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Bodhi Linux: Interview with Jeff Hoogland

Smitten with Bodhi Linux, Jack Wallen poses some questions to Jeff Hoogland, one of the Bodhi developers. Is it time for you to give a new distribution a try? Jack thinks so.

I have recently become smitten with the Bodhi Linux distribution. It's melding of the Enlightenment desktop and the Ubuntu distribution makes for quite a solid and speedy distribution. Because this distribution is fairly new to the scene, I thought it would be a good idea to interview one of the developers, so you can get a better idea where Bodhi Linux comes from.

1. What made you decide to begin Bodhi Linux? Bodhi was created with two things in mind, the first of these is the Enlightenment desktop. There are very few distributions that use E as their default desktop and three of the most popular (Elive, OpenGEU, and MoonOS) are either dated or using a different desktop now. I like the Enlightenment desktop and I wanted everyone to be able to easily enjoy a current version of it without having to go through the headache of building it from source. I wanted to create something that would show off E's power and flexibility to new users.

The second reason for creating Bodhi was to place an emphasis on user choice. We pride ourselves on being “minimalistic.” You will find us as sort of a middle ground between distributions like Arch/Gentoo and Fedora/Ubuntu. By this, I mean we neither give you just a tty to start from, nor do we install piles of (often) needless applications by default for the user. I think most people do not care to have to piece together a working GUI for themselves and this is where Bodhi comes in. We give you an Enlightenment desktop and just enough applications to get rolling. Webrowser, File Manager, Terminal Emulator, Basic Text Editor, and Graphical Package manager are the only applications you will find pre-installed on your Bodhi system. Then through our online software center (http://software.bodhilinux.com) we make it easy for users to find and install the software they want with just a few clicks. For more advanced users Bodhi is powered by dpkg and has a Synaptic for a GUI and apt-get for the command line.

2. Why Enlightenment? Is there something about that desktop, in particular, that drew you?

As I said before, the Enlightenment desktop is both powerful and flexible. Beyond this it is also light weight and elegant. A stock Bodhi system normally comes in at just under 100 megs of RAM at startup (although some have gotten the system to run as low as 50megs), this makes it both suitable for older systems and for a lightening-fast modern computer. Enlightenment is flexible in the fact that it is 100% modular, meaning the parts of the system that are not in use are not even loaded. Enlightenment also has enough configuration options that any new user could easily spend days tweaking the system to their exact preferences (should they choose to).

3. Why Ubuntu? What drew you to that distribution for the basis of Bodhi?

Ubuntu is the most popular desktop distribution for a reason. It provides a fairly good end user experience and it has a large base of support behind it. By building off of Ubuntu, Bodhi inherits much of this same support. Ubuntu also has an excellent GUI system installer, something the Bodhi team and I very much wanted in our own system. Is Ubuntu perfect? Of course not – but then what system is? The Bodhi team and I have some good ideas we plan to implement over the coming months (and years) that should only further increase the end user experience Ubuntu has set out to provide.

4. With the upcoming release of Ubuntu 11.04, and the change to Unity, do you expect to see a lot of users migrating away from Ubuntu, in favor of a different desktop interface?
I think with both the upcoming release of 11.04 using Unity and the transition of Gnome into Gnome Shell, there are going to be many Linux users looking at alternative desktops in the coming months. Do I expect a few of them will end up with Bodhi? Of course, but we are not expecting a flood of Ubuntu refugees any time soon.
5. What drew you to Linux development?

Honestly, I never planned to end up here – it just kinda happened. There has been a need for a distribution featuring the Enlightenment desktop for some time now and I just stepped in to fill that role. A couple hundred hours of hacking, a few months later, and you now have Bodhi Linux. Now that we are really up and rolling I am dedicated to this project. I see it as my chance to give something back to the world of FOSS that has given so much for me in the past years.

6. From your perspective, what does Linux need in order to become a serious contender for the business desktop?

Honestly I think Linux is fairly ready for the business desktop today. The main thing that is holding it back is the business world's heavy resistance to change. I mean come on, places are still using Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6 in 2011. The resistance to change is often two fold with Linux because not only would most businesses be moving to a different operating system, but many of their proprietary applications would no longer function – enough to make most end users tear their hair out. Unfortunately the saying goes “if it isn't broken don't fix it” very much rings true here (even if “isn't broken” equates to slow and dated).

7. What aspect of Linux most appeals to you?

Flexibility and transparency. I can do what I want with my Linux system and I know how it does it. The system does not try to hide anything from me. I am in full control.

8. What aspect of Linux least appeals to you?

Lack of commercial game support. I used to be what you would call a “hardcore” gamer. In more recent days I am more of a casual gamer, but it is still annoying that I have to use Wine technology to run the games I play for a few hours each month with my friends.

9. What language do you primarily work in when working on Bodhi Linux?

The primary language all the new Bodhi tools (and Enlightenment itself) are written in is C. We have three people on the team working towards this end. C is our preferred language because it is both fast and what the EFLs (Enlightenment Foundation Libraries) are written in. Because Bodhi is based on Ubuntu we inherit their many python applications (for better and worse). Myself and one of our other developers take care of all the python and bash coding that comes up as we edit existing system components.

10. If someone were interested in joining your project, what would they need to know and how would they get in touch?

We are always looking for help with various things! The Bodhi has grown a fair amount in the last three months. What started out as just a team of three has grown to nearly twenty consisting of eight translators/documentation writers, seven programmers, three graphics designers, and one server maintainer (we call him the Highlander). Anyone looking to help can contact me via email - Jeff at BodhiLinux dot com – You can also easily chat with our every growing community via our forums (http://www.bodhilinux.com/forums). Right now we are really looking for extra help from people that have experience writing in C with EFL/GTK, but there are plenty of other things as well! Let us know how you can best help.

***

And there you have it, words from one of the Bodhi developers. I have been enjoying their distribution for a few weeks now, and plan on continuing that experience. Have you given Bodhi a try? If so, what was your experience? Do you have any questions for Jeff you would like to pass on or would you like to join the Bodhi team so you can give back to FOSS like Jeff?

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

28 comments
cavehomme1
cavehomme1

I too have some doubts about Ubuntu security although it is more secure than Windows. What other distributions use Enlightenment as the UI?

josephhyde
josephhyde

I like Linux. I have owned a few distributions and tried a few more, that said I have never actually used any of them for any length of time! Why? Well Microsoft just never seemed to get it right from one windows release to the next but when Windows 7 came along I really didn't have any more reason to want Linux. I really like 'the store concept' where you browse to a 'store' and click on what you want and it's there. You don't have to download a program and then install it. However 'uninstalling it' was a problem with a past distribution of one package...I could not figure out how! Anyway I just got back from the Bodi web site and I did not see anything that said 'the Bodi package(s) is here! Click on this 'Download Button' to get it'... I am obviously very much a Linux neophyte (or more unkindly a 'nube') even though I have been in computers almost before there were such things, kit's only like Heathkit and such. I worked at a computer retail store fixing and building computers (PC's) for nine years and worked for a networking company for two years before that. Anyway the point being is I am pretty Linux ignorant. My main excuse was that Linux doesn't play games and I used to play games, first person shooters, all the time. Now I don't. But somehow I am just stuck in the Windows world and it is quite comfortable now, and it seems to be usable, at least for me. If I could have found a 'Download Me' button I would have done it burned it to CD or DVD and played around with it especially if it had a 'Live CD' feature. Thanks..

sorgfelt
sorgfelt

The biggest reason, other than IP issues, for Linux not to have taken over already, is lack of cooperation by developers. Instead of trying to work with the assemblers of the major distributions on improving their offerings (I know that is hard to do), you go out and make your own. This leaves us with a fractured marketplace that no business owner can trust or deal with, unless they are programmers themselves.

Jaqui
Jaqui

E17 and Ubuntu, both are grounds to not touch it. E17 is bloated garbage compared to E16 and Ubuntu is critically flawed for security.

rafcord79
rafcord79

Id like to give it a try. My children are using Ubuntu Linux in their school and I like to try Bodhi Linux and show it to them. Thanks.

apotheon
apotheon

I find that Ubuntu's security failings as compared with other systems are broadly categorizable thusly: 1. It uses sudo for all administrative tasks, which means there is a full-access, unrestricted sudo configuration on the system. As explained in The basics of secure admin privilege use with Unix, this raises some problems. 2. Ubuntu has horribly intertangled dependencies, which results in much more significant complexity issues. Simplicity is security. 3. It comes with a gigantic heap of software installed on it, by default, and it's all for our own good. See Security, complexity, and the GUI environment for more details particular to this, though it is really just a special case of point 2 above. 4. It's Linux. Yes, it's much more secure by design than MS Windows, but Canonical seems to be doing its best to undermine that, and the Linux kernel's development roadmap looks a bit like the baby threw up on your pinstripe shirt, so it falls a bit short of where it could be security-wise. Bodhi Linux mitigates point 3 by not installing nearly as much software. It uses a "Desktop Environment", in the form of Enlightenment, that also mitigates point 3 relative to the more common KDE and GNOME options, though in my estimation anything that qualifies as a "Desktop Environment" is prone to software complexity issues for security. The sudo problem can be fixed by setting a root password and turning off (or even removing) sudo except, perhaps, in cases where you need specific admin capabilities delegated to specific user accounts -- and, in those cases, being very careful about how such capabilities are delegated. Ensuring your Ubuntu (or Bodhi) system only has one account with general sudo access, and refusing to use that account directly as a normal user account (basically treating it like a root account where one must type "sudo" a lot), can mitigate the dangers of an uncritically applied sudo-everything configuration, but it basically just ends up creating a second, more cumbersome version of root, so I'm not sure what benefit that's meant to provide. Thus . . . if you reconfigure admin access to avoid the universal sudo problem, the only major security issues Bodhi shares with Ubuntu are Ubuntu dependencies and its Linuxness. If you find another Linux distribution that uses Enlightenment by default, and has less tentacularly invasive dependencies, you can solve (or at least mitigate) the dependency problem. Short of switching OSes away from anything Linuxy, and using something like FreeBSD instead, you are pretty well screwed on the Linux problem, though. All that having been said . . . I'm not aware of any halfway decent Enlightenment based Linux distributions these days. On the other hand, a minimal system (Debian used to be such an animal, but I have learned the hard way that it utterly fails in that regard now; FreeBSD offers a minimal install that is quite spare) can be configured to use Enlightenment with ease. You don't have to have Enlightenment installed by default to have Enlightenment once you are done tweaking the system to your preferences. As for me . . . I have installed Bodhi Linux on an old ThinkPad x60 tablet today, and it works passably well. Since I don't expect to have anything on that tablet that matters all that much to me, I doubt I'll miss the security of FreeBSD with a minimal window manager. The tablet's a bit of a toy, though; my serious laptop is my ThinkPad T510.

tkeller
tkeller

"Anyway I just got back from the Bodi web site and I did not see anything that said 'the Bodi package(s) is here! Click on this 'Download Button' to get it'... ...If I could have found a 'Download Me' button I would have done it burned it to CD or DVD and played around with it especially if it had a 'Live CD' feature." Really? Seriously? REALLY? The menu bar across the top of the home page has a "Get Bodhi" button.... Download page has two ginormous buttons, one for direct download and one for a torrent.

Jaqui
Jaqui

it means there is likely a distro that is as close to a perfect fit features wise as you can get, short of rolling your own. it's the benefit of the FSF's Freedom. You have the FREEDOM to make it the way you want it, unlike the "one size fits none" model of windows or macos. [ and ask the females in your life, one size fits none is a better description than one size fits all it's really called ]

jslozier
jslozier

With Linux you can either develop your own distribution to fit your needs or look for one that comes very close. Most distributions can be grouped into a few major families. The point of Bohdi is that if you want a working OS and do not want to pick the software to install you can. Other flavors will give a more software oriented to a particular group such as education and SOHO. I have not tried Bohdi myself so I can not comment on it. The reason Linux is not taking over has to do more with resistance to change. MS caught flac over the ribbon in the last two Office versions for exactly that reason. I personally think the ribbon is a better solution than the old drop down menus. Also try to explain to a beancounter that the OS is free, as in costs no money to get and use.

apotheon
apotheon

What OS are you using these days? (re: E17 . . . at least it's not GNOME or KDE)

apotheon
apotheon

The FSF's conception of "freedom" has nothing to do with any of the positive qualities you bring up. "Free Software Foundation" is pure newspeak, in the spirit of 1984.

apotheon
apotheon

The ribbon is basically the best answer anyone has come up with to a problem that has grown monstrously large in MS Office: bloat. There is so much crap built into MS Office now that there is no way to organize it all in menus in a way that doesn't just turn the whole thing into a whirlwind of confusion for the user. The real solution to the problem -- better than the ribbon -- would be to either start over from scratch or just throw away 50% of the feature set in MS Office. Neither of those things is likely to happen, so the ribbon is the mitigation that has been used.

Jaqui
Jaqui

an LFS system and an openBSD system. actually working on reworking the lfs book for doing a from source build for the bsds. and yeah, that is the only good point of E17. I still prefer e16.

Jaqui
Jaqui

their new widgets system screams KDE4 as in the default ui look of the widgets, you might as well just use kde4. the completely different look of the widgets in e16 doesn't scream bloatware visually. then add that e17 adds yet another set of background services. the biggest fatal error of all the desktop environments, to many DIFFERENT background services that must be installed, and if you use the desktop at all they get started up. ohh, say you looking at 7 different ones, without shutting down and restarting X. 7 difference rpc mechanisms running. 7 different sound systems running ..... [ ad nauseum ] pull your heads out of your butts and get together so it is only 1 of each for the freedesktop, not one for each desktop environment. edit to add: and oddly, E17's sound subsystem esound, seems to only work right if KDE4's sound subsystem is RUNNING. sorry, but requiring ANYTHING from that garbage KDE4 is idiocy.

apotheon
apotheon

"Lame" is a pretty good term for it. I find it somewhat amusing, in a bleak sort of way, that so many of the failings and shortcomings of the GNU way of doing things so closely mirror failings and shortcomings of the Microsoft way of doing things (including breaking backward compatibility in unnecessary ways -- and keeping backward compatibility in other, also unnecessary, ways).

seanferd
seanferd

I'd have to say I agree with your thoughts on these things, although I have only a lay understanding of most of them. Considering how much the BSD community does to be interoperable, it's really lame on the GNU community's end how much drift there is from the UNIX philosophy and working for compatibility. Even backwards compatibility for the Linux ecosystem itself, at least in the desktop world. And I really liked XFCE on FreeBSD.

Jaqui
Jaqui

but the BSDs have something in them significantly missing from Linux that is a do everything. grab the source tree of the current release of your BSD of choice. oh, look, a makefile to build the base release from sources, in it's entirety. with Linux you have to chase everything down and do some circular builds, manually. with the BSDs [ openBSD for sure ] you have a do everything item. :p I'm not complaining, the fact that openBSD includes a makefile to compile the base release of openBSD with a single make command is a much easier process than a source build of Linux. and it also demonstrates the validity of the BSD camp's comments that development on a BSD is far easier / better than on Linux. edit: typos

apotheon
apotheon

> what is the url for that window manager? Which one? The "even before that" window manager I was using was AHWM. The tiling window manager I've been using recently is i3, which is notable in large part because of the fact it automatically pops up a quick intro tutorial, has good documentation online, and uses a fairly clear, orderly configuration file. It is, thus far, the closest thing I've encountered to an ideal introductory tiling window manager, though I may graduate to something a bit more interesting like xmonad later. I'm planning an article about i3 at some point (or at least partially about i3), by the way. > I just can't stand the actual graphics changes they made between 16 and 17. I'm not sure what you mean. Are you complaining about the inclusion of compositing support? I think compositing can potentially offer some actually practical value in the future, once people get past thinking of it as eye candy, and as such I do not begrudge the Englightenment project its inclusion of compositing support in E17. I thought E16 did compositing too, though, so I guess that's probably not what you mean. I'll have to play around with E17 for a bit to (re)familiarize myself with it, and maybe get a handle on what bugs you so much about it.

apotheon
apotheon

This is, to a significant degree, a result of the "do everything" mindset -- where everybody thinks that every piece of software has to do everything, all at once. It's beyond stupid. So far, BSD Unix systems have maintained a more measured, intelligent, and intelligible approach. They work to port all these "do everything" circuses to their platforms, but they do not integrate them tightly with the system itself. As a result, there is not a complete system upheaval every couple of years due to developer politics and marketing BS the way there is in projects like Ubuntu. The downside is that, because Linux users often believe they are the whole world of open source software, they forge ahead with ill-advised projects that take nothing into account other than the Linux kernel and their favored desktop environments, introducing compatibility issues that result -- among other things -- in BSD Unix systems looking a little behind the times from the myopic perspective of Ubuntu users (and their ilk). Luckily, I'm smart enough to try to avoid "do everything" software designs. I don't use a "desktop environment" suite at all, for instance. Screw that; I don't need the stress of trying to keep an all-singing, all-dancing, burlesque act of a GUI operating at peak efficiency. I use a simple window manager plus the tools I actually need, and I get much more productivity enhancing, efficient operation out of it than any DE is capable of providing.

Jaqui
Jaqui

problem is, the *BSD camps have a valid point with what they are posting in that discussion. and udev is almost as bad as HAL was. and freedesktop.org, a complete waste of time when you look at it. they IGNORE input unless you make it 90% blowing sunshine up their butts and only 10% the real comment, they screwed something up. [ xorg's autoconfig needs to be redone, lose it's focus on refresh rate over resolution before it can be used. ] and, I'm really, really not happy with Linux, it's going in the wrong direction completely for me. [ and the freedesktop project is 3/4 of the cause of that ]

Jaqui
Jaqui

the url for that window manager? and e16 didn't keep inactive parts running either. they always did pay attention to resource management with E. I just can't stand the actual graphics changes they made between 16 and 17. those just scream bloated garbage to me, and drive me from touching 17.

apotheon
apotheon

I find E16 far too fat for my purposes. I've finally started getting used to the tiling window manager life, which opens up a whole new range of minimalist window manager possibilities -- but even before that, I was using a window manager a tiny fraction of the size of a single minor source file for E16. I guess it's all relative. Amongst the "desktop environments" (including GNOME, KDE, XFCE, GNUstep -- everything that qualifies), though, E17 is not bad. It does some pretty intelligent resource management, so that (unlike GNOME and KDE) it tends to basically "turn off" a lot of it when not in use, keeping resource waste to a bare minimum for what it provides.

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