April 20, 2001

Independence Linux wants to rise like a Phoenix

Author: JT Smith

- by Tina Gasperson -
Independence Linux, or Indy, as is it affectionately known by the developers, is billed as the distribution that belongs to "all of us." The coders who are working on this project liken themselves to the revolutionaries who broke free from the aristocracy of Great Britain, saying, "It is built by volunteers who no longer accept having an aristocracy of distribution designers providing solutions who have little relation to the problems faced by us, Linux users. It is built by people who don't accept that present distributions time and again neglect two areas who are vital for Linux future: the desktop and the personal computer."

Indeed, the distro's logo enhances the revolution theme, showing a classic liberty figure raising a banner emblazoned with Tux. Project originator Jean Francois Martinez has recently resurrected the team's efforts. "At one point I became disheartened and Indy has been frozen for
months. However it happens I think something like Indy is needed so I
just cannot let it die," he says with renewed passion.

It is important that Linux is not restricted only to use by computer royalty -- programmers and others who truly understand the guts of an operating system, he says. "It is because RMS, Linus and their likes were willing to share with mere mortals like us that we are able to use -- for free -- the software jewels created. That is why I will never be able to endure those who say they don't want to share Linux with those people they call the 'unwashed masses' and why I precisely want that: bring Linux to everyone."

But Martinez also seems to realize that distros are becoming a "seen Red Hat, seen 'em all" phenomenon. He wants to make sure that Independence is truly ... independent enough to warrant its existence. He wants to examine other distributions, find out where they are going wrong, and make Indy right.

"I think there is a need for a not-for-profit distribution," says Martinez, "made by people who are strongly militant about spreading Linux and about helping other users with their problems (perhaps because they were bitten by these problems in the past), people who live the same reality than the users and thus will provide them the right answers."

Martinez says that most developers are "out of touch with reality," that they live in "another world" as compared to users and they assume that the people who will be using Linux distributions are as knowledgeable as they are. Martinez plans to change all that.

Right now, he is debating with other interested potential developers about which existing distribution to base Indy on. "The problem with Red Hat is that it basically sucks for desktop and home computers, plus its installer is no longer really state of the art. Mandrake has a wonderful installation and a very good softare selection. But many software vendors still don't take it seriously
and thus they get no ports (i.e. software will run but could require
tweaking and it will not be supported by vendor). Also at times they
do things I consider dangerous or having a negative effect." Red Hat had no immediate comment on Martinez's criticisms.

Other would-be team members have different opinions about the wisdom of creating a new distribution, saying that users would be better served by having patches and applications available to enhance existing distributions, especially focusing on Red Hat, and convincing them to look at Independence as a collaborator instead of a competitor.

And the debate continues. Martinez has one coder committed to working with him so far, and admits the task of creating a new distribution will be difficult to accomplish with so little help. "I cannot set ambitious goals and for now there are far more immediate tasks at hand like putting the web site in working order, explaining what Indy's goals are," and perhaps most important right now, "clean up the recruitment page" in order to explain the project and attract more team members.

The project site is located at independence.seul.org, and you can reach Jean Francois Martinez at jfm2@club-internet.fr.

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