Thursday, 5 February 2009

The Foundations of Vinux!

I have spent the last week playing with a variety of Linux distributions to see if Ubuntu is really the best foundation on which to build Vinux. I have looked at the latest versions of Fedora, OpenSUSE, Knoppix, GRML, Puppy Linux and PCLinuxOS to see how they compare to Ubuntu. With the exception of GRML these are all distributions that I am fairly familiar with and have used as my primary OS at one time or another. The first thing I looked at was what accessibility features they provided out of the box. Fedora and OpenSUSE both provide Orca by default (if you choose the Gnome variants) GRML and Adriane Knoppix are both text based distributions which provide console based speech support by default, although graphical desktop options are available. Only Puppy and PCLinuxOS offer little or no accessibility software, primarily because they are not Gnome based. The second factor I looked at is how easy it is to remaster the distribution. Adriane Knoppix and GRML didn't have any obvious methods for doing this, although they might be hidden away in some console command, while Fedora, OpenSUSE, PCLinuxOS and Puppy Linux all offer an explicit remastering process. However, the Fedora and OpenSUSE packages only allow you to add/remove applications and change a few settings, you cannot actually test the image until you have actually created it, and if something doesn't work you have to start all over again. Puppy Linux and PCLinuxOS on the other hand allow you to install and configure the system so it meets your requirements and then make the image, which means you can change things if they don't work without having to start again. I feel this approach to remastering: Install, Modify, Create Image and then Boot, much more logical and user friendly than having to make all of the changes during the construction of the image and only get to try it out and test it thoroughly after you have burnt it. On the one hand Fedora and OpenSUSE offer better accessibility features, while Puppy LInux and PCLinuxOS offer better remastering facilities! So how does Ubuntu compare? Well it provides good accessibility features (albeit with a few bugs) and a very simple way to remaster the live CD with Remastersys. So after a week of window shopping (or should it be linux shopping) I think that as things currently stand Ubuntu is still the most suitable foundation on which to base Vinux. So the next edition of Vinux will still be based on Ubuntu 8.10, I will not be touching 9.04 with a bargepole until it has been thoroughly tested and any significant bugs removed.