Alpine Linux does not make the news July 25, 2023 on Drew DeVault's blog

My Linux distribution of choice for several years has been Alpine Linux. It’s a small, efficient distribution which ships a number of tools I appreciate for their simplicity, such as musl libc. It has a very nice package manager, apk, which is fast and maintainable. The development community is professional and focuses on diligent maintenance of the distribution and little else. Over the years I have used it, very little of note has happened.

I run Alpine in every context; on my workstation and my laptops but also on production servers, on bare-metal and in virtual machines, on my RISC-V and ARM development boards, at times on my phones, and in many other contexts besides. It has been a boring experience. The system is simply reliable, and the upgrades go over without issue every other quarter,1 accompanied by high-quality release notes. I’m pleased to maintain several dozen packages in the repositories, and the community is organized such that it is easy for someone like me to jump in and do the work required to maintain it for my use-cases.

Red Hat has been in the news lately for their moves to monetize the distribution, moves that I won’t comment on but which have generally raised no small number of eyebrows, written several headlines, and caused intense flamewars throughout the internet. I don’t run RHEL or CentOS anywhere, in production or otherwise, so I just looked curiously on as all of this took place without calling for any particular action on my part. Generally speaking, Alpine does not make the news.

And so it has been for years, as various controversies come about and die off, be it with Red Hat, Ubuntu, Debian, or anything else, I simply keep running “apk upgrade” every now and then and life goes on uninterrupted. I have high-quality, up-to-date software on a stable system and suffer from no fuss whatsoever.

The Alpine community is a grassroots set of stakeholders who diligently concern themselves with the business of maintaining a good Linux distribution. There is little in the way of centralized governance;2 for the most part the distribution is just quietly maintained by the people who use it for the purpose of ensuring its applicability to their use-cases.

So, Alpine does not make the news. There are no commercial entities which are trying to monetize it, at least no more than the loosely organized coalition of commercial entities like SourceHut that depend on Alpine and do their part to keep it in good working order, alongside various users who have no commercial purpose for the system. The community is largely in unanimous agreement about the fundamental purpose of Alpine and the work of the community is focused on maintaining the project such that this purpose is upheld.

This is a good trait for a Linux distribution to have.

  1. Or more frequently on edge, which I run on my workstation and laptops and which receives updates shortly after upstream releases for most software. ↩︎

  2. There’s some. They mostly concern themselves with technical decisions like whether or not to approve new committers or ports, things like that. ↩︎

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