I am no longer working for Mandriva S.A. since the beginning of the year. I was working as a consultant on marketing as well as on the Open Source relations for the company since 2012 and it is time for me to move forward. I had a great time at Mandriva; I met a lot of great people and I learned a lot. I helped reposition the company towards a more professional audience and deeply refresh its image. But I would also like to say a few words about the OpenMandriva project which I helped build and foster.
The beginnings of the OpenMandriva project were rough. The very rationale for the existence of OpenMandriva were not overly clear to many people. After all, the Mageia project was already booming and the justification for such a project that was aiming at building upon the Mandriva Linux legacy was weak. On top of this, the team behind the project was small, and the mission was overwhelming: to continue, as a community, the development of the linux distribution formerly known as Mandriva Linux. I will not really go into details as to how the project evolved, but I am proud to have contributed in a significant way to build the home for this project, namely an independent French NGO (the OpenMandriva Association) and to have helped the community with establishing its governance and some of its sound principles and processes. But the question remains: why does the OpenMandriva Project matter? Why should we care?
In the world of linux distributions you will find dozens of “me-too” distributions and other projects whose goals are ones of a niche audience, to put it lightly. But regardless of what I and others might think of these goals the important part is that the sheer existence of these distributions is a brilliant testimony to software freedom. As such we must respect that. But I do not think the OpenMandriva project is either a me-too project or caters only to a small audience of users. This project was able to build an innovative technological base (different from Mageia) around a highly customized KDE and a unique packaging format that end up giving an innovative, general purpose and user-friendly linux distribution, supported by a friendly and warm community. Will it hurt Mageia? I know some of the Mageia people very well, and I don’t think so. I don’t even think they think that it could be the case. For one thing, the two projects are at very differtent stages of their growth and lifecycle. Another reason is that while the two projects aim at creating a very user-friendly distribution, they actually managed to do it in different ways (try both, and you will see the differences) which carves out distinctive approaches and “feels”. Assuming the two projects are fundamentally direct competitors would end up meaning that since OpenSuse and Fedora or Ubuntu also cater to broadly similar audiences only one should survive, but it would then prove a deep misunderstanding of how linux distributions work and how, again, software freedom matters in empowering anyone to code and share its code with the human kind.
I wish success and good luck to the OpenMandriva project. The folks there deserve it and I look forward to their rapid growth and a lot more exciting releases.