For one, it was not a fork of an existing distribution, such as Red Hat or Mandrake, it was being built completely from scratch, with it's own software package management system, among other things. Because this was a fresh distribution, we could use the newest Linux kernel (2.5.X and 2.6.0-testX), gcc compiler, c runtime library (glibc), and any other software, without having to worry about backwards compatibility problems.
SimplyGNUstep is different than your standard Linux distribution, it is actually more Mac OS X like than anything. For one, applications are kept in the /Applications directory. There are a myriad of other directories which differentiate it, such as /Network, /System, and /Library. All of the traditional Linux directories are still there, in their normal places, but they are hidden from the user when he or she is using GNUstep applications.
However, the task of creating a complete Linux distribution was much harder than I ever imagined. After years of working on it, most of the time by myself, I decided that it simply could not continue. At the rate I was going I realized SimplyGNUstep would simply never be finished. Because of this, I chose a new route to create SimplyGNUstep.
Instead of trying to create a whole Linux distribution from scratch, why not take an existing distribution and extend it? I'm not talking about "forking" an existing distribution, but rather adjusting it in some minor ways and adding extra software. The distribution I chose to base SimplyGNUstep on is Debian. But not just regular Debian, the next version of Debian, code named "Sarge". It turns out that Sarge has exactly what SimplyGNUstep needs. Debian in general has an awesome software package management system (dpkg) as well as a very convenient method for users to automatically receive software updates (apt-get). However, Debian Sarge goes way beyond this. Unlike the current version of Debian, "Woody", which used relatively old versions of software and the 2.2 version of the Linux kernel, Sarge can use Linux kernel-2.6 as well as the newest gcc compilers and c libraries. This is exactly what SimplyGNUstep needs in order to become a real user oriented desktop operating system.
This past week, I have been busy working on packaging the software for SimplyGNUstep, and I am pleased to announce that I am making the packages available for anyone to try out. This is not SimplyGNUstep itself, that will involve creating a new install cd as well as the installer application, among other things. But you can still try out a real GNUstep system very easily! I'm going to show you how:
Step One: Install yourself a Debian "Sarge" linux distribution. The easiest way to do this is to download this cd-rom install image, and install it.
Step Two: After the install is done, setup XFree86 (you're on your own with this one!), and install the WindowMaker X11 window manager using the command "apt-get install wmaker"
Step Three: Add the SimplyGNUstep software repository to your system by adding the following lines to the file "/etc/apt/sources.list":
deb http://simplygnustep.sourceforge.net/Packages/ binary-i386/> deb-src http://simplygnustep.sourceforge.net/Packages/ source/
(Make sure you type it exactly like this, the "/" have special meanings)
Step Four: Now that you have set up the repository location, you need to receive it. You did this by using the command "apt-get update"
Step Five: Now you are ready to install SimplyGNUstep! There are many packages available, but you need not ask for each one. Instead, you ask for a "meta" package, which include groups of software. Everyone will install the base user packages, this is done by the command "apt-get install sgstep-meta-user". If you want to have the development packages, you can also use the command "apt-get install sgstep-meta-developer". Lastly, there are some games available, use the command "apt-get install sgstep-meta-games" to grab those as well.
After doing these steps you will have most of the available GNUstep softwares at you fingertips. Of course, as time goes by, software will be updated and added. To get this new software, all you have to do is type "apt-get update" and then "apt-get upgrade". From here on out you have the newest GNUstep software on your computer without any hassle at all.
Remember, this is just the first step for SimplyGNUstep. Eventually it will have it's own install cd and a GNUstep based installer. Until then...enjoy!