posted by Adam S on Wed 30th Apr 2003 07:26 UTC

"If I Had My Own Distro, Part II"

In following that, a good amount of resources will be allocated to developing an online community a la Gentoo. Forums would be well maintained and cared for religiously. Help would be granted unconditionally. Contests would be held regularly and other promotional stunts to get and keep people interested. An active community means more developers, more porting, and more word-of-mouth. Conferences, training, certificatons would all be investigated. Anything we can do to make people try our distribution would be considered.

Choice. It's what Linux and BSD offer that, to some, is the biggest draw. 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. But my distribution will not, as many large companies have, concentrate all of our resources on making one environment look nice and then include a second that pales in comparison. I'm going to remove a lot of choice from the user, because, to many, it's more a gamble than a choice. If I customize Gnome to be unique for my distro, I don't want people to unknowingly choose KDE. Or vice versa. If you're an expert, and require the another DE, you can download the source and try to compile it yourself, visit our forums, or even assist us in porting it so we may offer a downloadable package customized for our distro. I'll include one IM program (gaim), one FTP program (gFTP or Kbear), one e-mail client (Evolution), one office suite (OpenOffice.org, but also kedit and kwrite, which serve different functions). I may choose to include two or more browsers - as they are frequently used and that choice is not likely to cause confusion. I won't list all my application choices, but the point is, I won't include applicationss for the sake of including applications only. Only those that offer a different and distinct experience or that offer something unique will be considered for inclusion.

Installers have been a hot topic of discussion lately too - mainly because they're all getting pretty good and now. It's a race to who can make the one that the crowds feel make the most sense. Anaconda has come a long way and leads the pack, SuSE YAST has received praise, and Mandrake's redesigned install is clean, fast, and easy. New breed distros like ArcLinux, LindowsOS, and Lycoris have really gotten the rapid install process down pat. I believe the perfect is somewhere in the middle - graphcal, heavy on eye candy, with few visible options but lots of "Advanced" buttons. Full control is necessary for experts, but simple steps for newbies. Some essential tools: NTFS resizing, coexisting with other Linux installs, and a configurable boot manager. I'd really like to see Linux boot on ATA RAID. When this project is more stable, we'll incorporate that ASAP. Lastly, in the installation category, each step will have easy-to-read documentation on screen, such as 'Which file system should I choose?' along with recommendations - "DistroX recommends UFS file system for all desktop computers. This file system provides crash recovery/protection and has been thoroughly tested. If you intend to run your computer as a server, click here for more suggestions." People should never get scared during an install, but I don't want to remove all options from the install process. None of the BSD's use graphical installs yet (though the OpenBSD project does have GOBIE under development). Many complain that installing a BSD with a DE is still one of the toughest tasks out there. Ours will be fully graphical and thoroughly tested. Public betas will solicit feedback until we're convinced it's as easy as a Windows install.

On the subject of installs, I'm not going to worry about "bloat." 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. We don't want anyone, anytime, to have dependancy problems. We'll include everything we can think of, and if we come upon and app that needs something not in the default install, we'll include it in the install files on our application website. Dependacy problems are an issue of the '90s - there's no excuse for them today. 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. On my distro this will never happen, because our install files will include everything. Hard disks are large and cheap these days. We will simply maintain: a worthwhile desktop system needs disk space. Broadband is increasingly common. Packages should include all files necessary for use.

Another thing I'm about which I'm concerned is after market add ons. Red Hat ships without mp3 support and may not be the last distro to do as such. I've maintained that the workaround here is to add a menu entry to the launch bar: "Install MP3 support." The script that runs fetches the mp3 plugins, installs them, and then, after confirming successful install, removes the entry from the menu. Same with DVD plug-ins, nVidia drivers (if an nvidia card is detected), and other after-market add ons. This will allow further compliance with licenses. Perahps a "Run Once" menu should be present, or even a script that installs all the necessary after market add ons and then removes itself.

Table of contents
  1. "If I Had My Own Distro, Part I"
  2. "If I Had My Own Distro, Part II"
  3. "If I Had My Own Distro, Part III"
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