Is the opportunity to fork Open Source code a blessing, or a curse?

Hello everyone. I’ve been patiently waiting for Linux to get more popular on the desktop (popularity being a key ingredient for it becoming any new pop-culture-favored normal, and not any sort of second-class citizen, in comparison to Windows or OS X), but it’s coming along at such a sluggish pace (when expressed as a percentage of total market share), that it can feel discouraging at times.

It’s seems the Linux desktop just can’t seem to rise above a glass ceiling of about 2-3% of the total market. This is after decades. Why can’t we rise above that glass ceiling? In what way are we all collectively mentally challenged, as a group, such that we can’t move on from this limitation?

There is so much forking of distros that it’s bewildering. Every major distro covers most desktop environments as well, (calling these “spins”, or “re-mixes”; for example, all the *buntus). All those permutations try to cover all the possible bases, but, IMHO, only serve to muddy the waters, in offering people way too many choices. Humans can famously only remember a running list of 5-9 things, and they don’t like being overwhelmed with too many things at once.

One good friend I painstakingly showed Linux to, explained the bewildering choice of distros this way (after I tried explaining all the different relevant distros to him): “if you want chocolate cake with strawberry icing, you can have chocolate cake with strawberry icing”. He made a subtle point that not all permutations of possible choices are actually likeable, to more than a small handful of eccentric geeks.

So as much as we all like the ability to fork Open Source Code (as it acts as a protection of sorts, against foul play), do we also overuse that freedom, and thereby hold ourselves back, by stunting our popularity, with no clear-enough vision, no clear-enough, circumscribed choices in direction or course, that everyone can unite around?

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When i look around me, what is see mostly are people that are a) used to Windoze because they learned to work with it. (In school or at work, so they just port it over to their homes), b) most people are afraid, ignorant, don’t want to learn something new. c) they just want something that “works” out of the box. (referring to point a).
Here at home, a few years ago, i chucked out windoze, actually forcing everybody to learn to work with Linux. (Linux mint is very popular here).
And that worked. After some adaptions and learning.
It’s this that holds people back i guess. Not the awesome powers it holds, not the vast amount of distro’s, but the learning curve.
It’s getting your hands dirty, learning something new, confessing to your friends that you have another os running than they do.
Gaming is also a huge hurdle for most. (But that too, is being worked on.)
It doesn’t behave like your standard windoze, i doesn’t look like it (but you can make it almost look identical), it doesn’t have ms office… I’ve heard it all.
Whenever i hear somebody complaining about their os, i point out there’s an alternative. A better one.
Mostly their eyes glaze over, are content with having the hard disk wiped (no backups mind you, so all that content is gone), and continue with a fresh install.
I’ve heard @kernellinux talking about a way to get people to know linux.
You swap out the hard drive with the current os, replace it with a linux distro and ask them to work with that for a week or two. After that, if they don’t like it, no harm is done. Swap the hard drives and that’s that.
I had some success doing exactly that in the past.
But it’ll take some more years of preaching before the main stream will pick it up.
Oh, if you’re showing somebody a distro, make it one that resembles as close a possible, the os they’re using at that time. That has always worked for me.

OK, I’m hearing some good sense here: we ask ourselves which distros most closely resemble Windows, and Mac OS, and choose the most popular-as-possible distros (meaning, very likely having the fewest bugs) which most closely mimic those. To my mind, that would be Linux Mint, and Elementary. Every scrap of familiarity is a precious reason why they might actually stay with their Linux install in any lasting way.

I would be in strong agreement with you, if you were to say that any potential choice in distro should very probably never be mentioned to newcomers to Linux at all, if you can get away with it.

This is to say, for the sake of radical simplification, if they already know Windows, you straight-up recommend Linux Mint, no other. If they already know Mac OS, you straight-up recommend Elementary, no other.

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Exactly! The “agony of choice” can come later, if ever, to put it somewhat cruel.
To somebody who’s been used to using one os, the sudden option of choosing an os to work with, can be frightening.
What should i choose? There are so many. What would work for me? How does this work?
Keeping them away from all this and giving them the “MS treatment” (aka: this is it, this is what you’re going to use) can help alleviate these anxieties.
It’s up to the person in question to have a look at other distro’s later on.

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I 150% agree here. Since MS and Apple never gave them a choice, why would we give them one either?

The user in question never had a choice in OS (as they chose the product as a comprehensive whole, not the OS on the product), and furthermore never wanted a choice.

We Dudley Do-Rights assume they would want to know their options, but then when they actually feel overwhelmed by choices presented, then our assumption turns out to be wrong, and the (un-intuitively) better thing to do is not give them a choice, when they actually wouldn’t enjoy facing it.

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Indeed so.
I never give a choice to a new user. I just give them either Ubuntu or Linux Mint. And then i see how that goes. I don’t tell them anything beyond what they need to do/know in order to do almost exactly what they have been doing on their previous os.
But we must not forget that they have options and choices and an actual say in what they want to do next.
It’s just that they are not accustomed to such freedom from the start.
I think it’s our responsibility (maybe a burden as well, because i became the go-to person for the people i got to use Ubuntu as their daily driver) to gently ease them into such freedoms, when we see them used to their new environment. Or at least let them know that such things exist.
Also, the software presented must be as user friendly as possible.
For instance; I don’t mind having to install Arch from scratch, but you can’t sell that to someone new to Linux.
That’s where Ubuntu and Mint come out strong imho, when introducing new people to linux.
Very few hurdles to take in order to get up and running.

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My parents are so like that. In fact, they get easily upset if you tell them any little thing which is beyond what they immediately need to know to get a specific task at hand done.

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Sounds familiar.
But that can be used to your advantage. Sometimes the completion of one task, brings a follow up task along. Which brings new questions and answers. (and learning).
It’s the same with my father in law. He needed something done. I showed him how to do that specific thing. Nothing more.
Now, some years later in the Linux journey and after doing several little things, he has learned a lot. Always one at a time.
Granted, it takes patience and time, but you learn them to help themselves. (This may vary from user to user of course. As i said before, not everybody is willing to learn new things. Some are just happy with something that just “works” and don’t feel the need to venture out into new things.)

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To second this, I tried several distros trying to get off Windows 7 and REALLY pushed with Ubuntu Unity but the only distro that was able to transition me was Linux Mint with the MATE desktop (which basically looks/operates like win7) accompanied by Mint’s software store.

Moving to Linux was like being atop a deep blue ocean of unknowable depth and it wasn’t just that the GUI needed to keep me afloat but it also needed to be familiar enough that I could sail like I used to. Now I don’t even notice jumping in and out of terminal but when I was new it was like a swim in darkness guided by strangers from a mysterious culture.

I think @Eltuxo nailed it pretty well with the choices being the problem. There’s really are only 2 or 3 distros I think a Windows user can easily “sail” on.

On forks it gets complicated…

I think of it like cars… we have tons of car companies all going their own direction creating massive hassle with brand/model choice, replacement parts, repair guides, lack of inter-cooperation, lack of inter-research. Instead of just having 1 or 2 companies focused on making exceptional cars. It’s a mess.

But imagine if we removed all the competition and the choice. Imagine if Microsoft bought one car company and Apple bought the other because at that size they look delicious. Imagine if the myriad of ways of experimentation and ways to run a car company ended.

If Linux centralized enough to gain ~50% market share i’m not sure if i’d recognize it anymore. I’d probably be moving to BSD. I’m lost on how to answer this question but that’s one attempt from one perspective.

The forking of software is an absolute necessity. It makes room for improvement, it gives way to new insights, ideas, ways to tackle problems, etc…
I don’t see it as competition, but more like the advancement of foss. Everybody can chime in. (Somebody new to Linux doesn’t have to know about this from the start. :grinning:)
On the other hand it also creates the need for a person, looking at forks, to decide which one is best suited for his needs.
I’m fairly certain that Linux will get on the desktop in the end too. It’s just a matter of time and awareness.
The majority of the people are already using it, they just don’t know it.
Maybe we all should be wearing @MichaelTunnell 's t-shirt: “Linux is everywhere”. Which it really is. :grin:

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