Friday, 23 October 2009

Back to the Future!

I have finally got round to releasing the first CLI edition of Vinux 2.0 after several weeks of experimenting and tweaking. There are still a few things to do, but the law of diminishing returns was starting to kick in so I decided to release and be damned. Things to do include providing a USB installation option and the inclusion of emacspeak and festival etc, which I haven't managed to get working yet. The CLI edition comes in the form of an installable live CD which provides a console only version of Debian Lenny 5.03 with Speakup installed and enabled by default. This editon is aimed at intermediate and advanced users and perhaps beginners who want an easy introduction to the command line interface. It was inspired by GRML, but is aimed specifically at VI desktop users rather than sighted sysadmins. It comes with over a thousand packages installed covering all of the main catagories: editors, browsers, mail clients, text-based games and lots of utilities etc. It also features over 60 single character command aliases for all of the most common commands e.g. 'm' for menu, 'i' for internet, 'e' for editor etc. To see a full list just type 'h' to view the help file or 'a' to see a list of all of the alias commands.

This editon of Vinux is the first one to be produced using the new build script created by David Knight and then mutilated with a chainsaw by me in the garden shed to create a CLI version. The next stage will be to create a hybrid GUI/CLI version of the build script which will allow anyone to create a customised version of Vinux containing just the features and packages they want e.g. a very basic CLI version or a feature filled GUI distro with all the trimmings. This also means that it is possible to create a new version of Vinux in under an hour so it will now be possible to produce a variety of Vinux editions with different sets of features: a very basic CLI version with Speakup installed and nothing else, a fully featured CLI version, a standard GUI version and a even a DVD version featuring the best of CLI and GUI applications.

The process of creating the build script and creating a viable CLI version has been both interesting and challenging. For a start I don't usually use the command line unless I have to, so I had to learn how to navigate and edit files etc and after four weeks on nothing but CLI every evening and weekend I have become quite proficient and am starting to find the mouse frustrating in GUI mode and missing the simplicity and power of the command line. I have also been trying out lots of new CLI applications and have been impressed with both the wide range of applications and how easy they are to use. Highlights include the pdmenu package which allows you to navigate Debian menus using speakup, the aptitude ncurses package manager, splitvt which allows you to split the screen into two consoles and jump between them using ctrl+w and screenie which allows you to open multiple console windows, give them names and then jump between them from a simple menu. I have included a wide variety of packages which cover all the main desktop catagories and were possible I have provided three or four different packages that do the same job so you can use the one you find most suitable. I have also included hundreds of Linux utilities and as much documentation on how to use the command line I could find in the standard Debian repositories. I have only included three third party packages: remastersys - used to create Vinux and install it to hard disk, cnetworkmanager - a command line application to control and configure network manager, and smxi - an advanced package to manage updates and upgrades to new versions (use with caution).

Next on the agenda is to start merging the CLI and GUI versions of the build scripts, create a range of Vinux 2.1 releases and then to work on producing a Vinux Handbook which will contain user guides on how to use and install Vinux. I am hoping that members of the Vinux community will contribute to the Handbook and that it can be kept up to date as new versions are released. This is one area were anyone can make a contibution to the project no matter what their technical knowledge and skills. I will produce a list of what topics needs covering soon and it might also be worth creating audio and video guides as well.