Are There Any Evil Distros?

If you take a gander at the number of Linux distributions listed at Distrowatch, you'll find there are tons of "forks" and "offshoots" from one distribution to another. With Linux, we have the freedom to do that, but I'm curious if there are any Linux flavors that are truly offensive to people. There has been some controversial uprising in the past, but it begs the questions -- does the freedom to fork ever cross over into creepville?

Redhat got its fair share of grief when it took the grassroots Linux, and pushed it into the commercial realm. (Redhat may not have been the first to do this, I'm not entirely sure, but they were the most popular to do so back in the day). There are still some bitter feelings for Redhat by many folks. I think it's fair to say, however, that Redhat's commercial ventures pushed Linux into places it wouldn't have otherwise gone. So are they evil? Are they misguided? Or are they awesome?

Lindows (Linspire)
In a very aggressive attempt to dethrone Microsoft, Linspire was controversially released as a Linux distribution that you paid for. It was a bit creepy for the Linux users of the day, because it felt dirty to do something like that. It had enough fanfare, both positive and negative, that Microsoft felt it pertinent to sue them out of their original "Lindows" name. While Lindows itself was largely a spit in the face of Microsoft, Linux users also felt a bit burned by the extremely commercial feel of it. Did that make them evil? Were they misguided? Or, were they awesome?

Ubuntu is the current king of the land. While it's still a newcomer, relatively speaking, Ubuntu has done amazing things in making Linux usable by the general population. Ubuntu, however, is only so amazing because it is based on Debian. The Ubuntu team hasn't made their product commercial by any means, but many people think they are unfairly taking credit for all the Debian footwork. Does that make Ubuntu wise? Or are they evil for using Debian as their base?

Linux Mint
Even Ubuntu has its offshoots. Lots in fact. One of the more controversial ones is Linux Mint. Just like Ubuntu uses the Debian base, Linux Mint uses Ubuntu for the majority of their innards. Also like Ubuntu, Linux Mint adds a lot of new features and implements some fundamental changes -- but the Linux Mint team relies heavily on the work of the Ubuntu team. Does that make them efficient? Does it make them evil? Or doesn't it define them at all?

When we talk about Linux and Open Source, we always come back to the word "free". Ultimately, we are free to decide for ourselves if a given distro tactic is evil or innovative. We have the freedom to choose whether we find companies morally corrupt or fiscally efficient. Heck, we even have the freedom to disagree with each other. :)

Shawn is Associate Editor here at Linux Journal, and has been around Linux since the beginning. He has a passion for open source, and he loves to teach. He also drinks too much coffee, which often shows in his writing.

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