Musings of an anonymous geek

November 1, 2004

What your choice of linux distro says about you

Filed under: Linux — m0j0 @ 8:18 am

So I read this article by Joe Barr, a writer I correspond with often and generally get along well with. Unfortunately, my personal opinion is that an article like that really belongs on a blog, rather than a site with “news” in the name. On the other hand, I have no doubt Joe had fun with the piece, as it seems like a fun undertaking, so I said “self, you have a blog, and this looks like fun, so have at it”. Here, then, are my (less PC) takes on the stereotypes associated with the different distributions of linux.


Debian is for people who believe that a package manager is the most critical piece of software in the entire distribution. These people also think nothing of running a 2.2 kernel on the heels of the 2.6 kernel release. They consistently fail to mention the numerous problems you can run into with apt, and that it’s not perfect, as if they’re on some political “hide the truth” campaign. Truth is, all package managers suck to some degree, so you better like the rest of the distro, too. Also, these people equate the words “old” and “stable”.


This distribution is used by people who don’t go to Linux newbie forums, and when they do, generally keep their mouths shut. No need to go blabbing about their distro, thereby attracting these newbies to the gentoo forums, crowding it with questions like “What is X?”. They are happy to be part of a silent minority of Linux users who actually like their distribution.


I agree with Joe on this one, for the most part. The other side of the Knoppix coin, though is that a subsect of Knoppixland is made up of hackers who depend on physical access to get their work done. With physical access and a Knoppix CD, they automatically own any box that has a CDROM drive in it. For the most part though, it’s a bunch of very aggressive zealots who feel that Knoppix was initially burned onto tablets and given to Moses, who then brought them down from the mountain to spread across the land.


I don’t know why this distro was included. There’s nothing about Linspire that qualifies the user base as being part of the Linux community. These are people who wouldn’t understand if you told them they didn’t have to pay either for Linux or OpenOffice, because they’re used to being dragged across the coals by both CompUSA and Microsoft.


Mandrake users are Redhat users on holiday. It’s either a diversion from the up2date rigamarole of daily work life, a stepping stone to a more advanced distribution, or a goodwill effort by those who believe in the work Mandrake does, even if they don’t particularly like the software.


The only people I’ve ever heard of who actually use MEPIS work for the OSDN/OSTG. I can’t imagine why a distro that is used by tens of people would be included in a list of distros used by tens of thousands of people. I’m happy the users at the OSDN/OSTG like MEPIS and try to help at every turn, but at the same time I think it’s taking undue advantage of their position as a news publication (or something like that). [DISCLAIMER: I do freelance writing for OSDN/OSTG, as of this writing]


Redhat users are pessimists who feel like they might just as well dwell in the same technological pit of despair as everyone else, because at least there’s company, and some support along with it. They are also pragmatists who need an entire system rather than just a package manager, or just a nice GUI, so their quest is really for a distribution that can solve 85% of all their problems, instead of one that solves 95% of one rather small problem.


Slackware is for people who haven’t discovered the wonders of things like centralized account management and PAM. They are also followers of an invisible man named Patrick who makes all of their technical decisions for them, which is fine with them. They are the neanderthals of the Linux world, who seem to take pride in their plight to keep a barely breathing distribution alive on artificial life support at least until the passing of the great Patrick.


Users of this distribution are fed up with every other distro. They used to stay away from SuSe because all of the good support threads were in German. Now that it lives in Utah, they’re suspicious and on the watch for any wacky behavior, but otherwise happy with their distribution and happy to keep it to themselves for the most part. Privately, they are all former Redhat users who are tired of being shamed by the rants of Redhat execs.


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