It does seem that Linux has become too big and complex – but perhaps not in the way we think.
Some voices indicate that the problem is being un-UNIXy, others insist that systemd is the heart of all woes (well it certainly threw oil on the fire…), others think it’s just too bloated… some even think it is just not popular enough (non sequitur??)
Personally, I think it suffers from a very basic meat-space problem: identity. There are too many distros for Linux to be homogenously named, and too many people with strong (mostly valid) visions for what it should do to be recincilable accross the board.
It is clear to me that no Linux distro family is interested in doing what the other does, like siblings with rivalry, but that some “parent figures” are trying to ship them all into the same roles.
Rather than recognize that they need to have their own spaces and come into being their own, “unification” attempts are falling flat because simply not matching up to the ideals the now grown up youngsters have.
My response to a comment on iTWire’s article follows:
My general stance is that Linux’s “killer app” is “Linux” 🙂
To elaborate on that, maybe I should stretch my explanation to mean: a platform on which I can bothplay games and surf the web, whilst at the same time do development work and granularly control its maintenance, depending on the role I want to to fit on any particular deployment… The lack of household-name-fame is not prticularly a problem. Technical capability has always come first, and that has not hampered its growth.
I do think (though I am no longbeard!) that there needs to be more pointedly a differentiation between desktop/laptop purpose (where you want everything to work with little fuss) and server purpose (no GUIs, high control, high debuggability)
Perhaps the danger we are seeing is the trend for a one-size-fits-all approach swalling the ecosystem whole, whether it be systemd or any other project, mind: we tend to see Linux distros as one big close-knit family, and thus create attempts to unite them under a common set of tools, orchstrators and platforms.
Maybe it’s time we stopped looking at Linux that way. UNIX split off into various mildly-related sub groups, and which still thrive, and it looks like Linux could soon do the same. Ubuntu is on course to becoming its own thing, and Chrome has taken Gentoo and created something barely related, even as they are deployed on the same kernel as the rest of distros. Android has already dropped the GNU side and, whilst it is still “Linux”, it cannot be considered in the same family as the desktop and server distros we have at the moment.
So yeah – I’d say, stop thinking of “Linux” as “a cohesive group of operating system variants” and start looking at key families of distros as operating systems in their own rights. Allow more individulaization in the nucelar family to allow a broader unification of the genealogy – our BSD cousins are doing well in server space, and if they are not taken into the unification attempts, may well fill the server niche in our stead whilst we remain with the consumer and mobile markets… who knows who will get gadget-space.
Stop trying to cram all the family members in the same bed. It’s time for the kids to fly the nest.