July 12, 2004

Why Linux repositories are a huge competitive advantage for Linux

Author: Chris DiBona

My friend Robin Miller recently wrote a very decent article about how
spoiled we Linux users are, which inspired me to write this article that I've been kind of meaning to write for a while anyway, an article about
how the various Linux repositories are and have been such a vast competitive advantage for Linux.

You should definitely read the comments on that article. There were some terrific points made about Microsoft's role as the dominant source for
desktop software limiting their ability to bundle, and how things are much easier to install on Windows, that I found insightful.

The reality of adding software to an operating system is that every application you add makes it more difficult to keep your installation secure,
stable, and up to date. This is true no matter what OS and applications you use.

Microsoft goes on about this kind of thing often, describing their Windows Update service as the path away from security and stability problems
for their operating system. They are mostly correct in that. Windows Update provides a vital service for users, that of keeping security holes closed, certain infrastructural software up to date, and in generally keeping software in good shape.

But since Microsoft doesn't have a process which is open to third party ISV's, you cannot easily update all of your applications using Windows Update. Linux distributions have a fantastic
advantage in that you can have all of your software come from a single repository if you choose. This makes Linux distributions much easier to maintain.

In Windows, if you want to keep other programs up-to-date, you are pretty much on your own. Some programs will auto-update, particularly games. But other programs are static.

With Fedora Core, applications that are not in a yum repository are the exception, not the rule. Same with Debian and apt, and Red Hat and RHN.
Linux distributions have always been very good about including a great number of packages in their repositories. Linux repositories aren't
perfect, but they are miles ahead of competing proprietary commercial offerings.

In fact, this very feature, combined with a guaranteed library set and security updates, is what Red Hat has had a great deal of success selling to ISVs. In case you were wondering why ISV's tend to target RH Enterprise, it is because RH guarantees that the target won't move so fast
from a library and support file location perspective. This was you can
have updatability and the security that comes with it while maintaining a stable platform to run your application/site/database on.

These update methods are coming for Windows desktops, I'm sure. But a Linux user doesn't have to wait for them to arrive.


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