With every year that passes dozens of new Linux distributions become available for download and as many disappear never to be seen again.
There are some main stay distributions that are always around such as Debian, Arch, Slackware, Ubuntu, Mint, openSUSE and PCLinuxOS.
Many of the larger distributions have large development teams and some have major financial backing. For most though there are just a few people putting their heart and soul into their creation.
Last week I sent an email to Jerry Bezencon (founder of the Linux Lite project) a series of questions designed to get into the mindset of a distro developer.
The response from Jerry was excellent and I couldn’t have expected such a quick and well thought through response to my questions.
Why was Linux Lite created?
Linux Lite was created to dispel myths that a linux based operating system is hard to use.
We’re passionate about informing people that there are alternatives to proprietary operating systems.
The free software and open source world is a place from which you can take, but you must give back. This is a chance for people on our team to give something back.
What sets Linux Lite apart from other distros?
Our main focus is coming up with ideas to make linux easier to use with each release rather than how we compare to other distros.
We’d rather spend that time and energy developing a better operating system for people.
With such a small team how do you determine what goes in to each release?
Although the team is responsible for a great deal of the ideas that end up in Linux Lite, we rely heavily on feedback from existing Windows users and the community as a whole as to what features they need from a linux based operating system.
We then meet as a team to discuss the best way to implement them both from a development and a UI approach. Each idea must have all of the following attributes:
- They must mirror our core focus and values – simple, fast and free.
- The UI must be easy enough for most people to use.
- The code must use the GPL and exist as free software so that others can benefit from it, the same goes for graphics to which must carry a CC equivalent license.
- The idea must have wide appeal – a good idea usually stems from the desire to see the majority of the people benefit, it is not usually born out of ones personal preferences.
Do you have a release schedule or does it just go when it is ready?
We do a major release every 2 years one to two months after each LTS release.
This short period after the LTS release gives us time to build and test off a stable release. It also gives us a nice buffer when bugs are found early on in the LTS. That gives our users improved security and stability post LTS.
We then release 3 updated builds at evenly spaced intervals in between each LTS that include new ideas, better ways of doing things and newer software over the course of the next 2 years.
Linux Lite 2.0 will release this year in May or June dependent on the aforementioned factors.
Can you estimate how many users you have?
This is always extremely difficult to gauge.
The statistics that are most relevant to us focus on how many Windows people are visiting our website and OS statistics of torrent and http downloads.
Piwik web statistic software and Sourceforge has been a tremendous help in determining our effectiveness in regards to how we are reaching and engaging our target audience.
Social Media such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+ have also provided valuable insight.
With so many distros coming and going each year, how do you stay motivated?
We are motivated by a genuine desire to draw Windows users attention to a linux based operating system.
Our feedback page is a big motivator for us also. When you see that a Windows user has taken the time to sit down and write to you about how your creation has helped move them away from Windows for good, it’s incredibly motivating.
Are you looking to expand your team and if so what are you looking for?
Many distros out in the wild focus on existing linux users. We’re on a mission to win over Windows people and to date, we are accomplishing this.
We’re slowly building a team that shares this vision.
We’re looking for graphic artists and developers who are just as passionate as we are in developing simple software and creating great graphics for our target audience.
For those interested in joining our team click here.
If somebody said to you that they were thinking of starting a new distro what advice would you give them?
My initial advise is for them to approach an existing team leader and ask them what is involved from the outset.
Building a lasting, credible distro is not something you wake up one morning and decide to do on a whim.
Sit down, and write or type out your plan. You have to have the right personality to undertake such a task. It requires great commitment, you have to have a reason that excludes ego, you have to be at a point in your life when you are not overwhelmed by other commitments – school, job, study, family etc, supporting of your distro should not be underestimated – outside development and everyday life, support is a crucial part of your distro.
Does everyone in the team use Linux Lite and if so in what capacity?
There is no requirement to run Linux Lite full time in our team.
Freedom to choose what runs on your computer is a right of anyone who uses a linux based operating system.
Development can be carried out just as easily in a virtual environment, or on your favourite distro.
All testing is done on a vanilla install of Linux Lite on hardware.
Is Linux Lite a full time commitment or do you all have separate day jobs?
At the moment, we do this in our spare time.
Our main focus is on producing a solid, easy to use operating system.
We believe that if we continue to improve, implement good ideas from existing Windows users and the community as a whole, and continue to look for ways to make everyday computing simpler, that in due course Linux Lite will evolve into a large, full time project.
About Linux Lite
The goal of Linux Lite is to introduce Windows users to an intuitively simple, alternative operating system. Linux Lite is a showcase for just how easy it can be to use linux. From familiar software like Firefox and Thunderbird, to simply named menu items, to one click updates and software installs we hope that you will find Linux Lite an enjoyable computing experience.
Click here to view the Linux Lite website
How to get Linux Lite
Linux Lite Review on Everyday Linux User
The article was written in January 2013 so may need to be updated a little bit but I will probably wait for version 2 before doing so.
I would like to thank Jerry for agreeing to answer my questions and the responses were very interesting.
I like the fact that rather than worry about other distros, the commitment is to concentrate on Linux Lite and the requirements that Linux Lite users require.
For any distribution to survive there must be a purpose and a clear definition of what that distribution is trying to achieve and Linux Lite definitely has both of those.
The developers must be motivated and in the right place and time in their lives to be able to commit to the project and for me this is probably the main reason why smaller distros disappear.
Linux Lite is currently thriving and doing well and long may that continue.
If you use a smaller distro then help to keep the people who develop that distro motivated. As Jerry said, it is great when an ex-Windows user leaves a comment stating that they are using Linux Lite and that it has helped them move away from Windows.
If you can’t help a distro financially and you can’t help with time then why not help with motivation by telling people how good a job they are doing.
Thankyou for reading.