Linked by Adam S on Wed 30th Apr 2003 07:26 UTC
Linux Lately, we've all read a lot of articles about desktop Linux - so many that it's getting hard to tell them apart. One says "Why Linux Sucks," the next "My Success With Linux." Even Michael Robertson of joined the fun with his "Why Desktop Linux Sucks, Today." But very few people have proposed anything radical, and I believe that's what's needed to take GNU/Linux to the next level.
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by Robert Renling on Tue 29th Apr 2003 17:28 UTC

Great writeup and love to see more of your thoughts..

but damnit.. you blew the lid off of our project ;)

Sounds like Mac OSX
by Anonymous on Tue 29th Apr 2003 17:29 UTC

Not trolling here, but it sounds like a free version of Mac OS X. Based on FreeBSD, cleaner filesystem, drag and drop installs, etc. And in my opinion this is great! A free Mac OS X-like OS that runs on x86 hardware is a sure winner. However, ask Apple how long, and how expensive it was to develop Max OS X, and you'll see why it's not free.

v Waste of bandwidth
by R.J. Dohnert on Tue 29th Apr 2003 17:40 UTC
I like it. Real originality
by Chris D.Emery on Tue 29th Apr 2003 17:49 UTC

'Nuff said

by ph34r m3 on Tue 29th Apr 2003 17:54 UTC

"Users aren't stupid, they don't need a hand holding front end"

Now that is funny.

Anyway, I only agree with half of this article. Cleaning up the file system hierarchy would be nice. And a disto that included only one or two of each app (OOo instead of KOffice for example) would be nice too. Certianly cut down on the CD's.

But I believe the author has some unrealistic goals. Such as including every library known to man to eliminate dependency problems.

If I were a user, ...
by Benny Siegert on Tue 29th Apr 2003 17:55 UTC

... I wouldn't use that distribution. The text shows me that the author does not have a real clue what he is talking about. Okay, where do I start?

Licenses. The article says he is using the FreeBSD kernel because the BSD license allows him to turn the kernel into a commercial product. But then he says he would choose GNOME over KDE for the (LGPL!) license, which does not allow that.

Filesystem layout. I would recommend the author to read about what POSIX is. POSIX defines a standard layout for the file system. If you drop that, you lose 30 years of compatibility. The users of this distribution are really going to have a hard time installing third-party programs. And if everything is solved with symlinks, it will just be a real big, ugly mess. If you look at MacOS X, it still has the directory structure the author does not like anymore -- those directories are only hidden in the Finder.

Including "every" library or dependency by default. This is just about impossible, as there are so many of them.

I could go on much longer, but I think you get my point.

Technically Feasible?
by Luckett on Tue 29th Apr 2003 17:55 UTC

Hell yea it is. Besides modifying actual programs like gnome for ease of use, all of this could be done in less than a week. Possibly even an installer. I like your ideas...and i think you, or anyone, should attempt this to see how hard it really is. I don't see it as that hard if you base it on things we already have in the community. Still, no one is going to download it. Everyone has already paid for windows on their computers...all the technically illiterate you want are not going to get this unless you get a deal with Dell or Compaq or someone else. Linux has to prove itself somehow, we need this distro running in coffee shops, libraries, and other places to get some exposure!

by eric martin on Tue 29th Apr 2003 18:00 UTC

Sueing microsoft will be the only way to get other operating systems a chance to succeed. The government did a half assed job with the monopoly. There is still the problem of microsoft pressuring computer manufacterers to include winxp . This is the real monopoly power of microsoft to distort the market. Linux and other oss' would gain much greater market share if they didn't have to deal with microsoft buying out the entire market. Dell,Compaq,Gateway and HP are complicit with microsoft.

Re: eric martin
by Eddie on Tue 29th Apr 2003 18:03 UTC

Well said.

by LimeFrog on Tue 29th Apr 2003 18:05 UTC

Ok, just got to say that i don't agree with your changes of the catalog structures. /hardware just sounds plain silly, the only one that would work imo is /logs.

by stew on Tue 29th Apr 2003 18:09 UTC

This must be a boring world if this is being called radical. What the article describes is to me nothing more than preconfiguration with the addition of bundles or static linked apps.

No UI changes (how about common keyboard shortcuts and menu item order?), no enhanced application compatibilty (Common scripting language anyone? Using Python to automatically d/l stock tickers, create a graph in OO and publishing it for the web in the gimp, for example.), not even forcing any application to UI guidelines (GIMP. Menu bar. Hello?). Implementing something like MacOS X' services, common standard for configuration files (which ideally are being stored in the same place), proper use of metadata and fast searching.This still would be very conservative and not anywhere near "radical", as it all would be just imitating existing systems.

What's wrong with /hardware?
by Adam Scheinberg on Tue 29th Apr 2003 18:11 UTC

What's wrong with /hardware? How is that any different from /dev, except maybe that it's easier to understand?

Anyway, let me make it clear, since you apparently didn't understand when I explicitly said "Note: The above symlinks are just used to illustrate the mimicked filesystem, not final decisions. Please don't comment on the actual links referenced above"

The actual filesystem layout described is less important that the FACT that it would be made so. Please - no more comments on the described layout of the filesystem.

by stew on Tue 29th Apr 2003 18:13 UTC

POSIX defines a standard layout for the file system. If you drop that, you lose 30 years of compatibility. long do you think we should stick with POSIX? 10 more years? Another 30 years? 100 years? Or should we just do it like the most popular desktop operating system and ignore POSIX now? Even then you can run POSIX inside a sandbox on non-POSIX systems, as Cygwin does it on Win32 or the geek gadgets do it on AmigaOS.

by Adam Scheinberg on Tue 29th Apr 2003 18:14 UTC

COmpatibility or not, you're thinking like a sheep. The only way *nix based systems will ever make any real advanced is to say "F compatibility.' Screw POSIX. We'll go it on our own. That was the whole point behind custom building packages.

We'll have to hope to attract developers based on the fact that they can make commercial products. You're not BOUND to a license.

Come on I know you guys are smart, this shouldn't be hard to do. We need a end to dependancy isues, simple sulution iclude them in the .rpm & have them only install if you don't have them. Make a total GUI config toole, compile your software before you put it on the web. We want some more ease of use, & we all are not stupid cause we don't want to recompile a kernel for CDRW support. Be nicer to everyone starts somewhere, don't call a windows user stupid cause s/he doesn't know how to do something in linus or wants a easier way to do something. Writing a script to do a task is not everybodies idea of fun. Something can be easy, but still secure & stable. So stop talking & start doing.

A few spelling mistakes
by Nicohlas James on Tue 29th Apr 2003 18:21 UTC


Reminds me of the ROX OS project...
by emagius on Tue 29th Apr 2003 18:21 UTC


by Kyle on Tue 29th Apr 2003 18:23 UTC

Windows has a terrible file system layout. The whole thing is one big mess. POSIX would be much better.

Anyways this would never fly. Too many conflicting license issues (BSD, GPL, LGPL, proprietary stuff). It would reak of lawsuits and of course MS would take any of the good from it and resell it because of the BSD license. Thus stomping out competiton.

choice - pfft!
by stopdabombing on Tue 29th Apr 2003 18:27 UTC

when the author wrote he'd include only one desktop environment, i stopped reading. I am NOT one of those who "appreciate" having choices made for me by _limiting_. Yes, I realize that many hanker after the "simplicity" of having the choices all made for you, but that's not me. Different strokes for different folks. Yes, I know I can download Gnome or KDE - but if I'm gonna roll my own, well then, I'll roll my own and don't need his distro. To _me_, either you give me both the major DE or there is no reason for me to use your distro - I'd sooner roll my own. Fortunately, many distros do include the major DEs. So, for me, his distro fails right there. Not saying it is bad, just not for me. And that's how we get to the whole point of Linux - different choices for different folks - long live freedom of choice!

Not that hard
by jbolden1517 on Tue 29th Apr 2003 18:31 UTC

The directory aliasing, is rather trivial. I do something like this as part of my default installs by hand in a few minutes (example /root to /home/root, /tmp to /var/tmp, /var/www to /home/apache, etc...).

As for a repository of rpms that are distribution specific most distributions do do this. So your question about why they don't is moot. The issue with software occur when people try to install rpms from other distributions.

As far as libraries, certainly to a limited extent you could simply install all libraries but then frankly if you are going to do that go whole hog and just the apps as well and have only one software configuration you need to support. In general though you may not resolve all the issues of dependencies. Often apps need libraries compliled with particular settings. So if you are really going in this direction you are not only assuming quite a bit of harddrive space but also 2-3x as much ram. For a newbie distribution that isn't neccesarily that horrible but it should be understood.

Take a simple example. What languages are you going to compile into your interfaces for messages? English only (very limiting). Or maybe English and Spanish (now you have just added a lot because you now have to support some non ascii fonts)? But then are you going to have right to left support so that people can use Arabic and Hebrew? What about cyrillic support for eastern europenas. How about Unicode and if so will all Asian fonts have to use something like UTF8 (i.e. Asian text will be 50% larger than using a 16 bit font)? Most unix code will allow you to complile versions for various font sets, very few support arbitrary font systems and those that do are very complicated (see Oracle's excellent documentation on national language standards for a very good discussion).

Finally on the issue of apps you are showing ignorance here. Either you install one of each major type of app or you give people wildely different experience and install/offer lots of different apps. People always say "why do I need 12 different text editors" but what they forget is:

Emacs -- virtual lisp environment editor
note two choices which are incompatable if you want X support: GNU with X extensions or XEmacs
Also Emacs21 introduced library incompatabilities so you often want to offer 20 and 21 versions.
VI/VIM/Elvis/Viper -- vi environment. BTW often people who use one of these are quite picky
pico -- very simple editor
joe -- full features wordstarish editor
if we are going to offer joe what about jed?
beav -- good hex editor, also useful for people who need EBCDIC
yudit -- better for unicode users

etc... Mainstream Linux distributions on the whole handle this situation quite well:

a) Very nice default choices
b) Wide range of packages for people with specialized needs
c) The ability to install the thousands of other packages which are even more specialized.

The fact that you couldn't even make simple choices:
-- gnome only
-- open office only (though why pick gnome since OO isn't gnome specific)
etc... means you wouldn't be able to go the unified route.

by jbolden1517 on Tue 29th Apr 2003 18:38 UTC long do you think we should stick with POSIX? 10 more years? Another 30 years? 100 years?

I vote for 100 years. Obviously the Posix standards will evolve but I think Linux should be an">Open . Linux users are Unix users who value open source. Open systems was a major accomplishment of the 1980s and I for one am not willing to casually throw that away.

As for the basic argument, POSIX has no problem with sym linking off a bunch of directories to create a Mac like structure. You are allowed to emulate the Unix file system you don't actually need to implement it. The best example is VMS which emulates a unix filesystem on top of the native database filesystem (which BTW is something I think Linux should do).

the trick to a great interface is not hand holding the user
by debman on Tue 29th Apr 2003 18:39 UTC

it is makeing the user think they are not being help whenthey actualy are ;-)

Just do it!
by Udo on Tue 29th Apr 2003 18:40 UTC

Customize Knoppix and give it to the world.

It is really easy!

( I know what im talking about. Cause i have actually done it )

Pretty small step
by JK on Tue 29th Apr 2003 18:41 UTC

There are some fairly nice ideas, but it wouldn't solve many of the time wasting annoyances that keep me using Windows and Mac OS. For example there's nothing to fix the painfully inconsistent GUI and the complexity of installing new peripherals.

by Erwos on Tue 29th Apr 2003 18:41 UTC

I don't really see a lot of call to revamp the directory layout. How many of you go through c:windows on a daily basis and can tell me exactly how everything in it is laid out? Not many, I would imagine. That's because there's no reason to go into that directory, and even less incentive to explore it.

Adam misses that particular gem of knowledge in his article - the problem is not so much about the filesystem layout as that you need to go into it so damn often. This points to a lack of GUI config tools. I know there's more we could do: perhaps a module loader or a better XF86 configuration tool, for instance. With careful thought, we _can_ make GUI tools that are real replacements for commandline stuff, even that stuff which has lots and lots of arguments. Perhaps it's time to write a scriptable front-end engine?

Next, he just needs to say "everyone should include Synaptic and apt-rpm with their distros". He's obviously barking up the wrong treee when he blames dependency problems on the very concept of RPM - the depedency problem is because there's no way to automatically resolve them. Apt-rpm fixes this. And, incidentally, the site he claims doesn't exist is called FreshRPMs. Proves wonderfully useful RPMs that are guaranteed to work with RH9.

Community support, OK, that's vanilla, hardly a revolutionary idea.

Not sure if I agree with removing choice of DE and applications - if he's really trying to run a business, pissing off 50% of the userbase by forcing them to switch programs doesn't sound like a good plan to me. Perhaps customizing the menus so that the best stuff is quicker to get to would be a happy medium.

Again, kind of obvious ideas on the installer.

Apparently, his company is going to be based somewhere where copyright laws don't exist, too. I got news for you: DVD playback needs to be licensed, and not licensing it is a fun way to get sued. MP3 playback is a trickier issue, though. Those "aftermarket addons" aren't coming with RedHat for a reason, pal. Good idea with the nVidia drivers, though.

"The GPL allows little room for making money on software." This is true. It also allows a ton of room for making money on the support of software. RedHat is doing fine with this model, and is breaking even at this point. But, remember, even a little closed code in the wrong places will earn you swift and nasty backlash from quite a bit of the community.

The idea for a new Linux distribution is nice, but I think it's ultimately "improving" in some places which aren't needed, and ignoring other places which need it more (PDA compatibility and joystick setup come to mind).


Rolleyes and my dream
by Spark on Tue 29th Apr 2003 18:45 UTC

I somewhat agree with Benny Siegert. This plan doesn't really sound like paradise, more like hell. Even more incompability won't change a damn thing. ;)

My vision of a future free operating system based on GNU/Linux (yes GNU/Linux, not FreeBSD) would be more like this:

Let's assume Red Hat 9 as the status quo.

100% GUI driven
RH 9 is heading this way but it's still a long way to go. RPM handling via the GUI needs to be more reliable. The "ask for password" concept if needed is great but needs to be extended. For example sometimes you _need_ to be able to modify a configuration file on your root filesystem. This is nothing evil in itself, but it is neccessary that the user can find the file with Nautilus and edit it with gedit, not find it with 'cd' and edit it with 'vi'.
KDE has this "run konqueror as superuser" features which is better than nothing but a bit ugly.

I don't believe that twenty symlinks will make the filesystem more easy to read. All it would do is create even more folders there to confuse the user. I rather believe in abstraction and that a regular user should not be exposed to it. I don't know MacOSX but what Benny wrote makes sense (the finder not showing system folders). It should not show them usually but still keep everything in place and accessable for maintenance by experts. Note that this does not stop anyone from becoming an expert if he _wants_ to. It should not be necessary though unless something is broken (in this case you could pay someone to repair it or do it yourself, just like you can do with a car).

Instead of trying to force everyone to use your libraries, interoperability and consistency should be reached through open standards. This is already in heavy process, the system tray is a great example for this. Those things have to just work and developers need a way to support it without beeing forced to use a desktop- or toolkit-dependant library or method. Another important piece is a common freedesktop HIG. Both parties (KDE and GNOME) need to drop any kind of NIH, sit together and come up with something unique that at least covers the most general parts. This would allow third party developers to create applications which integrate well into the free desktop, no matter how it was developed.

Software Installation
I believe that there is nothing wrong with RPM, but that there should be an alternative way to install "applications" (as opposed to system libraries). It has to be a distribution independant system to distribute binaries of your application and it should work without explicit support by the distribution. Thus everyone who creates a package in this format would know for sure that everyone on a unix desktop can install it. In other words, something like the Autopackage project tries to offer.

Better Performance and even more Polished Interfaces
I don't think I have to explain this. ;) More stability wouldn't hurt either.

I strongly believe that all of the above can and will (eventually) provide a free Linux desktop which works very well. Not like Windows, like BeOS or like MacOS, but simply good. RedHat has my support, because I think they are on the right track.

The use of a BSD kernel is key...
by paul on Tue 29th Apr 2003 18:46 UTC

The use of a BSD kernel is essential for the commercial success of a distribution, because of the licensing issues of the GPL. I wonder why nobody ever tried to release a FreeBSD based distro as polished as the Linux distros that pop up everywhere. I would certainly buy something like that.

Arabic and Hebrew support
by Erwos on Tue 29th Apr 2003 18:47 UTC

Kinda OT, but someone brought it up. Does anyone know of any modern distributions which have good support for Arabic and Hebrew?


RE /hardware
by Iconoclast on Tue 29th Apr 2003 18:56 UTC

What's wrong with /hardware? How is that any different from /dev, except maybe that it's easier to understand?

What's wrong with /dev? It is well-known, easier to type and stands for device, which is what most people call their hardware anyway. More descriptive names for files residing in the /dev directory would be nice though. Many distros do this for you to some small degree already by offering a simlink /dev/cdrom to point to /dev/hdb.

by Corey on Tue 29th Apr 2003 18:56 UTC

Gnome and KDE. Give me a break. I'm waiting to see what happens with the Simply GNUstep project.

I'd like to have a 1 CD distro. WindowMaker as the one and only desktop. Mozilla, Nedit, Gimp,, XMMS, a few games and other apps. That's it. Anything else be downloadable. I don't have the time to waste trying to configure system just to get it to do simple tasks. That's the one thing I liked (and continue to like) about Be.

RE Arabic and Hebrew support
by Iconoclast on Tue 29th Apr 2003 19:00 UTC

They all do, just some of them you have to set up yourself. There are many good references that can be found via a google search.

If you don't want to do it yourself, I think SuSE provides the option for Arabic and Hebrew support during install, but I'm not sure. I know they do a fine job of Japanese though.

Filesystem layout
by Daan on Tue 29th Apr 2003 19:01 UTC

Right. I have my own opinion about the filesystem layout.
Compatibility can be quite important. Therefore, it is really needed that /bin, /usr and such still exist. And what does any "joe user" ever need to do with those? Nothing! Because...

There is /opt, specially made for applications. Maybe create a symlink /Applications to it (maybe even create a symlink /Documents to /home).
Right. Now the installer of this distro installs a generic set of applications and libraries in the default locations (such as libssl, libpng, tar, vi).
Now I want to install OpenOffice or KOffice. Following steps needed:
1. Grab the Office ISO image. Probably about 150 MB.
2. Burn it.
3. Insert it
4. Click the CD icon
5. Extract openoffice.tgz or koffice.tgz
6. Move the result to /Applications.
How this solves dependency problems? Why not have /opt/openoffice/lib, /opt/kde/lib and such for application-specific libraries?
In this manner you also save bandwidth. If you want to setup a webserver, you don't need to download a cd with OpenOffice because mod-php is also on it.

Including all known libraries? NO!
by Jason on Tue 29th Apr 2003 19:04 UTC

I think that including all known libraries is a stupid and counterproductive way of going about things. Look at Windows DL-HELL for an example.

I think there should be 3 levels of libraries in a system:

1 - System - A subset of libraries that only the OS Distributor should be able to modify (unless specifically allowed by the system administrator). This would be things like the KDE or GNOME Libraries, GCC, etc.

2 - Application - A subset of libraries that applications can change if they are explicitly given permission to by the user. For example, I want to install the latest version of Someemailapp 2, which requires LibBC92-3 to work properly. The software package will ask me if A.) I want to download and install that package myself, B.) If I want it to download and install the latest version from it's last known good location, which is set by the programmers, or C.) If I want to install the software using the embedded (or optionally downloaded) version of the library. I picture a system in which we could choose do download from each software website which package we want, Minimal, Standard, and Kitchen Sink, which would determine which libraries are included, with all libraries typically used included with the standard package.

This would be the most common library style. See number 3 for added idea.

3 - One-time - Say I want to run a program that I will use to generate a result and then I would uninstall it. There's no reason for me to spend a ton of time hunting down libraries for a one-time use application. Thus, when I install the software, I can specify whether or not I want to delete libraryx after I'm done running the program. The library would be kept in a binary archive which I would use to reinstall that library when it's needed, only if it's needed. This would keep my /system/libraries dir clean, and prevent conflicts.

The one flaw in my plan is conflicts of libraries. There are three ways of handling libraries. One dir (/system/libraries), the libraries being in the program dir (/programs/program/libraries) or a dir based on which level the library is (for level 1, it would be in /system/os/libraries, for 2, /system/shared/libraries, and for 3, /programs/program/libraries)

I dunno, this is off the top of my head, but I think it would be a much better way than bundling a ton of libraries with the os that would be out of date in 3 weeks.

reply to Jason
by jbolden1517 on Tue 29th Apr 2003 19:07 UTC

Actually Jason what you are asking for is the old fashioned system:

System - /lib
Application - /usr/lib
one time - /usr/local/lib

RE: reply to Jason
by Jason on Tue 29th Apr 2003 19:09 UTC

In my case, it doesn't seem to work that way. I dunno, maybe I'm too much of a n00b to know what I'm talking about :-(

by Nicolas Roard on Tue 29th Apr 2003 19:12 UTC

LinuxSTEP filesystem hierarchy is very well tought ... you should take a look on it :

It's a longer goal than SimplyGNUstep, but imho a worth one.

Some comments
by Quag7 on Tue 29th Apr 2003 19:20 UTC

I do like the idea of overhauling installers. What would be nice to have an installer with some of the defaults the author mentions. Most installers do this to some degree, but not to the level of granularity I'd like.

I'd like to see stage-based installation which would have reasonable defaults for DE (I think KDE is a better choice for a default - and this is coming from a Gnome user), editor (nano), standard partitioning.

But I'd like to see the following on *each page* of the installer:

Button: More information - what is all of this?
Button: Install default / beginner
Button: Advanced configuration - GUI
Button: Adanced configuration - Command line

I think an ideal distribution could reasonably cover the entire range of installation possibilities, from something simple like Mandrake's install, to something very granular like Gentoo's. Most installers I've seen give you the Beginner-Advanced-Custom option at the beginning, and this affects the entire install process. I think it makes more sense to do it per page - on the partitioning page, the software install page, and so forth. The idea here is that nothing is forced on the user if they don't want it, but they can get a totally brainless, automatic install if they want, or mix and match. I imagine mixing and matching "skill levels" would be quite popular, depending on your level of expertise. Never should control, however, be taken away from those who want it. This is one of the things I absolutely hate about Windows.

Also, I really think all distributions ought to use something like portage, ports, or apt-get. I really think this is the best way to handle dependency issues rather than clogging up a hard drive with unneeded libraries. It would be nice to see two standards emerge that all vendors would emulate (they could additionally build their own packaging systems but it would be nice to see a standard) - one for installing precompiled packages with dependency resolution, and one for downloading and compiling source. (This is complicated of course because of different directory layouts and the like, but you could have a distro-specific configuration file which would tell the package system what dirs are where).

Even though these systems are not perfect, they are so drastically better than dealing with RPMs that I really would like to just see RPMs done away with completely. I can't even imagine using a distro that I had to mess around with dependencies and the like, after using distros like Debian. In my opinion, the lack of decent package management is the #1 problem with most distros, and this problem *has been solved*, it's just a matter of other distros adopting it and coming up with a standard. I am prejudiced toward Gentoo's system, but this should be discussed and debated, in terms of an overall standard.

Second, I'd like to see a developer project dedicated to fixing *dumb inconsistencies* in DEs - one perhaps independent of the KDE and Gnome projects, that has an interest in integrating things. The continuing inconsistencies of things like cut and paste ("clipboard") is intolerable. I'd do this myself if I knew my ass from my elbow in terms of code. I sense that these things aren't very interesting to developers (which I understand). It's dirty, tedious work, though, that has to be done.

A personal peeve is font handling, which seems needlessly complicated, in terms of making anti-aliasing work properly (which I have had problems with using multiple how-tos, on different distros. Maybe I just have bad luck or am incurably stupid), and dealing with different kinds of fonts. One big problem is I have absolutely no interest in understanding how fonts work; I just want my screen to be readable. ttmkfdir, mkfontdir, adding paths to the XFree configuration, setting environment variables (as with Gnome) to turn anti-aliasing on, etc. is just irritating to me. I'd obviously like to keep all of this in a format where people can still granularly tweak things and set things up, and as allergic as I am to automation and GUIs for configuration, this would be the one exception, and I'd like it to be standard across all DEs. (I know GUIs exist now for this - I seem to remember KDE has one, but I'd like to see this standardized across DEs).

As for offering a variety of apps, no problem doing this but only if the user selects an "Advanced" or "Custom" install option. For beginners, the easiest and most popular set should be installed.

Now as for getting people to use Linux. My theory is that the single greatest factor that would contribute to this cause is Microsoft coming up with a licensing scheme that completely eliminates piracy. I've noticed that quite a few people I know simply pirate Windows. If everyone had to lay cash down for it - especially something like a yearly fee - I think we'd see a pretty significant migration of people to free operating systems. I'm not saying I hope this happens, but if it does, I think this will drive people to Linux and the BSDs.

There will always be a segment of the population who will not use Linux no matter how good you make it, how Windows-like you try to make it, or how much you cater to their every whim. Just as there are people who have made Linux advocacy a religion, there are tribes of very bitter people who have made bashing it a life-mission. I'm not sure anyone should care about catering to them. If people want to pay money for Windows, that's up to them. As a matter of fact, I'm not sure I care about Windows, or Windows users at all, anymore. I'm not sure the energy spent on winning hearts and minds is worth it. If we're all using Linux because it's so great, why should we care? I really don't. I advocate Linux to people I know who would benefit from it and enjoy it and be turned on by it, but not universally. A lot of the things people want to make Linux do (be more Windows like) is not in my personal interest, and I wonder how much it's in the interests of any Linux user, or if it's of any interest to most developers (I doubt it). It's gotten to a point where installing Linux is easy enough that people who still complain are probably never going to be happy, and probably wouldn't significantly benefit from using Linux. I really don't like Windows, but it seems to work for a certain segment of the world.

As I watch the development and user community, it is becoming increasingly obvious that winning over Windows users is not relevant to the success of Linux. I wonder what kind of music fans people are who are always harping on market share. I listen to what I like, regardless of how many other people like it.

I take a similar attitude toward my OS.

I think we should mainly focus on making Linux better for Linux users.

re: If I were a user, ...
by debman on Tue 29th Apr 2003 19:47 UTC

umm..the LGPL allows for comercial use. it lets you link to libs and such that ae LGPLed and NOT release yor code. changes to the LGPLed software do not hav to be returned either.

Debian and System-Wide Defaults
by Ed Page on Tue 29th Apr 2003 20:03 UTC

Just a couple of not4es. I think overall this is good.

One system that handles system-wide defaults is Debian, just look in the /etc/alternatives folder and it is full of symlinks for different types of apps. The way I change my default terminal? change /etc/alternatives/x-terminal-emulator to point to the one I like. Now some unofficial packages do not take advantage of it and I think DE based ones do not always either (I at least know my KDE packafes use it but not stuff like web browser).

One thing that IU think would be great for end-users is access to local files like remote, shares that are given out and collected in one main directory in their home. Then you can give them morep ermission to access the main drive. That cn he;lp with the file systehm heirarchy, but it does need to be changed. I would think it possible to have normal LibC and VFS-LibC. The VFS one could make the system look like any other file heirarchy wise to allow wide compatability. You oculd have a POSIX, MacOS, MacOSX, and Windows VFS. It would make porting between systems a piece of cake within that respect and not have to make as many downstream patches that you need to maintain.

RE: The use of a BSD kernel is key...
by Eugenia on Tue 29th Apr 2003 20:05 UTC

Agreed 100%. Check our discussion here for more:

Dependencies, libraries
by TLy on Tue 29th Apr 2003 20:16 UTC

At first, I was irritated by "dependency hell". But come to think of it, it's the basis of the idea of free software. Freedom to use whatever software you want, not only for end users, but developers as well. I can't think of a good example off the top of my head, but I do recall trying to install KDevelop and running into a dependency issue where it required a certain library that at first glance doesn't seem relavent to KDevelop.

Software developers should start staticly linking the little libraries where appropriate or including the needed source files and give credit where credit is due, rather than expect the end users to install the entire library just for the few little bits of functionality that the larger app needs. We have large hard drives in this day and age, and if your argument that staticly linking libs into apps will make fatter programs, well it's not like you're saving me any space by forcing me to install a bunch of other little libraries just for bits of functionality. I'd rather the app be big and not worry about chasing after support libs.

And when the libs that your program depends on changes, update your source, test it, and release the update to your app. It's very possible that an update to a lib may break compatibility with progams that depend on it, although rare and I've never seen it myself, but it's still something to think about.

So you want something from the ground up?
by butters on Tue 29th Apr 2003 21:04 UTC

The problem I have with most distros is that they like to install user-end applications initially--as in during the install, before the first boot. The user is thrown into a supposedly "does everything out of the box" desktop and then has to figure out "how to do everything." This is where many newbies fail. They install a linux system, then can't figure out what programs do what, or why what they are doing doesn't work.

I advocate "from the ground up" distributions that install a base system and allow the user to build up his applications in an intuitive, possibly guided manner.

I'd like to see such a project grow out of Gentoo. As a moderately experienced linux user (who definately runs into a problem or two from time to time), I appreciate this distro because it automates everything that I want to be automated, and leaves everything else to the user.

However, this is not ideal for the newbie. If you look at the gentoo install documentation you will find that for the newbie, there are not really many choices you need to make. An automated ncurses/gui installer option for newbies would be ideal--and an option to add xfree86 and a choice of window managers/desktop environments to the base install.

On first boot, place a document/wizard in a painfully obvious place that screams "Start Here," much like the painful arrow thingy that points to the start menu in Windows on the first boot. It will guide through choices of alternative window managers, browsers, email clients, etc. and possibly include links to reviews and screenshots to inform the user.

Gentoo already has a mindless package management system for applications, libraries, and services, with automatic dependency checking in forward and backward directions. One command for updating all of your packages to the latest version!! Plus, the base system includes a compehensive set of libraries, compilers, and other system tools.

As for your suggestions regarding directory structure, I think the current hierarchy is fine, but the names can use some work:

/conf instead of /etc (what does that mean anyway)
/sys/apps replaces /sbin, /bin, and parts of /usr/bin
/user/apps replaces the rest of /usr/bin and /usr/local/bin (and /opt, which is horrible)
/user should contain the /home directories
/user/yourname/conf should contain local config file
/sys should replace /dev
I'm not gunna talk about device names (hda1, etc.) because I'm not quite sure what to do about this.
I like the /log idea, and it should be separate from the spools and mailboxes, which should be in /var, since I don't think there is a particularly better name besides possibly /tmp or /temp
/boot is fine, but all other non-root filesystems should be mounted under something along the lines of /remote or better yet /rem, since that can mean remote or removable.

Along those lines, there should be a wizard for accessing any storage volume, be it remote (network resource) or removable (cdrom, usb storage, etc.) that should ask to modify a new file: /user/yourname/conf/fstab (or something with a better name than fstab) that should try to mount these filesystems when you log in. I don't believe there is a mechanism for this yet and there should be. Resources in this local fstab should be mountable without root access.

Bottom line . . . The "newbie" distros are in my opinion less user friendly than the power-user distros could be if they had a simple installer and let the user add their own applications simply from a clean slate. Almost like windows, but done the linux way. This could work with debian, too, although I myself have never been able to get it installed correctly (gentoo is easier and MUCH better documented, even if it requires a little more typing). Good luck to all!!

My ideal distro ....
by Darius on Tue 29th Apr 2003 21:04 UTC

Give me GUI tools to configure everything, but make the CLI an option also once I've figured everything out and am ready to turn off the bloat.

When it comes to installing packages, give me a list of them and a link or button I can click on to grab the latest stable version (or command line works too). And no, I'm not talking about DEBIAN stable either. For example, the latest final/stable version of Mozilla is 1.3. AFAIK, the Debian stable version is 1.01. If I want to change that, I modify /etc/sources and then I apt-get mozilla and get whatever version happens to be in Debian unstable at the time and hope it works. Nah, fuck that. In Windows, I go to the Mozilla website, download 1.3, and I know there's a 99% chance it's going to work. I can only download from the website in Linux if a) There's a package available for my distro (and even then, you run the risk of dependency problems) or b) I want to compile it from source.

This is just silly.
by Gabriel on Tue 29th Apr 2003 21:08 UTC

I wrote a big long response to this, and just erased it and started over.

If you want to make a distribution that is nothing like Unix, please do us a favor and call it "Nothing Like Unix". Or "Nothing Like *nix" if the licensing doesn't come through for you.

There is a Unix spirit, and a lot of people who prefer Unix and Unix-like systems because of this spirit and, while they appreciate that Unix needs to grow and change, they don't want to throw out the good ideas, the essence of the system, in the process.

There seems to be a growing army of people from another camp, who don't use Unix for development, don't care about pipes and filters and standard ways of doing things, who can't even read Kernighan's "The Unix Operating System" (an easy and good read, dated, but when you are done you'll at least be able to remember what '/dev' is, and won't be tempted to call it '/hardware' or '/MyWeirdWireyLectronicalishStuff'), and just want a funky alternative to Windows for some reason.

I am obviously part of the former camp, and would just like these people who seem to dislike Unix, MacOS, AND Windows to find a different pool to pee in, please.

by rajan r on Tue 29th Apr 2003 21:09 UTC

Even if you have the most revolutionary wonderful easy distro on earth - you still won't be guarenteed success (case to point: NeXT, Be). Having a good applications line-up, a clearly defined niche, a good third party developer relationship. In addition to having hardware makers supporting you - OEMs and IHVs (being one isn't all too bad either).

Then you are guarenteed success. Windows 3.1 was successful, even though it was practically crap in comparison with competitors. Why? Because of the above said reasons.

Re: me
by Gabriel on Tue 29th Apr 2003 21:11 UTC, and before you all lynch me, I meant "The Unix Programming Environment"

by erpl on Tue 29th Apr 2003 21:14 UTC

Just take a look at ROX OS. Maybe that's what the author is looking for. It's kinda derived from RISC OS - wich is IMHO one of the finest OS, even it is not free/GPL/BSD/... ROX OS website: .

Is it just me or...
by Arne on Tue 29th Apr 2003 21:19 UTC

is part 2 and 3 impossible to access? I only get part 1 again when trying the links to 2 and 3...(Phoenix)

RE: This is just silly.
by Eugenia on Tue 29th Apr 2003 21:20 UTC

> If you want to make a distribution that is nothing like Unix, please do us a favor and call it "Nothing Like Unix". ..There is a Unix spirit

You are wrong. What is Unix anyway?? The philosophy, the filesystem or the libraries? Or the kernel architecture?

MacOSX is neither of what you want Unix to be, but it still IS a Unix. You like it or not.

It is because of people like you that Unix is still today as arcane as it was 10 and 20 years ago. Because you don't like evolution. It makes you shiver. You dread in the possibility you will lose the l33t position you got among your friends and co-workers of being the "unix head".

Things will need to evolve people. And that includes Unix. MacOSX is one step, Adam's effort could be another one. Heck, even Linux itself is an evolution over unix, but it is elitists like you who can't grasp the idea of "new".

RE: Is it just me or...
by Eugenia on Tue 29th Apr 2003 21:24 UTC

Sorry, fixed now.

From your keyboard to gods ears
by Andrew on Tue 29th Apr 2003 21:40 UTC

Hmmm, if this project were to take shape SciTech for one would undoubtedly watch with much anticipation as this sounds like something that would have been hatched around the water cooler here in our office.

RE: Is it just me or...
by smoke on Tue 29th Apr 2003 21:42 UTC

eugenia i dont know what insulted you but i dont think its ok to insult people like that. its allways the same scheme. please stop getting personal in discussions like this. we all know you love macosX, but most of us cant afford a mac. yes we are poor and we hate apple for pricing their hardware too high.

Filesystem layout
by smoke on Tue 29th Apr 2003 21:48 UTC

one thing noone seems to understand here:
the user does just need his home directory and should never need to dig around somewhere else. the changes described are purely aestethical. of course we could call /dev -> /hardware and stuff like that, but it won't hide the fact that joe user should never under any circumstances go there. all this stuff is strictly for the system. or do you dig around in your /windows dir that much (or /dev @ apple ). what linux needs more is a common configuration, stable API's and libraries 3rd party developers ( who sell apps ) can use. most of it exists allready, the only problem being common configuration frontends for home users - but these are being worked on, as is's pioneering for desktop standards (drag and drop etc.). its just progressing nicely and i dont understand what the fuzz is about. its ready when its ready and if you want to do something do it.

Re: RE: Is it just me or...
by rajan r on Tue 29th Apr 2003 21:48 UTC

Eugenia a OS X lover?

When pigs fly.

RE: This is just silly.
by Eugenia on Tue 29th Apr 2003 21:49 UTC

>we all know you love macosX, but most of us cant afford a mac.

Who spoke of buying a Mac?? And WHO said that I love Mac OSX???? This is laughable!!! Read the Apple stories we carry on OSNews, everyone is bashing on me for "hating" OSX!! You people *really* don't understand me!!!
You CONFUSE yourselves and thinking "Eugenia likes XX" and "Eugenia dislikes XX", while NONE of the two is real. Depending on the discussion and what we are discussing each time, I might present some good points of an OS, and on another discussion, a week later or something, I will present some other, bad points of the said XX OS. But people only read the one or the other discussion and GET THEIR OWN opinions as to what 'Eugenia likes or dislikes'. VERY FEW people get the idea though!

> eugenia i dont know what insulted you but i dont think its ok to insult people like that

I replied to *that* guy saying that Unix is good as it is today. I find that position silly (in exactly the same way that HE named his comment with the header "This is just silly.").

by Bakari on Tue 29th Apr 2003 21:49 UTC

On my home machine, I've come across this scenario: I download program A. In order to compile it, I need lib X, Y, and Z. I download them all. Library Y fails to compile because it requires B and C. I download B and have to upgrade C. But B depends on E. And E seems to be installed. 45 minutes later, I quit.

Been there, done that.

Re: Darius on Debian
by penguinhead on Tue 29th Apr 2003 21:49 UTC

At you can usually find backports of newer
versions of major apps that will run just fine on Debian
Stable, so there is not usually necessary to "roll the
dice" by ringing in a SID ringer.

Re: RE: Is it just me or...
by Eugenia on Tue 29th Apr 2003 21:51 UTC

>Eugenia a OS X lover?
>When pigs fly.

Thank you Rajan R. ;)
OSX is a good evolution over Unix, it has a *usable* experience, but it is not a panakea, neither the best OS the world has ever seen. It is still slow, with laughable scrolling and resizing performance.
But it IS a WELCOME evolution over Unix.

I've been saying for 5 years...
by Nathan Aschbacher on Tue 29th Apr 2003 21:54 UTC

That the Linux folks should be looking at systems like OpenStep and MacOS X if they are serious about adapting an environment based on Linux to become a desktop OS.

Most of the problems with Linux on the desktop are caused by an inability to just junk the broken system that's causing you the problems of usability in the first place and rebuilding a new system in it's place.

It seems clear that both NeXT and Apple did this with their OS's.

MacOS X isn't any more or less UNIX-like than Linux, the difference is that when building OS X Apple took special care to consider the problems of the metaphors or lack there of in the system and how they would effect not only the user, but the rest of the system as it were to be built on those metaphors.

For the last 6 months I've been wanting to build my own Linux distro which solves some of these problems, but time hasn't been available.

Most of the obsticles are really quite trivial, they have just never been addressed. Creating a clear yet bridgable division between the user environment and the underlying UNIX-like layer of the OS is the key.

A good way to achieve this is to start with a notion that to the user the desktop environment should seem like the whole OS. Adding support for something like application bundles and framework bundles, giving the DE seemingly it's own autonomous organized and complete structure in the file system which is descriptive and clear in it's partitioning scheme. Much like how /System/Library, /Library, and ~/Library are in MacOS X.

Well anyway the solutions are already there to be implemented. Somebody else already had the expense of thinking them up and implementing them first. Mimicking them ought not to be overly difficult.

"Well why don't you just do it yourself if you think you know all the answers?", I hear coming from the crowd.

Okay fine I will.


@ smoke
by Adam Scheinberg on Tue 29th Apr 2003 21:55 UTC

smoke, I wish you were right. But you're missing something: in a perfect world, all a user needs is her/her home dir. But as is, and as I see things for a long time, that's not the case. In Windows, Linux, everything, I end up screwing around. I bought an mp3 player recently, I needed to start screwing around with /etc/fstab and going out to the terminal to type

mount -t usbdevfs /mnt/sda1 /mnt/archos

In a perfect world, I'd plug it in and it would work. Instead, my distro brought up GTKam. That's why it's easier for a user if you could just guess that /hardware/usb/device1 was this device. I never would have known to look for a SCSI harddrive unless I had the internet. Like eveyrthing else about Linux, it's not intuitive.

We're bombarded, even in these forums, with the visionless. It's the ignorance of every generation to feel they are the best, and that apparently flows down to OSes. People can't imagine anything different than the status quo. That's why you build to solve today's problem and avoid tomorrow's. Work towards everything being in /Users/Username/ but understand that ain't happening just yet.

Good idea, not radical enough
by sardaukar siet on Tue 29th Apr 2003 21:59 UTC

Great article overall, but I believe you are not going far enough.

Linux is going to die. If you doubt it, check the latest screenshots and reports on Windows 6.0 ("Longhorn") and you will doubt it no more.

Fighting back is pretty simple, actually : going anew. Choosing a flavor of BSD (Net,Open,Free) and building from it's stability. We don't want licensing issues here, so we do EVERYTHING from scratch - just keeping the basic and proven functionality and stability of BSD, which has a no-problem license to start with.

It seems like a huge task, but one that if promoted well enough would gather a huge (coder and non-coder) following. A new desktop, with Apple's appeal, Windows' (semi) task-orientation and BeOS's simplicity. This, coupled with a new HTML engine (no Mozilla's Gecko here with it's license), an efficient library policy and integrated install-remove policy as well (I mean individual change-recording journals associated with each library and so on) would result in a next-generation free OS that would be a breeze to use and to evangelize about.

Another key issue would be leadership of the project. No Ceasar-model as Linus Torvalds, but a more democratic model, like FreeBSD's elected Core Team.

I believe it would work. And I have no doubt it would ROCK!

RE: Adam
by Eugenia on Tue 29th Apr 2003 21:59 UTC

>We're bombarded, even in these forums, with the visionless

Yup, exactly.

re: Butters & Quag7
by penguinhead on Tue 29th Apr 2003 22:08 UTC

Butters said
"On first boot, place a document/wizard in a painfully obvious place that screams "Start Here," much like the painful arrow thingy that points to the start menu in Windows on the first boot. It will guide through choices of alternative window managers, browsers, email clients, etc. and possibly include links to reviews and screenshots to inform the user."

This or some variation of it is a good idea.
I would never do a full install. I always build up from a
minimum install. This would be a chance for the Distro to
briefly state its case for the default choice per major
app category and make the others available.

Quag7 said:
"I think an ideal distribution could reasonably cover the entire range of installation possibilities, from something simple like Mandrake's install, to something very granular like Gentoo's. Most installers I've seen give you the Beginner-Advanced-Custom option at the beginning, and this affects the entire install process. I think it makes more sense to do it per page - on the partitioning page, the software install page, and so forth. The idea here is that nothing is forced on the user if they don't want it, but they can get a totally brainless, automatic install if they want, or mix and match. I imagine mixing and matching "skill levels" would be quite popular, depending on your level of expertise. Never should control, however, be taken away from those who want it. This is one of the things I absolutely hate about Windows."

Agreed. No reason why Distros can't be a Noob or Expert as they want to be. So you can drive around in first or 5ht gear.

These are examples of just working with the stuff we have now better.

As far as needing BSD, Lgpl takes care of 3rd party
developer issues. BSD just assures you are a farm team
for Microsoft or Apple to cherry pick your efforts.

Speaking of apple I see that gpl didn't stop them from
using konqui and khmtl for Safari.
In the end , people will look back and realize it was the
GPL that made all the difference.

standardization of DE
by ben s. on Tue 29th Apr 2003 22:11 UTC one of the main reasons i dont switch to linux completely. command line interface is great and pretty standard throughout platforms/distros/etc but there is no standard gui and when i install i am faced with 100s of choices (none of which do the job) kde/gnome/icewm/fluxbox/fvwm/windowmaker/etc/etc/etc

Re: penguinhead
by Anonymous on Tue 29th Apr 2003 22:11 UTC

Speaking of apple I see that gpl didn't stop them from
using konqui and khmtl for Safari.
In the end , people will look back and realize it was the
GPL that made all the difference.

Can't you get it through your thick head? Some people LIKE writing software for EVERYONE to use. Not everyone hates corporations and "commercial use." Give it a rest.

Directory Standard
by Bryan Livingston on Tue 29th Apr 2003 22:12 UTC

There is a new directory standard already in the works that will be very simmilar to what was discussed here.

Check it out at

There is already a perl script that will setup the symlinks on an existing system....

Best feature: drag/drop install
by Michael on Tue 29th Apr 2003 22:17 UTC

One of the things I love most about the Mac is its drag+drop installations. You won't have to worry about system dependancies (as much) if you jsut make the drag+drop installer include all the libraries that the application in question needs. Mozilla can have its own private version of GTK. Rhythmbox can have its own version of gstreamer, etc.

Re Anonymous's button got pushed.
by penguinhead on Tue 29th Apr 2003 22:24 UTC

"Can't you get it through your thick head? Some people LIKE writing software for EVERYONE to use. Not everyone hates corporations and "commercial use." Give it a rest. "

Sorry, I don't know what you are talking about.
I merely pointed out that despite some people here suggesting that a new ideal dream distro should ditch Linux
kernel because the gpl brings licensing "baggage", that
it didn't stop a proprietary Company like Apple with working with gpl'd khmtl from KDE.

Linux is for everyone to use. Micosoft is free to use
it as long as they follow the wishes of the developers.
Just like anyone who wants to use MS software has to follow their wishes or the BSA busts down the door.

The idea that Microsoft with it onerous licensing restriction is less restrictive than gpl software is

Sources for postage, but will there be public CVS?
by Anonymous Peon on Tue 29th Apr 2003 22:26 UTC

I agree on the bandwidth concern front, but on the other hand, making sources inconvenient closes the flow of 'free' patches from the 'community.'

Would your idea of a business model allow for public CVS/CVSWeb/cvsup servers for the savvy, or are you trying to suggest mimicking the closed development model more closely?

You're also concerned about bandwidth costs for sources, but as far as I can tell, don't seem to have a problem with free downloads of the OS, so 1. Don't provide source ISOs, 2. ???. 3. Profit! Is 2. meant to be "Sell shrinkwrapped and support, with free downloads" as RedHat, or "Only offer shrinkwrapped/supported," as Lindows?

Just curious; the Linux scene needs both styles of distro.

by Jared on Tue 29th Apr 2003 22:29 UTC

If you want all the stuff you said in there you need to buy a Mac

RE: Stupid
by Eugenia on Tue 29th Apr 2003 22:31 UTC

>If you want all the stuff you said in there you need to buy a Mac

Not really. Why limit yourself to only Apple products? What if you want to run it on a x86 commodity machine? Then, Adam's ideas do have a "market".

This already exists!
by Steve Prior on Tue 29th Apr 2003 22:31 UTC is a really good site which details how to build your own linux box from source code. The basic instructions end with a development capable system pingable on a network, and from there instructions are available which tell you how to add the features you want to the system. The associated discussion lists are top notch.

RE: This already exists!
by Eugenia on Tue 29th Apr 2003 22:35 UTC

> is a really good site which details how to build your own linux box from source code.

You obviously did not read the article. What Adam describes is a system that is changed fundamentally, it requires REAL ENGINEERING. Not a simple customization that systems like the one you suggest offer.

It is very important to understand the difference between "packaging company" (95% of the Linux distros today) and an "operating system" company who do way more than just throw in applications in the CDs.

To drive innovation, you will have to throw legacy behind and move on. We see little innovation in the Linux land today. This HAS to change if Linux wants to go forward in its "desktop domination" plans that some people want it to go.

ftp is dead
by disgruntled on Tue 29th Apr 2003 22:41 UTC

you write "throttled public FTP servers and also from some sort of contributor/buyer FTP servers". if we are evolving then let's do away with ftp. it seems so insecure. we need a well thought out and maintained, as secure as possible, mechanism for verifying the file and the identity of the server. what about using webdav ?

Interesting Ideas
by atif on Tue 29th Apr 2003 22:44 UTC

I think most of what he mentioned can be done, and probably wouldn't take very long. Ideas such as the file structure etc need some polishing, and instead of including every single library, maybe it would be more prudent to make it really simple to download and install what you dont have when installing a new package. Maybe a central repository that can setup whatever libraries your missing?

I like the idea of an easy to install BSD as well. But BSD doesn't have the momentum that Linux presently has. But then is that a bad thing?

Anyway, if anyone wants to do this/discuss this further. I'd love to contribute.

Debian w/ Graphical Installer + Symlinks
by morph on Tue 29th Apr 2003 22:46 UTC

I think all you need to do is create a graphical installer for debian a package that creates the symlinks , and a package like harden that prevents the user from installing a 2nd desktop environment. and then a main package that requires those two. basically create a few debian packages install debian and type apt-get isntall DistroX and your system is done. And get some support for Debian/FreeBSD

Not Really
by Guy on Tue 29th Apr 2003 22:47 UTC

Desktop users aren't gonna want to explore the filesystem. It doesn't matter what directories are named. Besides, you could just have a set of folders on the desktop with those names, without needing to have a system chock full of symlinks in the root directory. There could be an i18n layer on top of that, which is not possible with pure symlinks.

Mandrake, and presumably other distros, have such massive repositories of apps, i.e. Mandrake contrib, the selections can be browsed and installed with a couple of clicks. (Admittedly, it'd be nice to have Mandrake-contrib added automatically post-install).

If you're only using that repository, then there are NO dependency issues if the maintainers are doing their job. So there is no need for a replacement urpmi.

Also note that Mandrake does have a system for switching default executables, but currently it is just used for things like gcc.

by Acheron on Tue 29th Apr 2003 22:51 UTC

Sorry, I got turned off right at the start with all the crazy symlinking. Come on, what's the point of linking /users to /home?? Right off the bat, you're making a horrible mess of the filesystem. And that's only my first complaint about this.

Now I remember why I do Linux from Scratch now.

What is needed.
by Malachi Beckham on Tue 29th Apr 2003 22:58 UTC

I only have one word to say Organization. This is what Mac OS X and Windows have that Linux doesn’t.

my current experience
by davebsr on Tue 29th Apr 2003 23:05 UTC

I've been a happy mandrake user for a couple of years now. It just works. It doesnt' support every piece of hardware, but that's not linux's fault. It's the manufacturer's fault.

The system is stable. I have to do very little via text-file editing any more. I have nearly all linux apps available via contrib, and if something isn't packaged via rpm I just install it to /usr/local.

i've had maybe one or two applications crash, over a several month period, on MDK9.1 - gaim and mozilla, the ones I use the most.

The overall system organization is logical, if you know what the names mean. After a while, you don't even think about it. So what they don't make perfect sense? who pushes the START button to shut off the computer? Windows users know that that is just the way it is...and I know the same thing about why /usr isn't where user directories are.

I'm happy. I'm more than happy, I'm content. My OS does all I need it to. It works. It is stable. It is secure. The abstraction is pretty good. And that makes me happy.

MHS, UI standards, etc..
by eric on Tue 29th Apr 2003 23:11 UTC

I personally think that it's very funny that an article like this is even needed. I am currently running Windows + litestep + cygwin for one reason: it gives me the comfort and power of a unix/posix OS, and the UI CONSISTANCY that I've come to expect of a quality desktop OS, which is COMPLETELY ABSENT on my wonderful linux installs.

The biggest improvement that can possbily be made to unix/linux IMO, as a SINGLE UI standards document that EVERY distro complies with. Some standard shortcuts for common tasks (copy and paste, anyone?), a SINGLE copy clipboard for the entire OS (including the CLI environment) some attention to UI facts that have been known for ever, some SIMPLE pre-development paper usability prototypes, etc..

Here's a secret to usability testing that linux/unix developers don't seem to know.. you can find over 95% of your usability problems by testing with as few as 5 users. Usability testing doesn't have to be difficult. Get a few friends to check out some paper prototypes. Then build a "functional" GUI prototype, get them to test that.. fix problems, wash, rinse, repeat... USABILITY FIRST.

Apple has been developing from usability standards since the early eighties. Microsoft has done the same since the mid eighties. Why is there STILL no widely adopted UI standard for UNIX based OS's? THERE IS NO EXCUSE. This, more than anything else, is the barrier to mass adoption. Everybody has been concentrating on the installers. It's EASIER and FASTER to install a modern linux system than it is to install Windows XP, but XP is still beating the crap out of linux in terms of popularity.

The answer is not "sue microsoft"... the answer is to BEAT microsoft on the usability front. We can beat them. You think they have resources? We have millions of developers world-wide. They're winning because they're more organized than we are. They're winning because despite the fact that their OS kernel sucks, their OS is 100x more usable than linux. That is an indisputable fact, and anybody can conduct the usability tests to prove it. We could change all that if we were more organized.

The unix developer community is a scattered mess of individual egos doing their own dinky projects and not communicating with each other.

Want to change the filesystem? Why don't we all help out the MHS project? (

Seems like a good place to start.

RE: MHS, UI standards, etc..
by Eugenia on Tue 29th Apr 2003 23:14 UTC

Pretty well said Eric.

OK I think most things are right in this article. But one thing is, IMHO, not going to be achieved, ever.

The "dependency" problem.

I use gentoo now (and I know many others are doing the same), and used SuSE before. Both suffer the dependency problem; SuSE solves it by ignoring new packages until the next major version (like, there is STILL no gnome-2.2 available...), gentoo solves it with compiling, compiling, compiling. That's not such a big problem, if you have a fast CPU...

anyway, even with gentoo there are some problems. There are *always* some actual, still maintained packages that needs the absolutly new version (maybe CVS ;) 2.2.1 of lib XYZ.

And than there is this old program using this old version of lib XYZ (like, 1.3.3, not .h compliant with new version).

So, gentoo installs *both* of them.

And since GNU/Linux dev is proceeding faster and faster, this problems will increase. And they really can not be solved by simply bloat (!and that's what the author is talking about here!) the DistroX with *all* available libs. Because that's not simply all libs, but at least two (soon three) major release of each lib. I really don't like that.

And the KDE vs. Gnome problem won't solve by just dropping one. There are to many apps for the other one a user might like, and even if they work (see bloated libs above), they won't look nice, will use different theme types, etc.pp.

What I like about gentoo is the possibility to choose.

What I would like to see is a distro that installs clean, unbloated and *working* for the default DAU.

I think, even if it's sad, that those two things are not going to be achieved with a POSIX complient, free system so soon. But there might be two solutions; one for me (upper one), and one for DAUs (lower one) - and that is possible for about... 12 months or so.

I really hope SuSE could reestablish my good thinking about them by making something as stable as version 7.0... :/

Anyway, I hope I can afford a PowerBook soon... ;)
by Alex (The Original) on Tue 29th Apr 2003 23:29 UTC

The MHS project is a really good initiative. I hope at least "one" of the Linux distros converts to it. Are you reading Mandrake??? Lindows? Xandros? Lycoris?

about the UI standards...
by LGW on Tue 29th Apr 2003 23:30 UTC

100% ACK. damn right.

But, in fact, I gave up.

I started programming for the Windows environment about 1993, using Borland Turbo Pascal for Windows V.1.5 - and guess what... there was a BOOK (*one* additional book!) in the package explaining how a UI should be designed following the microsoft guidelines.

That's 10 years ago. The unix world is still a mess. I mean, most "main" programs are OK now, there is OO (which is simply a UI copy of MSO, IMO, and has really *NO* own creativity in making things better), Mozilla is really usable, and some more programs which are OK.

But on the other hand, there are still GUIs featuring things like major buttons in the upper right corner, first needed informations in the second tab screen (like, in my #1 favorite for bad GUI (sorry, but IMHO...) xcdroast) which has to be *opened* before anything else will work, and stuff like that.

I mean, OK, M$ spends millions of dollars hiring peoble that do nothing else than UI design. But why can't we do this?

That's why I stick to PalmOS development... *sigh*

FSH Reorganisation?
by Iain on Tue 29th Apr 2003 23:31 UTC

I'm been thinking about this issue for a while, and it seems a lot of people around the internet have been having similar ideas over the past few years as I've been looking around on the issue.

Looking at my first impressions of using UNIX for some development as I slowly migrate away from Windows, and I have come to one conclusion on the current state of the UNIX style filesystem (and to some extend current hierarchical directory structures) are beginning to get extremely outdated.

I've been pondering for months and coming up with some ideas on how I think Linux, or a BSD variant of your choice, could evolve into a far more powerful and readible system.

They way I see that the UNIX filesystem should develop is to first leave the hierarchical directory structure and use a more Database orientated approach to the naming of files using tagged meta-data. Even windows is going this way, and in all honesty I consider this definitely the way forward.

For one this would make searching a large FS a heck of a lot faster.

This is only a few abstract ideas, as I can see instead of initially having directories off the 'root', you would instead have resources such as 'Hardware', 'Libraries', and 'Applications' or anything else that could be custom defined within the schema.

Say in the 'Hardware' resource, this would develop more like the devfs system in Linux, but since any style of meta-data could be used since this FS is a database for all intents and purposes it could define all the installed hardware.

For 'Libraries' this could simply be a table listing all the installed libraries on the system, indexed by name, and version - this gets rid of any possibility of something like DL-Hell. You could have more than one effective namespace for this too, having a complete one for the system editable by 'root', another for each specific user, and one more that could be attached to an installed application.

(This could allow the easy drag-and-drop installs, although I've not tried giving Mac OS X a whirl, that would require me owning a Mac.)

The installed 'Applications' on the system as well could be stored in a table the same way, for the system, and individual users and could UNIX style commands for running at the equivalent of a terminal window. Along with this other data could be stored, including Configuration within the filesystem itself as attached meta-data or something more complicated defined by how this Filesystem schema could be developed.

Even your own documents could be handled like this, as you could tag the document with any kind of meta-data you could think of it would let you organise your files they way you wanted. Or this could allow a more Task Orientated design to how users look at files.

Making this extensible would be the only way I could see something like this actually working, allowing some sort of plug in module system for say handling a new 'WebRoot' resource, or something similar.

It may sound a bit like rambling, I'm just dumping ideas to the keyboard. Feel free to poke holes, I don't mind the criticism.

simple solution
by Anonymous on Tue 29th Apr 2003 23:35 UTC

how's this - OS X on PC - no overpriced sub par hardware just a disk with the OS on it and thats it.

I'm embarassed...
by Omar Hijab on Tue 29th Apr 2003 23:35 UTC

..for you.

I'm sorry, but there have been too many of these types of articles; by definition, they are written by people who have no deep understanding of the stuff, the others are too busy.

What a bunch of baloney, shame on you! I have to say this, otherwise the non-experts would think that there is content to your thoughts. I've been using SuSE for 5 years now, and not a day passes when I don't learn something new and interesting. Your glib remarks show that you don't have any idea of what it takes to produce anything really deep and well-done.

While you're at it, why don't you write articles on

"If I owned a University"
"If I owned the NYC ballet"
"If I owned NASA"

I wouldn't be so hard on you if you weren't hurting Linux and open-source with your comments.

by Azrael on Tue 29th Apr 2003 23:35 UTC

A linux distribution that doesn't use linux... er.. riiight.

A graphical applicationinstaller: use mandrake's graphcal install software program.

Don't like the filesystem, don't use it. users aren't supposed to mess around in /dev or /proc sheeeesshh!!

Why focus on the filesystem?
by F Hendrikx on Tue 29th Apr 2003 23:36 UTC

Although your article is well written, it seems to me to be missing an essential point: If I was a basic user, why do I want to look at the file system? I want to be able to open my documents, read email and browse the web, not look around "under the hood".

The underlying filesystem is irrelevant to a basic user. Sure, /dev or /proc don't mean anything to most users, but why should they care? As long as the basic tasks that most users need to complete can be done easily from the DE, what does it matter?

RE: I'm embarassed...
by Eugenia on Tue 29th Apr 2003 23:42 UTC

Your comment is the one that is embarrasing.

>I wouldn't be so hard on you if you weren't hurting Linux and open-source with your comments.

Now, that is laughable.

Linux is still not ready for the desktop
by Carl on Tue 29th Apr 2003 23:52 UTC

I used Linux since 1 year and a half but not as my main OS.
I installed Mandrake 8.1,Red Hat 7.2,7.3 and today installed Mandrake 9.1 but I'm still not impressed:
Mozilla crashing after 10min of use,still no recognition of either my printer nor my scanner not to say my webcam.
My machine is a normal one,not so bad, P3 1Ghz with 384 MB RAM.
Linux is still slower than Windows XP Pro but that doesn't mean that I like Windows.It is the best OS for desktop use.
I haven't tried Mac OS X but it seems rock solid because of it's Unix base.

Link to install MP3s etc
by Richard Neill on Tue 29th Apr 2003 23:53 UTC

I disagree with much of what you have said - in the sense that it's either present (eg Mandrake has very good software installation [although you have to set up urpmi first]), or the filesystem - which is actually quite logical when you think about it.

But I think that the idea of having menu items for "DVD support cannot be distributed for legal reasons; click here to download" is an excellent one. This, I would like to see...

I also think that, while comapnies must make a living, if one *had* to choose, I'd rather see Linux go the Debian route than the semi-proprietary route. Although I hope we won't have to make a choice.

So just do it
by Anonymous on Tue 29th Apr 2003 23:55 UTC

50% of what you describe would be simple to do, hack it together, throw it against the wall, and see if it sticks.

To all of you who think this is a good idea
by Tux on Tue 29th Apr 2003 23:56 UTC

this sounds like a great idea to me.. it really doesn't matter about symlinks and stuff - just the concept he has here is what I've been saying about Linux for years. You could really help the Linux community with this.
Just because I really like this idea, I'll provide webspace (on a fast server), forums, basic orginazation, etc. I'll even help develop/test/do whatever - but we need developers and other staff. If you're interested, email me at

Problems from the start
by Anonymous on Wed 30th Apr 2003 00:09 UTC

This article has some good ideas, but there's some pretty bad ones that would cause problems right from the word go. For example:
My developers are going to meet and agree on ONE desktop environment. Yes, we'll include the libs for the other major one we leave out.
Already you've fallen into the trap of pandering to the existing Linux crowd. Why ? Most of the other things you're doing are already going to drive away these people. Pick (or create) a GUI. Stick to it, customise it, tweak it "just so". Don't waste any developmental effort on another - let others do that if they _really_ want to. Every minute spent on including or developing stuff for the "other GUI" is time you could have spent making yours better.
[...] graphical, heavy on eye candy, with few visible options but lots of "Advanced" buttons.
Bad idea. "Advanced" buttons just allow for more mistakes to be made by newbies. If you *really* want to give the option for users to perform an "advanced" install (in which case you should really sit down and ask yourself *WHY*), then make it a well documeted *boot-time* option that can't be stumbled on accidentally. SImilarly with things like filesystems - pick on and stick to it.
I'm already stripping out a number of apps, so what I'm not going to worry about are libraries and system files. Even the minimal install will include every common system tool my develops can think of.
This is another bad idea. It's this sort of reasoning that *causes* library versioning problems. Include _only_ the libs necessary to support your included software and development on your "default" platform. Again, if other people really want to get app XYZ that requires libs ABC and HIJ to get working, they will. The only time this might be an issue for you is when your users are asking for a service your existing software doesn't provide.
On the whole, the ideas here are pretty good. It's obvious your objective (dream ?) is to create an OS X equivalent on x86, which is an admirable (and achievable IMHO) goal. However, you're also trying to pander to existing userbase by including options for this, options for that, etc. Don't - it's one of the biggest reasons Linux distros are difficult to approach for people who don't have the knowledge to make the necessary decisions between all those options. If you _really_ want to make "something new" then you have to make choices and stick by them. Certainly don't go out of your way to hinder people trying to port/develop for the new platform, but by the same token don't waste any of your development time and money re-implementing features (note: *features*, not specific bits of software) that already exist on your platform, just because a handful of users prefer a slightly different version.

I like this article and I agree that FreeBSD is more stable and trustworthy than Linux.
The reason that Linux rulez the desktop is that it has drivers for 10x as many devices.
If you want to bring FreeBSD to the desktop, come up with a simple process for porting Linux drivers to FreeBSD, or better yet, a method for using Linux drivers under FreeBSD without any modification.

typical geeks raising non issues....
by Michael on Wed 30th Apr 2003 00:22 UTC

Funny people actually bring up the POSIX issue plus various other trival issues. The author has clearly stated that the goal would be similar to Gentoo or even Debian --- that being packages built specificly for that distribution. It might require some additional care, but the POSIX issue really is a none issue if all package's are provide by a sole vendor.


my thoughts
by Snake on Wed 30th Apr 2003 00:26 UTC

i think the dependency problem could be sorted by using gentoo instal method ;) this is excellent.

and about the file system layout, well you can symlinks maybe to point to binaries to original place like he mentioned ?

one other major thing is kernel compiles, ok its not hard, but although make menuconfig is noce, i think it should be made more logically, i mean not everyone knows what scheduling is or maybe what certain fesature is called etc... all this should be made in plain easy idiot proof english etc...

just my toughts...


Re: Re: This is Silly (to Eugenia)
by Gabriel on Wed 30th Apr 2003 00:29 UTC

You should have read what I wrote and deleted... I thought what I posted was the palatable version.

Never said MacOS X wasn't Unix. Where did you get that from?

I am not now, nor have I ever been 'leet'. I like evolution just fine. Unix isn't the same as it was 10 or 20 years ago. Though being a Unix-head does suit me just fine.

I don't mind things that are new. I think there are lots of neat operating system projects out there, like Zeta, FreeVMS, SkyOS, to name a few. They aren't just adulterated Unices, and they don't pretend to be.

Unix is the philosophy, yes. We have seen POSIX implemented by OSs that didn't have this spirit (like WinNT). The filesystem? So far, yeah, it is. It may not be the best choice, but if the only real objection is you can understand it the first time you encounter it, I don't see a good reason to change it. The kernel architecture? Well, yeah, the system call interface, though obviously underneath you are free to do whatever you need to.

But let's just get straight to the reason I said what I did (which was: don't call it Linux/Unix if it isn't). I don't want to show up for work one day having to use DistroX, or find that half of the packages that used to compile just fine on a dozen platforms now don't because of some kooky changes they made to pander to something made for people who could use any old kernel to make this monstrosity, and don't appreciate what it is they are trying to change.

I do kind of like starting a post with "You are wrong." That's pretty cheeky ... ;)

>> If you want to make a distribution that is nothing like Unix, please do us a favor and call it "Nothing Like Unix". ..There is a Unix spirit

>You are wrong. What is Unix anyway?? The philosophy, the >filesystem or the libraries? Or the kernel architecture?
>MacOSX is neither of what you want Unix to be, but it still >IS a Unix. You like it or not.
>It is because of people like you that Unix is still today >as arcane as it was 10 and 20 years ago. Because you don't >like evolution. It makes you shiver. You dread in the >possibility you will lose the l33t position you got among >your friends and co-workers of being the "unix head".

>Things will need to evolve people. And that includes Unix. >MacOSX is one step, Adam's effort could be another one. >Heck, even Linux itself is an evolution over unix, but it >is elitists like you who can't grasp the idea of "new".

I cringed.
by Greg on Wed 30th Apr 2003 00:30 UTC

Please. While, yes, graphical installers/conf tools are necessary, I don't see how your model could improve anything. If I were to fire up my gentoofm and see a listing of /Apps, /System, /ThisIsWhereThoseNiceConfigurationFilesGo, I would vomit and find myself some ArcaneUnixBasedOS v. 0.0.3 to make myself feel 31337 over. I like Linux, and I want to keep using it, and I very much wish it had the graphical glitz of BeOS. This "distro" is basically a somehow even more brain-damaged version of (Lindoze | Linblows | Lindow$). I like my Linux on the desktop, not least because it runs on a Celeron 433, and I want it to be everything for everybody. This strand of "make Linux better for the desktop by making it worse for the poweruser" is troubling to me.

(This is slightly OT, but I think the problem with Linux on the desktop is the lack of a good DE. I like IceWM, and Gnome, and KDE. However, these have problems. The mistake Linux DEvelopers seem to make is emulating Windows, rather than OSX. The latter is an example of an advanced, well-integrated environment, and while I would hate to see an exact copy, I'd love something that has as much of a feel of "I can have as many useless doodads and bells and whistles as I want". I'm sure that with the 2.6 kernel, this thing could run without embarassing latency. KDE is making progress this way, but it is way too Wind-y. Of course, more power to those that want an XP-like, or Workbench-like, or Photon-like DE. Linux == choice.)

There is absolutely no reason to make such a change to the FHS--come on, I've only been using a non-Windows OS (Debian) for 6 months, and I wouldn't think of changing the file system. What would be nice, is if your standard file manager (Nautilus, say), would take a tip from MS and special-case the FHS directories, so explanatory tooltips would pop up. Advanced users can switch to another file manager (Nautilus/Konq are bloated, IMHO).

It is possible to make Linux better for the newbie home user WITHOUT destroying its 1337ness. Many of these changes only need to be made within a desktop environment, or file manager, or whatever. I sort of fail to grasp the reason for the lack of a "install-this-package-in-user's-home-dir" option anywhere--it could be disabled for better security. And the rpm and deb packaging systems lend themselves WONDERFULLY to "Add/Remove Programs" schemes!

In short: I like my Linux. I like my BeOS. I like evolution, I like tradition. But please, don't kill the tradition only to degenerate it.

Booting on ATA RAID.
by A.K.H. on Wed 30th Apr 2003 00:33 UTC

The author wishes that Linux would boot off of ATA RAID. He went on to choose FreeBSD for it's liberal license. I think he'd be surprised to find that FreeBSD already boots off of ATA RAID. ;)

Re: FSH Reorganisation?
by Spark on Wed 30th Apr 2003 00:40 UTC

That's exactly the point. The future will not be hirarchical. How exactly this will be done remains to be seen but one thing is fact: Only if we abstract the underlying filesystem as much as possible, we even have the _chance_ to do the convertion.
Making the filesystem easier to read (for english speaking people) will do nothing but make a flaw a bit more convenient (and introduce foreseen and unforeseen complications).
A small first step in GNOME land could be seen with the Epiphany browser's bookmark handling. This is just so much more powerful than a hirachical tree of bookmarks, even though the current implementation is still very rough. If it wouldn't crash constantly on my system, I would use it just for this feature. It will be interesting to see how this all works out but I'm quite confident that this will be one of the major advancements in the next years and this is the only thing where I'm afraid that Microsoft could get a huge lead if we don't hurry now. Will Linuxland be ready for such a massive change? Or can it be done without breaking too much existing stuff? I realise that I yet have to learn a lot about this topic.

Tux: You could really help the Linux community with this.

Help the Linux community by replacing Linux with FreeBSD, great idea! ;-)

Haven't we had our fill of profit-making OS companies?
by John on Wed 30th Apr 2003 00:45 UTC

BTW: It never fails to amaze me how readily people bristle over their "territory", and fling insults at posters who obviously have good or, at worst, neutral intentions. "Can't you get it through your thick head", "You obviously didn't read the article"--such a drag to step in these dogshit comments, even if there is a gleaming dime of relevant info in them.

Here's my actual post. I'd like to switch from Windows to Linux. I know nothing about Linux, and know far more about Windows than I ever wanted to (because it is accident-prone). I hate MS, and their obsence "success", and for that reason alone I want to switch. But, even if I hate to admit it, because the polarity of "hatred" feels good sometimes, ambivalence being a difficult and unsexy state to maintain, Microsoft was a necessary evil for the world of computers, and much progress, in chips, peripherals, software, etc, owes itself to MS. But now it's time to move on, away from this monster against which all OS standards are measured, and who'd own even the Internet (italics mine) if it could.

I like Adam's article. Thank you, Adam. It presumes that true progress on a distro will be made on behalf of people like me, who want a great OS but who don't want to get cozy in the codey innards of our systems. The article starts with the premise that a great distro has to give people what they'd expect from Windows. Of course. Duh. That's where we live, the critical-mass. The article addresses some of things such users shouldn't tolerate. I, for example, don't like the absurd naming of Linux apps, which are themselves an analog of Linux's lack of code-transparency. And I don't ever want to see feel hear or smell the word "dependencies". I have other work to do, so I want less "choice" upfront--just give me the best, up front. If I don't like it, make it easy for me to get something else, and get rid of what I didn't like.

I also like the idea an early poster made that such a product might more resemble Mac than Linux or Windows. Fine with me, Mac is better than both of them. But Apple is also a monopoly, and Jobs also is way too rich. It's time for him and Gates to |just leave|, italics mine.

What MS did for the world is to show us what is needed in a personal computer, both by giving it to us, and by failing to. It didn't get so stinking big because of its products, but because it had products, and standards, albeit proprietary standards, to offer just when the foolish world was clamoring to start the "computer age"; another case of being in the right place at the right time.

Adam, I don't think making money is the only model that would produce a great OS (distroX). Once something--personal computers--becomes a commodity, and almost an essential (alas) for modern, that is, consumerist, life, then that commodity has to taken out of the hands of those who would sink their needlelike teeth into you and never let go until you can't pay them anymore to suck your blood. This also applies to "broadband", cellphones, and even cable TV--all way overpriced, even at "entry-level". (I say this as someone who can afford these things) This fever has to break. Since so many earn their livings from computers--doing something other than building OSs--the OS has become an essential commodity, and I for one am tired of owing any "living" I make from my computer to Bill Gates, or any facsimile thereof. But, then again, we're all working for the landlord.

This may seem off topic, but too many "consumers", already haggard and hyper from dishing out too much cash for music, games, software, etc, are all-too willing to steal a song for, well, a song. They steal from Michael Jackson, they steal from some poor punk hoping to "earn a living" from his music. Look at the results. Napster, Kazaa, et al, caused such an uproar among the media powers, including MS, that these companies seek to, and will succeed at, destroying the ability of electronic devices to make copies of digital media files. Every electronic machine you buy will have "their" spy-chip in it. In the name of profit. Guess the "honor system" would never have worked with downloading music. Not with this populace.

But it can work in the open source community. I believe the "honor system"--donation, if you want--is fundamentally connected to open source. Build me something good, and I will pay you. You won't even have to ask.

Thank you, folks, for reading. I'm sorry if I rambled, but there is unavoidable politics involved with Linux, or open source--we have yet to see it in full force--and I wanted to touch on certain aspects of it.

several things almost there!
by mabhatter on Wed 30th Apr 2003 00:53 UTC

After trying sevral other distros, I really like knoppix. It has it's drawbacks, but for the most part it just works. If you're looking for a newbe Linux, then start there and address the issues present.

Knoppix is really just a custom Debian on a bootable CD. You can load it up, tweak it how you want, and burn another. It has about half of your list done for you. True, it uses the standard layout + some stuff to be bootable, but it's fairly standard--most linux help docs will get you going. It has a standard desktop. You can change it, or not, but it starts with the same thing unless you change it--good first step. Hardware detection is great. Everyother distro I've had to go without something basic, mouse, video, sound...The basics work and work well. Yes, it's a read-only CD, but that means users can't mess it up and can always go back--best part is without loosing data!

The only thing missing with Knoppix is an easy way to install new programs. He's necessarily catering to 905 of the people, but everyone seems to have their own 1-2 key programs that breaks their use of it. What Knoppix [and any other Distro] needs is a surefire way to install programs. Compiling a la gentoo is great for the Pros, but the rest of us just want to run them. Frankly program-in-a-folder would seem to be the best route for all involved. Develop an online app that detects your system [I know already done!] but installs the dependancies to the program folder. For something like Knoppix, the current version of the disc is the standard layout and everyone can just adapt to that. each prog would run in it's own "sandbox" uneffected by the others. Again, I'm not a zelot or anything, Knoppix is just the best place to begin such a project because it's basicly locked down and install-less.

So do it...
by IL on Wed 30th Apr 2003 01:04 UTC

I totally agree. Especially with that arcane file-system crap that I have to put up with Linux nowadays.
What? You think I'm some sort of illiterate? Got my start way back in the Apple/Commodore days and been everywhere from Mainframe, *NIX, Mac, OS/2, Windows and more.

POSIX? Screw POSIX compatibility. It doesn't make sense to the user. ONE DISTRO and ALL APPS specifically tailored to that ONE DISTRO.

Let me give an example of how stupid things currently are. RedHat 7.2 installation. How do I allow another computer to print through my computer? Well, just "man lpr" or "man lpd", right?
WRONG! Because RedHat (not picking on RedHat, every distro does it their way) puts the conf file SOMEWHERE ELSE. And it is not even named like it says in the man page. Cause all they did was pick up the man pages from somewhere and slap it on. Check on-line? You get 5 different answers.

THIS SUCKS. Linux expert or no. Where did POSIX get you?

by Anonymous on Wed 30th Apr 2003 01:14 UTC

The article was good, but the writer did not appear to have a deep knowledge of kernel implementation. That's not a big problem because the article gets you thinking, but if we are going to make a better platform, for it to really happen, than we need developers to want a new platform. We need developers who are knowledgeable enough about all kinds of modern and legacy software to be able to focus on what worked, and what didn't work. We need a generic model and a open source model that are co-operative.

by solar on Wed 30th Apr 2003 01:20 UTC

It's good to see someone actually acknowledge that not
everything about linux today is perfect. (Many people
I talk to claims so...)

The file system is a living hell for a new user. I have
seen a lot of people not finding their way around it
(including myself). It's not always obvious that dev
stands for device. (DEVelopment strikes me as a first guess)
And in my personal experience, I have to navigate through
a lot of it to make things work, even though, it seems to
me now, that it shouldn't be neccessary for me to do so.

And a good, informative graphical installer that does not
scare first time users is a good bet as well.

The distro described here would be great to attract new

If this is already taken care of, my apologies, but the
last time I tried Linux (red hat 8.0, I think) there seemed
to be a lot of different places to set up more or less the
same things. This is more confusing rather than an option.


I disagree
by dwilson on Wed 30th Apr 2003 01:36 UTC

I must disagree with those saying POSIX compatibility is useless. They say "Where did POSIX compatibility get you?" Well, it gets you a wealth of programs that will compile with virtually no changes on Linux, BSD, Solaris, and most other Unices. This is important. It means when one Unix gets an app, it can be shared with the rest.

reply to John on Windows
by jbolden1517 on Wed 30th Apr 2003 01:42 UTC

The article starts with the premise that a great distro has to give people what they'd expect from Windows. Of course. Duh. That's where we live, the critical-mass.

I agree with you this is Adam's assumption and the usual one on OSNews as well. I'm not sure its true however. I don't know that systems built for the computer ignorant are the future. In terms of computer ignorance its been the assumption for decades that computers would have to become as easy to use as telephones or televisions. In reality however during the last 20 years telephones and televisions have become considerably harder to use. Meanwhile the population has become vastly more computer literate than it was.

Take typing: 20 years ago most office workers did not know how to type. Today some basic typing skills are assumed from educated person. Another example is the distinction between writing and typesetting. 20 years ago this was poorly understood and wordprocessors operated in terms of pages. Today they operate almost completely in terms of streams of text, people now write a text stream which will only bind to a position on the page as part of the typesetting (usually seconds prior to printing) processes. Both are major conceptual shift in the broad populations.

Another conceptual shift has been that people now understand the distinction between application and applications specific binary data (i.e. a .doc file vs. word.exe). 20-30 years ago this was a very complicated notion to explain to people and was considered very techy.

It may be that computer knowledge becomes a human skill like reading or driving which take a great deal of time and effort to acquite and even more time to achieve profeciency.

I don't know that the "The critical-mass" is really as bas as people say. What people (especially on OSNews) seem to mean are

a) American / 1st world
b) computer ignorant and proud of it
c) not terribly well educated in general (i.e. HS-college)

Look at the 3rd world and you have vastly more information workers who are:

a) have more time for training since the hire / layoff rules of America don't apply
b) have staff with more education and intellegence
c) Are mote intellegent and more educated
d) Are embarrased by lack of knowledge and usually seek to address these failings

I could see Linux doing quite well as the desktop / corporate OS in the 3rd world. If Linux ends up winnign the desktop wars in Peru, India, China, Russia... that's huge progress for this decade. The US corporate culture is Microsoft's home turf and most important battefield. Linux's key advantages (freedom, configurability / scriptability, cost) don't nearly as much impact here and Microsoft's (genericity, standardization, ease of training) are more imporant. I would expect the US corporate desktop market to be the very last dominos to fall not one of the first.

Dependency issues ARE resolvable as suggested
by Hawkstone on Wed 30th Apr 2003 01:44 UTC

... if you're talking about binary packages.

As much as I hate to give them any credit, typical Windows applications come with everything they need. There are some exceptions to this -- many a game come with DirectX on the CD but are not installed as part of the normal install process.

How does this work? A program is installed in a self-contained directory, and a shortcut to the program is placed somewhere accessible (like the Start Menu). If a program needs Qt (for example), it comes with it and places it in the directory where the program is installed. The OS will look in the binary directory to find needed runtime libraries.

Sure, there are some global system files (windows/system/*.dll), but for the most part these are relegated to drivers, not application level code.

Can this work under Linux? Sure -- I write an app that requires Python and Qt, and the installer includes the runtime libraries. The problem is that Linux will not look for .so's in the binary directory, so the program users run is actually a script which adds to LD_LIBRARY_PATH. Now was that so hard? Just make the OS's loader do the same, and you've fixed that problem so all programs can work this way.

Worried about disk space because you've got 20 copies of some library floating around? That's what the disk space comment he suggested was for -- 20 copies times roughly 10MB a piece is 200 MB. Not too bad to alleviate all versioning issues, huh?

Now if that library is something like Qt where it is part of a window manager (e.g. KDE) and very commonly used, maybe that one library deserves promotion to be "part of the OS", in which case the version had damn well better be stable over time (read: binary compatibility). Otherwise, one copy per package, please....

v This "author" has got to be young...
by Joe on Wed 30th Apr 2003 01:58 UTC
If you don't want "choice"...
by Joe on Wed 30th Apr 2003 02:03 UTC

Have only one entry in the menu! Jesus, how hard is this to do? If you want more apps, the "power" users can just run a "UnHide the other apps" menu entry....Keep everything installed, but keep it simple for his audience I guess.

Completely correct except backwards
by Mac OS X and Linux Admin on Wed 30th Apr 2003 02:15 UTC

This article could be correct if only you turned it around and applied it to why Mac OSX is not a serious Unix as it stands and how what it really needs to take some pages from what the Linux community does right.

Modular, flexible, powerful systems that run on the fastest hardware available.

Your symlink idea gives you away, you have obviously never managed more than your desktop.

One of the single biggest problems with MacOSX is its over use of /Library and inconsistent FS with every published unix standard. The LSB is there for a reason.

Need I even mention that Mac OS X uses spaces in its file and directory names all over the place? Try scripting that correctly. The people that designed that system have obviously never written a shell script and no, apple script does not count.

MacOSX is a unix file system created by someone who never leaves the finder. That may work for a single at home desktop but it scales terribly for those of us that have to managed hundreds of systems.

Speaking of scaling, bsd over gpl? The biggest problem with BSD license is that it does not scale. Any time a project gets big enough to be useful some company proprietizes it and the inevitable fork occurs. Now you have two projects that become increasingly more incompatible until you might as well choose a completely different application. The GPL is scalable fork protection. Don't comment on licenses until you get yourself some education on the long term benefits of the GPL on Open Source project health.

As far as package management, score another thing that makes Mac OS X scale terribly, not to mention causing no end of headaches and running around for support personnel.

RPM is not perfect, but tools like yum and apt-get rpm make it very effective for managing large numbers of systems and keepin them up to date. No going to the finder and clicking update either, no user intervention required as the systems update themselves, no reboot required.

Perhaps you should take some time to understand the power that a proper package management system gives you. Your comparison to Windows installers is a good one, but only because it maps to Mac OSX and its 1980's era installers. Want to know how to make a unmanageable mess of a computer? Install software by dragging it and causing hidden scripts and programs to make alterations to your system. Please, that might seem like high tech to a desktop user, but to someone who manages clusters of linux boxes it is almost enough to make you cry.

Libraries? Do you even know what you are talking about? Have you ever tried to compile and install OS packages on Mac OS X? No elf file, no LD_LIBRARY_PATH, no use some crackpot scheme for shared libaries that could only been created by a marqui de-sade type. They know it to, and they are changing it.

Look I do not mean to bash Mac OS X. It runs my G4 powerbook wonderfully and its integration of wireless is very well done. However it has a long way to go before I will consider it a serious Unix worthy of something more than a quicktime server or an ssh console.

Another wishlist.
by cheezwog on Wed 30th Apr 2003 02:15 UTC

The nearest thing to this already is Linuxstep.

I would comment on the article, but it's pointless as all the issues and their solutions have been thrashed out a long time ago.

The problem is that everyone has their own idea of the best possible distro, but very few can write code. Therefore we get a lot of wish lists, but very few real projects.

There are already countless 'ideal' package managing solutions, filesystem layouts, dependency resolving mechanisms etc, and to what benefit?
The 'innovations' are the *cause* of incompatibility not the solution!

OSX gets on perfectly well with /usr /var /bin /dev /etc, the difference is that apple understands the important part is making sure the user never has to deal with them directly.

You can rename entries in the root fs how you like, but if the <=average user has to navigate and comprehend them *at all*, you have already lost them.

v Eugenia...
by Joe on Wed 30th Apr 2003 02:18 UTC
v Joe
by Eugenia on Wed 30th Apr 2003 02:23 UTC
by Kevin Rasmussen on Wed 30th Apr 2003 02:27 UTC

I don´t want Eugenia to shut up, ever, even if I don´t agree with her sometimes. In fact the only people I think should shut up are those that try to shut up others, like you, Joe.

BTW, thanks Eugenia, that was an interesting thread.

binary compatable, Hawkstone
by jbolden1517 on Wed 30th Apr 2003 02:34 UTC

"part of the OS", in which case the version had damn well better be stable over time (read: binary compatibility).

At the highest levels (i.e. the kernel guys) binary compatability is not seen as an important feature. The kernel isn't binary compatable over time, there is no way the desktop will be. Linux developers are in broad agreement that they are not willing to take the hits required to maintain long term binary compatability.

So your setup would require the distribution maker to release a particular build and then recompile an app a 1/2 dozen times for each environment and then distribute those binaries. Not undoable but expensive. They are never going to get the upsteam support for anything more than this.

Wow...where to begin?
by Kingstrum on Wed 30th Apr 2003 02:44 UTC

Don't want to discuss your proposed changes to the filesystem? Fine...I can syslink mine any way I like too.

Hmmmm, well I'm all for breaking LSB if it means putting a stake through the vile heart of RPMs once and for all. There's a cold, cold place in Hell for RedHat on that one thing alone. But the fact that the author can't figure how to uninstall software past "rpm -e <program>" is a big slug from the Foam Cluebat. However, after 20+ years of computer experience -- on both sides of the support fence -- I can say without fear of contradiction: Users are morons. Period. If they weren't they wouldn't need sys & net admins to bail their asses out every 5 mins.

Choice, especially on such a hot-button issue like "KDE vs. GNOME", is critical. Deciding on one or the other and then throwing all your resources behind it is just assinine. Build distro-specific themes, submit tons of bug-reports, do whatever it takes, but do *NOT* reinvent the wheel by picking a favorite now and then regreting it later when the winds of change...well, change. Both projects are currently trying to work on a set of guidelines that just might actually help them settle on a common back-end -- *FINALLY!* Oh, and BTW, I personally enjoy tweaking FVWM2 til it bleeds...all the extra GUI garbage just slows things down and makes the "eye candy & twitch reflex" game of user interface just plain useless.

Speaking of GUIs...
Which is easier: having a user chase pretty little buttons around the screen all day long or just having them answer a simple series of questions -- while providing them with relavent information in order to make informed decisions? As a user of the oldest living Linux distro (guess...) and OpenBSD, I have to say that a simple text installer makes things much, much easier. The machine tells me what it needs to know next...instead of guessing which shiny red button to press to continue. Further correction: OpenBSD is *NOT* playing around with a graphical installer (even the GOBIE web page states it's currently two [!] French CS students at the moment)...expect Theo to pay you a visit real soon now and God help you.

The issue of bloat has been beat into the ground, so I'm gonna just say "to each their own."

<gut-wrenching vitriol deleted>: "The way I understand it, pretty much everything on a GNU/Linux system runs commands terminal-style." Gee, no foolin'? When did that happen? *sigh* Moving on...

And well...the rest just tires me out...<licensing war rehash>...I prefer Freedom (beer and speech whenever possible), but I'm still doing a re-evaluation of GPL vs. BSD, so that'll have to wait for another day.

Oh, and in conclusion, your perfect OS has already been built -- nearly 20 years ago: Plan9.

Google is your doppleganger,

Re: Wow... where to begin?
by Greg on Wed 30th Apr 2003 03:02 UTC

Kingstrum, I agree totally.

the problem with *nix desktop dev
by josh on Wed 30th Apr 2003 03:21 UTC

is that it's all done by programmers! We haven't the foggiest idea what a regular joe user needs...we make things that work logically for us. I know how to enter my credit card on a web purchase form...but my sales doubled when I put up a picture of a cc and identified the various information they need to type with a legend. Linux is too smart for the desktop. dumb it down and it will sell like chitlins.

Linux desktop is almost already what we need but not in the main distros. Since main Linux distros such as overrated Red Hat and nice but after you manage to install SuSE 8.2, or Mandrake that is getting there but still needs several improvements, are not the answer to an average desktop user who patiently waited for years for those bigger names in Linux business to hear her/his needs.

Now those companies say they are going to pay more attention to desktop, still when you try to install their newest version something is missing, say, "Red Hat ships without mp3 support", SuSE 8.2 is difficult to install on some hardware and Mandrake just makes cosmetic changes without addressing a larger question of running MS apps, "NTFS resizing", or having "integration into Microsoft domains".

Yet, we all have our gods in Linux desktop. One can argue that his/hers is the best, the most potent and…forgiving of all Linux gods. But we’re looking for some universality here, right? We need a desktop Linux to do a lot of things and yet be simple and cheap. Hey, that’s an ideal desktop Linux god. So, while big names in Linux have long history of not looking after desktop users needs, some of us turned into less known distributions and discovered that there are other gods besides big gods as well.

And those smaller distors are something of a discovery within a discovery. First you discover Linux, an idea, a god, but then you discover that that god has its flows and maybe even stinks, so you moved to other big and known Linux gods and the same thing happens. If you didn’t give up smaller gods are there to help, even so they anticipated you were searching for some other solution, they set their priorities in desktop development to begin with. Let me tell you about my gods in Linux desktop.

I need to resize NTFS partition, I need not just see the "c:" drive but be able to open files that are there and copy their content say from MS Word into some Linux app while still in Linux, I need also to run MS apps in my Linux environment such as Photoshop or Visio, I need to have good integration into MS Win domains and their networks without doing a lot of Samba configuration, I also need to install Windows apps with a simulated Windows reboot in just few seconds instead of waiting two-three minutes – hey, it’s a litany of needs.

But folks that’s already been done in Xandros Desktop Deluxe 1.0 that includes CrossOver Office, which by itself costs over $50 as a separate product while Xandros includes it in their distro. Xandros has all those godly features mentioned in the above paragraph, so obviously for me that distribution is my religion and I’m using it and I’ll recommend it for deployment to my customers who are thinking and deliberating which Linux god is the best for their desktop needs.

v @Kevin Rasmussen
by Mu on Wed 30th Apr 2003 03:49 UTC
by Nicolas Roard on Wed 30th Apr 2003 03:51 UTC

I find it strange that so many people whine about their current distros, invent new file system hierarchy, and nobody cares to help existing projects like LinuxSTEP, which are right on your target ...

v this article was silly
by patrick_darcy on Wed 30th Apr 2003 04:00 UTC
v Re: mr. darcy
by Anonymous on Wed 30th Apr 2003 04:27 UTC
v What is this shit?
by Anonymous on Wed 30th Apr 2003 04:48 UTC
About the filesystem layout crap
by Miles Robinson on Wed 30th Apr 2003 04:57 UTC

Here's an article ( ) I think you should check out, at the very least for the portion titled "Change the filesystem layout." I didn't really bother reading the rest of the article because that first page turned me off, and a quick glancing/perusal of the other two yielded a sort of "What do I care?" response from me what with all these articles about Linux desktop this and Linux desktop that. I'm A-OK with people writing a ton of articles on this subject, but not within this one and a half or so week period. It's like a flamewar with no official sides, and it just makes both sides look idiotic.

I'll keep my dual-boot and enjoy the best of both worlds, thank you.

v Am I the only one...
by DaHoba on Wed 30th Apr 2003 05:32 UTC
what is the hidden anguish at ???
by Michael on Wed 30th Apr 2003 05:42 UTC

All these articles on the problems with Linux... sounds like a bad breakup and a desire to paint the other person with dark and ugly colors.

The interesting stuff (the betrayal of Linux by Linus) only gets one article, essential just lip service.

Even the perennial whipping-boy of the server world, Sun, got one article... an interview with some total idiot who obviously has never stepped outside of the fine timeshare cubicle Sun provides him.

OSNEWS has turned into some strange degenerate version of Slashdot... just the ugly OS wars and no cool science articles.

I hope we can get this out of the OSNews system soon and move onto better and more interesting things.

You could do it you know
by Anonymous on Wed 30th Apr 2003 05:42 UTC

Having only read part of the article, I may be mistaken, but, with the fact that you are proposing things done with Open Source software, you could always roll up your own distro. You would probably be breaking a lot of compatibility, and POSIX compliance, but I don't know of anything that is stopping you, or are your suggesting someone else build the distro of your dreams? The beauty of Open Source and Linux is, if you want to do something with the stuff, do it!! If you want someone else to do it for you, well, either wait until someone else makes the distro you want, or, pay someone to do it for you. I happen to like the way Linux is, and if a person can't handle it, well, there are alternatives for them, such as OS/2, or even CP/M......... ;)

Response to jbolden1517 in re library dependencies
by Hawkstone on Wed 30th Apr 2003 06:13 UTC

So your setup would require the distribution maker to release a particular build and then recompile an app a 1/2 dozen times for each environment and then distribute those binaries.

I think you must have missed part of my point, as that is exactly what I was trying to propose a solution to. Let me attempt to clarify: I'll continue to use Qt as an example.

The "normal" approach for developers is to use whatever the hell version they want of Qt, and just redistribute the library as part of their package. No app will expect any one version (or any version at all) to be installed system-wide, and thus there is no reason for the developer to create multiple binary distributions.

If it turns out that Qt support is going to be widely required of most apps and binary compatibility is supported by the library developer (and Trolltech has actually been somewhat good about that), only then can it be promoted to OS-level library status and made available system-wide.

Compare this to the Win32 system libraries, and even DirectX. DirectX is in general *completely* backwards compatible, so upgrading to a new version still allows old software to function.

So to summarize again: anything guaranteed to maintain binary compatibility and that will be widely used by apps can be made system-wide and in general safely assumed to already be installed as "part of" the OS. Any other library that an application needs should be bundeled with the binary distribution of the app.

The problem you describe is what exists out there now, simply because the libraries are not distributed with the apps. The app I work on has *one* linux binary distribution, in a .tar.gz (no install script or package), and to my knowledge it works out of the box on every linux distro it has been tested on in the past couple years (incl. RH, Mandrake, SUSE).

re: Hackstone on library dependencies
by Michael on Wed 30th Apr 2003 06:21 UTC

There is NOTHING gained by promoting application libraries to "system-wide" status.

One of the BIG PROBLEMS with Windows is the COM deadlocks caused by having many Office libraries promoted to "system-wide"... which were never really designed to be system-wide. DLL-based COM bugs are insidious and very difficult to track down. Add that to the thousands of "wrong version" DLL bugs out there... and time has shown the "system directory of DLL's" is not a winning formula for a quality operating system.

If ALL apps followed the approach you suggested, with each app including the parts it needs, Linux would be super reliable. There is no upside to following the broken model that Windows imposed.

The Windows central system directory of DLL's is there just to make it more difficult for third party software developers. It is not there for any useful technical purpose.

Please let us not copy Windows just because some idiots in the Linux community blatantly replicate Windows and call it "innovation".

Max OSX Emulation
by on Wed 30th Apr 2003 06:33 UTC

Probably not the best place to post this, but I keep wondering how hard it would be to build a MacOSX emulation layer on Linux and/or BSD.

It might involve ditching X and recreating the vector-based Aqua stuff.

Show your mother the file system
by bninja_penguin on Wed 30th Apr 2003 06:35 UTC

Show your mother the file system of any Operating System and have her guess where the program is. That is just a stupid comment. Show your mother the inside of the Space Shuttle and ask her where the main electrical breaker is. My mom knows where her files are, because I showed her. If you remember, when you first started using a computer, no matter what OS, you didn't know shit about it. You learned, why can't your mom? If you think POSIX guidelines are wrong, write your own guidelines, and build your company around them. There is nothing stopping you from rolling your own distro of FreeBSD, if that's what you want to do. If you want someone else to pay you to do it, start asking around, otherwise, in your spare time (and I know there's probably not much of it) start up the distro of your dreams, and someone may join you in developing it. I won't, because I happen to like Linux the way it is, with way too many choices of some things, and very little of others, but the source code to all that I get on the discs.

re: better OS X than OS X
by Michael on Wed 30th Apr 2003 06:37 UTC

To create a better OS X than OS X, simply license Display PDF from Adobe and go from there. There is very little ingenious technology in OS X. Most of it is just remanufactured NeXTware bolted to some new parts from Adobe and other companies that Apple has bought.

If the Linux effort had a central brain, making something superior to OS X would happen very fast.

Instead the father of Linux is off on a mission to add DRM and other police state features to Linux. Obviously Linus has decided Fuhrer is a better title than father.

v Idiot
by Anonymous on Wed 30th Apr 2003 06:40 UTC
Redhat, Mandrake & SuSe
by bb_matt on Wed 30th Apr 2003 06:59 UTC

The last time I checked, all these 3 distros - RedHat, Mandrake & Suse are already heading toward the same goals in many instances that the authour mentions, as are other distros.

There is a long way to go, but by developing your DistroX, you are indeed doing exactly what you proport to disagree with - YALD

I remember trying out RedHat 6.0 some time ago and I can say the difference between RedHat 6.0 and RedHat 9.0 in terms of user friendliness is remarkable.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the current leading distros are improving on each release, bringing out another Linux Distro that doesn't borrow from current ones is impossible or at best a waste of time, so why not just contribute your ideas for the ultimate distribution to a leading distribution ?

v citizens, we need to adjust our expectations
by Operation OS Freedom on Wed 30th Apr 2003 06:59 UTC
Perhaps you don't need the symlinks
by Hernan on Wed 30th Apr 2003 07:02 UTC

Why not present the user a nice friendly view through the Finder (a la Windows Explorer, HP-UX's SAM or the CDE explorer) and leave the filesystem as is?

I mean, when the user opens the DistroX Explorer, show him ícons saying 'hardware', 'my documents', 'my songs', 'my pictures', 'my programs' and whatnot. The / directory can be accessed by clicking on 'my system' -> 'geek stuff' -> 'you dont want to click this' -> 'root filesystem'.

Think about it: how many times do you need to access C: from the Windows Explorer? You click on 'My network places', or 'My documents' instead, and go from there. If you want to use a program, you click on the 'Start' button. Personally, I only click on C: to reach C:TEMP (which I don't remember if I created myself or came with the OS).

Please, do it...
by Tommy on Wed 30th Apr 2003 07:19 UTC

With a cool GUI installer (like GOBIE) a lot of drivers, maybe you could try a way to make easy the use of Portage, using the big gentoo repository.....

by milk / miruku on Wed 30th Apr 2003 08:01 UTC

bninja_penguin said "Show your mother the file system of any Operating System and have her guess where the program is. That is just a stupid comment. Show your mother the inside of the Space Shuttle and ask her where the main electrical breaker is."

um, "Program Files"? (as much i think it should be "Applications")

i no nothing of how *nix works, but would it not be possible to break compatability with POSIX, yet use symlinks for backwards compatability, like the oppisite of what the article suggests, and what OS X does.

Some things are already there :-)
by Peter Rossini on Wed 30th Apr 2003 08:23 UTC

Hi Adam,

some things are already there .. some for ages.

The symlinks are part of Nextstep (now Mac OS X) for more then 10 years .. and I think it's a good idea to use it in Linux too.

The package installer: If you are familiar with Debian and apt-get you know it's easy to install new Debian packages. You can search for them, you grab only one and it is installing all needed dependencies and you can use FTP servers..

The only thing missing: The Drag- and Drop-Interface. But that isn't impossible. Let's do it.

_One_ working desktop environment is a problem for the whole Unix/Linux/X Windows community for ages. OpenWindows, OSF/Motif, CDE, KDE, Gnome etc. It what be nice to have only one.. Your "workaround" to choose one is not the worst idea.

The system wide defaults are existing in Debian. Look to /etc/alternatives - there are links to the real application installed on your machine. But who knows about it? (If you like create a symlink /System/Apps to it;-)

I really enjoy working with FreeBSD - I am a systems admin and like the reliable and clean system. But there is a lack of device drivers especially for "home computer equipment".

But if you do it it will certainly help the FreeBSD project because the team is "server focused" (for good reasons)

But anyway,
thanks for your interesting article

Making links
by Deep on Wed 30th Apr 2003 08:37 UTC

He is prefectly right in making links such as /hardware. The underlying structure will remain the same. So if new hardware is installed, its file will enter /dev which is linked to /hardware. Pretty simple!!!!

Re: Makink Links
by Alex (The Original) on Wed 30th Apr 2003 09:07 UTC

its file will enter /dev which is linked to /hardware. Pretty simple!!!!

Not that simple, if that's so then, say you type "cd /hardware" and then you find out you've been taken to /dev. What the?? How did I get here? Would a normal user ever think that's a shorcut to /dev? Again, you have been taken to an unknown world. Or, say you double click the file/shorcut that looks like a folder in Explorer (**cough cough** Konquerer) and again the user gets transfered to /dev. If somethings like this is to be done, you better make the real thing, not decoys...Even if it breakes other applications, create a brand new distro that will work this way and then all we need to do for the rest of the apps to work is simply modify them a little bit (the parts of the code that tell the app where to find the required libs) and recompile it and there you go, you will make a version of your program for this brand new distro.

by poepco on Wed 30th Apr 2003 09:13 UTC

Where do i order?

The one thing linux i missing!!
by Morten Lund on Wed 30th Apr 2003 09:54 UTC

If hardware manufactores would just deliver drivers for linux and not just windows. The software companies are allready(more or less) supporting linux, but importent hardware manufactores as creative labs should make drivers for linux, so the costumer could benefit the advanced features of their sound cards(like EAX). I like what nvidia and ati are us drivers and actualy updating them ;) Why ain't manufactores like logitech, creative, microsoft(NOT gonna happen). Another annoying thing about drivers is that after produkt launch there will go like 3 months or so before drivers might begin showing. come on, a little more support and alot of people will be very happy.

Depends what they want it to be...
by Matt on Wed 30th Apr 2003 09:56 UTC

Firstly, I don't think that Apple or SUN are any better than MS...

That said...

I think that Linux should concentrate on:

a) being an OS for low end hardware
b) being an OS for "hardcore" g33ks
c) being a top class server OS

Leave the consumer end to the people with the time to do it. Leave it to Apple. Concentrate on making Linux better for the people who will value it. DO make it easier to install so that a hardcore g33k can spend his time doing cool things rather than trying to get his Winmodem to work...

by milk / miruku on Wed 30th Apr 2003 10:03 UTC

Alex (The Original) said "Not that simple, if that's so then, say you type "cd /hardware" and then you find out you've been taken to /dev. What the?? How did I get here?"

well, can anyone please asnwer my query? would it not be possible to break compatability with POSIX, yet use symlinks for backwards compatability, so this:

/home -> /users
/var -> /logs
/var/www -> /system/websites/
/etc/httpd - > /servers/httpd/
/dev/hdc -> /hardware/cdrom/
/mnt -> /hardware/drives/

would become this:

/users -> /home
/logs -> /var
/system/websites/ -> /var/www
/servers/httpd/ - > /etc/httpd
/hardware/cdrom/ -> /dev/hdc
/hardware/drives/ -> /mnt

a solution to combatting symlinks showing up in file explorers when they shouldn't would be easy if there was feature (and i don't know if there is) where the user (or install) could set files to different levels of hiddenness, and the user could select what level they wanted displayed. this would help if a user wanted to try and fix something with their system by being able to unhide normally untouched system files without unhiding unused/redundant/whatever files at the same time. just an idea..

by milk / miruku on Wed 30th Apr 2003 10:08 UTC

kind of like 'layers of importance'

Would fail for a simple reason
by yeti on Wed 30th Apr 2003 10:08 UTC

No developer would support your *incompatible* silly distro. I think this says it all -- how many things you can afford to `change radically', support them w/o any help of upstream manintainers, and not go bankrupt right away? Either you want *NIX or you want something different, but having Unix and pretending it's something different is hard (look at OS X). IOW, try it and I'll enjoy watching you failing ;-)

Should be shot..
by TLost on Wed 30th Apr 2003 10:10 UTC

To even propose development of a OS that would compromise 30 years of evolution and hard work with standards should be regarded as a crime, a proper punishment for this crime would be life in prison. In order for us to have systems that can help us with our daily stuff we need standards, if we don't have standards we will invent the wheel three times a day and we will loose our productivity. Not another system that don't allow us to interact in a common way please, we already have the guys at Redmond trying to force us in to a corner.

As soon as you use a license that can be commercialised and controlled you return to the state of play that Microsoft has. The most popular system will if it becomes commercially (monopoly oppotunity) to do so will close up and keep its captive market.

The GPL and the freedom it protects makes Gnu/Linux the most suitable option for a general purpose world OS because
1/ It is/can be very low cost, hence everyone everwhere can legally have it without the rampant illegal copying that Microsoft turns a blind eye to whilst it gets benefit.
2/ It cannot be co-opted
3/ Everyone can see it fully to write truly competitive apps
and other things...

Let's make such a general purpose desktop OS that fills the vast majorities needs. It's like building roads and letting everyone use them. It's infracstructure and should be a public work.

This applies to many core applications like e-mail and common data formats.

This whole approach does not remove the specialist softare from being a profit center (think Matlab, etc...) But even those are being showen to be in danger by the business models of companies like MySQL.

So you can make money in the application space. Just not the greed dripping amounts formerly made by monopolistic exploitation.

Meanwhile if using the system of the commons is to common for you then f**k off and buy the latest whizzy OS on super hardware. That's a little like the realm of cars where only a few people drive Ferraris and only a very small number of the custom built numbers actually use the abilities (think formula one racing) the rest do it because they wouldn't be seen in a Ford, Skoda etc...

Don't like *NIX? Don't use it!
by yeti on Wed 30th Apr 2003 10:21 UTC

This is a word I'd like to send to all the `Oh! Great ideas! I can't write a shell pipe but want to use Linux' types.

Please stop trying to make Linux `something else'. Linux is a free UNIX-like OS (this is The Definition). It should stay so, because it's great in this respect. If you don't like *NIX, use something else, or invent another OS. Linux then perhaps won't conquer the world, which is OK, and won't be flooded by BFUs, which is really great.

Anyway, whinning is pointless. You have the power of GPL. Want to change it? Change it!

....Time Flys.......
by hyperdaz on Wed 30th Apr 2003 10:34 UTC

Its interesting how things go round and round.... some OSes resolved these things decades ago time moves on and then they recreating the same mess...

Asking the old questions:-...
keep everything the same
keep everything as it is but only show "certain parts to the enduser"
keep everything as simple as possible

I think the best thing to do is take a stance and stick with it for a few decades no matter what it is... it has to be consistant.

The question of the desktop user and how to gain create a bigger push over to linux... " I hear some windows users say I have windows working as I need why should I change? "

The answer has to be in whats developed under Linux if all the apps that run are just replacement for Windows apps or look the same then for that user theres not much reason for change...

There needs to be a push into new ways of using a desktop, interacting with a desktop... The reason for keeping 2D enviroments over exploring 3D "virtual reality" enviroments is that doing most things would not be an improvement from the current ways of doing them etc... To write a letter the only way people are thinking is through 2D eyes and placing this into a 3D enviroment.... *may not help you do the letter faster or better but may have other unseen advantages*

There needs to be either killer apps "the old way of thinking what pushes OSes and enviroments" or maybe its time to explore fundermentals a lot more.... and changes in how we use linux in a everyday useage and create something totally new and fresh... that people will see the advantages and what to use and adopt..

simple examples from time
- punch cards to keyboards
- 70's/80's move from command line to GUI...
- windows 3.1 to windows 95a *mostly same product just a different
way of looking at it and thinking about how to interact with it"

Microsoft have always let others create then borrowed... *I wont go down this road no more as it serves no improvement to Linux*

If no one or nothing is ever creating whats going to be pushing the boundries of Computing...

In twenty or fourty years time we will still have a 2D monitor, keyboard n mouse... with "Application menu" in the bottom left hand corror...

................................maybe u get my point maybe u dont................................

by Draqear on Wed 30th Apr 2003 11:03 UTC

Hello all,
Where to start? Ok ill just jump right in then. Filesystems: Leave the current FS alone please, although it may seem very cryptic it does work very well for the pro's. What many of you are upset about is being forced to attempt to understand all of its different aspects. As Eugenia and several others have stated with a good UI that becomes a non issue. There honestly is no need to break compliance in this area. Another point is that there really isnt a need to get radical at all, this would imply that *M-A-N-Y* hundres or thousands of Dev's before today have not already Done So ;) What I mean is simple, the useability you are asking for is Mostly All Here already. Both simple users and Power Pro's (tm) can both be served well. Take for instance that although im relatively new to linux I strictly avoid booting straight to GUI. Why? because Run Level Three has CLI tools that allow me to UNFUBAR my freshly broken system. Then again if I wanted to boot straight to GUI thats very easy to do too. And a Good UI makes doing so Trivial.
Another Point there must be a good filesystem that CAN be used if need requires on both CLI and in GUI mode, linux has both right now, many doezens of times over. What is needed is a serious UI GURU to step up to the plate and Re-Package the plethora of great UI fragments we have alread into a Co-Hesive Whole. That ladies and gents is the prob as stated several times. Its not that linux is hopelessly broken it is that linux is hopelessly fragmented and cannot find a "central UI personality" if you will...
A quick and dirty example of a DE: fluxbox with RoxFiler and a few addons in it. Believe it or not its DAMN flexable, fast, easy to use in many areas...What is !!NOT!! is even re motely easy to Get Too That Level. Its a bonifide MOFO to assemble it to BE that way. A good UI team of Dev's / UI designers could take this simple example and make it one seriously kick ass usable GUI. Please dont get me wrong by thinking im proposing that this formula be The Holy Grail (tm). Im not. It's just an quick and dirty example. As Eugenia said, It is about a Cleaned up and easy to figure out UI design. Thing im trying to get across is its nearly all here NOW but its simply fragmented to hades. Whatever else you do DONT break Linux as its current woes are by far more a symptom of a dysfunctional G-UI / Common Tool Set than a broken <arch>. If you take a step back and a couple to the side I belive you will see a new Distro with a serious UI clean up (Not a super heavy GUI) that adds in a great User Interface is what is needed. Abstract the confusing-to-newbs FS with the very clean UI and you *WILL* find very quicly that nothing drastic really needs to be done. I will grant that both Driver add in / removal needs more work, and that package handling both adding / removing needs some massaging. But look around and you will very quickly see that Package management is broken more by fragmentation than by lack of viable current solutions.
So to re-iterate in conclusion: 1) address simple problems under the hood (common app fonts, apps handling, driver/device addin removal ect..), 2) Decide on a CLI toolset that maximized the CLI power-AND-Allows a very clean UI to be implemented so that a very usable GUI results. Its the Creative Discipline in GUI design that is badly broken / missing. NOT the Talent in Developers!!! If Dev's and UI pro's were to shake hands and roll up their sleves in 12 months or less a new and truly INOVATIVE Linux distro would see the light of day... think seriously on this folks. It is not nearly as far away as many may think it is. It only requires thinking outside of "the box" in a creatively dispassionate manner for a short time.


One Percent
by JetRacer on Wed 30th Apr 2003 11:20 UTC

Those suggestions are about one percent of all stuff that needs to be either implemented or modified in Linux distros. Everybody just sit on their asses contemplating Linux philosophy and write another clone to kill time...

Fact is that Linux distros are Unix (as in mainframe) with a GUI slapped onto it. No more no less. There are a few usable applications, yes, but everything else is lacking.
Calling any distro an OS or desktop is a joke. RedHat, Suse plus some others made a real effort recently (8.x 9.x), but that was what any reasonable human being would have expected a year or two after their appearence on the market. Too little too late. If they don't keep up that recent pace forever, then they could just aswell throw in the towel now.

Microsoft looks around and snatch things already existing, Linux developers try to implement a few percents of what M$ mimics. Get a grip and do something new and original for a change.

This is no Troll, I just have a different perspective; I still use AmigaOS (along with XP and RHL), which is still maintained by it's users. Our shareware/gpl developers manage to produce quality software. F.ex. a scalable GUI engine was implemented by a user already in 1992 (MUI). It's of "corporate" quality (no, I don't mean bug infested :-), yet free shareware. We have a single free fileserver with mirrors all over the world (no login required, anonymous ftp accepted). It still puzzles me why Linux developers can't manage to do stuff like that. All projects are tiny details and nobody is prepared to do anything major (read: usefull) and everything is hosted on personal webpages. And to be honest, the distro installers would have been written by a user years ago if we were talking AmigaOS. We have a wide variety of _working_ software, not a wide variety of cloning.

Linux developers are among the most conservative I know of.

AmigaOS still have many features not stolen by M$ yet, so why not implement those in Linux? Start with smart icons f.ex (with command line arguments and app settings, all in plain text, accessible by right-click/icon settings). File comment are not unique, but Linux is unique in not supporting them (very handy when they read:, so you can either identify what it is, or resume the download without specifying anything but the filename. And, yes, this is standard behavior in AmigaOS.

Linux is an excellent example of having freedom and not using it. You have the freedom to kick Posix and you don't. You have the freedom to make GUI's work faster and you don't. You can make it userfriendly in notime and you don't.

Start grabbing your freedom. You can't keep on limiting the desktop by imposing server specs as a bad excuse of not adressing real problems.

Get some imagination for gods sake.

Don't get me wrong; I like using Linux, I'm not so fond of XP, but I love AmigaOS; it's got features where it counts. Linux and XP are just so low-tech when it comes to the desktop. I travel back through time I use them and in some ways even their applications.

v Useless
by Whatever on Wed 30th Apr 2003 12:04 UTC
Linux on the Desktop?
by Lars Heide on Wed 30th Apr 2003 12:10 UTC

Some random thoughts:

The filesystemlayout: Quite frankly this does normally only concern people who work on the command line and then only whose $PATH is not set up good enough for the command found automatically. On a graphical desktop the user should not have to care wether the program is in /bin or /usr/bin. That's what the icon in the start menu is for. IMHO the filemanager should do the abstraction for the user (I don't recall if the KDE filemanager this already). In the directory tree he should get /yourhome (maps to /home/$USER) /system (maps to / if you really have to look there) /cdrom1 etc (the various removable media his computer supports) and maybe some /storagex entries (for free disk space outside his home he can access to dump his MP3s). You don't have to rewrite the filesystem layout, you just have to hide it successfully. (On a sidenote: I would vote for some small change in the UNIX Filesystem convention: could someone please rename "passwd" to "user" and "shadow" to "passwd"? This way it would more resemble the tools that work on these files (groupadd/group, useradd/user, passwd/passwd))

Making it a desktop distro: A desktopdistro IMHO is not about choice. It's about "It works (for me)" (tm). Therefore simplicity in the install is key. "few visible options but lots of "Advanced" buttons" is definitively the wrong approach I would say. And "use this filesystem if you want to use it as a server" sounds to me like he wants to build what we call an egg-laying-wool-milk-boar. They don't want to build a server, otherwise they would have gotten a different distribution. Just give them Reiser and 90% won't ever know the difference (or XFS or JFS, whatever).

About software install: To put it one way: It's not about RPM but how you use it as a distribution builder. What's probably most frustrating with software installation in a an environment like Debian (I know it's DEB not RPM but lets leave that out for the moment) is the lack of a hirarchy. Assume you are a desktop user and what to install a nice text-editor (from all the myriad text editors in the repository) but you don't know the name of one specific. How do you find one? Is there a category /editors/graphical/gnome ? With the gnome maybe highlighted because the system knows you have gnome installed as you current dektop? No, but there should. I haven't used SuSe in recent years but from what I recall, it did have some thematic structure that i felt more comfortable with from a desktop perspective.

Dependency hell is not a matter of the package mechanism but more of distribution maker that did not consider these problems carefull enough. A common library should never be further away than the installation CD. A program that needs it's own, not provided by the distribution maker, librarys can install them in a special subdirectory in the program directory and should be compiled that it finds them there without having to bend the $PATH.

I had some more thoughts about how a desktop distri should be but that would better fit a whole article that just a post. The question was always "Is Linux ready for the desktop?" the answer is Yes/No I would say. The technology is there. Somebody just has to build something out of it that works in a desktop way and not in a "It might also be a server if you try hard enough to bend it this way". A desktop is not about choice but to give the user something that just works for him.

BTW: I think this article was more about how to run a company that builds a desktop OS based on Linux/BSD that how to build a desktop distribution.

Good food for thought
by Joe on Wed 30th Apr 2003 12:16 UTC

Nice work Adam. I read this piece as an attempt to get people to start thinking in a different direction (as opposed to YALD, as you mentioned). The specifics of your DistroX aren't as important as the thoughts and concepts behind them. It made me think "outside the box" and that is how true advancements and innovation happen.


by Peter Ashford on Wed 30th Apr 2003 12:18 UTC

I can't beleive that everyone is so negative about the progress that Linux has made on the desktop - it's improving at a huge rate of knotts.

I recently installed Linux on a file server at work and all my workmates were very impressed with the GUI (RH8). Especially impressed with multiple users remotely using a desktop on the machine.

IMO the linux desktop is good now and improving rapidly... so I'm satisfied, at least. And contrary to the article, I don't think that closing source and charging for software is the way to get the best out of OS developers! I'm sure there are a lot of other developers there who think "right, you want me to contribute code to your system, but you've got the core bits under lock and key... Riiiiight, and can see what a GREAT deal this is for me!"

Code freedom is the best thing about linux and the reason it is successful *despite* not having the most polished desktop interface ever.


by Mike Hearn on Wed 30th Apr 2003 12:37 UTC

TUNES is radical.

Why do people continue to ignore me when I point out that appfolders are not workable? My mind is open, but nobody has been able to deal with these arguments I put forward in my FAQ on the subject (see To be fair to him, Thomas Leonard is playing with new ideas to try and eliminate the concept of software installation, but they don't resemble appfolders all that much.

I think it's pretty funny that people pointing out problems with the approaches set out in this article are decried as "visionless". The fact is that people who know what they're doing *ARE* trying to solve these problems, there was a post earlier moaning about clipboards and lack of desktop standards. Hello? Clipboard problems means you need to upgrade by the way (or stop using mozilla, which doesn't follow the standards because the module owner has got used to the broken way).

Really, I think if you want to write an article like this, you should be somebody who has sat down and followed the debates on the various Linux forums over this and that, tried to understand all the issues (not just end user simplicity, but also manageability, security, backwards compat, i18n etc), taken part and then you can make suggestions about how to do things. As it is, these articles repeatedly make suggestions that were written off years ago for valid reasons, simply through lack of research.

Oh my god! Someone woke up!
by H-kon on Wed 30th Apr 2003 13:23 UTC

I am glad someone brought this up.

Seems like Apple is the only one thats able to do it right the first time. I have been waiting for Linux to "rule the world" since 1998 when i was a 100% BeOS user.

What has really changed?

Fundamentally at its core, nothing has changed. You still have dependency problems, while flaming MS for its DLL hell.
You flame the teletubbies GUI of Windows XP, but havent for the most part even got the fonts straighten out OOB.

Still, the visionless stay behind defending Linux while waiting for the newest kernel because its free while much fewer developers are working on other operating systems and have gotten miniscule communities that are fundamentally much farther ahead of you.

Linux brags about having millions of developers, but i gotta say that they are doing a piss poor job if there are really that many.

Just put 1000 developers on f.ex openbeos, Amiga, SkyOS, AtheOS, Syllable or all the other much smaller operating systems being mentioned at Osnews for 18 months, and i personally believe either would kick the crap out of Linux as a desktop operating system.

by korpiq on Wed 30th Apr 2003 13:52 UTC

1. Dependency problems? Have them automatized away forever. Use apt-get with the stable Debian repository.

2. Wrong application bindings? Solved with /etc/alternatives in Debian.

3. Complicated install? Pick the simplest one on the market and let users choose their software themselves. Just provide one big button labeled "Get Software" that uses apt.

4. Need acceptance? You can't buy developers with a community if you require them to use snail mail and refuse them some parts of the system they want to tweak. Above all, do not steal from your users the software they bought from you.

5. Need to make money? Sell something you do best. It cannot be a distribution; that market is saturated.

Don't think in terms of a distribution. What you are calling for is tool integration. Make a product of that, not of the software. You can't compete with free. Be the first real contender in the total tool integration market.

by juan on Wed 30th Apr 2003 14:05 UTC

Bye a mac and start using Mac OS X instead and you have ease of use.

I do not understand why people even want's Linux. I do understand that people wants to get away from Windows but Linux is to me the wrong direction. The idé of open source is great but it doesn't work.

Ok a mac is not cheap and it's not the fastest computer in the world. But Apple got something that the open source community totally lacks, as I see it. The open source community don't have a CEO like Steve Jobs who has the power to pull the whole community towards his vision on how the future computing should lock like. The Open Source community simply have to many wills and most of them are just copies from other Operating Systems. So why not just get an mac and forget about dependency problems etc. etc.

And If you don't like Steve Jobs, hes time of retirement will come some day to. But admit that he's way better to the industry than Bill Gates.

By the way I have no problems at all with Steve Jobs, I like what he does.

"Desktop" directories
by rpg on Wed 30th Apr 2003 14:25 UTC

One of the bad things that linux for the desktop shares with Windows is the anomalous way the user is expected to understand the filesystem.

All of these systems have a directory that corresponds to the Desktop (/home/<foo>/Desktop in KDE, /Documents and Settings/<foo>/Desktop in Windows). I have watched several new users get totally confused by this and the way it violates the directory navigation metaphor. I'd love to see that changed.

want radical change: start with the hardware?
by mark_b on Wed 30th Apr 2003 14:53 UTC

Why do we still have this huge box that sits on our desktop with an architecture that is 20 to 30 years old?

Linux will win as the lines between embedded systems and desktop pc's start to blur.Settop boxes have more brains than pc's. With more and more broadband services becoming available and wi-fi becoming more feasible, things such as stand-alone game stations, pc's, settop boxes, tv's, audio equipment will begin to be combined into "smart" systems.

The manufacturers of thess new systems (Sony, Philips, etc.) will be using a Linux OS and not Windows.

Re: Sheesh!
by synergy on Wed 30th Apr 2003 16:33 UTC

"I can't beleive that everyone is so negative about the progress that Linux has made on the desktop - it's improving at a huge rate of knotts."

i agree...the only 3 issues which still need heavy improvement imo are installation of programs, printing (drivers and integration) and (some windows-wannabe-distros are reported to have that) functional easy-to-use connection to a windows-network.
except those contructionsites, it simply needs more polishing, integration, even more graphical tools, maturity...

imo 1-2, max. 3 years from now.

Random thoughts...
by ASau. on Wed 30th Apr 2003 16:37 UTC

I liked the ideas of /conf and /user/asau. In addition /sys/info for list of devices and /sys/conf (I don't like it to be in /proc). I also think we should kill all that /usr/bin /usr/local/bin /usr/local/local/bin etc. Should be one /bin and one /apps or /app or /opt (though "/opt" should not be). In addition, it would be good to become able to create temporary symlinks in root directory like "/my" (-> /user/asau), "my0" ( -> /asau/TeX/src ) etc. One abbreviation of "~" is not enough (but Midnight Commander must die, for not to come into dreams at midnight, brrr). OTOH, I don't think there is necessity to separate /logs from /var. Are you going to look at logs so often? On your desktop computer?
About installation and package managing... KILL ALL "DEB"-s and "RPM"-s! Why you need yet another packaging and compressing format?! All installation should be done the right way: mkdir /app/APPNAME; cd /app/APPNAME; tar xvfz /tmp/APPNAME-X.XX.X.tar.gz THAT's all. "TAR is all you need!" ;) If your program wants a library, it should have a place (in /conf/APPNAME/libs, /var/APPNAME/conf, /app/APPNAME/libs or somewhere else) to write associations like "libc --> /lib/" or save its libs in /app/APPNAME/lib/ . If you run out of space you can replace real /app/APPNAME/lib/libc with symlink to /lib/ Nothing is more simple. If you don't want to package libc, place a hook: "Notification: Replace /app/APPNAME/lib/libc with symlink to glibc-X.XX.X or compatible. Application stopped." And don't forget to make link from /app or /desk (like a shortcut):
cat >/app/start/APPNAME <<END
chmod a+x /app/start/APPNAME (Or even simpler: make a (sym)link!)
Just KISS. Nothing can be so simple. You get rid of all those dependencies in one moment.
BTW, Plan9 has nice feature to mount some different directories to one point (something may overlap, but this can be resolved).

Intellectual Snobbery
by Taylor B on Wed 30th Apr 2003 17:10 UTC

Sometimes, I just don't get this "community". It seems that at times the "Wall" has been hit as to how much needs to be done for the benefit of everyone. Let's assume that somebody's got a point that software installation on Linux is a problem. Then, just for the sake of research lets actually delve into and read or scour the net for issues regarding dependancy issues. Does anyone really understand just how many HOURS of human resources are wasted on this crap. Does anyone truly care? And that's the point. Linux people (myself included) have a tendency toward having a holier than thou attitude about computers. Trust me, I DON'T want to believe in some weird stereotype of the glasses wearing geek that weighs either 86 lbs or 323 lbs hanging out all day talking to themselves about code, and sitting in a room piled high with books and arcane junk to the ceiling, never getting out in public and has an insecurity problem. Is that where all the intellectual snobbery comes from insecurities? Point is : Make it work. Make it work right. And make it work for all of humanity.

Re: Taylor B
by Miles Robinson on Wed 30th Apr 2003 17:51 UTC

If Linux users come off as snobs it's only because so many of them hear the same drivel over, and over, and over. You would get aggrivated too if you had to deal with it. I'm not like that, but that's most likely only because I'm a casual Linux user that doesn't have the know-how to attract the newcomer's attention. I don't really get a whole lot of people asking me things like "Well why isn't it just done *this* way? It would be a lot easier!" It's the whole thing about Linux traditionally being for people who enjoy the system and want to have a sense of accomplishment for having done what they've done. Traditional users tend to be do-it-yourself types, and these new desktop users that have been flooding the arena lately demand, demand, and demand. They don't offer anything, they don't care about how it's been done or why it's been done (Standards be damned, get rid of POSIX! That's funny, if I recall correctly, Microsoft is required by law to include POSIX compatability if they want to do business with the US government. I know because I've disabled POSIX on a few 2k boxes to get as much performance as possible out of a gaming box). They're in for a rude awakening when they find that open source developers don't respond well to ignoramuses spouting bull. It works in the Windows world because a lot of developers sell their software and *have* to listen to customer feedback.

Don't ever forget this: In the open source world, expect a handful of developers to tell you to go to hell when all you can do is complain without ever lending a hand. This isn't Windows-land.

How Radical?
by Michael A. Clem on Wed 30th Apr 2003 17:57 UTC

The first question is how radical do you really want to be? As some keep pointing out "Linux" is just the kernel. Everything else could be changed or replaced, and it would still be a "Linux distro".
I would dump X and use an entirely different GUI system, preferably one closely integrated with GUI system tools. Nowadays, there are even several different choices of file systems: Ext2, Ext3, XFS, ReiserFS, UFS, etc. Pick one that would work best with your GUI design.
Of course, the more "radical" the distro, the less compatible it would be with other Linux distros. However, POSIX is not LINUX or UNIX. I would stick with a high degree of POSIX-compatibility unless you had very good reasons for not doing so.
File system hierarchy? Again, it's a matter of how compatible you want to be with other Linux distros, or how well you can compensate for the differences. But I wouldn't put too much faith in symlinks to solve the problem.
Of course, to make this a reality, you need some good developers who can actually create the code, because the more radical the distro, the more new code that will need be to generated. Some existing software could probably be used as a shortcut, but you don't want to restrict or lock in your vision, do you?
The first thing to do would to take a look at [i]already existing[/] projects and make sure somebody isn't already doing exactly what you want. LinuxStep has already been mentioned, and I believe there are a few different GUI projects like Fresco around. And Blue-Eyed OS is another project that is using the Linux kernel, although their intention is not really a Linux distro.
But the first step is really to have a good idea about what you're trying to achieve.

i made a comment
by patrick_darcy on Wed 30th Apr 2003 18:48 UTC

i posted a comment to this article yesterday and now i cant
find it. anybody see it ?


You just re-invented Mac OS X!
by Tom Limoncelli on Wed 30th Apr 2003 18:50 UTC

I'm fairly anti-Mac, but I bought a PowerBook G4 2 months ago because I wanted real UNIX on my laptop (I was getting tied of the limits of CygWin) and the ability to burn DVDs was appealing. I found that it has most everything that you listed in your article.

By the way, the library dependency problems of Linux just don't exist in FreeBSD. If you want a package that requires other packages, just install the package you want, it will find everything else. Backwards compatibility isn't so much of a problem because older libraries can co-exist with newer ones. Heck, some vendors ship binaries compiled on FreeBSD 3.0 because they "just work"... even on FreeBSD 5.0.

Intellectual Snobbery
by Taylor B on Wed 30th Apr 2003 18:52 UTC

Sometimes, I just don't get this "community". It seems that at times the "Wall" has been hit as to how much needs to be done for the benefit of everyone. Let's assume that somebody's got a point that software installation on Linux is a problem. Then, just for the sake of research lets actually delve into and read or scour the net for issues regarding dependancy issues. Does anyone really understand just how many HOURS of human resources are wasted on this crap. Does anyone truly care? And that's the point. Linux people (myself included) have a tendency toward having a holier than thou attitude about computers. Trust me, I DON'T want to believe in some weird stereotype of the glasses wearing geek that weighs either 86 lbs or 323 lbs hanging out all day talking to themselves about code, and sitting in a room piled high with books and arcane junk to the ceiling, never getting out in public and has an insecurity problem. Is that where all the intellectual snobbery comes from insecurities? Point is : Make it work. Make it work right. And make it work for all of humanity.v

by Daan on Wed 30th Apr 2003 19:05 UTC

If you want to clean things up, I suggest reading the Unix-Haters Handbook first.
1) Then I want to tell that the ESCAPE key definitely needs to be fixed. As most function keys start with ESC, a program which receives just ESC wait a few seconds for other data, and if that does not come it finally interpretes the ESC. This is awful.
2) The X-Windows system is also not very good. There should be one toolkit. For example, create a GTK+2 or QT3 X-server extension and rewrite all toolkit libraries including Athena Widgets to just call functions from this toolkit.
3) Development for the distro: most newer programs have this great AUTOCONF tool. It is no problem to install any program in any weird directory, just add some options to ./configure. So a new directory layout is possible with just recompiling.
4) People say that /dev is just as good as /Hardware. I think not. /Hardware is much clearer for users. And with autocompletion it does not cost more keystrokes - H-tab is nothing more difficult than d-tab.
5) cp, mv, ls should become copy, move and list. Or should mkdir and rmdir rather become md and rd?
6) A next release of KDE and Gnome might hide ~/Desktop and ~/Trash. Maybe we should make /system/* and /user//*, and thus have /system/Trash and /joe/Trash?
7) Michael: I do not think any particular filesystem will fit a GUI better. In Linux, file access is transparent, from the applications viewpoint it does not matter anything which filesystem the system uses. Besides that, I really like ReiserFS. Mostly since my ext3 partition corrupted when it went full.
8) ASau: I agree on your opinion only TAR is needed. But it needs a graphical interface. Tar-archives should behave like normal folders in a graphical file manager. Like in RiscOS.
9) About Steve Jobs, our PPC 6400/180 is the worst computer I have ever seen. OS 7 runs in a m68k-emulator and the newer OS 8 is too heavy for the system. But OS X seems to be great.
10) "Just put 1000 developers on f.ex openbeos, Amiga, SkyOS, AtheOS, Syllable or all the other much smaller operating systems being mentioned at Osnews for 18 months, and i personally believe either would kick the crap out of Linux as a desktop operating system." The I guess IBM or such would already have done that. Or well? I am really looking forward to a bootable Syllable cd-rom.

Bon. Ik ga TV kijken. Tschüss.

Re: If I were a user, ...
by KJK::Hyperion on Wed 30th Apr 2003 20:06 UTC

> Filesystem layout. I would recommend the author to read
> about what POSIX is. POSIX defines a standard layout for
> the file system.

yeah. POSIX says that a system must have the following directories:


and the following files:

Period. Check your facts before posting, please

by BoGoMiPz on Wed 30th Apr 2003 22:25 UTC

Daan said:

2) The X-Windows system is also not very good. There should be one toolkit. For example, create a GTK+2 or QT3 X-server extension and rewrite all toolkit libraries including Athena Widgets to just call functions from this toolkit.

That's right - make one new GUI toolkit with a nice API like in BeOS and make wrappers for all other toolkits.

BTW, if you really want to be radical and do away with legacy you should base your system on some new improved(tm) programming language. C++ is nothing but a hack to make C object oriented. (that's very off topic, I know)

by Thomas Cherryhomes on Thu 1st May 2003 07:19 UTC

I would like to point people to the following URLs:

LinuxSTEP is an experiment to not think of Linux as a rag tag collection of applications atop a Linux based kernel, but rather to create a single cohesive environment on top of the Linux kernel using GNUstep as the primary application toolkit, and unification point.

The other major point of this design is to remove the legacy UNIX filesystem cruft, and replace it with more meaningful pathnames meant for user consumption, and to provide user friendly means of managing that information not only at the application level, but at the filesystem level.

I recommend reading the LinuxSTEP Filesystem Heirarchy at for more information on our revolutionary filesystem design. Of course, you can also stop by #linuxstep on and talk to the developers.

-Thom Cherryhomes

Read alongside this article ...
by jaycee on Thu 1st May 2003 07:26 UTC

Just as I don't agree with most of the points raised in the osNews article, I think that David Coursey has got it wrong in the article I reference above.

Unfortunately, they're complimentary. As more and more people have the idea of what would be the Next Great Distro, more of them move full circle towards repeating the history of Unix - binary incompatibility, differing filesystem layouts and increased fragmentation.

If you, YOU the reader, want to see Linux in a dominant position any time soon - or /ever/ - only use distros that don't try and fragment the Linux user base. Support the LSB. /Understand/ why these are good ideas and why they're necessary for Linux to win - and even to survive.

My thoughts
by Aric Wilisch on Thu 1st May 2003 12:07 UTC

From the sounds of it you just described Lindows. Of course you run into problems when you pick and choose what your going to install. If you pick kde and concentrate on customizing that to run on your distribution perfectly, but anything else just kinda works then you are going to alienate all the Gnome lovers out there, and vice versa. Then of course on the install you talk about adding all kinds of 'eye candy'. Persoanlly, I hate eye candy. I would rather just pick what I want, express install or custom, and get it done so I can start using my new system. I havn't taken a major poll on this but most people I talk with, in and out of the IS field, agree. So I personally would remove the eye candy and just get the install done as quickly as possible.

Don't really understand why you would restructure your filesystem. A typical new users, windows or otherwise, more than likely will not go past the gui until they are comfortable with the system. If you really want to make it worth while, I'd leave the installation as close to unix as you can and include a book on the linux system. You'd do well to cut a deal to include Linux for dummies along with it. Concentrate on making the graphical nice and clean, add lots of configuration tools and icons, redesign their 'start menu' so that they can find everything. They should be able to do anything on the system from their desktop. Some times are harder to do like creating symlinks to samba shares or things to that nature, but eventually I'm sure that could be worked out as well. With this type of configuration they are up and running on their new linux system, can do everything they need from the gui, AND they have a book that's simple to read if they want to learn more about the linux filesystem and how the system they are running works.

I agree that when your done with the install you should have defaults set. But you should pick these from your installation. Have a default set that if you pick express install it will set these as your defaults, like Mozilla and Evolution. But if you pick custom then you should at one point get one page that lists all the major clients, Web, FTP, Email, etc with perhaps drop down boxes next to each. Each box should contain all the currently installed packages for that field (ex: Web would list Mozilla, Galeon, etc). So when your done, you have all the main clients set for your distribution, but you allowed the user to pick them.

For the most part, your right that drastic changes would have to be done for linux to make a hit on the deskop for normal windows like users. I personally think distributions like Lindows and Xandros have a good idea and will probably work well to expand linux onto desktop systems. I personally wouldn't use one of their distributions, but that's cause I actually LIKE having options on my linux distributions. Just remember though that when you take away things like being able to install anything and have many different options like window managers, you are no longer running linux, your running the next version of Windows.


I like your ideas
by James Youngman on Thu 1st May 2003 14:11 UTC

And while we're at it, lets drop the x386 baggage too.

Filesystem lay-out
by Anonymous on Thu 1st May 2003 15:06 UTC

I disagree with changing the filesystem lay-out. it is an amateur techie perspective only. On a good stable distro, there is no reason to browse the filesystem. The filesystem is there to support the system, but all a user needs is to find their document, spreadsheets, images, etc. On a good distro, there is no need to hunt after individual configuration files or mess around in the /dev directory. So, the focus of the Desktop Environments should be to hide as much of the underlying mechanics as possible. And I don't mean obscure, I mean not needing to see...

Let's focus efforts on building a good DE rather than dropping POSIX compatibility and use all the effort to update apps for the new filesystem layout.

by Klu Bifore on Thu 1st May 2003 16:34 UTC

No mention in your article of bsd/gentoo emerge, linux apt-get or urpmi. How can you, as a Mandrake 9.x user, not
mention URPMI. It resolves the dependency problems of which you complain. No mention of Webmin which does much of the /servers, /hardware aliasing you so desire. Hard to take you serious when you don't even do the minimum in research.

Wan't a free Mac OS-like OS for x86?
by Anonymous on Thu 1st May 2003 17:30 UTC

Why not use BeOS ??

In a few months we'll have OpenBeOS too!

Jeg forstår ikke hva hardware betyr...
by Mike Menk on Thu 1st May 2003 20:58 UTC

/home -> /users
/var -> /logs
/var/www -> /system/websites/
/etc/httpd - > /servers/httpd/
/dev/hdc -> /hardware/cdrom/
/mnt -> /hardware/drives/
Jeg forstår ikke en døyt av det som står over her..
/home -> /brukere
/var -> /logger
/var/www -> /system/vevsider/
/etc/httpd - > /tjenere/httpd/
/dev/hdc -> /maskinvare/kpspiller/
/mnt -> /maskinvare/sekundærplatelager
Er du ikke enig??

So you want to make it more easy to understand the paths. For who??.. Not all speak English. There are more people that speek Chinese. So why not Chinese. You understood what I wrote above. It's a Germanic language. One of the base language of English...
Mike Klev

As easy as Windows ?
by southpaw on Thu 1st May 2003 21:10 UTC

In your article - I read, make the installer as easy as Windows.
- Nobody I know that has on off-the-shelf copy of windows and that has 1 periperal/component not included on the stock CD can install it. And they have comented that it is longer and more complicated to install than whatever Linux distro I have proposed: mostly Corel 1.2 and lately, Xandros. Corel was actually king of the newbie_install :
5 screens & approx 7 clicks and 1 reboot later is was all done.
Let's reverse the scenario and have Windows do as well....


easy to use OS
by lucky on Fri 2nd May 2003 18:11 UTC

Simple and easy to use, that's what I want. I don't understand
tech talk. Just give me simplicity. That's what makes windows
and Mac so attractive. They make it simple, and the programs all work. Yes, I have to pay for them but I don't want to run something that only works partially. I just loaded Xandros, recognized all my hardware, nice OS but when I wanted to copy a audio cd with cd roast (their default)it told me that audio copying was presently not supported; back to windows. There is no choice yet for people like me.

people Unix is already the best
by zakon on Sat 3rd May 2003 08:00 UTC

People I switched to unix cause i don't need this shitty things. I WANT ALWAYS HAVE FREE ACCESS TO COMMAND LINE. I cleary understand where to locate system components, I don't need to rename (or link) /dev /usr /home - they are transparent to me; nor my mother, neither my sister need or want to know something behind fs layout.
I like Unix, you can do what you want with GUI, but don't force to use it, don't touch command line, vi, text-based installer. As for GUI i like only blackbox.
It is nothing forbidden to me now, your system or distro tries to limit my freedom I simly can't permit that!

great for making headway in an office
by slimjim on Tue 6th May 2003 12:08 UTC

sounds like a great idea, ive benn using linux for more than a year now, and for many things its still to hard to use.
A free osx on the x86, why not, please free us simpletons from the shackles of microsoft, give us something free, that works, thats designed for idiots like me.
and then youll get idiots like my mother, board directors and the people from IT who have windows in their blood using open source.
(open source is the point here, not just linux)
make it for everyone and they will come.
ps. my mother hates linux because she cant use it.
FOR EVERY ONEsaid in a small spooky voice

We Windows Users Are Stupid!
by P Nelson on Thu 8th May 2003 23:52 UTC

As a 20+year user of Dos/Windows I can say that when it comes to downloading rpms/deps and installing them I go nuts! We here do not understand "compiling" or dependancies. I know that these are common in the Linux community and our hats off to those of you who can do it. However our,or most "computer users" need a straight forward way to just use our machines to do work without having to "mount" something or "compile" something. About a year ago when we first contacted the Linux community in forums like this, we had, shall we say, mixed acceptance. Some meeting were very hostile, however before long we talked to other Windows migrators who helped us see the light of Linux! To those we say thank you. I know this will irritate some here, but please bear with me. In Windows to copy a floppy 1.44 disk you simply right click the floppy and select copy floppy. Lindows/Xandros/RH/Mandrake etc. all have a floppy formatter. You click on it and it allows one to format a floppy in Ext2 or Dos. Thats simple. Why cannot Linux etal have a simple program to copy a floppy as good as the formatter and as easy to use? There are still no good PaperPort type programs for scanning and no good CD label making programs. Ever try to use CirclePrint? Linux Distros are so close to allowing us to get away from "Darth Vader" and their activating ways. We as x-Windows users do not want Windows to run on our Desktop Linux Distro, we want Linux-period! Help us by providing something we know how to use. Are there enough Linux Distros for those able and happy to command the OS? If so distribute one which has been proposed and everyone can win.

Thanks for listening
P. Nelson "build it and they will come"