As lots of people will be aware, Linux is a fully functional, open source, operating system which runs on a massive variety of hardware platforms (from embedded devices to high end servers), comes with all the source code, comes with a massive variety of application packages (massive is an understatement) and generally costs nothing.
One of the other “wonders” of Linux, is the different variations you can have (often called Distro’s or Distributions). Vendors such as Novell (SuSE), Mandrake, RedHat (etc) all make versions. The sheer scale of the different distros is hard to appreciate but take a look at the DistroWatch website to see what is out there, or for a smaller sample, Wikipedia has a shorter list.
Despite this great variety, there is a common theme in that all the distros are – broadly speaking – the same. You execute commands in the same manner, you have a root account in the same manner etc. Add to this the similarity to Unix and you can see why linux is great and this spread of distros is not something to be scared of.
Now, not all that long ago a new distro appeared which while being good was hardly “better” than the others. In fact, this new distro changed some of the fundamental ways Linux used to do things (no root account for example) and created a “learning curve” for people moving from one distro to another. One thing this distro did do which was good, was to ship hundreds of installation disks for free. This distro was Ubuntu.
Since Ubuntu managed to flood the market, it has grown in popularity at an astonishing rate. This is not exactly something I was initially over the moon about (for examples, look at these search results) but it is good to see Linux get more mass market publicity.
However, as time progresses I now think it may not be such a good thing. Months ago, I gave up on PCW because it was becoming morbidly repetetive and the Unix column mentioned nothing but Ubuntu. If this was kept to generic “Unix ways of doingt things” it might not be a bad thing, but it isn’t. It is almost invariably Ubuntu specific things.
Recently I had the chance to read through back issues and the current issue of PCW – including the Unix column – and this trend has remained. The current one should be ashamed to call itself a “Unix” article. The whole section is now Ubuntu articles. Each month the author waxes lyrical about how great the latest distro is and how to work round the weird way Ubuntu does things.
As far as I can see it, this trend carries over to pretty much all the general PC publications, and worryingly is present (in smaller doses) on the more specialist magazines. As more and more people get locked into the Ubuntu way of doing things, Linux as it used to be will cease to exist and the day where Linux is a single OS in the manner of Windows will be upon us.
This is not a good thing.