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augustin
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2016 5:13 pm    Post subject: New Gentoo overlay with a different philosophy Reply with quote

I have been pondering for a long while to, eventually, Real Life obligations permitting, create a new Linux distribution. For many reasons, I was not satisfied with any of the main distros I knew of.

In 2015, trying to find a systemd-free refuge, I started using Gentoo. I am still a newbie. I have still much to learn. But I am impressed. Gentoo developers have many reasons to feel proud.

However, even Gentoo is not the Linux distribution I dream of having. But I decided earlier last year that my potential distribution would be based on, and compatible with, Gentoo.

A few days ago, as I was learning how to contribute to Gentoo ebuilds, working for the first time with overlays, and discussing things on the Gentoo bug tracker, I figured out that it would be a good idea to start with a Gentoo overlay and build things from there.

Therefore, I dare to announce, the Gentoo newbie that I am, that I am going to slowly start building a new overlay for Gentoo.

What will this new Overlay bring to the Gentoo user? Good question. Currently, the only possible answer is: Nothing! There is no code, yet! No repository.

What about eventually? How would this new overlay distinguish itself from mainline Gentoo? First of all, it will not be a specific selection of package. It will not be an overlay catering for some special need.

The main difference would be a certain philosophy, which I can try to summarize in the following few points:

1 - Linux software and open source software should be stable, bug-free, well documented, and, as importantly, intuitive to use.

2 - As a result of the first point, any request for assistance in a forum or a mailing list should be considered as a bug: either the software is downright buggy, or if not, it's not intuitive enough, or, at the very least, the software's official documentation is lacking in some way.

3- As a result of the second point, our project will NOT have any forum nor mailing list. It can only have: a wiki, a bug tracker through which all support request will be handled, and a blog section for general conversation and long term development planning.

4- As a not so obvious result of the above, the community will not somehow be divided between those more experienced users who provide support, and the newbies, who request supports. Newbies will be in an ideal situation to identify places where the use of a Linux software is not intuitive enough to be used without requesting any assistance. As such, newbies will be able to contribute as much as more experienced users, feeding back the help they received into the wiki, improving the documentation along the way, and opening bug reports focussed on an improved user interface.

Thus, and only thus, I believe we can approach (although never quite achieve) the ideal of having stable, bug-free and intuitive software.

I'm starting with a simple overlay, which, as I gain more experience, I shall develop progressively. Eventually, this Gentoo overlay might grow into a full-blown (Gentoo-compatible) Linux distribution, with binary packages alongside source-only ebuilds, to allow a greater community of Linux users, those who currently would never dream of ever using Gentoo nor any current Gentoo derivatives, to collaborate with the more experienced Gentoo users.

The actual name of the overlay and future distribution will be announced at a much later date.

Until I find a better place for it, the new overlay project will be hosted here: http://linux.overshoot.tv/

Source: http://linux.overshoot.tv/blogs/augustin/new_gentoo_overlay_different_philosophy
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augustin
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 10, 2016 3:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is this active thread:
"Is the Gentoo population aging?
https://forums.gentoo.org/viewtopic.php?p=7864170

eflothmeier wrote:

My own personal observation is that
Linux users are getting older, and the
titans of industry, The Samsungs, Microsofts, and Apples
are doing a good job of winning the hearts & minds of
young people.


The problem is that, even after 25 years and with modern desktop environments, using Linux is seen as too complicated and geeky. And, even with 15 years of personal Linux experience, I would tend to agree. Over the last 15 years, I have seen much improvement in the tools I am using on a daily basis, but to be honest, there is too much buggy, confusing, unintuitive software.

For me, Linux is
*) a tool to get a job done. The less time I spend configuring my system and chasing bugs, the more time I can spend being productive at other things.
*) a philosophy, that of Libre, Open Source software.
*) a community, where people come together and achieve greater things together than individuals could ever achieve separately.

The distribution I dream to create one day, would promote the community and the spirit of cooperation to improve open source software so that we can all enjoy easy-to-use tools to get our respective jobs done.

I hope that the philosophy I present here will win the hearts and minds of the Gentoo/Linux community so that, together, we can win the hearts and minds of a new generation of Linux users, who will, in turn, become active and contributing members of our community.
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NeddySeagoon
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 10, 2016 11:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

augustin,

I'll throw a few rocks in your pool.

I have over 50 years playing with computers, so I recall a time well before CRT displays, GUIs and so on.
I can still read paper tape by eye :)
You can do a lot of useful work without a GUI at all. Spreadsheets, word processing and so on, so lets throw away all the GUIs.

GUIs bring two things. An ability to apply computers to a whole new class of problems, like CAD.
The ability to apply a lot more, often unimportant detail, to non graphical problems.

Users like me who can recall a time before GUIs don't have a problem working without one.
Users that cut their teeth on a smart phone have a steep learning curve.

The bigger problem is that as computers develop, they can be applied to more and more problems that require more/different software.
Its often the software that drives the hardware. Recall the Apple Lisa. It was only a 68000 CPU and was really too slow to drive the GUI.
Further developments turned it into the Apple Mac ...

It boils down do the perfect being the enemy of the adequate.
Its a whole new philosophical discussion about what we mean by 'adequate'.
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Computer users fall into two groups:-
those that do backups
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szatox
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 10, 2016 12:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Overlays are a way to extend portage's ebuild tree. You can add software that had not been accepted there. Crossdev uses overlays to create slots for several sets of toolchains.
If you want to share your own gentoo distribution, consider building a stage4 or creating an installation script. Your script can modify configs and install missing software. Overlay is hardly a place to do that, though you could use it to host virtual/my_own_gentoo_meta_package which would depend on the software you want. And maybe even modify configs.

Quote:
using Linux is seen as too complicated and geeky

I think you're looking in the wrong place. Windows become popular due to a truly ingenious marketing strategy MS employed when "personal computers" were born. They invented "OEM".
So, it's early 90, you've never had a computer before. You go shopping, you get your brand new box, you plug the power cord and it loads win 3.11. How do you know you'd rather use dos? or unix? You don't. You don't have any experiences nor expectations. You take what they give you. And you take it for the only good way of doing things.
Fast forward a decade or two. Linux has already developed set of a really nice GUIs, but you don't care. You have been windows since forever, you know it, you are comfortable with it, why the hell change something that has always worked for you? Even worse, all your friends are using windows too! You want some software? You go to a friend and make a copy. You don't care about licence, nobody is going to sue you anyway. You want some application for linux? Nobody has them. You don't know where to find them.
You either have a good reason to switch or you don't bother changing your habits. So yes, using linux is geeky (you have to _decide_ you want it), but I don't agree it's more complicated. Not when you can install ubuntu with full hardware support and a broad set of user programs (media player, web browser, office suite, some games etc) in less than 20 minutes.

Regarding the points you made, they actually fall into software development rather than maintaining your own distribution.
The forum already exists. As long as you don't bother breaking compatibility with gentoo, this forum is fine. Basically every single one of us is running his own gentoo. If you want to share your work in addition to using it's results yourself, it's cool. Audiodef has been doing it for years already.
And nobody holds users back when they want to report an issue. However, fixing the software belongs to the software developers and not to distribution maintainers. Of course, you can send them a patch (which puts you in a position of developer once), but if you fix it on your end without pushing it to the mainstream, you will maintain your fork all by yourself.
Quote:
2 - As a result of the first point, any request for assistance in a forum or a mailing list should be considered as a bug: either the software is downright buggy, or if not, it's not intuitive enough, or, at the very least, the software's official documentation is lacking in some way.

I have a bad news for you: the average IQ is always 100. The smarter software you put into the equation, the dumber user you receive.
Yes, I know I'm measuring weight in seconds right now but It still pictures the real life pretty well. This is one of the reasons gentoo does not have a graphical installer: it would encourage ProblemExistsBetweenKeyboardAndChair sort of people to come and complain that their computer with their brand new gentoo doesn't boot when it has simply ran out of battery power.
Really, users are a specie able to find a problem to every single solution.
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NeddySeagoon
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 10, 2016 12:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

szatox,

szatox wrote:
I think you're looking in the wrong place. Windows become popular due to a truly ingenious marketing strategy MS employed when "personal computers" were born. They invented "OEM".
So, it's early 90, you've never had a computer before. You go shopping, you get your brand new box, you plug the power cord and it loads win 3.11. How do you know you'd rather use dos? or unix? You don't. You don't have any experiences nor expectations. You take what they give you. And you take it for the only good way of doing things.


It was much more insidious than that. People bought computers for home use with DOS on. Parents got to use Windows at work and took it home.
A whole generation of computer users were conditioned as children. It was software piracy that made Microsoft what it is today.
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NeddySeagoon

Computer users fall into two groups:-
those that do backups
those that have never had a hard drive fail.
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jonathan183
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 10, 2016 2:47 pm    Post subject: Re: New Gentoo overlay with a different philosophy Reply with quote

augustin wrote:
The main difference would be a certain philosophy, which I can try to summarize in the following few points:

1 - Linux software and open source software should be stable, bug-free, well documented, and, as importantly, intuitive to use.


People already think the software is sufficiently intuitive to use ... its usually been developed by people who use it and may also be maintained by people who use it.
As others have already indicated an overlay is not really the best way of going about achieving your goals.
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Tony0945
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 10, 2016 2:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have to add that it's more than installation convenience or GUI familiarity. It's a whole industry attitude. For pay applications have never been successful in Linux. The free applications have for the most part been backported to Windows. You can install Openoffice, Gnumeric, Abiword and others. I have the MINGW compiler, Python and Meld running on XP. There are other network applications that have been ported alsp. Thunderbird, Firefox, Opera, and even Palemoon run the same on both platforms. Many open source applications feature an msi so all the user has to do is click to download and then click the downloaded file. However the pay applications such as ALL the tax software are missing. There are alternatives to Intuit Quicken but they are a pale shadow and don't work the same. That's why there is interest in WINE. You would think the pay developers would have one guy to check WINE compliance to extend their market, but Windows and Mac are all that exist in their minds. I know for a fact that HP had one guy porting their drivers and he was only allowed to do it on his own time, even though his work expanded their printer and ink market. He was a Linux enthusiast and I was one of his beta testers.

I disagree that Linux is hard to install. That's true for Gentoo and Linux From Scratch and probably Funtoo and Arch. I don't know about Debian. However, RedHat and Ubuntu are no harder to install than Windows. Less so in my mind. I remember installing Windows ME and having to reboot eleven times!
Granted, if one is installing a dual boot it takes some knowledge but just blowing away an old Windows and installing fresh is easy. That's what millions of XP users are going to have to do because Microsoft only sold an upgrade version for XP for a limited time. Soon it will be the same for Windows 7. Most will probably junk their computers and buy new ones.

Maybe GUI differences will confuse older people but not young people. When I was unemployed long ago, I built a computer from discarded scraps and e-bay. I installed RedHat 5.2 using the graphical installer, taking all the defaults and my eight year old grandson had his own computer that he loved. The task bar is on the top instead of the bottom, who cares? It works slightly different, so what? Windows 95's interface was different from WfW's. Win98 changed again and XP and 7 likewise. Changing the GUI is what Microsoft does all the time. It's how they can claim "all new Windows X", which is usually just a new GUI over a tweaked core. Win95, Win 2000, and Vista were fundamentally different at the core and all had growing pains. I'm not sure about Win 8, but I think it was just the GUI change and RedHat did that as well with GNOME 3.
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augustin
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2016 6:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

NeddySeagoon wrote:
augustin,

I'll throw a few rocks in your pool.


Thank you! :)
I like the ripples the rocks make, nice concentric circles. Cause and Effect. Very Zen-like! ;)

It's nice to have one's assumptions challenged. It forces one to think and to re-evaluate one's position.

I appreciate all the comments above. I'll reply to each as time allows.
Some comments are spot on; they help me to re-think things and adjust my approach.
At the same time, many comments are based on wrong assumptions about what I was saying. I'll clarify a few things in the coming days. Currently, I am busy doing a necessary upgrade to the web site.

My goals are the same, exactly those stated. The path to get there may not be the one I am envisaging now, though... I'll keep y'all posted! :)
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leifbk
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2016 8:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

szatox wrote:
This is one of the reasons gentoo does not have a graphical installer: it would encourage ProblemExistsBetweenKeyboardAndChair sort of people to come and complain that their computer with their brand new gentoo doesn't boot when it has simply ran out of battery power.


I once expressed a similar opinion on this site and was scolded by a Gentoo dev for saying such a thing. I don't think he's around here anymore, but I am. Go figure.

To the topic: Your time is your own and you're certainly in your full right to do whatever you want with the code as long as you respect the GPL; it's how open source works. But if your goal is the ultimate in user-friendliness, I believe that Ubuntu and several other distros have pursued exactly that goal for a long time. I don't want to discourage you or even coerce you away from Gentoo, but you might do better by joining the development of eg. Linux Mint or one of the other Ubuntu-based distros.
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