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Distro Competition Sessions needed?

March 23rd, 2011 by

In my last blog I was mentioning the “Distribution Wettstreit” which translates in “distribution competition” held on the Chemnitzer Linuxtage event. The idea of that session is to have distros lined up on stage and give them a task and see how each of them is able to solve it and compare that. I participated for openSUSE but the session left some question marks for me. Here are my thoughts how the idea could be improved.

As far as I know it happened the second time in Chemnitz, were Debian, Fedora, Mandriva, Pardus, Ubuntu and openSUSE were on stage. The tasks we got were every day problems, such as playing a flash movie or how to display a html 5 page. openSUSE was lucky with a one week old release, so wonder why we can handle HTML5 directly and others who released earlier can not?

Apples and Oranges

Apples and Oranges

I have to say that I do not like this kind of session too much. It is great to compare distributions, and also to do it kind of interactively and live. But even given that all involved know that its not about finding a winner and a looser, in this format there are too many parameters that influence the whole thing: First, the release date. Younger distros tend to be better than older ones. Second, it highly depends on the person who sits in front of the machine and explains what he does to solve the problem. One must be able to solve the task technically, and than she/he must be able to talk about it appealingly.

Different distros target at different user groups, and you quickly compare apples with oranges. I think it should be realized as a benefit that we’re different, and that does not necessarily need to end up in a competition everywhere. Moreover, we should appreciate if people remain playful and try distros as they like instead of trying to nail them to one forever.

Maybe next time we can rather have a “The combined power of the Linux variety” -session [working title] instead? In that we could try to work out the differences between the distros and which user groups could benefit from them. I mean, the variety in the FOSS community is the great advantage that we have over other systems and we should express it. And our similarities which we certainly have should also be brought on the table. To whom do we really compete? I guess we should be compared against commercial systems which tend to lock the user in with huge consequences or have security-, innovation- and other issues. Why not line up on stage and show the audience how we together beat these system with free software in various ways for the good of the user?

Yes, playing flash movies is a every users problem, and I know the “I don’t care, it simply needs to work!”-attitude lots of users do have. We as free software distributions had and have to find ways to deal with it, and we all have our solutions. But whats really important is not to present new users that we even though in general can not work with Flash, we found a workaround.

The more important message is why its dark in some corners of FOSS world, how that can be improved and who is able to change that. I think it would be awesome if that could be taken more into account the next time we have the opportunity to speak to such an audience as distributions together.

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8 Responses to “Distro Competition Sessions needed?”

  1. damian

    Hi, I think that what should be tested in these competitions is what each distro does best, for example kubuntu did some work for kde about printing dialogs, and I think some pulseaudio, if this stuff is good, it should get to other distributions.
    Also if one distribution handles multimedia better because it has backend X and library Y, then they should be used in the other distributions (as long as distributions philosophies are respected of course).
    With this I mean, If ,just an example, fedora got vlc phonon backend to consume less cpu, then the other distrubutions should package it/ patch it the same way if it works better (also contribute upstream of course).

  2. wobo

    Let me pls correct a small error in the list of participants in Chemnitz. I don’t know who you are referring to as “Magiera” but I guess you mean “Mandriva Linux”. Strikes me that you seem to have such lack of knowledge about the major distribution names (there is no “Magiera” around) :)

    But I agree to most points of your text. While I was a bit miffed by one guy taking the opportunity to marketing his distribution and his book rather than stick to the overall run of the session, I also see your point about comparing different fruits.

    OTOH new users (the target group) are presented with these different distributions. Their primary interest should be to pick the right distro. So, a more general presentation would be asked for.

    I saw the “competition” in Berlin and there the whole thing went much different. Instead of trying to compete the participants just showed their different solutions to the question (package management, updates) and even jumped in helpful when one of them got stuck in his presentation. This way they presented the common spirit of cooperation instead of competition.

    • wobo

      >Strikes me that you seem to have such lack of knowledge about the major distribution names (there is no “Magiera” around) :)

      After reading I realize that this may come around a bit offensive, sorry, it was not meant this way! I was only surprised!

      • Klaas Freitag

        No problem, let me apologize for screwing the name, no intention behind it. I corrected it in the blog text. Thanks for notification.

        • Well, it could’ve been Mageia :P

          • wobo

            > Well, it could’ve been Mageia

            I was asked by the initiator of the session whether I’d like to let Mandriva or Mageia participate (I was responsible for both in Chemnitz) but I decided to leave Mageia out of the competition becuase it is still Alpha(2) at the moment.

            BTW: the initiator and moderator of the session did not want to use the word “Wettkampf” (competition), it was the organisation of the whole event who brought this up because it sounds more attractive :(. Same will possibly happen in Berlin Linuxtag in May.

  3. Diederik van der Boor

    > I think it should be realized as a benefit that we’re different,
    > and that does not necessarily need to end up in a competition everywhere.

    Very well said! One of the reasons companies/distro’s/etc. compete is because they have not figured out their unique aspects yet. Being all “same-same but different” means you’re fighting in the same pool, for the same bone. Being specialized in something allows both to stand out, without being competitors.

  4. Excellent piece! We need a better way to display the differences between distributions while emphasizing the greater Linux community that supports all of us.

    I’m always reminded of the time I went to a user group meeting a few years back to talk about “openSUSE Unleashed.” A guy pulled me over afterward and said it must suck to be tied to just one distribution. I admitted that while I still really like openSUSE, it is fun to see how other distributions work.