Here's today's quiz: You have just installed Mandrake Linux on your desktop systems when you hear the news: "MandrakeSoft is going through the French equivalent of Chapter 11 bankruptcy." What should you do?
A. Panic. Swear off this Linux craze and go back to the "safe" choice, Windows. B. Panic. Run down to the nearest computer superstore and buy a copy of Red Hat Linux, then charge back to the office and install it quickly before something goes wrong.
C. Don't panic, but develop an orderly migration away from Mandrake over a reasonable timeframe.
D. None of the above.
Here's a hint: Don't panic. As recent events in the greater business world indicate, Chapter 11 reorganization is not necessarily the end of the trail (need I mention Worldcom?). MandrakeSoft, a French corporation, is entering the French equivalent of such and apparently has a good chance of emerging from the process in workable condition.
The correct answer is D. None of the above. Frankly, there is very little reason to walk away from Mandrake at this time.
Let's consider the worst-case scenario. Let's say MandrakeSoft never finds its financial feet and comes crashing down for good (something I neither hope nor expect to occur). Is it time to panic then?
Not at all. Remember that open source, by its very nature, separates the life of the code from the life of its vendors. The code continues, even if the company selling it ceases to exist. In this case, Linux and all its associated pieces will continue to grow and be supported, even if MandrakeSoft were to succumb financially.
But there's even more. As soon as the news of Mandrake's problems broke in the media, an immediate discussion started in the open-source community. The subject was, "Should the community take over development of the Mandrake distribution?"
Although opinions varied as one might expect, it is important to note that even while MandrakeSoft is still a functioning company, the open-source world is debating what actions the community needs to take. Personally, I think that if MandrakeSoft fell by the wayside, we would continue to see the distribution develop under the hands of the community for a couple years at least, if not considerably longer. And, for those who think that the community is incapable of such action, I offer the example of the Debian distribution, which has been community developed for several years.
I've been a Mandrake user since version 5.3. I recently upgraded my main desktop to Mandrake 9.0 after a long stint using Mandrake 7.1. (It's nice not needing to upgrade until I feel it's necessary.)
Mandrake is a great desktop distribution, and I, for one, have no interest in changing to another vendor. Nor do I feel it risky for me to stay with Mandrake on both my business and personal systems. Even in the worst-case scenario, there is no cause for me to lose sleep or run to make emergency plans.
With open source, my affairs are not at the mercy of my vendor. My vendor's problems don't need to affect my business. And that gives me one less problem to solve.