Linux and Choice

I ran across this message from the Red Hat mailing list today on Hacker News: Linux is not about choice. Even though it’s from 2008, it stills strikes a chord with our community. In it, Adam Jackson has this to say about the “Linux is about choice” idea:

If I could only have one thing this year, it would be to eliminate that meme from the collective consciousness. It is a disease. It strangles the mind and ensures you can never change anything ever because someone somewhere has OCD'd their environment exactly how they like it and how dare you change it on them you're so mean and next time I have friends over for Buffy night you're not invited mom he's sitting on my side again.

I think he has a valid point. He goes on to explain that we don’t need 90 different ways to accomplish everything in a GNU/Linux distro. Jackson points out that developers shouldn’t “ship everything and let the user chose[sic] how they want their sound to not work”. I agree. When it comes to “core” utilities, like audio, wireless, greeters, etc there should really only be one option. No one should think that ALSA sounds “higher quality” than Pulseaudio or whatever the audio options are. They should just have working audio that sounds good.

However, we should have options for other things, like desktop environments. I wrote recently abou how openbox is the perfect lightweight window manager, and I think that there should be a few options so that most of us can find out perfect set up. But these are outside the core of the distro and having options there generally doesn’t impact the “Just Works” aspect of your OS unless you make it.

So what we really need is working audio, filesystems, wireless, etc with options for the high level junk like browsers and email clients. If we focused on this, then core distro developers could create stable, efficient operating systems that everyone can stand on.