Does Linux need more distributions and desktop environments?

In today's open source roundup: Does Linux have enough distros and desktop environments? Plus: Pear OS lives on, and open source licensing choices really do matter

By , ITworld |  Open Source, Linux, open source

One of the best things about Linux is that there's literally a distribution for everybody. Linux offers users the greatest range of choices of any desktop operating system. But do we need even more options? Softpedia thinks that we do and explains the advantages of having more desktop environments and distros.

According to Softpedia:

What people don't really understand is that Linux needs as many Linux distributions and desktop environments as possible, much more than it has now. This is not about competition, but the other way around, it's about completion.

If someone makes something good, all the other developers will want to have it. This is one of the most important ways in which a project is capable of influencing another project without actually sharing code. This can only be efficient if there are many people out there doing similar, but parallel work.

If developers were to gather around a few major projects, like some members of the Linux community would suggest, these kinds of innovations would be much less frequent. The same is true for Linux distributions and any other kind of applications.

More at Softpedia

Linux Needs More Desktop Environments and Distributions
Image credit: Softpedia

I've always believed "the more, the merrier" when it comes to Linux so I'm inclined to agree with Softpedia's take on this. Innovation often comes from different people offering their own ideas about how to do something, and that helps push Linux development further along with each software iteration.

Pear OS downloads continue
Softpedia also reports that Pear OS downloads continue despite the fact that the distribution was sold to an undisclosed company a while back.

According to Softpedia:

What's even more interesting is the fact that Pear OS continues to be downloaded quite a lot and surpasses some newly launched Linux distros that promise support for a long time. Since the developer announced the end of Pear OS in January, the distribution was downloaded from Softpedia over 35,000 times, with an average of 300 downloads every day.

To end this with a fun trivia fact, Pear OS was forked shortly after its closure by a developer. The new Clementine OS was announced, but its developer received a letter from an American company that forced him to abandon the project. The name of the company was not revealed, but the Clementine developers said that it wasn't Apple.

More at Softpedia

The mystery of who bought Pear OS continues, and I find it more than a little amusing that so many people are still downloading it. How odd that a Linux distribution made to resemble OS X has gotten so much attention, and generated so much interest in the Linux community. It's a strange story all around.

Open source licensing
Dr. Dobb's examines the importance of open source licensing as it related to the sustainability of open source projects.

According to Dr. Dobb's:

The root cause is a fundamental conflict at the heart of open source: the opposing forces of building community vs. deriving a sustainable level of revenue from an open-source project.

Projects that look for revenue to sustain themselves often choose the so-called "copyleft" licenses, (GPL, AGPL, etc.), which require that the licensees open their source code under a similar license. The revenue benefit for the project comes from the ability to offer alternative licensing terms to licensees that prefer not to disclose their source code.

There is unfortunately no license to straddle the business-friendly vs. copyleft divide. As a result, projects that need a revenue stream to sustain them but opt for a business-friendly license to develop a community face significant difficulties. This was the case with OpenSSL. The team chose an Apache/BSD-style license. This successfully built community but, it turns out, communities simply do not pay for their tools. Even well-heeled users, such as Cisco and Google, don't pay.

More at Dr. Dobb's

I was not aware that Google had a policy of not paying for open source tools that it uses in its products. Large companies, including but certainly not limited to Google, should reexamine their attitudes and policies. If they want the advantages of open source software then they ought to help those projects out financially or stop using those tools altogether.

What's your take on all this? Tell me in the comments below.

The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of ITworld.

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