Linuxdistrus nolongerexista: What Happens When a Linux Distribution Goes Extinct?

khess 0 Tallied Votes 535 Views Share

It's a fact of life that Linux distributions go extinct and it happens more often than our Linux fan base would like to admit. At last count, there are approximately 50 individual distributions that are now extinct. What happens to the poor unfortunates who adopt and use these defunct distros? Are they left in the cold or are there alternatives that are close enough that a relatively tech savvy administrator could migrate apps and dependencies to another distribution? Some of these distributions were excellent and very capable. Damn Small Linux (DSL) is a notable one that I used extensively and have written about. It's very disappointing to have a distribution pulled out from under you when you depend on it for productivity.

I know that operating systems come and go, developers get tired and sometimes technology might make some of them obsolete but it still stings a bit, doesn't it?

Sure, I could pick up on a project like DSL and do something with it but IANAP* and have little time for such things. Can't someone else grab it and keep it updated for those of us who love it? I would donate some buckazoids to the project to bring it back to life and to help keep it going.

I'm just a cranky individual but what happens to businesses that adopt distributions that go extinct? I've recommended DSL to businesses in the past. Now I have to go back and tell them that it's kaput. That doesn't bode well for DSL or me. It also makes Linux a less palatable choice for businesses to think that something they've built business intelligence or user dependencies on is now gone.

Is our only choice to stick with the "mainstream" distributions for guaranteed updates and new versions? I don't necessarily want to do that. Some of the hottest innovations and clever additions are in those oddball distros created by certain basement dwellers. But, if you can't depend on them for longevity or business continuity, I guess it's back to commercially backed distro X for me.

Tell me what you think about extinct distributions. Is this a big negative aspect of Linux adoption unless it's from an established commercial entity?

*I am not a programmer.

ruel24 0 Newbie Poster

First of all, wasn't DSL Debian based? So, can't you use another Debian based distro and be happy? What exactly is the loss here?

I just switched from PCLinuxOS to Mandriva. Big deal... I was even using Linux Mint, which is Debian based, for a bit over the summer. My files still opened, my computing experience didn't change much. I don't exactly see the loss here.

If I was doing a production based system within a company, I think I'd be sticking with a distro that has a long history and a bright future. Honestly, I'd probably be running CentOS, since it's compatible with Red Hat Linux, and have one machine running Red Hat with a support contract. Then, when problems do occur, I can apply the fix/patch to all the CentOS machines, as well.

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Puppy? Tiny Core?

If all else fails, I'll find out how DSL works and pick it up again. If I'm not doing anything else, I've got 3 distros under my hood now, one is half finished, one is barely conceptualized and one is "What? How do I do that?".,

zman58 0 Newbie Poster

I really don't see a problem. There are some very worthy alternatives to DSL. The important point to make is that someone could pick up the ball on DSL and keep supporting it if they wanted to--or it became economically feasible for them to do it. Perhaps DSL was dropped because some better solutions came about and the project could not be maintained by the folks who were doing that. With Linux, you have choice. Choice to pick a different distro, choice to maintain it yourself, choice to find a company that can maintain it for you.

Consider the situation with proprietary software. What happens when a proprietary application or OS is dropped? What happened to Windows 98? What happened to the Brief code editor? You can not find anyone or any business that can support those because the licensing does not permit it. The owners of those technologies have purposefully obsoleted them because the have decided to force buyers into other solutions. So what happens if your business depends on a proprietary CAD program that is mothballed because one business buys another and obsoletes the product in light of another more profitable one?

Linux and the GPL have big advantages in this regard. Nothing is perfect, but you have more options with Linux.

fft 0 Newbie Poster

I don't understand your problem. What happened when PCtools disappeared ? or Norton Commander ? You switched to something else. You do just the same with linux, except that it is easier. Indeed, your distribution is either .deb based, rpm based or tgz based (just to name a few). Chances are that another distribution based on the same package system still carries on. So you switch to that one. Or to any of the gazillion distributions out there which happens to be closest to yours.
No big deal. :-)

hardens_quickly 0 Newbie Poster

The main developer of Damn Small Linux is the founder of Tiny Core. So maybe that will meet your needs. Apparently there was some sort of falling out among the main DSL developers resulting in Robert Shingledecker leaving and creating Tiny Core Linux.

vorios 0 Newbie Poster
khess 95 Practically a Master Poster

All good alternatives but you have to admit that DSL is very cool and was easy for non-Linux types to use. I'll check out some of the others and perhaps drop Rob S. a note to see what's going on with him.

alexk554 0 Newbie Poster

Why not just use one of the "big 5" linux distro's? Theyve been around for ages, and they are less likely to evaporate.

Ubuntu supposedly has 13 million users, doubt that its going anywhere.

IMHO its your own fault if you choose an obscure distro and "depend on it for productivity", and then it dissapears and you're left holding the bag.

neospot 0 Newbie Poster

"Ubuntu supposedly has 13 million users, doubt that its going anywhere."

First of all, there is no real basis for that claim and besides Canonical is still a private company losing money heavily. Not even meeting even yet so yes, Ubuntu can very well disappear.

Atleast Fedora provides some real stats

alexk554 0 Newbie Poster

Hmm, yeah cant remember where I read 13 mill, but Ubuntu is definitely the most popular distro.

And its not the first time Ive seen Ubuntu lead a linux poll.

Canonical isn't profitable yet, but that wasn't Shuttleworth's goal, so as he carries on funding the project it will be around. Its been around 5 years and its only growing so I don't see why they would stop now.

Doesn't matter all that much to me, I only spend a few hours a week using linux anyways.

khakilang -3 Posting Pro in Training

I am going to spend another 10 years with my computer and I hope they will be around then. Cos at that age i don't know whether I can learn another OS again.

Archenemie 2 Junior Poster

What you guys are not seeing is he said he has buissnesses running on those obseleeted Distros, you try telling 10-12 cmpanies theyre distros are obseleete and your going to be billing them all over again to convert everything, not to mention the time and manpower investments in doing so...

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