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Distro developers need dollars!

November 11, 2010

These are hard times, and a lot of people are hurting financially. Jobs and money are hard to come by, and many folks are just getting by. It turns out that even your favorite distro developers could use a few bucks to help them keep churning out new & updated distros for desktop use.

I write a lot of distro reviews, as you can imagine, and I often see distro developers soliciting donations to help support their work. As you may already know, an enormous amount of work goes into developing the desktop distros that we all know and love. It takes a lot of time, effort and energy to maintain and improve a Linux distribution.

So I thought I’d take this opportunity to discuss why it makes sense to financially help your favorite distro developers. The first page of this column shows why it’s a good idea to contribute to your favorite distro developers, and the second page has a list of distro donation links that you can use to make contributions.

Sabayon Linux Donation Page

Sabayon Linux Donation Page

Disclaimer: Giving & Volunteering
Please note that I totally understand if some folks are not financially in a position to help by making a donation.

As I noted above, many people are facing tough times. This column is not an attempt to guilt-trip anybody into donating money; I just wanted to explore the issues surrounding donations and to encourage those who really can afford it to give a few bucks to their favorite distro.

So please bear that in mind as you read this column.

If you aren’t able to make a donation, you might also want to consider contacting the developer of your favorite distro and ask him/her if you can assist them with development/documentation/etc. work as a volunteer. That can be a great way to make a contribution too.

Different Kinds of Distro Developers
There are different kinds of distro developers. Some, like the folks that make Ubuntu and other distros, have strong corporate backing and thus don’t require much in the way of user donations.

But others, however, are independent people that give a lot of themselves to the larger Linux community by customizing distros to add extra value and choice. It’s these folks who labor quietly in the background who can probably use a donation or two.

Even a small donation can help defray costs and provide a little compensation to those who do all of the development and packaging work for a desktop Linux distribution.

Pinguy OS Donation Page

Pinguy OS Donation Page

Nothing In Life is Really Free
I know that there are some out there who might scoff at the very idea of giving money to a distro developer and who think “hey, it’s free software! Why should I pay to use it?” Well let’s face it; nothing in life is really free.

It takes a lot of work to create or customize a desktop Linux distribution, and then more work to maintain it over time. While it’s very true that no payment is required by most distro developers, it’s also true that most of them would probably appreciate a little tip here or there from users.

Ads & Ad Blockers
There seem to be a few distro sites that run advertising to help defray the costs of development. If you are running an ad blocker while visiting those sites, I encourage you to turn off your ad blocker or whitelist those sites.

Linux Mint Donation Page

Linux Mint Donation Page

Every little bit helps so if you can let a few ads load in your browser, and even click a few you are interested in then you might be able to help support your favorite distros without even having to make a donation.

Distro Developer Donation Pages
Here’s a list of distro developer donation pages or links for those who want to make a quick donation. This list is in alphabetical order and the links go to either a donation page on the distro’s site or to a PayPal or other donation link.

This list is by no means comprehensive, I consider it just a start. If I missed any particular distro in this list, please feel free to put a link to its donation page or PayPal or whatever in the comments section below. I can add those links to the main list.

Hopefully folks will see these links and make a contribution to their favorite distros.







Easy Peasy





Linux Mint











Pinguy OS





Ultimate Edition





I am sure that all of these distro developers will appreciate any donation that you make, regardless of the amount.


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26 Responses to Distro developers need dollars!

  1. Locklear on January 30, 2011 at 7:18 pm
  2. Caleb Cushing ( xenoterracide ) on November 15, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Let’s not donate… and start charging a very cheap rate for distro’s… how about $1 per user? computer? cpu? something really cheap… that’ll build money for the distro… stop making it optional, and put it more towards mandatory and we’ll be able to pay developers for full time on foss.

  3. Jim Lynch on November 15, 2010 at 3:13 am

    Thanks, Amen.

    Added Arch and I’ll bookmark the partitioning tool. I want to keep that list just distros. But maybe the other link will work well in a follow up on articles/tools at some point.

  4. amenditman on November 15, 2010 at 2:46 am

    How about ArchLinux at http://www.archlinux.org/donate/

    and my favorite linux tool
    PartedMagic at http://partedmagic.com/donations.html

  5. Jazz on November 15, 2010 at 1:55 am

    A fine article!

    Please add Arch Linux to your donation-link list:

  6. ercolinux on November 14, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    @mario: I’m sorry but making and mantaining a distro is not only a matter recycling others work. If you talk of one of the various “clone distro” derived from other it probably can be true (but in that case a distro that is not innovative or introduce a ‘personal’ touch probably don’t last too long, and so early or later it falls in the next category).
    But when a distro is totally write from scratch, (or gets common roots in a far past) like Debian, Slackware, SuSE, Pardus, openmamba, RedHat, Deli, Puppy, ututo, Dragora, ZeroShell (and there are tens of others) the work behind it a bit more complex. Find the right tools and integrate library and software to be sure that thousands of different programs works smoothly together is not a simple job, and without this work you can’t surely enjoy the use of Linux.
    To make a simple example a distro is like a car: if you are good enough with DIY you can buy all the pieces and assembly them in your yard (Linux from Scratch), or you can buy a complete car (a distro) or even buy a stock car and pimp it (a derived distro). Without the work of assembler (distro makers) only few people can drive a car :whistle:

  7. mario on November 14, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    I’m very sorry, but this article is devoid of information. The “why it makes sense [...]” part is not answered in any meaningful way.

    Yes, it’s a lot of work to maintain a distro. But saying this seven times does not make it more relevant or turn it into an explanation. Any developer who can use money should so say, but also list explicitely for what it’s going to be used. There are many legitimate use cases, but handwaving gets you no sympathy nor cash. Say what you need it for, and you shall receive. Asking for money just so is depriving downstream projects of more legitimate financing. And let me be extra blunt here, distro developers are only recycling other peoples work and often just reinventing package managers, installers, themes or admin guis. That’s a little too little for awkwarding the FLOSS donation pool.

    Ever since the lackluster Diaspora outcome the donation well has been poisoned. Be specific, or refrain from draining the ecosystem with a donation button. Misused AND unused donations don’t sit well with the rest of us.

    Sorry again.

  8. ercolinux on November 14, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    @Hawkeye Your idea of donating to a single entity that then divide the “incomes” with all the projects can be a good idea in theory but is really difficult to apply: there are hundreds of distro and tousands of open source projects. How one can judge if a project is worthing 10 or 100 or 1. Not to count that a similar foundation or organization needs money to maintain itself (it can be the Linux Foundation or the Free Software Foundation).

    Normally, developers involved in software projects and distro helps reciprocally (with code integration or internet space, but sometimes with money too) so is not important to wich you donate money.
    Often software gives an option to obtain payed support or customization or to buy hardware or CD-DVD at a fair price. Maybe next time you need to buy something check if you can find it from your preferred project.

  9. Hawkeye on November 14, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    The sheer diversity of linux distributions is one of the weaknesses for individual users. I believe that many, like myself, would like to contribute not only to linux distributions, but the window managers and applications that provide the rich set of options available to us. The problem becomes: which one(s), how many, and how much do you contribute to? There are so many deserving projects that deserve support. Couple that with the fact that many regular linux users are active because of the ‘free’ aspect of the community. For those with the appropriate ‘community consciousness’ it would take the wisdom of Solomon to sort it all out.

    There needs to be a ‘clearing house’ that one can send contributions to, and have faith that whatever is sent will be doled out in a sensible way. This would allow linux users to focus on what they can afford, not how to allocate their contributions. Without something like this, I believe many will suffer from paralysis by analysis, and never take the financial step to help the effort.

    I am pleased that you bring this critical topic up for consideration and discussion…

  10. Micah on November 14, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    Ivan makes a fine point. If you don’t have a favorite distro, or you like one that has the backing of a shady company (…), consider donating upstream. A donation to GNOME, KDE, or some program you like can help improve something that hundreds of distros make use of. For instance, Distrowatch lists at least 130 distros that use GNOME as a desktop environment or include it as an option!

  11. Ivan on November 14, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Well, just to note that a lot (well, most) of the coding is not done by distros, but in upstream projects – Linux (kernel), KDE, Gnome, Apache…).

    So while I fully support donating to the distros, don’t forget to donate to the rest of the good people that bring you libre software. :)

    KDE developer

    p.s. Just to mention that I’m not posting this for my own benefit or anything since I’m not accepting donations currently, but just to make people aware to give credit where credit is due.

  12. darkhole on November 14, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Hey, where is Ubuntu Linux??

  13. Jim Lynch on November 13, 2010 at 4:37 am

    Hi Suo,

    You can use the social media buttons at the bottom of the article text to Reddit it or otherwise share it. I think it’s on Reddit already so if you are on there, by all means vote it up.

  14. Suo.Eno on November 13, 2010 at 4:29 am

    @Jim Lynch

    Finally at this time of the year this column are out to serve us an important reminder.Thank you Jim.People should Digg,reddit and spread this any way or anywhere they can!

    I fully support this.There are those out there professionals,specialised or otherwise who are already fully dependent and productive on non-dual booting desktop Linux systems.Any one of you who is successful at making this work for you after migrating from Windows or Mac OS X should ask yourselves “How much I’ve been REQUIRED to pay for my previous OS and how much I got back in return?”.I’m not preaching to sow guilt just merely a firm poke to myself and others,let us appreciate the minimal and unforced financial contributions that the desktop Linux movement fully deserve.

    And we can do so much more.Write up our fave distros’ reviews be it newbie-ish or sage-like on blogs and your facebooks.Spread the word and awareness.

  15. daemox on November 12, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    Great, and much needed, article! I recently did a similar article on a number of applications so as to help get the word out about supporting some of this software we’ve grown to enjoy and depend on.

    Thanks also to Raphaël Hertzog for the Flattr link, I’m going to check that out for sure.

    Take care,

  16. ercolinux on November 12, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    Often developers gives times for free, but actually develop a distro has costs that shall be covered (internet spaces, connection, hardware for testing and so on).
    One of the big strength of open source is that every one can contribute to development and even a small amount of code (even a single line of code sometimes) can make a project better. The same can be applied to donation. Is not necessary that one donate hundreds of dollars, but even a single dollar can make the difference: for a small project or distro with 1000 user, a donation of 1$ can be enough to cover the connection and internet space for example. And 1$ can be donated by quite every one.

  17. Jim Lynch on November 12, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Ercolinux, I added your distro to the list.

    Tuxhelper, good point about the applications too. Feel free to post application donation links in the comments too (though I want to keep the main list to just distros so folks aren’t confused about it).

  18. tuxhelper on November 12, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Very good read! But, we should not limit ourselves to just distributions as many of the applications we use are in need of support as well.

  19. ercolinux on November 12, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    I’m a contributor/developer of a distro called openmamba. Is an Italian distro really simple to use. Can you please add our page too?

  20. tlmck on November 12, 2010 at 5:57 am

    I do contribute to the various projects I use on a regular basis. When money is tight, I try to assist in ways like helping out in the support forums.

  21. 000 on November 12, 2010 at 2:19 am

    In the past (from what I remeber) some Debian developers (very) where upset if someone give them money/pay for they work.

    But now things are a bit different.

    Anyway coding for some OSS project is a lot easier having some money in the pocket.

    B.T.W in generally FLASH is the main problem not ads.

    • Brian Masinick on November 12, 2010 at 2:48 am

      Software in the Public Interest (SPI) represents the financial and legal arm of the Debian project, and that is where most traditional Debian donations go.

      I am one of those who has been either unemployed or underemployed quite a bit this past decade. I’ll do really well for three or four years, then hit a tough spot. When I’ve done well, I’ve deliberately chosen specific distributions to channel my financial support. Most of the time, I test, report problems, tell people about various distributions and how they fit into the ecosystem – where they may work best, and I provide people with help and make project suggestions.

    • Manoj Srivastava on November 14, 2010 at 7:04 pm

      Actually, most of the angst generated by DUNC-TANK was that the people deciding to give (or not give) money to developers were fellow developers; and the protest was fueled by converns about what it did to relationships in the project when you know the other guy could hold the key to thepurse strings. There was also the aspect of theproject treating some tasks to be worth more than other, based on the decisions of a few/ All kinds of ill will abounded.

  22. Jim Lynch on November 12, 2010 at 1:30 am

    Thanks, Raphael.

    Manos, thanks for the Slackware link. I added it to the list.

  23. Manos on November 11, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    You missed Slackware http://store.slackware.com/cgi-bin/store/slackdonation?id=JBeYVSed&mv_pc=82 which i should note you have never reviewed.

  24. Raphaël Hertzog on November 11, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    You can also support quite a few Debian developers with Flattr and also other free software project (i.e. not only distributions). Check out the Flattr Foss project that I started:

    Myself, I am accepting donations to be able to spend more time working on dpkg and building Debian QA infrastructure.

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