[LWN Logo]

Date: Sat, 12 Sep 1998 01:38:17 +0000
From: David Hamilton <davidh@bearoak.com>
To: lwn@eklektix.com
Subject: Linux growing pains

I like the new format, by the way.  It makes it much easier to find
information, now that there is so much information each week.  :-)))

Thanks for the editorial regarding responses to Linux appearing in the
mainstream press.  I have felt embarassment when seeing some of the
flaming responses to an article that was simply naieve.  It reminds me
of the responses by "Mac-Bigots" over the past decade that have been a
source of amusement to those in the mainstream press.  But there is an
important differnce with Linux -- there is no marketing department
and/or PR department to mitigate the flames and provide the "voice of
reason" regarding Linux.

Members of the press who want to research Linux for an article are
confronted by a maze of Linux-related web sites and cannot discern the
mainstream from the factions.  Some have assumed that the discussions
on Slashdot speak for the majority -- the often silent majority.  If
they are dilligent, they can find lwn, Linux International, LG, and
other sources of info.  But it is confusing to them.  They are so
accustomed to receiving press releases that are carefully coordinated.

Unfortunately, the situation also applies to commercial software
vendors seeking to port to the Linux platform(s).  RedHat has the
largest installed base, but has shot itself in the foot repeatedly
with releases that have been less-than-stable.  Debian has the most
stable environment, but can also be overtly hostile to commercial
products.  Caldera is stable but has a rather narrow focus.  SuSE is a
good product but has their own identity problems.  Slackware has
chosen not to participate in the growth.  None has fully implemented
the existing file system standards.  This presents a dangerous
situation, considering the current rate of growth and the number of
commercial applications vendors that want to port to Linux.  They are
left with a choice between porting to the lowest common denominator,
throwing their support behind one or two distributions, or releasing
their own Linux distribution.

I am a software developer.  I use Debian on my primary development
workstation, with a commercial X server to support dual-headed
displays.  My primary file / print / modem server runs FreeBSD. 
Another system runs the latest RedHat release + upgrades.  Yet another
dual boots to either Caldera or SuSE, to check compatibility.  KDE is
running one one of the systems, Gnome on another, and Fvwm on my
primary workstation. Oh, and there is a Solaris system in there too,
because I have to make a living.  I feel like the (former) Yugoslavia
of Linux.  Those of various religious affiliations and "ethnic"
lineages are espousing their sometimes narrow and sometimes
divisionist views.  Sometimes I think that the only thing that we all
agree upon is the kernal and perl.  :-))

As a respected member of the Linux press base, I ask you to create a
press kit for the mainstream press, using the calm and unbiased view
that you have so aptly demonstrated.  Things are confusing enough for
those of us in the middle of it.  We need to take pity on the poor
members of the mainstream press who are trying to discover Linux for
themselves from the outside.