (Already I have given you 2 choices and there are loads more but then I would be giving you a whole new syndrome).
Take the Ubuntu Minimal ISO (Or Debian one), install the desktop environment of your choice, install the packages of your choice and customise it to be exactly how you would like it to be. The minimal ISOs are the Linux equivalent of Sky Plus. You are in control, it is your distro and you can do with it whatever you please.
Thankyou for reading


  1. It's one of the reasons I still use Windows 7 as my main OS and not Linux. Windows 7 has superior application support with a decent UI. I've never found a Linux distro that just fits right and justifies the tweaking necessary to feel right which I might as well not do if Windows 7 already works.

  2. I used to think that the minimal ISO was enough, but then I found about the "Ubuntu Builder" project. I had a lot of fun using it. Customizing builds for myself and for the company that I work for. Sadly the project is now discontinued as of on 2014-03-10. I know about alternatives such as "UCK" or "Remastersys" but none of those compared to "Ubuntu Builder" . Hopefully someone will pick up from the Ubuntu Builder project left off. 😐

  3. I actually think the Sky + analogy is wrong.

    The minimal distro is more attune to unplugging cable and watching netflix/amazon prime/bit torrent/web streaming shows. watch what you want, when you want and only that.

  4. I've always just stuck with a simple install and dropped my preferred packages on to it. I know some windows people gripe, but really, have you used a bone stock install of Windows? You spend hours downloading and installing software there too. At least on linux, you can just yum or apt-get everything you want, and let it do its thing. The only real distros I've followed other than RHEL (for work), and Debian, was Kanotix>Sidux>Aptosid. I liked having a more robust live CD and Knoppix was flakey as all get out. The only thing I had to really pay attention to was the name changes (pretty much entire dev team left Kanotix when Kano decided to abandon Debian Sid as a base to form Sidux, and then legal issues forced the name change from Sidux to Aptosid)

  5. I've been 100 % GNU/Linux for the past thirteen years. For the last two years, I came back to Slackware, the first distro I used back in 2001. I'm using it now exclusively on servers and desktops. I used to be proficient on most of the existing distros (Debian, CentOS, Arch, Gentoo, even LFS) but nowadays I don't even look elsewhere. Slackware is perfect for all my needs.

  6. I don't know if the analogy applies or not, but I'll take it at face value for I think it's somewhat useful.

    Let me say for starters though that cable TV really got nothing. I used to be a great fan of "Friends", but now cannot bear the infinite repetition they force us to see. Clothes are starting to look outdated. As I am kinda old, I recall feeling the same because of old Lassie reruns.

    We sure have a lot of distros, but the selection criteria are not always based on personal whim. Sometimes I want to test a 64-bit version, or I may need a distro for my old 32-bit only machine. On the powerful ones I may want to use KDE, while in a netbook I might accept a window manager as a compromise for usability. I may want a LTS version for my wife's notebook, but feel the need to try the latest developments in a rolling distro.

    As for Windows 7, I'm forced to use it at work and it sucks. I don't like the Mac interface but at least it does not suck.

  7. Fedora, OpenSUSE, or Debian minimal are good choices as well, in addition to Arch, Gentoo, or Slack, if you want your own desktop configuration and your own software. Just hope you have the patience to compile everything in Gentoo, and Slack is supposed to be a pain in the rear to install too, but Arch is fairly easy if you follow the instructions. As for Fedora, OpenSUSE, and Debian minimal installs, there's nothing to the installation.

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