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UserLinux Beta 1: The Precursor to the Next Enterprise Linux Distro?

Setting The Enterprise Stage

  • October 14, 2004
  • By Sean Michael Kerner

UserLinux is a Linux distribution with very high aspirations. Founded and backed by Linux luminary Bruce Perens, part of the UserLinux mission is to repair the economic paradigm of enterprise Linux. The recently released UserLinux Beta 1 is perhaps a tangible small step on the path toward achieving its lofty ambitions.

It wasn't that long ago when Linux was just Linux and not broken down into the hobbyist, desktop, and enterprise classifications. That was when Linux was only considered worthy by many enterprises for edge-of-network and non-mission critical applications like file and Web servers.

Linux has since evolved and so have its users; enterprise users want enterprise distributions with all the support, features and security that define the modern IT infrastructures. Yet somehow along the way, the current enterprise distributions, while delivering Linux to enterprise users have also, in the view of some, broken faith with some of the altruistic ideals of free software

"We, the Free Software developers, created this software to empower everyone, and for everyone to share," Perens wrote in his UserLinux manifesto. "But today's Enterprise Linux is a lock-in play, designed to draw the customer into expensive subscriptions and single-vendor service. Customers are made to agree not to pass service bulletins on to others. While this is within the letter of the licenses that we crafted for our software, it's outside of their spirit."

With UserLinux, the general idea is that support and service will be provided to end users via a network of for profit individual service vendors. On top of those individual vendors will be the 'large entity' overarching UserLinux organization that will tie it all together, certify and authorize the individual service vendors and of course put out the distribution itself.

The actual UserLinux distribution itself is based upon Debian--more specifically the currently unstable (though soon to be stabilized and released) next version codenamed 'Sarge'. This really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that is familiar with Bruce Perens' resume; he is, after all, a former Debian Project leader.

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