Snow what? Blanketing the world with Linux

January 22, 2007

(created 1/20/2007)

I’m sitting in the middle of Missouri, on a visit with my son. And it’s snowing.

Now some of you probably know I live in the Silicon Valley, where we seldom see snow. (Well, last year, but that was just a mean, spiteful, ice-pellet type of snow, out to do mischief to our wonderful freeway system <sarcasm intended>).

This is a light, fluffy snow, wet enough to outline the trees, dry enough to blow around and fill the hollows.

I was struck by the concept of snow, as a metaphor for standards. Every flake is different (so they say, I haven’t personally checked every flake), yet every flake works together to create a unified, encompassing structure.

Given the announcement of the merger of FSG and OSDL, this seemed to be particularly apt. The effort to encompass the wideness of Linux distributions (or GNU/Linux distributions for the FSF crowd), with their infinite variety, seem to be as futile as the concept of individual, infinitely variant crystals covering the ground. And yet, they do, and they are.

Those of us who remember the UNIX days know firsthand the risks of variant operating environments with no easy interchange. We saw firsthand the risks of clumping only to our own, as if we cover the world with only one kind of crystalline form. Hindsight again, but hopefully we learned from it.

Linux faces a similar challenge. As with UNIX, the potential of Linux distributions is infinite. (Anyone know the number of Linux distributions around these days?). Yet the base ability to exchange, interchange and work together allows Linux to cover more ground than an equivalent number of silo focused versions.

The issue that FSG and OSDL need to drive is how to insure that development and deployment can become independent of the political and religious wars that often happen in operating systems. I (and my company) really want to build once and QA everywhere, since run-everywhere is not actually a feasible commercial strategy. Today, I’m still in the build for this major distribution, then rebuild for this one; leading to being lost in a code management maze of twisty little passages, all alike.

I for one have long applauded the efforts of the FSG, including being an independent member, and driving the companies I work with to join as it made sense. I similarly applaud the efforts of OSDL in defining a centralized view of the Linux world in thought, code and technology.

I only hope that the combination can become even more powerful, and help create the unified, varied shapes that will help cover the world.

As always, comments welcome

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