13 Apr 2017

The theater of Linux distributions

Linux notes from DarkDuck has recently published an article with a very interesting classification of Linux distributions.

I’ll add one more: the Theater distros.

Like a play in a theater, these distros go through their acts looking just like real distros, but if you go back stage, they are just cardboard stage sets in front of which actors carry out pre-determined artificial roles.  The Theater distros are full of PPAs (scripts for the actors) tacked on to real distros, and they are such fragile structures that they will fall apart if you put them under any stress. And by "stress" I mean something as simple as an update.

The two most extreme Theater distros are Linux Lite and LXLE.  The only thing that gives them their character are the PPAs they're built with, and if even one of those PPAs isn't maintained by its creator, the whole thing falls apart.  You can't do any updates but the ones they demand, and you have to do every one of those.  If you add something or change something, it's all over, they just disintegrate. Can't afford to have actors ad-lib!

Remind you of something? Linux Mint. No PPAs, but just as fragile, just as theatrical: looks like Ubuntu until you go back stage.  Don't lean on that tree, it's cardboard – don't do ALL the updates, just the ones we tell you to.

There.  That's something I've wanted to get off my chest ever since the time years ago I tried to do some small tweak on an early version of Mint, and it cost me days of fiddling just to change some small feature.

This is a guest post by Emery Fletcher


  1. When can we download your distro?

  2. Maybe you should revisit Linux Mint. I've been using it for years and I've never had any such issues you briefly stated. Mint is a fork of Ubuntu (since Edgy Eft!) It has developed its own desktop environment (Cinnamon) and it has many in-house built tools and apps not found in Ubuntu. I've been using Mint 17.3 (based on Ubuntu 14.04) which I've updated all the way to MATE 1.16.1 (which is unsupported) and have had zero issues. So if you want to label Linux Mint as a "theater" distro that rides on the coattails of Ubuntu and is fragile and prone to problems then you should have some real evidence other than a little personal anecdote from years ago to back up your claims.

  3. That's quite a click bait inspired by one time "years ago" you couldn't get "days of fiddling" with Mint to do what you wanted. Guess the other thousands of us who have been successful at getting these "theatrical" distros to do what we needed/wanted have been holding it wrong.

    OTOH, the advertisers appreciated the clicks.

  4. Yeah, but I've used Mint since 2013. Never crashed. Never had any problems at all. Can't say that for most of the other distros.

  5. Every computer I've ever put money on has had serious bugs. The first one I couldn't get bumblebee working for the graphics driver and had graphic glitches all the time. The second one died after I did a full-upgrade and had graphic glitches, and the third one had wireless issues that other distros didn't have. Also graphic glitches. Maybe I've just been installing them on the wrong systems, but I haven't had a good experience with it yet.

  6. Not to mention Ubuntu, eh? What posers, just riding the coattails of Debian.
    Actually, nearly every distro except Slackware should go in this category. Damn kids, get off my lawn!

  7. So Debian, Arch, Fedora, OpenSUSE and possibly Solus are the only "real" Linux distros in your opinion? By that logic the Linux kernal is the only "real" entity and ALL distros are theatrical. If GNU/Linux goes away they all fall apart. The complexity community is what Linux is about. The dependencies are far and wide and if a dependency fails there is always something else to take it's place and provide a fix.