Today I ate a quesadilla. It was delicious.
It had the perfect amount of melted cheese between a folded-over flour tortilla. But it wasn't the cheese that made this particular quesadilla memorable. Nor was it the tortilla. No sir. Those things were simply the base – the canvas upon which this greasy masterpiece was constructed.
What made the experience was the addition of grilled chicken and chopped green peppers. And, when dipped in some salsa – just a tad, mind you... we don't want to overwhelm the other flavors here – the resulting taste experience was absolutely bonkers.
Bonkers, I say.
As I slowly consumed my meal, and inched myself ever closer to an inevitable cardiac event, I began to consider the topic that was on my mind at that particular moment... in terms of the food I was presently devouring, as I am wont to do. At this exact point in time, that topic happened to be the diversity of the Linux ecosystem.
One of the most amazing things about quesadillas is how different each one can be. They're like snow-flakes made of cheese. Depending on what other ingredients you add, the result can be completely different. Completely new.
Ground beef, red peppers and onions? Delicious. Lobster, tomatoes and scallions? Also delicious. But they’re two totally different experiences. They're so different that calling them both a “quesadilla” seems somehow... inaccurate. Yet we do, because of the cheese and tortilla part.
Which, in a way, is like Linux.
Depending on what ingredients you add, you can take the base canvas (the Linux Kernel) and create something new. The differences between, say, Arch running KDE Plasma and Debian running GNOME is profound. Different tools, different aesthetic, different user experiences. Those are two damned different quesadillas. But even when two editions of Linux are predominantly the same, the resulting difference – no matter how small it may be in terms of overall ingredient change – can be truly surprising.
Take Ubuntu and Elementary for example. Elementary is built on top of Ubuntu and utilizes the vast majority of Ubuntu's packages. Yet the style, the feel, and the usability of the two systems couldn't be farther apart.
In quesadilla terms, this would be like having a "steak, onion and bell pepper quesadilla"... and then removing the onions and adding bacon. Sure, the two quesadillas are practically identical in terms of ingredients. But one of them has freaking bacon in it.
Can they both be called "Linux"? Many in the Free Software world would say that they should both be classified as GNU/Linux-based systems. And they may have a point. The more words we use to describe something, the more accurate we can be. That "GNU/" definitely adds a certain level of accuracy.
If we called every quesadilla simply a "quesadilla" and refused to differentiate between their differences, it would make ordering rather difficult. And sometimes you might get a shrimp quesadilla by accident, which sounds like it might be good. But it's not. It's really, really not.
On the flip-side, if you were to describe any Linux-based desktop out there, you'd need about 100 pages worth of package lists in order to be truly accurate. Which sounds like a just plain terrible way to name anything. So, if we're not going to do that... if we're not going to be completely accurate, why have the “GNU/” in there at all? Why not just roll with “Linux” all by itself?
All I'm saying is this: If a quesadilla has shrimp and bacon in it, you’d better put those words in the name. Either that, or just call it “plain quesadilla” so I can play a wicked nice prank on someone.
I will save my thoughts on how the American medical system relates to a California Roll for another article.