I Sense Serious Changes

Well, I am trying to be a mystic here but it seems like there is something really changing for the good right now. First I read about Red Hat dropping the desktop and then see The BBC talking about Ubuntu in a very positive way.

This may not be a surprise but, for me, I "feel" the subtext here. Maybe it is personal bias or, well, personal experience. Here is my read.

Once Red Hat became "legitimate" (meaning went public and got a lot of money) it seems they were on the "let's be like Microsoft" road. They made a lot of decisions (such as avoiding LSB compliance) to make their systems work just a bit different from everyone else. That could have paid off. That is, people could have picked Red Hat (many did) and more or less locked themselves into that direction.

Them dropping the desktop pretty much means that didn't happen. And what Ubuntu/Kubuntu is certainly contributed to their inability to cause people to pick the Red Hat path. Thus, a real free desktop happened. People can now even pick between Ubuntu and Kubuntu to get their favorite look and feel without having to go back to square one.

Now, to Microsoft's credit, they have helped out as well. Their help has included:

  • License enforcement in countries such as Costa Rica to help people realize they could only afford Linux prices.
  • Some really bad political moves (such as the recent open document format fiasco) that make them look like scum.
  • Releasing a new version of their OS that won't run on most of the computers in the world.

So, what's next? I think the answer is the server market. Once again, Red Hat is selling their "Linux but different" answer. With only bad offerings from Microsoft and the totally unsupported land of Debian (in the eyes of the suits) as the alternatives, things have been pretty easy for them. But, with Shuttleworth on a roll, my look into the crystal ball suggests that Ubuntu servers are the future of Linux as well. But, as I never had any Red Hat stock anyway, I am not going to get worried.


Phil Hughes


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it seems they were on the "let's be like Microsoft" road.

John Larsen's picture

This is a rather unfair statement.
I'm running two CentOS 5 servers and a number of Fedora 8 clients at home. For very little cost ( I bought the install CD's) I have RH servers without RH's support.

When I can legally run an unsupported version of MS server 2003 at a cost of less than $20 with the blessings of Microsoft then I might accept the comparison. Until then I'll have to disagree with you.


Anonymous's picture

Mark Shuttleworth is a great person...I am hoping that some sort of deal could be reached between Canonical and RedHat, such that RedHat continue to supply large server systems, and Ubuntu/Kubuntu supply the associated desktop or thin client needs (and smaller server OS's). Novell currently does all of this in-house, but there is certainly room for more players to fill the needs of the many beginning the migration away from Microsoft products. This would also provide an option for those who do not wish to be involved in any type of *interoperability* contract that benefits Microsoft.

It is probably unlikely that Ubuntu server will rapidly make it to the big time (except,Ubuntu rose to fame quickly...), but RedHat is the world's leader in server OS's, so this would seem to make a lot of sense (to me, at least). The world badly needs to get out from under Microsoft's thumb, and if the Linux companies cooperate with each other (and avoid the many traps being set by M$), there is a great deal of business that need to be taken over, right now.

Maybe it is personal

Gordon Messmer's picture

Maybe it is personal bias

Yes, I'm inclined to believe that it is.

[Red Hat] made a lot of decisions (such as avoiding LSB compliance)

Not to be rude, but I call bullshit. Red Hat Linux was one of the first distributions to be certified compliant with the LSB by the Free Standards Group.

to make their systems work just a bit different from everyone else.

Red Hat has been a major contributor to every fundamental project in a GNU/Linux system. Their contributions were unrivaled for many years. Even today, Fedora is the distribution which best exemplifies the Free Software ethos, except for Debian. Ubuntu? Well, there's a "Gobuntu" fork that's Free. The main distribution... not so much.

To the best of my knowledge, the only thing Red Hat has ever produced that wasn't a Free Software product was RHN server. Originally, they planned to clean it up and release it, but I believe that with apt-get ported to RPM, and the introduction of yum, there was no longer any motivation.

If I were to guess, my money would say that the strongest reason for Red Hat not to release a commercial desktop product is that there's no way it could be profitable in the face of Fedora. There are too many free desktop distributions to make a commercially supported desktop profitable.

Thank you

leadsling's picture

Gotta love Ubuntu fanboys. Red Hat has been the epitome of free software. to the point that you can get a virtual clone of it via Centos. And it still runs on a lot more hardware than Ubuntu ever has. I think Red Hat believes that it won't be any problem to integrate Linux desktops, whether from Ubuntu or Mandriva or PCLinuxOS or Fedora into their environment. They just don't want to be tied down with trying to support all the 3rd party hardware mess that barely runs in windows, much less Linux or Mac or anything else.

I think RH does not want to do desktop support

Karl O. Pinc's picture

IMO RedHat does not want to be behind the help desk getting those support calls from people who still wonder why the coffee holder built into their PC does not neatly fit the bottom of their coffee mug.


cpuspeed08's picture

Nice article. I like looking at the bigger picture and what all this means and throw apple in the mix. Its all unix, its all good and windows withers and dies. But I dont want our side to get too caught up in linux distro flag waving to the point where its confusing to new users. All the distros are good and provide a welcome variety. They tend to focus on key areas which doesnt make one better than the other, just different. We run a couple of unix variants although I think we have deprecated AIX, and a couple of linux distros mainly suse and red hat. My boss likes red hat so thats what I have on my servers. But if he went with suse it really wouldnt have mattered to me that much. I use fedora/gnome on my workstation, like it, and it obviuosly compliments red hat nicely. Tried ubuntu, liked it, but saw no real need to switch. Hey but if love it thats great! As long as youre not opening outlook express to send me email to me I'm happy :)

Linux has already won in the

FredR's picture

Linux has already won in the server race, in my opinion. RedHat is a fantastic product. If RedHat were really "Microsoft-like" they would go after the likes of CentOS, which is basically a RedHat clone stripped of all the RedHat references. Not only that, but is it me, or is Windows like an OS with training wheels? Sooner or later the population as a whole will say enough is enough. The geekiness bar of the entire world is inching higher on a daily basis. Those of us who have been nerds for a long time know this, we're just waiting for the others to catch up.

Originally, Linux was really created as an open and free Unix. Unix was known for being a networking, multi-user server OS. Linux filled the gap-- for folks like me-- who wanted to tinker with Unix at home but couldn't afford a mainframe or ungodly licensing costs. I've been using Linux since probably 95-96 or so. My first distro was Slackware 3, with kernel 2.0.34 I believe. In the summer of 98, I went from downloading floppies to ordering the CheapBytes summer of 98 collection, which included Debian, RedHat and Slackware. I've been personally using Slackware ever since.

But that's just me. That suits my style, and how I use my machine. I'm also fond of CentOs, and lately Ubuntu (desktop and server). The first time I really sat down with Ubuntu Desktop, I thought, wow, they really put a lot of effort into making this work right. I'm getting the same feeling from Ubuntu Server.

People ask me "I want to start to learn Linux, what distro should I use?". I can never answer them. I can tell them what's popular. I can tell them to try a few different ones out. But it's like anything, buying a car, or your favorite color, or dish or ice cream. I can't tell you what distro you'll like as I can't tell you what your favorite ice cream is.

-- FLR or flrichar is a superfan of Linux Journal, and goofs around in the LJ IRC Channel

"Originally, Linux was

Anonymous's picture

"Originally, Linux was really created as an open and free Unix."
That was a GNU project, linux is just a kernel.

I concur, I should have

FredR's picture

I concur, I should have probably said "Originally, GNU/Linux was ..." Purists can definitely argue that although the engine is a major part, it's not the entire car.

-- FLR or flrichar is a superfan of Linux Journal, and goofs around in the LJ IRC Channel

Just a little correction.

Anonymous's picture

Just a little correction. Microsoft doesn't just look like scum, they are scum!
The last 6 months clearly show this.

Yes, the Desktop is dead. Even Microsoft knows this. They cannot grow anymore on the Desktop. They aren't losing much either, people could switch to other operating systems, but why should they. They aren't even moving to Windows Vista. No hope for Linux that people will switch in sufficient numbers on the Desktop. The new devices and often replace devices (short cycles) like mobile phones is another story. The PC market is saturated and it's growth is small or non-existent.

Canonical is about everywhere. It's Ubuntu on Desktop, on Servers, for virtualization (JeOS), for mobile devices, etc. This just shows how flexible Linux is. Canonical has the advantage of having nothing to lose. They are small and flexible too.

Red Hat and Novell will bet their chances on something with little or no reward. Monolithic PC world is over. Personal computing is changing rapidly and diversifying. A one size fits all is no more. This is playing field for small players. And for this space there are lots of pretenders.

What about (open)SUSE?

NateC's picture

I have been an Ubuntu convert for a couple of years now and still prefer it over openSUSE mainly because it is leaner and I like apt. But I recently built an OpenSUSE box for a digital video project because I was having alot of trouble with the packages on Ubuntu and didn't want to spend a bunch of time recompiling the packages and dependencies from scratch. So after reading I learned that the Packman repository had the packages built just like I needed them. So I installed openSUSE and was quite impressed with what I found. The desktop is very appealing but the biggest advantage that SUSE has over Ubuntu is YaST. YaST is very much like Mac OS X's "System Preferences" and laid out in a very intuitive manner. I still prefer Ubuntu because it is so streamlined. But I think the next time I work on my mom's computer, SuSE will be installed.

SUSE was and is a fine

liftoload's picture

SUSE was and is a fine example of Linux. I liked it so much at one point that I purchased a boxed set, just to support the cause. But shortly after Novell sold out...eerr signed an agreement with...Microsoft, I took SUSE off my machine, and it will never return...at least not as long as Novell is in the picture. Why? There are just too many other good choices. YMMV, but I believe in supporting vendors that walk the walk. I have purchased CD's and made donations...not much, but something.

Things could always change, but today, while many vendors are content to talk about walking, Mark Shuttleworth IS walking. While other vendors are signing agreements, or whatever, a quick trip to the Ubuntu website will net you a shiny new free cd. Actions my friends, not words.

I'm ex-SUSE as well

Phil Hughes's picture

And I was even a YaST fan. But, two things broke me of that habit.

  1. I was a debian guy before a SUSE guy. I still prefer apt-get (and adept for the pretty interface).
  2. Novell sleeping with Microsoft left a bad taste in my mouth.

The "really free" nature of Ubuntu (Kubuntu being my choice) just feels right. That is, it feels like what I hoped Linux could be someday back in the days when I was talking to Linus about his employment options in the U.S. And, yes, that was a long time ago.

Phil Hughes

Right with you, Phil

Sum Yung Gai's picture

I used to like SuSE, even though it was bloated, because it was, and still is, a fine distro. However, the Novell sell-out left an equally bad taste in my mouth, like with you. I haven't touched SuSE since.

Kubuntu is a mighty fine distro, and I like and use it. However, CentOS is equally Free, and equally fine. So is RHEL, otherwise CentOS couldn't exist. You don't see any complete clones of SuSE, and there are reasons.

Remember, when we speak of Free Software, we're referring to the freedom, not the price tag.

-Former MS Employee, BTW

same here

robuka kenderle's picture

.... exact same reasons as both of you.
And while Im still a Debian and Slackware kinda guy, Kubuntu and even PCLinuxOS are the distros that I recommend/install to family/friends. (I installed these two distros at a retirement home with some young college kids down my street. IT IS easy enough for grandmothers!)

Kudos to flyboy for the whole Gobuntu/gNewSense thing.
It's more a question of principle than anything else but
I am truly happy that he understands the importance of it.

And while Im not a fanboi, it is getting harder to find leaders that will fight for the 4 freedoms as well as the user (but then again, the 4F are about the user).
I dont want Ubuntu to become synonymous with Linux, something about that feels wrong, but so far little he has done has made me think less of his involvement (yes, I know about CNR ..yech!, and Launchpad) and adherence to certain principles of free software..

Ubuntu Server

Daniel's picture

Ubuntu Server is maturing quickly... It might be a threat sooner than you think. Red Hat is throwing away a huge market. Admins w/ linux on the desktop will use that same linux on the server.

If I read the press release

Kenneth's picture

If I read the press release correctly Red Hat will continue to support their desktop product, they just will not be moving into consumer desktops. Ubuntu will still have to contend with RHEL 5 server/desktop.