March 24, 2019

.comment: The Price of the Bleeding - page 3

Deja Vu All Over Again

  • October 11, 2000
  • By Dennis E. Powell

In the interview, too, Red Hat said (I paraphrase) that releasing flaky, nonstandard, and possibly unreliable stuff is the only way to advance the product. Nonsense. I can point to two other outfits that maintain very reliable distributions while offering the outer limits to users who want to go there: Debian has its unstable tree. Caldera has a second distribution, a kind of technology preview (that you can buy in many places for $19.99 with a $20 rebate), that has nothing to do with its flagship product.

Red Hat itself has had its Rawhide ftp directory, where the cutting edge stuff is available, all compiled in neat little RPMs, allowing Red Hat to maintain control.

The advantage here is that it becomes a matter of user choice, and by definition a more informed user choice. It's one thing to decide to try out the latest development version of the compiler, or C libraries, or XFree86. It's an entirely different thing to package it all up and tell businesses it's just what their IT department, likely made up of Microsoft-certified types, needs.

There's a choice that's even more obvious: anyone who cares to run a developmental version of gcc is perfectly free to download the source and build it. That's the tradition, and it has built into it wonderful safeguards: no one does it accidentally, and no one who is technically inept will succeed at it. This means that there's a pretty good chance that anyone undertaking the project will have an idea why he or she is doing it and will be aware of the risks and problems involved.

What makes no sense at all is slapping together a distribution of stuff that is not exemplary of the stability and reliability of Linux and then luring businesses in, saying that it represents the best that Linux has to offer.

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