Unpopular Opinion Penguin #8: The Sin of Difference

Hello and welcome to another entry of the most popular section on this blog!, Unpopular Opinion Penguin. In today’s blog, I’ll address the ever-constant complaint that Nitrux is merely “Debian with new artwork”; for the 500th time. Without further ado…

Winds of Change

There’s this saying I heard for the first time some weeks ago, it goes: “Changing everything to change nothing.” This is based on a quote from a book called “Il Gattopardo” or “The Leopard” by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa based on the life of his great-grandfather, Don Giulio Fabrizio Tomasi, the Prince of Lampedusa, whose life spanned much of the 19th century, where the original quote reads the following.

“Unless we ourselves take a hand now, they’ll foist a republic on us. If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change…” (p. 19)—Tancredi Falconeri to Prince Fabrizio Salina, from Il Gattopardo.

Il Gattopardo by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, November 1958

In the novel, one of the characters, Tancredi Falconeri, expresses this idea to his uncle, Prince Fabrizio Salina, the protagonist, who finds himself caught up in a period of great change, one ushered in by the Risorgimento or unification of Italy of the various states of the southern Italian peninsula in the mid-19th century.

The quote highlights the need for adaptation to preserve the essence of their world during the political and social upheaval and it’s a paradox indicating significant changes may be necessary to maintain the status quo reflecting Lampedusa’s conservative outlook, acknowledging that change is inevitable but emphasizing its role in preserving the core aspects of society.

Tancredi’s famous dictum encapsulates the relevant idea when discussing the evolution of Nitrux, especially since version 2.6.0 “ff,” which was a reintroduction of the concepts of immutability and AppImage-focused end-user software management that we had already gone through with ZNX—a topic I’ve already covered extensively in this blog, where the core concept was immutability.

Like we did in 2019, despite its roots in Debian, Nitrux is more than a rebranded distribution. Removing traditional package management components like dpkg, APT, and PackageKit, and instead prioritizing AppImages, Flatpak, and containerized environments like Distrobox, we embraced a fundamentally different philosophy, again, in 2023 seeing as there was now a wider acceptance of immutable Linux distributions.

This shift underscores a significant transformation that contrary to what people seemingly love to think preserves system flexibility. Just as in “Il Gattopardo,” where preserving the essence of the aristocratic world required adapting to new political realities, our distribution maintains its Debian heritage while boldly reimagining the approach to software management and system architecture.

This transformation ensures that while the core principles of stability and reliability remain intact, the distribution evolves to meet modern needs and challenges.

When we adopted this innovative strategy, we challenged conventional perceptions, driving home the point that meaningful change is necessary to preserve and enhance the user experience. This philosophy differentiates our distribution from Debian and positions it as a forward-thinking distribution in the Linux ecosystem.

The evolution of Nitrux reflects the wisdom in Tancredi’s words: to maintain the essence of what we value, we must embrace and drive meaningful change.

Understanding the Misunderstanding

Drawing a parallel between our changes and “Il Gattopardo,” we can see how the superficial perception of change often masks the deeper, more meaningful transformations. The shift from traditional package management to a more modern, immutable system with AppImages, Flatpak, and other methods represents a significant evolution. However, despite these substantial changes, the distribution is often misunderstood and seen merely as “Debian with pretty artwork” and while I certainly appreciate the acknowledgment of the artwork that’s only a minor point in the distribution.

These changes in software management and system architecture are meant to ensure greater stability, security, and reliability—core values for any operating system. Yet, just like the characters in the novel who resist understanding or accepting these changes, many people downloading the distribution might not grasp the depth of these improvements because they focus on the familiar surface elements.

And it’s not like I don’t understand why they think that because I do. In the world of Linux distributions, it’s not uncommon for new entrants to offer little more than a fresh coat of paint on an established base. This trend has led to a pervasive skepticism among people, who often dismiss these newcomers as mere cosmetic reworks. Our distribution, however, defies this trend, embodying the spirit of meaningful change rather than superficial updates.

Much like the characters in the novel, who navigate the shifting sands of political and social change people are confronted with a distribution that challenges their preconceived notions. This skepticism is not rooted in the actual capabilities of Nitrux but in a psychological resistance to perceived loss of control.

  1. The sense of being “locked out” or unable to control their systems, even when multiple methods for software installation are providedsix, indicates a deeper psychological barrier.
  2. Users cling to familiar systems and workflows, fearing the unknown despite the clear advantages and improvements Nitrux offers.

This psychological barrier echoes the resistance to change in “Il Gattopardo.” The characters in the novel cling to their old ways, even as the world around them evolves. In other words, a fear of the unfamiliar and a reluctance to leave the comfort of the known.

Unpopular Opinion

I started this entry with a book because it underscores the issue with people using our distribution. People have a nonsensical aversion to reading and that’s—by far—more than real technical problems and shortcomings—the bane of our existence.

The factual evidence is that people consciously avoid getting informed about the system they’ve downloaded. It’s an undisputed truth that only between 21.17% and 22.77% of people entering our website even bother to click the button below the download button on the landing page, even if it is placed before the download, even if it jumps when scrolling to get their attention.

Post view statistics of https://nxos.org from July 2024.

It doesn’t matter if we include that same information in the default installation, offline, in a completely accessible user directory; people would rather continue to keep eluding getting informed. They’d rather continue to convince themselves that since they don’t know how stuff works, it must mean it doesn’t work because obviously, they’re not the problem. How could that ever be possible? They’ve used a dozen Debian-based distributions already; they all function and act the same, so why would this one be different?

It’s clear to me that the concept of our Linux distribution escapes most people. They can’t or, worse, refuse to understand that it never mattered which distribution was the “base.” Nitrux is not just the base but everything we do, the changes we make. That’s what Nitrux is.

But then again, as I’ve learned:

On dit quelquefois, le sens commun est fort rare… (It is sometimes said, common sense is very rare)—Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary (‘Sens Commun’) (1767).