Linux’s Own ‘Canterbury’ Tale: Laughing, Wishing and Hoping

The Linux blogosphere is never a boring place to be even on the most ordinary of days, but when April Fools’ Day comes around, let’s just say there’s no end to the excitement.

Take this year, for example. April hadn’t even yet arrived for those of us here in the U.S. when a series of shocking announcements began circulating through the Linux blogosphere.

“We are pleased to announce the birth of the Canterbury distribution,” began the announcement from the Debian site, for example.

‘A Really Unified Effort’

“Canterbury is a merge of the efforts of the community distributions formerly known as Debian, Gentoo, Grml, openSUSE and Arch Linux to produce a really unified effort and be able to stand up in a combined effort against proprietary operating systems, to show off that the Free Software community is actually able to work together for a common goal instead of creating more diversity,” it explained.

Many thanks to Slashdot blogger Barbara Hudson for first alerting Linux Girl to the electrifying news!

Electrifying it was, too — even after someone pointed out the Canterbury-April Fools’ connection. In no time at all, in fact, a wide variety of sentiments could be heard on the project’s Twitter feed — some incredulous, some uncertain, but many of them earnest and hopeful.

‘Wishing Really Hard’

“Canterbury distribution #cbproject is real or is an April Fool’s joke? I still doubt,” wrote dev_sa, for example.

“I’m wishing its true!” enthused bgh251f2.

“I just went from laughing really hard to wishing really hard,” wrote Eric_Ryan_Jones.

Similarly, “I hate the #aprilfools, but I dream #cbproject Canterbury,” chimed in speedygeo.

And again: “If only #cbproject was real… ” lamented Sentrix27.

Maybe ‘a Trial Balloon’?

Now, Linux Girl loves a good April Fools’ Day joke just as much as the next geek, but something about this one seemed to tug at the heart strings of more than a few in the Linux community.

She took to the streets of the blogosphere for more insight.

“When I first saw the announcement, I thought, ‘April Fools,'” said Hudson, who goes by “Tom” on the site. “But I checked the OpenSuse, Arch, and Debian web sites, and they all have the same announcement. Additionally, the Arch announcement is dated March 31st, not April 1st.”

It could be a joke, Hudson conceded, but it could also be “a trial balloon with an element of Nixonian plausible deniability, or even a legitimate announcement timed to coincide with April Fools to keep people guessing,” Hudson mused. “Who knows?”

‘This Would Be a Logical Move’

Not only does the concept make sense, but “it has been tried before, with UnitedLinux, where Suse, Caldera, TurboLinux and Connectiva tried to work together to form a common base for their distros,” she pointed out.

Either way, “this would be a logical move for OpenSuse, considering the questions that have been raised in light of the planned acquisition of parent Novell by Attachmate,” Hudson noted.

“Joining with other distros, especially Debian and Arch, to create a common base would not just have a serious impact on the linux ecosystem; it also makes sense with the move towards the ‘tumbleweed’ rolling release model of distro updates,” Hudson added.

“We saw how quickly most distros switched from OpenOffice to LibreOffice — imagine how much easier that would have been with a common base distro,” she concluded. “So, while it might be a joke today, it’s something that, after the LOLs, deserves a second look.”

‘As Likely as Curing Cancer in My Kitchen’

Indeed, “the art of April Fools’ Day is putting out a story that has enough tugging at heart-strings and enough plausibility that the reader’s imagination carries them past the barriers of reality to run with the idea,” observed blogger Robert Pogson.

“There is some merit in consolidation and sharing resources, but I raise the parapets a few hundred metres on April 1,” he added.

In fact, “while merging of distros may sound like a consolidation and bringing things together, it’s as likely as me curing cancer in my kitchen,” Pogson concluded. “It is much more likely that contributors to a distro might change distros than to actually merge such different systems.

“Debian, for instance, has a world-class system for distributing binaries,” he pointed out. “Gentoo is all about source-code. How are they going to merge anything but some packages that they may share?”

‘This Is a Great Idea’

Continuing in the spirit of the day, however, “I think this is a great idea,” said Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project. “Diversity is a problem with Linux and this gets rid of it all.

“Now you will be able to do something like apt-get-emerge-yast upgrade kernel — recompile — from-source — from-srpm — use-rh-options,” Travers added. “Maybe it will be enough to get Oracle to release their flagship products open source!”

Linux Girl won’t be holding her breath on that one.

Meanwhile, “I would settle for all distros agreeing on one package manager,” consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack said.

‘Nerds Acting Like Asses’

Slashdot blogger hairyfeet wasn’t so sure the prank served any purpose.

“I like to call it, ‘nerds acting like asses,'” he told Linux Girl. “I mean seriously, aren’t we suppose to be the intelligent ones? What is it that turns nerds into idiots one day a year?”

Thoughts on Technology blogger and Bodhi Linux lead developer Jeff Hoogland, however, took a more optimistic view.

“I think it is one of the most well-organized April 1sts around,” Hoogland told Linux Girl. “The fact that people from Debian, Arch and OpenSUSE all got together for a day to throw us a curve ball just reminds me how much even different projects are able to work with each other.”

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