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#1 2014-06-19 20:03:38

stevenhoneyman
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From: England
Registered: 2014-05-25
Posts: 240

What defines a linux distro compared to a linux "spin off"?

It's a difficult thing to google - I end up with pages of "how to make your own custom linux" which are commonly just guides to remastering (i.e. adding a few packages and a wallpaper to $popular_linux_distro) Example

It's been on my mind for a couple of days though; is there a defined line between a "Linux Distro" and a "Linux spin off"/"Remastered Linux"?
Some examples of what I would classify as one type or the other:

Linux Distro:
- Arch Linux smile
- Debian
- Slackware

Linux spin-off:
- *buntu (aside from U)

But then ones such as CrunchBang (described as "derived from Debian") - is that a distro or a spinoff?

Is it generally accepted that anything above a certain point is called a distro instead of just being base distro with personalisation?

Last edited by stevenhoneyman (2014-06-19 20:08:28)

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#2 2014-06-19 20:10:55

sexyzero
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Re: What defines a linux distro compared to a linux "spin off"?

Spin-offs would be different flavors of the same distro

e.g. Linux Mint is a distro but there's different spin-offs (based on Cinnamon, Mate, etc.)

Edit: *buntu is such a perfect example

Ubuntu being a distro but you have so many spin-offs such as Kubuntu (KDE), Lubuntu (LXDE), etc.

2nd edit: Even Crunchbang distro used to have two spin-offs such as an OpenBox and a XFCE version a long time ago

Last edited by sexyzero (2014-06-19 21:27:14)


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#3 2014-06-19 20:15:49

samiam
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Re: What defines a linux distro compared to a linux "spin off"?

I don't know if there's a set definition, but for me it usually comes down to package managers and repos.

Example:

RHEL is derived from (some of) the efforts of the Fedora project, but uses completely different package repos and is generally incompatible with the upstream Fedora distribution by the time it passes beta. CentOS is a RHEL spin off as it uses different package repos, but is designed specifically to be compatible with RHEL.

*buntu are spin-offs of mainline Ubuntu as they're all basically the same thing, just with different default package sets. They share package repos, and are usually 100% compatible with the mainline distribution.

Slackware is an island unto itself, so it's a distro.



I don't know if that makes sense or not, but basically, if I can take a package from another "distribution" and install it on some other "distribution" without ending up in dependency hell, they're spin-offs (or derivatives) of the same family of distros.

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#4 2014-06-19 20:27:07

ANOKNUSA
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Registered: 2010-10-22
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Re: What defines a linux distro compared to a linux "spin off"?

All spin-offs are distributions of GNU/Linux software. Just making that point.

The simplest definition for what makes a distribution a spin-off is that it's "downstream" from another distribution. Mint, Crunchbang, et. al. are spin-offs because if they want to make a new release, they have to wait until the folks at Debian are done packaging new software. The amount of original work probably counts for something, too. Ubuntu is a popular distribution and its developers have done quite a bit of work on their own, but they still depend on the work of Debian developers to keep their project going, and most of their own changes to their Debian base are a matter of branding. Choices by Debian developers lead directly to choices by Ubuntu developers (e.g. Upstart).

Last edited by ANOKNUSA (2014-06-19 20:27:34)

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#5 2014-06-19 20:29:55

stevenhoneyman
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From: England
Registered: 2014-05-25
Posts: 240

Re: What defines a linux distro compared to a linux "spin off"?

ANOKNUSA wrote:

All spin-offs are distributions of GNU/Linux software. Just making that point.

Yes, "technically" tongue

...if they want to make a new release, they have to wait until the folks at ___ are done packaging new software

Ah ha! I think that is the distinguishing factor I've been looking for. Thanks smile

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#6 2014-06-19 20:30:12

thiagowfx
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Registered: 2013-07-09
Posts: 532

Re: What defines a linux distro compared to a linux "spin off"?

I would say there are

  • distros (base ones)

  • spin-offs / variants / flavors of distros

  • derived / derivative distros / *-based distros

Let me explain with examples.

(Base) distros: Debian, openSUSE, Slackware, Arch. They are ecosystems, a whole island of packages, ideologies, communities, tools, etc.

Spin-offs: sexyzero's explanation was very good. Flavors of Ubuntu: Kubuntu, Xubuntu (...); flavors of Linux Mint: LMDE, the Cinnamon version, the MATE version (...).
It is the same distro in the core, but only with a few tweaks or packages, defined to provide a different user experience (it could be developer experience too, but in these cases the distros are more oriented to end users). In this context, you could use flavors, spin-offs or variants interchangeably.

Finally, derivatives: those are best understandable with examples:

  • ubuntu is a derivative of debian;

  • linux mint is a derivative of ubuntu;

  • archassault is a derivative of arch -- in this case, with a very particular use case;

  • crunchbang is a derivative of debian;

Arch Linux ARM is a spin-off of Arch, also as Archbang, while Antergos is a derivative.

I don't know how to define derivatives, but you can see that they are something more profound than spin-offs.

Edit: typo

Last edited by thiagowfx (2014-06-19 20:30:30)

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#7 2014-06-19 20:34:26

thiagowfx
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#8 2014-06-20 01:29:13

Allan
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Re: What defines a linux distro compared to a linux "spin off"?

If you use the packages provided by the parent distribution you are a spin-off.  If you compile all the packages yourself, you are a distribution.

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#9 2014-06-20 01:51:44

jasonwryan
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Re: What defines a linux distro compared to a linux "spin off"?

Allan wrote:

If you compile all the packages yourself, you are a distribution. If you use the packages provided by the parent distribution you are a spin-off.  If you use the packages provided by me, your are in a flaming death-spiral.

FTFY.


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#10 2014-06-20 02:40:08

Jristz
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From: America/Santiago
Registered: 2011-06-11
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Re: What defines a linux distro compared to a linux "spin off"?

Allan wrote:

If you use the packages provided by the parent distribution you are a spin-off.  If you compile all the packages yourself, you are a distribution.

Using this explication AS it provided Manjaro is a Spin-Off cause those 2 things, I'm right? or description need a patch?


Well, I suppose that this is somekind of signature, no?

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#11 2014-06-20 03:27:00

Trilby
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Re: What defines a linux distro compared to a linux "spin off"?

If you use another distro's repos with their support and permission, and to that you add other repos with additional software or other variants of the software in the main distro's repos, then you are a derivative distro.

If you use another distro's repos without their support and permission, and to that you add other repos with additional software or other variants of the software in the main distro's repos, then you are an asshole.


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#12 2014-06-21 09:38:43

kahrkunne
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Re: What defines a linux distro compared to a linux "spin off"?

Trilby wrote:

If you use another distro's repos with their support and permission, and to that you add other repos with additional software or other variants of the software in the main distro's repos, then you are a derivative distro.

If you use another distro's repos without their support and permission, and to that you add other repos with additional software or other variants of the software in the main distro's repos, then you are an asshole.

I'll have to disagree. I don't believe repos can be "owned" by a specific distro - they're just collections of free software after all. Now I do agree that you might sort of be an asshole for driving up the server costs, but then again the first distro lets people download all they want from their repos anyways.

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#13 2014-06-21 10:43:24

x33a
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Re: What defines a linux distro compared to a linux "spin off"?

Regarding repos, since most of the repos are provided by 3rd party hosts, universities, generous companies etc, I believe it doesn't cost the parent distribution much.

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#14 2014-06-21 11:05:28

Trilby
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Re: What defines a linux distro compared to a linux "spin off"?

kahrkunne wrote:

... they're just collections of free software after all.

Just because one can legally do something doesn't mean they should.

Frankly, this is one of the big contributors to my love of the open source 'ecosystem' as it can serve as model/metephor for how other parts of society might be able to work.  Laws take a back seat and people's own good sense, morality, courtesy, and community norms take the lead - and in a majority of situations this works well.

This is why I chose the words I did.  In the second sentence of my previous post, I did not say that those in question would be 'criminals'.  Nor did I say they were breaking any laws.  I did say they would be assholes.  Fully legal, legitimate, and certifiably assholes.


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#15 2014-06-21 12:40:42

ANOKNUSA
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Re: What defines a linux distro compared to a linux "spin off"?

Let's presume for a moment that the monetary costs of storage and bandwidth for a set of official and unofficial package repositories, a bunch of VCS repositories, an online BBS, a mailing list and an IRC channel are relatively affordable. That shit doesn't maintain itself, and spin-off users who often don't distinguish between the spin-off and the parent distribution usually only show up within community outlets when they want something from the community. Return contributions are often nil.

To keep this topic going: I defined spin-off distributions as being "downstream" from their parent distributions. Where does Fedora fall, then?

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#16 2014-06-21 16:25:57

x33a
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Re: What defines a linux distro compared to a linux "spin off"?

Fedora is the lab rat.

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#17 2014-06-21 18:55:51

samiam
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Re: What defines a linux distro compared to a linux "spin off"?

There is a lot of unjustified RMS syndrome in this thread.

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#18 2014-06-21 18:59:03

clfarron4
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Re: What defines a linux distro compared to a linux "spin off"?

x33a wrote:

Fedora is the lab rat.

Indeed. I always thought that Fedora is the playground for things going wrong and then Red Hat take the bits that seem to stable and cobble together a release.

ANOKNUSA wrote:

I defined spin-off distributions as being "downstream" from their parent distributions.

Same here.


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#19 2014-06-21 21:41:55

ANOKNUSA
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Re: What defines a linux distro compared to a linux "spin off"?

samiam wrote:

There is a lot of unjustified RMS syndrome in this thread.

Is "RMS Syndrome" what you get when you coin a term containing a person's innitials, apropos of nothing, then fail to explain what it means? 'Cuz I only see one isolated case of that. Or are you saying we all have cancer?

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#20 2014-07-09 13:52:46

demize
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Re: What defines a linux distro compared to a linux "spin off"?

thiagowfx wrote:

Arch Linux ARM is a spin-off of Arch, also as Archbang, while Antergos is a derivative.

Antergos use the Arch repos plus another custom repo with more packages, so if Archbang qualifies as a spin-off I'd say that Antergos does too.

kahrkunne wrote:
Trilby wrote:

If you use another distro's repos with their support and permission, and to that you add other repos with additional software or other variants of the software in the main distro's repos, then you are a derivative distro.

If you use another distro's repos without their support and permission, and to that you add other repos with additional software or other variants of the software in the main distro's repos, then you are an asshole.

I'll have to disagree. I don't believe repos can be "owned" by a specific distro - they're just collections of free software after all. Now I do agree that you might sort of be an asshole for driving up the server costs, but then again the first distro lets people download all they want from their repos anyways.

That's not entirely true. For example, the RHEL packages are licensed so that unless you own a license you're not allowed to use the packages.

Distros like CentOS, and originally Fedora, circumvented that by building their own packages from the same source as RHEL.

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#21 2014-07-09 14:57:55

nomorewindows
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Registered: 2010-04-03
Posts: 3,004

Re: What defines a linux distro compared to a linux "spin off"?

demize wrote:
thiagowfx wrote:

Arch Linux ARM is a spin-off of Arch, also as Archbang, while Antergos is a derivative.

Antergos use the Arch repos plus another custom repo with more packages, so if Archbang qualifies as a spin-off I'd say that Antergos does too.

kahrkunne wrote:
Trilby wrote:

If you use another distro's repos with their support and permission, and to that you add other repos with additional software or other variants of the software in the main distro's repos, then you are a derivative distro.

If you use another distro's repos without their support and permission, and to that you add other repos with additional software or other variants of the software in the main distro's repos, then you are an asshole.

I'll have to disagree. I don't believe repos can be "owned" by a specific distro - they're just collections of free software after all. Now I do agree that you might sort of be an asshole for driving up the server costs, but then again the first distro lets people download all they want from their repos anyways.

That's not entirely true. For example, the RHEL packages are licensed so that unless you own a license you're not allowed to use the packages.

Distros like CentOS, and originally Fedora, circumvented that by building their own packages from the same source as RHEL.

We get the pacakages all from the same place, but since it is packaged RHEL, it can't be used on anything but RHEL, and only if you have a license for RHEL.  This is going backwards from Opensource/GNU/Libre as RMS tries to distinguish.  Just about trying to use firmware for a device I don't have.


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#22 2014-07-09 15:12:59

Trilby
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Re: What defines a linux distro compared to a linux "spin off"?

We all get packages from the same upstream sources, but packaging is not trivial.  What the authors/creators of a distro offer is suitable packaging of a variety of tools from various upstream sources.  The upstream source is checked, patched, and modified to cooperate with all the other packages in the repo.  This takes knowledge, experience, and effort.  Distro devs don't take credit for the content of the packages in their distro, but they do (at least implicitly) take credit for the packaging.

While one may *legally* redistribute another distros packages, if there is an implicity claim of credit for the work that went into creating the packages, this is what I see as wrong - ESR elaborates this much better than I could in "Homesteading the Noosphere" [1].  While there may be legal issues in some cases such as RHEL, or practical costs (e.g. server bandwidth), these are either exceptions to the rule or trivial as noted by comments above.  But my biggest concern is neither the legal nor practical costs - but the implicit claiming of credit on someone else's contributions.

I don't like the phrase "spin off" as I don't know what legitimate use it would have.  A unique distro is created when an individual or team creates their own packages, figuring out how to patch, modify, and customize all the upstream sources to be suitable for their target users.  A derivative distro is created when an individual or team builds on an existing distro by adding substantial novel content (likely new repos, perhaps new package management tools, etc).  The term "spin off" seems to be used when there has not been a substantial novel contribution to the community - but credit is (at least implicitly) being claimed for creating something "new".


[1] I don't know what RMS syndrome is.  I have a lot of respect for Stallman, but also differ in both opinion and practice on several notable points.  ESR syndrome, in contrast, would be something I'd be happy to be diagnosed with.


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#23 2014-07-10 03:15:15

andjeng
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From: Indonesia
Registered: 2012-08-30
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Re: What defines a linux distro compared to a linux "spin off"?

I think the one that they call "RMS Syndrome" is about main-protagonizing GNU's *role* in each and every GNU/Linux.


just looking around. wink

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#24 2014-07-10 03:46:12

ewaller
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Registered: 2009-07-13
Posts: 12,974

Re: What defines a linux distro compared to a linux "spin off"?

andjeng wrote:

I think the one that they call "RMS Syndrome" is about main-protagonizing GNU's *role* in each and every GNU/Linux.

And, why not?  In what way are the user space tools less important than the Kernel?  We are all deeply indebted to the GNU project for the excellent FREE (in all meanings of free) tools https://www.gnu.org/software/software.html.  Although he and I differ on many philosophical issues, I'll be damned if Richard is not usually correct in his paranoia and he has unselfishly provided us with excellent software.  Does it hurt so much to call it GNU/Linux?

Thank you RMS.


Edit:  This post is from ewaller, the member.  Not ewaller the moderator.

Last edited by ewaller (2014-07-10 03:47:52)


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#25 2014-07-10 05:58:20

x33a
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Re: What defines a linux distro compared to a linux "spin off"?

ewaller wrote:

And, why not?  In what way are the user space tools less important than the Kernel?  We are all deeply indebted to the GNU project for the excellent FREE (in all meanings of free) tools https://www.gnu.org/software/software.html.  Although he and I differ on many philosophical issues, I'll be damned if Richard is not usually correct in his paranoia and he has unselfishly provided us with excellent software.  Does it hurt so much to call it GNU/Linux?

Thank you RMS.

+1. My thoughts exactly.

The GNU tools are as important as the kernel, if not more.

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