December 1, 2005

Son of Libranet founder hopes to keep distro, tools alive

Author: Stephen Feller

While it may appear that the death knell for Libranet has been sounded, there may be a little life left in the distribution yet. Tal Danzig, the owner and technical leader of Libranet, said in an email interview yesterday he would not let the distribution, and tools that have endeared it to users, simply fade from existence.

Danzig, who has been involved with Libranet since his father Jon Danzig built the distro and founded the project surrounding it in 1999, said he is looking for somebody to take over Libranet's business operations and turn it into a "major player" in the GNU/Linux market. For the time being, however, the distribution is in a sort of limbo.

Danzig announced the restructuring in a September 30 post to his blog, warning the Libranet community that he needed to "catch his breath" and was unsure how long it would take to get the distro moving again.

On November 25, Danzig wrote that the distro was effectively shutting down, and that the earliest it might reawaken would be sometime in February 2006, after his return from a trip to Israel. According to the Libranet Web site, support services will continue to be available for existing customers and the Libranet forum will remain open.

Although he had taken over running big parts of Libranet in the last couple of years, the distro turned into a one-man project after the death of Danzig's father in June of this year, and the requirements of running it built up. Daniel de Kok, a programmer who worked on Libranet, scaled back his participation in the project and left Danzig running the entire show.

"It really became a matter of being an overwhelming task for one person to run all of Libranet.... It became too difficult for me to continue the project in its current form," he said in the interview.

Danzig said it was hard to gauge the effect of a pause in development on Libranet users. Some community members in the distro's public forums called for the release of the source code for its installer and Adminmenu so they can be used and improved by the community if Libranet does not reawaken from its slumber. The license for the installer and Adminmenu tools have not been announced.

While making no mention of releasing their code or the licenses which govern them, Danzig said he would not let the tools disappear.

"If Libranet does not move forward as a commercial project," Danzig said, "I will do my best to make sure that some sort of free software project can germinate around the Libranet tools." He did not, however, offer details or possibilities for such a scenario actually happening.

Calls to release code for the tools under the GNU General Public License (GPL) have been posted to both of Danzig's blog posts as well as to our story yesterday about the announcement. Observers who question the wisdom of using a Linux distro that is not entirely open source have also weighed in.

Most who posted comments were supportive of Danzig's decision to figure out what parts of Libranet he can handle, if any at all, and what he should have help doing. He was commended for realizing that developing the distro, not running a business, is his strongest area of expertise.

"It shows your maturity to recognize that the skill which you brought to Libranet was not that of managing the business," longtime user Bruce Miller posted at Danzig's blog. "That does not take away from the expertise ... which has gone into the high quality of Libranet."


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