Linked by Eugenia Loli on Sun 16th Mar 2003 07:27 UTC, submitted by Seth Woolley
Linux The entire Source Mage GNU/Linux team would like to announce the release of their very first offical release, code named "Shillelagh". Source Mage is a source-based GNU/Linux distribution based on a Sorcery metaphor of "casting" and "dispelling" programs, which the team refers to as "spells".
Order by: Score:
by Anonymous on Sun 16th Mar 2003 07:31 UTC

Casting and dispelling spells. Riii-ght.

Even the title is nerdy
by dwilson on Sun 16th Mar 2003 08:14 UTC

...Sorcery metaphor of "casting" and "dispelling" programs, which the team refers to as "spells".

This may well be the funniest thing I have ever read. This might be a big hit with the Dungeons & Dragons crowd, but I don't think Redhat has anything to fear anytime soon.

Gentoo's older brother
by jbolden1517 on Sun 16th Mar 2003 08:15 UTC

My memory may be a little off but I think the original source mage was the originator of many of the ideas we see in Gentoo regarding an automatic source based distribution. The website for source mage looks entirely different and I haven't heard anything about them in several years so I suspect this is in all practical respects a different project. The history on the website itself seems to basically show the same thing

Anyway they don't indicate what they hope to accomplish relative to the now very succesful Gentoo if anyone knows that might make for an interesting discussion.

Its the GPL-successor of Sourcer Linux
by Udo on Sun 16th Mar 2003 09:37 UTC

Actually it is older than Gentoo and it was very cool at the time. They have some cool technology that Gentoo doesnt have.
sorcer Linux still exists in a non-GPL form: Another fork from the original is Lunar Linux.


Sorry. Its Sorcerer Linux. Not Sourcer nor Sorcer
by Udo on Sun 16th Mar 2003 09:40 UTC

I must be still sleeping. Sorry

related to Gentoo?
by Seth Woolley on Sun 16th Mar 2003 09:48 UTC

Source Mage is related to Gentoo by type alone and not genetic lineage. We've undergone two different developments, and are in fact younger than Gentoo. Since we are younger, we have been able to do some interesting things, like how we configure spells, and it's spell management is done in 100% command-line BASH with a text-mode "dialog" front-end -- not python. Others have contributed gui-toolkit front-ends as well. Some say it's easier to install. We have plenty of fresh thoughts and minds on package/source management, are totally non-corporate, and have no charismatic leaders. Development is highly international. We have re-done in better style and form much of the old Sorcerer Linux codebase, and have the experience of an attempt to close off the sources -- we will have no part of that in our own work. Our attitude toward volunteers is never elitist, as we all have something to learn, and our main goal is to have fun. The Source Mage GNY/Linux releases are merely a side-effect of that primary goal.

As far as what we hope to accomplish, from what I gather, just to be the best source-based GNU/Linux distribution for our own administration needs. The users turn out to be the developers. We don't care much to go out and check out the latest Gentoo -- many of our users and developers never bother to keep up on its progress any more than say RedHat or Debian or Knoppix, which are distros for different purposes.

Personally, I support a balance of interbreeding and diversity within the so-called Linux Community, so to compare to Gentoo? Only if they have something that our users/developers want (and patches show up in bugzilla ;) ) would we steal it. I would expect likewise for them. So far, our yardstick on the mailing lists seems to be "user choice", and I hope to keep it that way. To us, there is no one way to do anything (too much perl, I guess), and I hope Gentoo the best of luck in its own pursuits, while we develop our own.

Regarding the D&D theme, it may seem childish, but in all seriousness, it is an analogy that people find easy to deal with. The nmemonic, one must admit is better than "rpm -i" or "apt-get install" or "emerge", and as I'm not a "big" D&D'er myself, I could care less what the actual theme was (as long as it was consistent). To me, the spellwriting, in BASH, just makes sense, and provides immense flexibility. Portions of a spell that are duplicated a lot get merged into the sorcery management suite itself, too, and things just get easier and easier.

Anyways, I hope you enjoy it if you ever try it out. One might be subtly surprised.

Source Mage Name
by Nathan O. on Sun 16th Mar 2003 09:49 UTC

Actually, I tried Source Mage a while back. It wasn't all that stable (hey, it was pre-release), but the magic metaphore actually was very comfortable. It's much better UI than saying you're installing a program, which is sort of a ubiquitous term. "Casting" gives more the idea of performing a number of processes and steps in order to achieve an outcome- and that's exactly what it is. Casting a spell means downloading the source, extracting it, configuring it, compiling it, and finally installing it. The magic metaphores used in SM fit perfectly and just make it more sensible, even if it's kinda geeky. It works well, and that's the reason I like it.

Now to download this first "release" version. Hope it's more stable ;)

Comparing to Gentoo
by Marvin on Sun 16th Mar 2003 11:47 UTC

I've looked at Sorcerer GNU/Linux, Lunar Linux
and Source Mage GNU/Linux shortly after I'd tried
Gentoo. My impression was that they relate to each
other like Slackware relates to Debian:
Gentoo is more like Debian: it's package management
is feature-rich and complex and it has a huge number
of packages/ebuilds prepared for you.
The SGL family of distros rather represents the KISS
principle found also in Slackware: the package
management is quite basic and the number of
packages/spells isn't as high. However, when you
look at the spells, it's immediately clear what they
do and how to do your own spells - Gentoo's ebuilds
are a lot more complex and you have to learn quite
a lot about the ebuild system before you can fully
understand them and do your own ebuilds. That is,
of course, the price you have to pay for features
like USE variables (I don't think the distros coming
from SGL have those, but I could be wrong - haven't
looked at them for quite a while). Another price you
have to pay is that you can't do everything in bash
anymore, I think if you would try to reimplement
Gentoo's package management in bash, it would become
a huge, ugly, unmaintainable mess. Shell scripts do
have their limits. On the other hand, the Gentoo
developers want to keep the ebuilds as close as
possible to what-you-would-type-in-a-shell-if-you-
installed-it-by-hand. So they end up with a mixture
of python and bash for their package management.

Source Mage -> FreeBSD
by Lazy Coward on Sun 16th Mar 2003 13:21 UTC

When looking for an OSS solution for myself, I really liked what the SourceMage folks had done. They were helpful when I had install problems, and I thought the spell system worked well.

I would've stuck with them, but unfortunately, it took a while to get to this release, so I moved on to FreeBSD, which has more than met my needs.

I had less trouble getting SML installed than many other Linux distros I tried like Gentoo and Debian, and the package management system worked nearly as well as the ports collection in FreeBSD.

Congratulations and best of luck to them.

The spellcasting metaphor works well in Source Mage - D&D jokes aside. It's simple to do an install, of say, kde, by simply doing a "cast kde-profile", which will install the common kde packages and core, with their dependencies resolved, ask a few questions about optional packages interactively, and then install it for you.

You don't have to muck about with cryptic USE variables and other overhead in Gentoo - a cast will ask you about optional configurations for the first casting of the spell. For later castings, it will remember your configuration preferences, unless you override them.

The rest of the system has the same sort of simplicity - and if you are confused about what anything does, or a spell fails because it has become out of date or it needs to be tweaked since everything is in straight bash with clearly-commented installation scripts - the "spells" - it is usually trivial to change things on your own.

Where can you find a list of features/packages?
by Rimmer on Sun 16th Mar 2003 16:39 UTC

I poked around on the website for a few minutes. There doesn't seem to be a list of features (ie what kernel version, what kde ect). Maybe I'm blind?

RE: kernel Version
by Cheapskate on Sun 16th Mar 2003 17:43 UTC

Rimmer, it has kernel version 2.4.20

spell list
by Arwed v. Merkatz on Sun 16th Mar 2003 17:49 UTC

a list of all spells (packages) available in the different grimoires (devel, testing and stable) can be found at

by Alex on Sun 16th Mar 2003 17:57 UTC
by Devon on Sun 16th Mar 2003 20:24 UTC

Its deffinatly one of the most interesting and entertaining metaphors Ive ever seen for computer use. Looks like a pretty well thought out one too. I may have to check this one out myself, looks like fun. ;)

command names
by Jeremy on Sun 16th Mar 2003 21:04 UTC

Here is a radical proposal for the names of the command-line tools for installing and uninstalling packages: "install" and "uninstall". As in:

jeremy:~$ install ssh
jeremy:~$ uninstall xmms

Or is there a rule that unix command names have to be inscrutable? :-)

re: command names
by Xenith on Sun 16th Mar 2003 23:50 UTC

Actually, 'install' already exists, and is heavily used in a lot of programs during the 'make install' phase. ;-)

Mixed feelings
by Elver Loho on Mon 17th Mar 2003 00:52 UTC

I don't know what to think about this one. On one hand, I'm a Gentoo user, so I'm kinda supporting that. On the other hand, I like what Source Mage is doing and how it is doing this. So more power to them. (and less bloat to Gentoo) I just wish they had something a bit more "stable" than "first official release". Oh well, I'll try it sometime in the future.

At least then I have an excuse for wearing a wizard's hat in front of the computer - I'm casting The Grand Upgrade on my Dungeon of Software Death...

Just curious: if you call installing "casting", then could you call uninstalling "exorcising"?

Can it get any more geeky?

re: Seth
by dwilson on Mon 17th Mar 2003 06:26 UTC

Regarding the D&D theme, it may seem childish, but in all seriousness, it is an analogy that people find easy to deal with.

I hope you didn't take my D&D comment as insulting as it certainly wasn't meant that way. Myself an ex-D&Der (probably still would be if I had a decent DM), I can apprecciate nerdiness in even the greatest of doses.

That said, if an RPG enthusiast like myself finds "casting" openoffice as silly. Well, it really is silly.

I am sure you have an excellent distribution and next time I have a spare pc to play with I will give it a shot. Keep up the good work on it. Competition is always good for the end user ;) .

the Keep It Stupidly Simple rule applies yes...
spells / casting / dispelling / gaze <keyword> ...
it all makes its own kind of sense... as for D&D I do have member ship in the local university society for such things amongst the time I spend modding scripts on my only machine functionally SMGL...
one time install with long uptimes... I only had original HW troubles from mismatched components where redhat would give up wailing ;)

as for Gentoo and other distributions I am more familiar with Debian from my work on Amiga Hardware... and I will be looking at a few things I want to provide back to the SMGL team ;)

Im glad to see we are getting fair comments from everyone interested


Re: Compare
by Eric Sandall on Mon 17th Mar 2003 16:50 UTC

For out of date software, it is mostly due to our guru's being overworked. ;) If anyone has free time and would like to help, send me a line. If you're not much of a coder and/or don't have much time, even bug reports are useful. Also, with our setup, it's as easy as updating the "VERSION" field to update your software (well, as long as nothing major changed in the installation process ;) , such as in glibc 2.3.1->2.3.2, which now requires a separate build directory).

As for stability...I have 2 servers running SMGL, and all of my workstations. I am currently installing the last ISO (not our 0.5 release ISO) on my girlfriend's P4. It's going _very_ nicely.

If anyone is interested, give Source Mage GNU/Linux a try, you will be impressed (or you won't, but this is less likely ;) ). If you want to get more information before trying it out, read our information on or meet us on, #sourcemage.