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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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!!