Unix & Linux Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for users of Linux, FreeBSD and other Un*x-like operating systems. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

It's such a pain when you don't know what distribution to choose. It's such a waste of time and effort for developers to port stuff from one distribution to another. It makes Linux/Unix more complicated (and scary) than it should be.

While I know there are certain reasons why the situation became the way it is now, I wonder if anyone has ever thought of reunifying the worlds of Linux and other (free) Unix? This is still a question: Have there been any (failed) attempts to unify Linux/Unix?

share|improve this question
It seems that any such attempt would just lead to yet another distro? – Stefan Sep 5 '10 at 12:28
that's what I was thinking about – phunehehe Sep 5 '10 at 12:41
Different distros has different target audiences, it is kind of pointless to unify a distro for a embedded system with a server distro... – Johan May 22 '11 at 6:11
Different distros foster innovation! – fpmurphy1 Jul 9 '11 at 14:33
This seems relevant: xkcd.com/927 – Dason Nov 1 '11 at 14:34
up vote 9 down vote accepted

If you would unify the distributions system configuration tools and general behavior there would be no need for different distributions.

An advantage would be to define some binary interface for the applications. The The Linux Standard Base Workgroup tries to define some.

Here is a list of the specifications which are the base of some iso standards: LSB Specs

share|improve this answer

There was United Linux , which attempted to crete a baseline for linux distros.

share|improve this answer
it seems they didn't go anywhere, but good to know anyway – phunehehe Sep 5 '10 at 15:48
@phunehehe sure they did... they went away – xenoterracide Sep 5 '10 at 16:20

In addition to what echox said.

Any attempt is an exercise in futility. Truthfully? I don't want to run my Desktop the way I run a Server, and the way I run my desktop, rolling bleeding edge, would not be good for everyone.

What we can and should do is attempt to minify the differences. I think things like the freedesktop notification API and Systray API which are now a pseudo standard (I think) is a good thing. The more we make things like that which takes duplication away from the dev's the better. Poppler is a good example of an app with a lot of split effort being pulled into one effort, now any app that needs to render pdf's has a good library to use on all platforms.

In short we should all try to share as much code an API's as possible instead of creating a new library every time we want to do something.

( Will someone create a standard api to access the 'system password manager' already (be that kwallet or whatever ) )

share|improve this answer
great point about minifying, at some point there should be a universal package format that can be installed on all distributions – phunehehe Sep 5 '10 at 15:59
@phunehehe I've yet to see distro's that don't have ways of handling rpm's and tar.gz's. – xenoterracide Sep 5 '10 at 16:10
sta.li - It is GNU/Linux but I find they ideas... well... how to say it... – Maciej Piechotka Sep 5 '10 at 17:47
@phunehehe: i think that is Makefile – uray Sep 6 '10 at 11:20
"In short we should all try to share as much code an API's as possible instead of creating a new library every time we want to do something." Personally, I think the distinction should be made. You can use the same API but have different libraries/implementations of it, and that's fine, because that allows integration without forcing uniformity. – André Paramés Jan 4 '11 at 13:55

Well, when you said Linux you are only referring to the kernel. A distro itself is composed of many GNU tool/apps and other applications, and that makes it hard to make them unified as every developer or user has their own tastes and preferences, and that makes Linux distros vary. But the kernel itself is more or less quite unified.

As for unification or standardization itself, there are bunch of efforts such as Linux standard base and Filesystem Hierarchy Standard.

share|improve this answer
still, you are supposed to "build" the software specifically for each distro (unless they use the same kind of package). apps are not much of a problem because, say, on Slackware I can install an app from Ubuntu, right? – phunehehe Sep 5 '10 at 15:54
I'm tempted to vote down over the (well it practically is), "It's GNU/Linux, not just Linux", statement. I use KDE, X.org, and Zsh which are not made by GNU. sure I have to have Bash installed (cause my distro requires it) but it's not my interactive shell. If I had an alternative to GNU Coreutils I might install those too. Really how much of my system is GNU? – xenoterracide Sep 5 '10 at 16:14
How much of your system wasn't compiled by GCC? :) But I think the distinction is mostly valid when you're talking about the libc. Android, for example, uses a different implementation, hence it isn't GNU/Linux. – André Paramés Jan 4 '11 at 13:51
@andre I'm sure not much wasn't compiled by gcc, and I do believe we use glibc. but I don't think 2-4 of the 1000 packages I have installed require me to say GNU/Linux. – xenoterracide Jan 5 '11 at 1:33
@xenoterracide: I think their position is that the GNU packages (and let's not forget the GNU GPL license, under which the kernel is developed, and that for good or bad has shaped the Linux project) are the indispensable core to build and boot any distributions, while the rest sits on top but it's not really part of the OS. Having said that, I never actually call it GNU/Linux unless I'm referring also to "other" Linuxes (android, webos, etc). – André Paramés Jan 6 '11 at 0:22

In a way the Linux compatibility layer in FreeBSD comes close. The two are not really "merged", but it is a fairly painless way to run Linux applications without porting them to FreeBSD.

From your followup comments, it sounds like you're mostly interested in unifying the package management, as many distros have come up with their own solutions. Actually, package management is itself an attempt at unification, but the spirit of competition still hasn't resolved which approach will "win". Perhaps it would be better for each distro to support as many package systems as possible, and time will tell which one has the right balance of flexibility, ease of use, etc., needed to become the de facto standard.

share|improve this answer

Just try and tell the OpenBSD crowd that they need to conform and be more open and see how that goes.

Each distro accomplishes a different task and does it well, if they don't then they have no business being in existance. Distros that add something to the community should not be forced into a single release, it would make for a massive clash of ideologies if nothing else. Nothing would ever get done.

This is like saying Windows and Mac should merge. Two COMPLETELY different philosophies and methods of doing things.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.