Commentary: United We Stand…the Division in the Linux World

by David Meyer
United Linux is open for business. SuSE releases 8.1 and Red Hat releases 8.0. The Republicans win the elections and you can still find dinner in Washington DC for less than $10.00. But wait, it gets better. Linux is making serious waves with the big boys of IT. IBM, SUN, Hewlett Packard, Oracle and DELL (just to name a few) have openly acknowledged Linux is a force that they need to work with. More and more companies are migrating from Windows to Linux. Life is good and Tux appears to be alive and well. But he could be better.

Since the tragic events of September 11th America has stood united. “United We Stand” is everywhere. But just when Microsoft is starting to shoot themselves in the foot with the licensing model built on greed, Linux division shows its ugly head at perhaps the worst time. I’m not simply referring to the “my distro can beat up your distro” argument that will go on until the end of time. While those arguments are counterproductive, they are just like the Windows 2000 vs. Windows XP arguments. Sometimes it gets entertaining. What I am referring to is the argument of Gnome vs. KDE, and how Red Hat is forcing you to do one thing or another. I’m talking about the “SuSE only lets you upgrade one version, not two like Red Hat, so they suckâ€? comments we see from time to time. Just look on any LUG email list and you’ll see it. I’m as guilty as they come. In my past I was a militant SuSE user. Now I am working on my RHCE certification, and write this from my Washington DC hotel while attending a class. What brought about this change isn’t important. But a result of the change is being able to see just how ridiculous my defending SuSE to the death was. It’s time that the Linux / Open Source community truly show the world that we too are united.

Microsoft users are an interesting lot. They have systems that they have NO control over. They have systems they have to reboot every sixteen minutes. They freely pay Bill Gates obscene amounts of money for buggy programs that they can’t use when they upgrade to the next operating system. It’s almost laughable. But they are united, and most don’t know the first thing about Linux. Why is that? Some have heard of Red Hat, but other than that, most just don’t know. While Linux users may be united in their love of Linux and their dislike of the Microsoft offering. But they are seriously divided in which distro to get behind. And I understand why…because the collective mind of all the Linux users is better than a single mind. It is what made Linux the greatest operating system in the world. If nobody knows about it though, what good is it? The United Linux project is the first step in putting Linux where it needs to be in order to seriously challenge Microsoft for the desktop market. Lycoris (formerly know as Redmond Linux) is starting to make waves and get noticed in that mark as has Lindows. Red Hat is known in every data center I’ve ever been in. SuSE rules Europe and that’s just the beginning. The fact is that there are more Linux distributions than hairs on my head, and that is the very problem…the lack of standards.

While it may never happen, I believe that if Linux is to be all that it can be the Linux world needs to UNITE behind standards. The United Linux campaign is a very good start, but we can’t stop there. Red Hat, Lycoris and even Debian need to get on this group. Once that happens we can put on a united front and go after the desktop market and the common user…together. Each distribution has a strong corporate client base, so in the big picture, it really doesn’t matter what distribution the user chooses, as long as they choose Linux. The fact is that when we win over Microsoft users, we ALL win. The corporate base will always be there because Linux has proven itself. When we truly put on a united face and go after the common desktop user, Open Source wins. Linux wins, and Tux will be a household name.


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