Please define “Distribution”

As some of you may know, I am the founder of the Utah Open Source Foundation.  On November 10, we’ll be holding the Multi-Distro Release Party, and I planned on sharing Fedora (of course), OpenSUSE and Ubuntu.  Its the only Multi-Distro Release Party going on that I know of, but I could be wrong.  If you live in Utah, you should come, it’ll be a blast!

The point of this post is to ask a simple question, however.  During the promotion of this event, I’ve received suggestions beyond the three big versions of Linux that are being released close to one month from each other.  For example, OpenBSD will be release soon, and Apple released Leopard for Mac OSX, among others.  And while every operating system is welcome to participate in the MDRP, I can’t help but wonder about certain definitions.

My question is what counts as a distro?.  I mean how do you classify yourself as a distro?  Is it a Linux only thing?  Or, is it just Open Source OSes?  Maybe its nothing, and I’m just bringing this up for no good reason.

Your comments are appreciated and encouraged.

Cheers,

Herlo

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5 Responses to Please define “Distribution”

  1. thebluesgnr says:

    It’s just what the word says: a distribution. You can have a distribution of chocolate, of software, or basically anything.

    An example of a software distribution is a CD containing Firefox and OpenOffice.org for Windows. That’s a software distribution which can be installed on any computer that runs Windows.

  2. Nal says:

    OpenBSD is the Open Berkeley Software Distribution, literally. It just isn’t a distribution in the Linux sense, since a BSD has a core operating system that it develops on it’s own, while Linux distributions don’t really have their own core system, they all share the same basic set of core utilities and kernels.

  3. Hans says:

    We geeks are beginning to use the term Distribution where in the past people have used “Operating System”. The primary reason for this is that we tend to be more precise with the words we use, although there is a limit to how unlazy we can be. (how many people do you know that REALLY ALWAYS say GNU/Linux?)

    The operating system does the low-level stuff with the hardware. But almost every OS sold today is sold in conjunction with lots of software that isn’t technically operating system. This is especially true for Linux (which can have just about everything under the sun, especially for network-based distros like Debian), halfway true for OS X (you get most of what you need to be a normal person, and you download the rest, much of which is free software), and 1/4 true for Windows (you still can’t do jack on a default windows install, but you can do a lot of useless non-OS stuff).

    Give me ‘distribution’ over ‘OS’ any day. ‘distro’, while being an abbreviation for ‘distribution’ now, may in the future morph into the word that describes this conglomeration of operating system and set of software that we now don’t really have another word for. It will then mean something distinct from ‘distribution’, and etymologists will be the only ones who care that they have the same root. :-)

  4. sontek says:

    If its free let it be, if you have to pay, stay away! (which means gtfo mac!) ;)

  5. Gary says:

    There’s some need for context to define a “distribution”. In the context of the Utah Open Source Foundation, I’d probably define it as a packaging and release of an Open Source OS (which usually amounts to Linux or one of the BSDs). If you were the Utah Linux foundation, I’d see it a bit differently.

    In that context, OpenBSD fits very well, but Leopard not so much. Not that Leopard isn’t a very nice OS, but it would be a major stretch to call it Open Source.

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