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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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?
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