17 May, 2011

LinuxTag 2011

Last week openSUSE had 30 Geekos at LinuxTag in Berlin. Awesome times, with the exception of the last day when we figured out the power supplies of our nice big touchscreens were stolen... And to think the thieves left the beamer?!?

Talks

But aside that little snag, we rocked. At the booth we had mini-presentations, which weren't as successful as last year, but the 15 presentations we gave in the big rooms worked out just fine. Of course, Vincent Untz had to give his cross-distribution ollaboration talk as first presentation on the day after the party and my own openSUSE 11.4 intro was scheduled at the same time as fellow Geeko Eckhart's talk about Wayland.

Still, I'm quite sure we got the word out on openSUSE. Especially when it comes to 'openSUSE is more than a distro'. Personally, I feel more and more strongly on that subject. Presenting openSUSE 11.4 is nice - we've got some interesting things there, but honestly - what is really so special about the specific kernel or LibreOffice version we ship? I feel a lot happier telling people about Tumbleweed or OBS!

Distro Contest

The relatively minor differences between the distro's became especially visible on the last day, when we had a 'distro shootout' or something like that. A row of distributions, from well-known Ubuntu and Fedora to smaller distro's like Kanotix, was put on stage, represented by someone from the project. A task was given and each had to execute it, showing what their distro had going for it.

Now the task was to show the installation of some software... And honestly, it only showed no distro has got it really perfect or even stands out. And this is my personal experience as well. I've been using Arch Linux for a long time and the Arch package manager, Pacman, is pretty simple. But good enough. So why fight between far more advanced package managers as apt-get, zypper, Urpmi or Yum? Each has their cool stuff but frankly the differences are minor. Ok, zypper has this nice solver which gives you possible solutions when conflicts arise - Debian has it in a separate tool, Aptitude. Yum can install a filename directly (give it "/usr/bin/firefox" and guess what you'll get). For me, I still like urpmi just because you can say "urpmi firefox" and don't have to give any arguments...

In short, most 'unique' features aren't that unique or only really interesting for a few power users. And then the GUI tools. Ubuntu showed their easy to use Software Center. Debian showed synaptic so the third Debian derivative Kanotix settled demoing some scripts they used for auto-installing things. Mandriva has their own graphical UI and points for Fedora - they demoed PackageKit which is cross-distro. I decided to show how you can always reach YaST - from the commandline (ncurses), GUI (GTK & Qt) and web (webYaST). Oh, and our awesome games store nobody knows about... But to me, it all feels a bit marginal.
Basically, it was one big show of how AppStream is the right thing to do! Take Ubuntu's easy GUI, Fedora's Packagekit & the Debian screenshots, combine it with OCS' awesome social features and have ONE really good tool to rule them all. Or rather, benefit all.

take-away

What I took away from this exercise were two things:
  • For the average end users, most differences between the technical products on Linux are not relevant anymore. Even 'minor' distributions have progressed to the point where they are good enough!
  • So what matters is the PROJECT, the team behind it! And this is where openSUSE makes me proud...
  • It is all about collaboration - that is how we can get further, together! After all, our real competition aren't other distributions but Microsoft and Apple.
On that last note, I'd like to publicly ask Canonical and especially Mark to deeply consider getting rid of the Copyright Assignment for the Software Center. It is a blocking issue for real collaboration and as you consider it Bug #1 to get rid of MS' majority market share, why not put your money where your mouth is and work with the other distributions to do something about that?