Thursday, 3 July 2014

Is it possible to create the ultimate operating system?

Posted by Gary Newell  |  at  22:10 10 comments

Introduction

Last weekend my daughter, who is almost 7 years old, asked to go to the library so that she could get some books about the Loch Ness monster.

I looked out of the window in our house in Aberdeenshire, Scotland and realised that my original plan of painting the fences outside was now going to be put on hold due to the heavy rain falling from the sky.

I looked at the weather forecast for Inverness and it seemed that they were going to be having a much nicer day than we were and so as the old saying goes "if you can't beat them, join them".

I therefore said to my daughter "I can do one better than find you books about the Loch Ness monster, we can all get in the car and visit Loch Ness".

2 and a bit hours later we arrived at Drumnadrochit and we entered a museum/exhibition that showed us all about the search for the Loch Ness monster.

Following on from the museum we decided to take a boat trip and we managed to get on a small boat with a guy called Dick Raynor. (www.lochnessinvestigation.com).

If you have ever researched the history of Loch Ness then you will know that one of the authorities on the subject is a guy called Adrian Shine. Adrian Shine has written many books and appeared in many films about the subject. Dick Raynor also appears in a number of the books and claims to be one of the only people still actively looking for the mythical creature.

During our tour of Loch Ness, in the small vessel which bounced to and fro on the waves, it became clear that Dick doesn't really seem to believe anymore (if he in fact ever did) but he still strives to answers the mysteries of the Loch.

Ok, so there are a number of you probably wondering what any of this has to do with Linux.

Last week I received an email from a guy called Andrew Bernstein and the first line of the email read as follows:
"Hi Gary, my name is Andrew Bernstein, me and my team of developers are currently trying to create the ultimate linux distro"

Hopefully you can see the tenuous link. Is it really possible to create the ultimate distro? If you asked 20 people they would all come back with a slightly different answer in the same way that if you asked 20 people to look at something in the Loch and describe what they are looking at they would also come back with different answers.

The Plan

How are the Operating System U team planning to create the ultimate operating system ever.

Operating System U will use Arch Linux as the base distribution and the desktop will be a customised version of MATE with less bugs and more features.

In addition, Operating System U will be dispensing with the XOrg system and will instead be using Wayland which is apparently less clunky and it directly renders with applications.

OSu (A shorter name for Operating System U) will also have something called Startlight which is akin to the Windows Start button fused with Apple's Spotlight. According to the website this will make the system easy to use and familiar to most users.

OSu will be a partial rolling release and the main concept appears to be around consistency. The look and feel won't ever change based on the developer's whims unlike certain other operating systems such as Windows.

Possibly the most ambitious plan is that the developers plan to have OSu pre-installed on laptops and available for sale in shops.

The developers acknowledge the fact that this will be difficult to achieve in places like Best Buy and PC World so they are targeting different outlets such as pharmacies, newsagents and supermarkets.

The Team

As mentioned before the person who emailed me is called Andrew Bernstein and I was shocked when I read his profile:
As the Founder and CEO of Operating System U, I hope to bring Linux to the mainstream. I'm 17 and have a fiery passion for open-source, Linux and entrepreneurship.

17 years old!!!

I looked at the list of developers currently associated and there are currently around 10 of them and I was expecting that the rest of the team would be around the same age and that perhaps they were a group of friends daring to dream the dream and become the next Mark Zuckerbergs.

However it is fair to say that the team is incredibly diverse with varying skill levels ages, backgrounds and nationalities.

For instance, second on the list of developers is Diego Woitasen, an Argentinian developer who has over 10 years Linux experience and has worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Argentina.

There is Ioan Calin Borcoman who has been using Linux since 1997 and he has been an active Debian developer maintaining packages such as the VDK library.

Christian Fernandez is another name that jumps out having worked on the gNewSense project and the kgNewSense project.

As a team it doesn't look like a bad starting point although their website clearly states that they are looking for more developers on a volunteer basis.

The Catch

Big claims and a fairly decent set of developers on paper. So what is the catch? Where is the ISO? What about the source code? How far have they got?

In order to ride the unicorn and develop the ultimate operating system the Operating System U team are starting a Kickstarter campaign and they are asking for $150,000.

You can also donate $10 for which you will receive access to the full documentation. (When the documentation is created).

The Summary

Dick Raynor said during our tour of Loch Ness that it isn't his job to say whether the Loch Ness monster does or doesn't exist and likewise it is not for me to say whether OSu can ever be the ultimate operating system.

The plan is certainly incredibly ambitious and my immediate concern is the amount of money they are trying to raise via Kickstarter.

$150,000 is a large sum to generate but it is also probably not going to go that far when you consider the amount of money that Canonical have ploughed into Ubuntu.

Is it even possible to define the ultimate operating system? Some people would say that Ubuntu is pretty close whilst others would say that Ubuntu is about as far away as you can get. Likewise, there are users of Arch, Gentoo and Slackware that would say that their distros make their versions of Linux the best that you can get. Other users would say they are just too intense.

Apple users certainly become evangelical about their devices and operating systems and Android users are almost as bad.

I think with $150,000 you will be able to create a decent operating system that large numbers of people will think is great but having a mission statement saying that "the aim is to create a good operating system that some people will like" isn't exactly aiming for the stars.

I wish the Operating System U team all the best with their project and hope that one day they achieve their objectives, in the same way that I hope one day Dick Raynor finally gets a glimpse of Nessie.

To read more about Operating System U visit http://www.operatingsystemu.com/

And finally and completely off topic...

If you ever find yourself in Fort Augustus (and you should because it is truly amazing) and you decide to head back towards Aberdeen at night make sure your car has plenties of petrol and don't head into the Cairngorms in an attempt to cut across.








Whilst the views of the Cairngorms are truly spectacular it is a bit unnerving when you are travelling along the winding single track roads with a quarter of a tank of petrol with absolutely no idea where the next 24 hour petrol station is.

I finally ran out of petrol in a place called Aberlour. I would like to say thankyou to the Aberlour Arms Hotel for allowing me to use their phone and to the AA guy that came out at 2 a.m with some extra petrol.






About the Author

Gary Newell started the Everyday Linux User blog in 2010 and has written reviews on dozens of different Linux based operating systems. He has also written a number of tutorials.

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10 comments:

  1. The only perfect OS is the one built the way I want. But I have no idea what I should want. Anyone wants to build a system like that, be my guest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And that is the difficulty of the challenge ahead. Can OSu become the most popular and/or most used distro? Possibly. Becoming the ultimate, that is the hard bit

      Delete
  2. 17 years old is great! (though I barely can remember them, since, hmm, I'm a little bit older than that)

    One thinks about changing the world. Of the many projects 17-year-olds take, most end with less-than-expected results.That notwithstanding, a very significant number of them do indeed change the world. That's why we really ought to pay attention to these fellows...

    It's like the music goes: "sometimes you don't get what you want, but you get what you need".

    Unbeknownst

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi guyz! CTO of OS u from Russia here. I am 25 years old and I have wide Linux experience, as most of other members of the team. Andrew did the right thing picking a right developers AFAICS. Not saying it can be ultimate, but it might cranks your shafts in the future :D

    ReplyDelete
  4. a customised version of MATE with less bugs and more features.

    Should read:

    a customised version of MATE with fewer bugs and more features.

    ReplyDelete
  5. It is impossible to create the ultimate operating system, because everyone's needs are different. If you have fairly modern hardware, Mint, Ubuntu and Fedora are okay, but what if you have ancient hardware? What if you live in a third world country, use donated hardware and just need basic functionality? Then, your best bets are antiX, Crunchbang or others. What if you're a scientist? A teacher? Maybe you need specific packages for a project you're working on. Like I said, it's impossible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not Impossible. You use Arch with Openbox. It works on all hardware, old or new. You can customize it to be as Complex (panels on all 4 screen edges and 100 screenlets) or as simple (literally a completely blank screen) as you want. There is not a single application or package that you wont find in the AUR. It is perfection.

      Delete
  6. No. You might just as well try to develop a strategy to throw curve balls that fly straight, square the circle or herd cats, to name three other undertakings that are impossible for very different reasons in each case.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Well if they're using Wayland we'll see this sometime in 2021 ....

    ReplyDelete
  8. I think there is no such thing as ultimate operating system. It all depends upon the requirements in different applications and systems, but yes you can create a near to perfect os in the future.

    ReplyDelete

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