Is Clear Linux Just A Toy Distribution By Intel?

Written by Michael Larabel in Clear Linux on 18 March 2020 at 06:57 AM EDT. 40 Comments
A user experimenting with Clear Linux had an opinion to share on their mailing list and referred to it as a "toy" distribution and some of our readers have expressed similar opinions on it. Here is the response by one of the Intel developers central to Clear Linux's development.

The user referred to it as a toy project over not supporting as much hardware as some distributions, supporting too much GNOME "bloatware", and not easily supporting as much closed-source software.

Intel Fellow Arjan van de Ven chimed in on the mailing list with his personal views.
Ok so a few things

We, Intel, work with many Linux distros pretty intensely on hardware support and performance and many other things.

Many of our customers nowadays have Linux distros of their own rather than using a "standard" distro as is.

For many reasons, we also build Clear Linux. By knowing what it takes to get features into a Linux distro (our own) it's easier for us to work with others who are/have a distro. We also want to make sure we can do the best performance etc etc... and sometimes that means doing experiments that are only possible if you have your own distro in house.

Now on Desktop... based on a lot of history (Moblin/Meego/...) we know that it is very hard to do a "general consumer desktop", and we tried something different, aim JUST at software developers (e.g. advanced technical users not afraid of a command line who write code but also generally have more modern, higher quality hardware) and do a very narrow thing that was hopefully more tractable.

Turns out that there is no such thing really, people expect, almost demand, that any obscure piece of hardware "just works" (often stuff we can't even buy anymore to test it etc) and... well we got asked for 15+ different desktop environments etc etc... an infinity of "weird stuff" that has nothing to do with "developer".

We have been trying to accommodate those as much as we can, but there are clear limits because we also do not want to just throw junk over the wall. It also means we are likely going to change a bit how we work, rather than "everything" we need to make sure that what we do ship is usable, with a bias to servers and what developers use rather than "random stuff".

With the 3rd party repo stuff getting more ready, there's ways where others can provide their own repositories for "weird stuff" without us being a bottleneck.

Basically, Clear Linux is focused on being a developer OS and not a general purpose OS to satisfy every user's desire. Their code for third-party / closed-source packages on Clear Linux should help in broadening their software ecosystem but they are marching to the beat of their own drum that doesn't necessarily align with the ways of other Linux distributions especially on the desktop front. That has worked out well when it comes to achieving maximum Linux performance and they have been seeing some industry interest/adoption.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via

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