Sunday, 4 April 2010

The Day After Tomorrow!

Unlike in the ecological disaster movie of the same title, the future for
Vinux is looking very good! We are now approaching the release of the next version of Vinux, the third major release and there have been a whole host of bug fixes and new features included. The most significant change this time around is that the development is being led by Bill Cox instead of myself. This has been a positive move for two reasons: A. Bill's skills and knowledge of Bash Scripting, Gnome Accessibility and the inner workings of the Linux operating system far exceeds mine (I have never pretended to be anything other than an enthusiastic and dedicated amateur, who makes progress through trial and error - but mainly error!). And B. This means I have been able to sit on my fat arse and watch NCIS sometimes in the evenings instead of spending every waking moment hacking!

Bill has now sorted out most of the bugs that prevented us from using
Ubuntu as the basis for Vinux in the 2nd series: i.e. the lack of responsiveness and stability when using Orca, and most of the problems which were caused when using packages which required root permissions. Bill has modified the PulseAudio sound server to run in system mode and channeled all of the speech software; Orca, Speakup and Yasr to use Speech-Dispatcher and Espeak, which provides a seamless user experience when shifting between the three screen-readers. He has also reintroduced Compiz magnification in addition to the Orca magnifier which was left out of the second series based on Debian. Apart from the improvements to the accessibility of Vinux, there are also some new features such as EasyInstall scripts - icons on the desktop and in the menus which allow a user to install suites of packages such as Open Office or the Non-Free Multimedia Codecs with one click! We are also toying with then idea of including the Pcmanfm file manager which offers a much more responsive performance than the default Nautilus file manager. This edition will also see the reintroduction of the core CLI applications and the customised Bash aliases that were introduced in the Vinux 2.1 CLI editions. Of course the main advantage of switching back to Ubuntu is the improved hardware compatibility it offers especially for wireless connectivity which was always a problem with the Debian based 2nd series. While Bill has done most of the hard work other members of the mailing list have of course helped and supported Bill by submitting scripts or ideas, testing the alpha and beta editions or just providing moral support. So thanks to everyone who has contributed, I am not going to mention individuals in case I miss someone out.

Apart from the forthcoming release itself there have also been other significant developments. We have now been offered several more mirrors to host
Vinux Iso images on, and we plan to launch a new Vinux Wiki, Forum and IRC Chat channel alongside the release of Vinux 3.0 - so a special thanks to everyone involved in this process, taking on these responsibilities allows Bill and myself to concentrate on the development process. Perhaps the most significant development is the creation of a more mature Vinux Build Script and a Vinux package repository on Launchpad which allows anyone to turn a standard install of Ubuntu Lucid into a Vinux-like system. David Knight created the first Vinux build script, and this simplified the process somewhat, I then mutilated David's scripts to create the first CLI editions of Vinux, but Bill has taken this to a whole new level. Instead of being a single script with a few data files, Bill has created four separate scripts, three of which are used to turn an installed system into Vinux, the fourth to remaster the installed system and create a new Iso image. This means that nearly anyone can have a fully accessible system, without having to download and install Vinux, as long as they start with a default Ubuntu Lucid installation. The scripts are now hosted on SourceForge using Git so that other developers can get involved in the process. I managed to get the hang of it in a few hours (with a little coaching from Bill) so it can't be that hard - but you do have to know what you are doing if you don't want to destroy all of Bill's hard work!

Ubuntu will be releasing the 2nd Beta version of Lucid on Thursday and a Release Candidate on the 22nd April, The final release of Ubuntu 10.04 is planned for the 29th April and unless there are any unforeseen catastrophic bugs Vinux 3.0 should be released in the 1st week of May.