Think of it
as a form of intentional and directed punctuated equilibrium, if you
From a security point of view (and that is what I'm supposed to be
talking about here, isn't it?), we have a chance to see what will come
from the merger of different mindsets. SuSE, for example, impressed me
early on with the security scripts and tools they shipped before other
distributions were even worrying about proactive security measures.
The UnitedLinux white paper stresses their security systems more than I
expected, given that the distro itself seems geared toward ISVs
(Independent Software Vendors) and IHVs (Independent Hardware Vendors)
who, traditionally, have taken the 'security only slows things down'
approach. However, all of our favorite tools will be available:
netfilter (a.k.a., iptables), for firewalls and much more; Snort
(http://www.snort.org) and ACID
(http://www.andrew.cmu.edu/~rdanyliw/snort/snortacid.html) for IDS
(intrusion detection) and analysis; SSL for all available protocols
(pop/imap/smtp/ldap/http/etc); various encrypted filesystems; IPSec for
creating secure VPNs or host-to-host transmissions; and, naturally, all
the PAM authentication methods you could shake a stick at.
One Remaining Question
How easily can UnitedLinux provide these features to the end user and
administrators? The trick will be to create software that is easy enough
for an idiot to administer, without making it easy enough for an idiot
As with any big project, more parties becoming involved increases the
risk of gaining less ground due to internal busywork, more meetings, and
less sense of direction. I think, in this case, there will be a strong
incentive to get this distribution out the door on schedule (version 1.0
release is scheduled for Q4, 2002). Regardless of how the literature may
be written, UnitedLinux's real goal is to rival Red Hat's current
position in the marketplace.
If they can do it by creating a better Linux distribution , then I'm
all in favor of it. After all, it's just evolution in action.
 I fully support the idea of distro's that do things right becoming
popular and stronger in the marketplace. However, given that
UnitedLinux may be stretching the GPL based on their plans to
charge per-seat licenses for the system, I'm going to be watching
situation very carefully. Such plans, which UnitedLinux member
Caldera has implemented in the past, have met with pretty strong