Is Android really a Linux distribution?

Today in Open Source: Is Android really Linux? Plus: ARM Linux, and the virtues of Window Maker

Is Android Really a Linux Distribution?

OS News has a short but pithy article about whether or not Android is really Linux, and if it's actually just another Linux distribution. The article has spawned a spirited discussion in the comments section, as many people have passionate feelings about Android and Linux.

A common misconception among people who don't really understand what Linux is - one that I'm seeing pop up more and more now that people are trying to paint Android in a negative light - i.e., as competition to not just iOS, but also the noble and open source Linux.

Repeat after me: Android is just as much 'Linux' as Ubuntu, Debian, Red Hat, or anything else that uses the Linux kernel. Technically, a better term would be 'Linux distribution', since Linux in and of itself is just a kernel.

More at OS News

I'm actually inclined to agree with the article, and I think it makes some sense to consider Android as yet another distribution of Linux. I know that there are many who don't consider it to be that, but I think they are engaging in "purist" thinking.

Or perhaps they see it differently because Android has been focused on the mobile space (phones and tablets) rather than on the desktop like Linux Mint, Ubuntu or other well known distributions.

It may also have to do with whether or not someone considers Linux to be just the kernel, or the entire operating system. So much of this debate rests on what a user perceives Linux to be, and what Android actually is on various devices.

But let's not forget that some purists also dislike any desktop Linux distributions that contain "non-free" software such as drivers, games, etc. They consider those distributions to be "contaminated" and not true to the open source vision.

I have never had a problem with distros that contain non-free software. I regard them as just another option for users who may prefer them. Trisquel and other distros provide only free software, so that option is also available to users who prefer it.

What's your take on this? Is Android just another Linux distribution? Or is it something else? Tell me in the comments below.

Linux and ARM Processors

Brian Proffitt has an interesting look at the effect of ARM Linux and power usage in the cloud. I'm all in favor of ARM versions of Linux, and it's certainly a good thing if it results in the use of less power for cooling and usage.

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