Linux: Paradox of Choice

Well, for Linux distros, that is. With freedom comes variety, and with variety comes choice. For Linux operating systems, we have literally hundreds of choices. The proliferation of Linux distros is not bad in itself. It is in part a direct consequence of software freedom. For non-tech-savvy end-users, understanding the underlying principle of software freedom is more important than sorting out which Linux distros is best.

Human nature deals with preferences, and preferences are subjective. With software freedom, software is a form of expression at the individual level. At the business level, it is an instrument for profit. The conflict arises when freedom clashes with for-profit motive. Software wants to be free, but software also wants to be monetized. That’s why there are community distros (Linux Mint), commercial distros (Red Hat Enterprise Linux Desktop), and fuzzy somewhere in between (talk about Ubuntu).

The key is not getting lost in the forest of Linux distros. Distros are the result of a healthy exercise of software freedom, where it really matters. Free software or open source. It’s one and the same principle. The economics of software creation is the same but the distribution is not. From a consumer point of view (as far as Linux distros are concerned), more is less. Maybe software is different. Maybe we need to stress more the importance of free, open source software as better alternatives to proprietary software. Maybe that’s what matters more, if not most.

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