Distros and DVDs

Distros and DVDs

Article from Issue 182/2016

We don't really know what sells a magazine on the newsstand. Big publishing companies have whole teams of marketing analysts studying trends and performing Big Data maneuvers on the sales data. Our ragtag group can only treat it as something of an art form: We throw an issue together, and sometime later, we find out if we guessed right when choosing what to put in it.

Dear Linux Pro Reader,

We don't really know what sells a magazine on the newsstand. Big publishing companies have whole teams of marketing analysts studying trends and performing Big Data maneuvers on the sales data. Our ragtag group can only treat it as something of an art form: We throw an issue together, and sometime later, we find out if we guessed right when choosing what to put in it.

When I say sometime later, I mean a long time later. In the UK, it takes around 6 months to get final data on sales, and it can take up to a year to find out how we did in the USA and rest of world. Not that sales data is really so interesting as an editorial topic. The main reason I look at old sales records is to compare our magazine against itself – to see which issues sold best and try to understand why. Every time you reach for a magazine at the newsstand and buy it, you are voting for something in it. If an issue sells well, we ask, "What did they like about it?" The articles? The cover image? The cover headline? Or was it the illusive DVD?

We've never really had a scientific theory for choosing which distro DVD to include with each issue, although I have to admit, it used to be easier than it is now. A walk to our bookshelf sends me spinning down memory lane to my first two years on the job. When I started working for the magazine in 2004, the Linux world was just starting to recover from the shock of losing the popular Red Hat Linux free distro in 2003 when Red Hat created the Red Hat Enterprise subscription product and embraced Fedora as a free alternative.

RHEL was never really friendly with the idea of mass distribution through magazines, but Fedora joined the rotation with Fedora Core 3 in Issue 50. SUSE had not yet executed its own bifurcation into SLE and openSUSE, SUSE Linux was a big seller for us in those days. One of the articles in Issue 52 was a portentous little piece on a new startup distro that sported its own "philosophy" based on African conceptions of unity and oneness. Ubuntu had arrived, and it quickly gained momentum. We were there with an Ubuntu 5.04 "Hoary Hedgehog" DVD in Issue 53, and Ubuntu stayed around because it was (and is) something readers still seem to want. Another popular perennial from that era that is still in the lineup is Knoppix, the packed and powerful Live distro loved by hobbyists and admins alike. Other distros from past DVDs have disappeared or faded from the limelight – Yoper, Mepis, Linspire. We could have told the Xandros people their distro was in for a rocky ride just based on the comparative sales data for Issue 56.

We've always loved exposing readers to interesting new initiatives, and we have included some winners in our DVD series early in their history, such as Ubuntu, CentOS, and Linux Mint, but some of the other DVDs didn't do so well – and we stopped including them because you, our readers, didn't vote for them.

Of course, many interesting Linux distributions are designed for a special purpose and were never intended for a mass market audience – audio production distributions, for instance, or penetration testing systems. One important development that has allowed us to roll more of these specialized systems into the mix is the falling price for double-sided DVD-10 discs, which makes it easier to bind in one of the mainstream meat-and-potatoes Linux systems and still let our readers experiment with the lesser-known alternatives. But then, many of our readers still use 32-bit systems, and others definitely opt for 64-bit distros, so our DVD mix must accommodate both factions.

We're pretty sure you still want us to send new releases of Ubuntu, Fedora, and Knoppix. A major Debian only happens once in a while, and we think you'll want that one too. Mint tops the list at Distrowatch (by a lot), and we think it tops the list for many of you as well. What else? openSUSE? Mageia? Arch? Sabayon? What's your favorite Ubuntu flavor? Are you into troubleshooting? Gaming? Multimedia?

You can help us figure out what to put on our DVDs by letting us know what you want. Drop us a line at edit@linux-magazine.com and give us your suggestions for upcoming DVDs. Be sure to let us know if you're using a 32-bit or 64-bit system.

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