How can one trust a Linux distribution?

Talk about other linux distributions, or even other OSes.

How can one trust a Linux distribution?

Postby silentwind » 4. Sep 2017, 09:36

Hello.

Maybe we can not get 100% certainty, but even so, how could the average user afford to have reasonable trust in a certain Gnu/Linux distro?

By ‘average user’ I mean someone who can only do a base install and is not an IT professional and therefore cannot inspect the source code by themselves, nor use/understand specialized tools for analyzing the software in detail; a ‘newbie’, in other words.

Simply saying something like “Hey, look, the code is freely available there on the web!” does not really help, because one cannot easily find out if that code is exactly the same as the one that is in the compiled file.

Making a parallel with the food industry: If you know that after an audit company X was found out of mismatching the ingredients in the actual product with those on the product’s label, how much would you be inclined to still buy and eat their product, assuming decent alternatives exist?

Hopefully this topic will help more people make an informed decision when choosing their operating system. What answers would not help are those:

-dealing solely with the nature of closed/proprietary code vs free/open source code (that area is already clear – we are interested in how much can we trust a free open source project)

-stating only that ultimately there is impossible to have trust in any software (such an answer does not help one make an informed decision)

-off-topic or derogatory statements (such an answer, besides being offensive, does not help one make an informed decision)

Please, keep the topic on the linux distros, on the operating system; do not divert it on how Google and Facebook are the greater concerns etc.

Let’s try to put this query into a few more concrete questions:

1. Considering Ubuntu’s susceptibility of spyware (Amazon searches in Unity) in the recent past, how can one have faith that current Ubuntu is to be trusted on other, more hidden to an average user, levels of software?

2. How would distributions based on Ubuntu be affected by such practices? Could they correct the bad parts?

3. Is it relevant in this context of trust how much patching a distro does to the upstream sources?

4. Based on what concrete factors would you trust a distro with your personal data on a daily basis? Why would you trust one distro over another?
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Re: How can one trust a Linux distribution?

Postby ChuangTzu » 4. Sep 2017, 21:24

Philosophy
Tenure (How long has the distro been around?)
Who is the distro targeting?
Ability to keep to K.I.S.S.
Are they willing to buck the trends if other distros are making a mistake(s)?
How stable is the system?
How close do they stick to upstream developers code?
Do they have a track record of being trustworthy?
How knowledgeable is the community around the distro?
How experienced is the community around the distro?
How easy is it to communicate with the dev. team?

I could go on ....., however, these are a few things that I would consider.

Even though you asked us not to, I have to say this question pertains to many other things....How can you trust your boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse, accountant, Doctor, Lawyer, Priest/Pastor/Rabbi/Iman, Microsoft etc....? How can you trust Linus T.? :shock:
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Re: How can one trust a Linux distribution?

Postby silentwind » 5. Sep 2017, 11:15

ChuangTzu wrote:Philosophy
Tenure (How long has the distro been around?)
Who is the distro targeting?
Ability to keep to K.I.S.S.
Are they willing to buck the trends if other distros are making a mistake(s)?
How stable is the system?
How close do they stick to upstream developers code?
Do they have a track record of being trustworthy?
How knowledgeable is the community around the distro?
How experienced is the community around the distro?
How easy is it to communicate with the dev. team?

I could go on ....., however, these are a few things that I would consider.


Spot on! You deserve credit for being the one who took my question most seriously so far, and pointing to relevant features of trust.

These are the most of the attributes that I myself consider important and not just software related, but for any other product or human project.

I admit to having asked this or very similar question on other forums as well, for a twofold reason:
a) To form a perspective of the current status of the Gnu/Linux distributions and what do they offer beyond the obvious set of software tools, where do they stand on a more philosophical/ethical level
b) For others to benefit from such a discussion and be able to make a well informed choice

Regarding a), if I did not use the best approach, then I apologize if I've offended anyone, but it seems that many people try to avoid the subject... hmm...

Regarding b), I think that is one way of helping others, by encouraging a serious discussion where users' rights are at stake and how can they better decide where to invest their time, energy and trust.

Again, if I did any mistake or break any rule, it was not intended. Not now and not ever, really. If it is the case, I'd appreciate any suggestions on how to do better in the future and avoid any mix-ups.

ChuangTzu wrote:Even though you asked us not to, I have to say this question pertains to many other things....How can you trust your boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse, accountant, Doctor, Lawyer, Priest/Pastor/Rabbi/Iman, Microsoft etc....? How can you trust Linus T.? :shock:


Sorry if I've sounded imposing or impolite in any way. English is not my native language and many times the vocabulary can be misinterpreted. (I also have an inquisitive nature, since I want to be well informed before I make a jump. Any jump! :) That leads me to being too indecisive often...)

I only meant for the discussion not be carried away too far from the main topic, but of course the main topic is more a philosophical one than a purely technical one! They're blended. :)

I think there are different degrees of trust. For example, we put more trust (let's roughly approximate it to 99% certainty) that the sun will also rise tomorrow. We can roughly approximate it to maybe 75% certainty that the flour from the bread we buy is natural and according to specifications... We can also roughly approximate that less than 5% of our political leaders have our best interests at heart...

We could use such rough approximations, and even if they are an imperfect tool, they could still guide us through the maze of choices.

And I think we could draw such an approximate conclusion about any product (either software or non-software) based on the factors you've already listed. I would also count "User friendliness" (by this I mainly mean a decent design and documentation) as one of the important factors, since I think that by making it user friendly the builders show their respect for the users. It could also be just marketing of course, but let's assume best intentions until we have any reason to doubt.

I love philosophy, omg, I could tackle this subject for hours. Or pages! :)

And I think I'm growing more fond of Salix as a distro, since I think its community is the most respectful and caring so far. I hope I have the patience to learn it and tinker with it well.

Many thanks!
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Re: How can one trust a Linux distribution?

Postby ChuangTzu » 6. Sep 2017, 00:37

You are in good company then, if you love Philosophy! :D

and your choice of distro is impeccable :mrgreen:
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Re: How can one trust a Linux distribution?

Postby silentwind » 6. Sep 2017, 06:37

ChuangTzu wrote:You are in good company then, if you love Philosophy! :D

Yes, although I didn't have the material possibility to pursue a college degree in Philosophy, I've tried to read many things, and obtain the knowledge which is roughly comparable to a formal degree.

Two Internet freely available courses have made a deep impression on me: Michael Sandel's "Justice" and Shelly Kagan's "Philosophy of Death".

My main area of interest is Ethics. It is surprising how few people take it seriously in their daily lives. Usually they are the same ones who consider Philosophy itself a waste of time...

In any case, if I had the chance to meet face-to-face for one hour any person from world's history, my main choice would be Socrates, and, coming close, Omar Khayyam...

ChuangTzu wrote:and your choice of distro is impeccable :mrgreen:


Well, I've tried it in the past when I was less patient and mature and I gave it up. Now I strongly consider installing it again and tweaking it for my daily needs. If I may ask, should I first ask here in the forum on how I should proceed step-by-step, or I could easily figure it all out as I go? I don't know how different the last version is (the Startup Guide is from 2015).
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Re: How can one trust a Linux distribution?

Postby ghostdawg » 7. Sep 2017, 21:46

Me personally, I recommend one of the distros at the top of Distrowatch list, to people who are new and/or non technical. I use one of those for the longevity and community support it offer. I usually have 3 distros installed on my desktop hdd, Mageia is my main os, Salix and currently Voidlinux. At times I try a newer distro that sounds interesting and to see if I may like it.
Dell Optiplex 760 | Quad-Core | 4gb | 250gb | Salix-14.2 - Xfce4 & Openbox
HP DX5150 AMD64 | 1.5gb | 40gb | SalixOS-13.0 - Xfce4
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Re: How can one trust a Linux distribution?

Postby mimosa » 8. Sep 2017, 12:41

silentwind wrote:could easily figure it all out as I go? I don't know how different the last version is (the Startup Guide is from 2015).


I shouldn't think you would have too much difficulty even without the Guide; in any case it is still almost entirely applicable. When people do have problems, the solutions are usually there.
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