Pick a Free OS

Why Linux is like pizza

ZDNet LogoNot many people anywhere, let alone in the open-source world, have heard of the Mettle distribution of Linux. You won't find it in our list of downloadable distributions, or even the huge list maintained by Linux Weekly News. Indeed, it has not generated a sentence's worth of public mention until now.

Why? Because it's the distribution used internally by only one organization, my company, Starnix, as the foundation of its various servers, firewalls, and special-purpose systems. Mettle, based loosely on Red Hat 6.2 but with significant modifications, serves an important function for Starnix, but the nature of its many customizations is, likely, of little use to folks on the outside.

That's part of the beauty of open source in general and Linux's approach specifically. When you have the source, you can tailor your computer's operating environment to do just about anything you want. This level of customization is unthinkable and unattainable in the closed-source world.

It was with Mettle in mind that I read the reaction to a recent column by my colleague Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols. In that piece, the author offered a bet that Caldera and Red Hat would be the last major Linux distributions standing once the rest inevitably died off.

I'll take that bet in a heartbeat. And I'll win it, too, for no other reason than my confidence that Debian will outlast any commercial distribution; Debian doesn't need to appease shareholders, just the community that builds it.