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kikinovak 09-13-2012 12:08 PM

Microlinux Enterprise Desktop 13.37 - first alpha if you're curious
 
As some of you already know, my company (http://www.microlinux.fr) installs 100 % GNU/Linux and FOSS based solutions for professional clients like schools, town halls, public libraries and small companies (as well as individuals who consider their PC as more than a gaming console ;)).

For the last year, I've been using a patchwork mix of Debian, CentOS, Ubuntu LTS and Slackware for the job, since I wanted to actually experience which distribution was "best" for me. Only recently have I answered that question for myself, and I've decided to concentrate my various desktop and server configurations on Slackware. That being said, if I had to work with any of the other three, I wouldn't be too unhappy. But Slackware is a clear winner for a number of reasons.

Over the last few years, I've had a more or less clear idea of what the "perfect" Linux desktop would look like. Your mileage may vary, of course, but here's mine:
  • Slackware-based
  • Xfce desktop environment with bells and whistles
  • Choice selection of best-of-the-breed applications, one per task
  • Complete collection of codecs, plugins, fonts, etc.
  • Intuitive and user-friendly default settings, so even Joe Sixpack can be immediately productive
  • Integrate some elegant and professional artwork (icon themes, GTK themes, mouse pointer themes)
  • Must run reasonably fast on ten-year-old hardware

Now as far as I understand, there are roughly two different "schools" to achieve this:
  1. Install Slackware with Xfce, then install everything that's missing (apps, codecs, fonts, plugins, roughly 150 to 200 extra packages) either from SlackBuilds.org and/or write some scripts yourself.
  2. Use any of the Slackware derivative distros with similar goals like Salix, Zenwalk, Vector...

I'm now suggesting a third approach, which is quite close to what the folks from gnomeslackbuild.org offer, only it's not based on GNOME, but Xfce. Here's the idea:
  • Install a base Slackware system using an existing set of tagfiles
  • If you're lazy, download and install 150 extra packages, and you're more or less immediately ready for work
  • If you prefer to do so, build all the packages yourself. Sources are all available, and you can use the single master build script to download and build everything automagically, the result being exactly the same as the step above

Maybe a nice name for this project would be "Beyond Linux From Slack" ;)

Anyway, here's the first public alpha of the project, based on Slackware 13.37:

Code:

$ svn co svn://svn.tuxfamily.org/svnroot/microlinux/slackware/13.37
For the moment, there is no online source and package repo available, since I have yet to decide where to host it.

What do you get? Short answer: this.

http://www.microlinux.fr/images/myslackwarerig.png

Longer answer: Slackware 13.37 with a full-featured Xfce 4.8.3 desktop and a load of carefully integrated applications (Openshot, Inkscape, Brasero, Asunder, Audacity, Geany, Apache Open Office, Evince, lots more apps as well as fonts, codecs, plugins).

If the "alpha" in "public alpha" scares you: the exact same setup is already in use in our local school here, with more than fifty users hacking away on these desktops all day long. It's also in use at my office, and works quite nice.

Quick and dirty installation instructions:
  1. Copy the tagfiles/ directory to a USB disk and install Slackware using this set of tagfiles. If you don't know how to do this, take a peek in Daniel de Kok's excellent Slackbasics (online). Or wait until I can find the time and write a nice HOWTO for docs.slackware.com :study:
  2. Boot into your configured system and download all the scripts from SVN to an appropriate directory like /root or /usr/share, whatever.
  3. Launch the 'build.sh' script. This script parses the 'packages' file. It downloads the sources for every package automatically, builds it, installs it and puts a copy of the package in the slackware/$ARCH directory.

On my battered AMD64 with 2GB RAM and a low bandwidth Internet connection, the whole process of downloading and building everything takes a bit less than six hours.

A few caveats:
  • Build everything before eventually installing the proprietary NVidia drivers. Otherwise some builds will fail
  • Do use the set of tagfiles for installation. This is important.
  • You might want to uninstall the user-settings-seamonkey package before creating your first user. This is still a workaround for my own use.
  • The user-settings-desktop package contains a small utility called 'cleanmenu' that "rewrites" most of the desktop menu entries. For now, these rewritten entries are only available in english, french and german.

Much of this work is really just an assembly of the great work that's been done before by some excellent folks, and here's the place to give them credit:
  • Robby Workman for his excellent work on Xfce
  • All the crew from SlackBuilds.org for their really precious work
  • Eric Hameleers for his "impossible" SlackBuild scripts
  • And of course, Patrick Volkerding, for creating such a fine system

I think if some people are interested in this, I'll probably write a dedicated section for it on my company's website, similar to the gnomeslackbuild.org site, with a more fine-grained presentation and more detailed instructions. Let's see.

For now, enjoy.

svenyun 09-13-2012 01:11 PM

After some years tweaking and building things with Gentoo and then using Ubuntu, I'm coming back to Slackware when I build my next PC. I'd much rather get a system up and running quickly with little fuss and this looks great. I'll have to try this out on my next build. Looks real nice kikinovak.

caduqued 09-13-2012 01:12 PM

Really exciting project... and thanks a lot for sharing in this LQ community. Definitively will give it a go.

and...

Quote:

I think if some people are interested in this, I'll probably write a dedicated section for it on my company's website, similar to the gnomeslackbuild.org site, with a more fine-grained presentation and more detailed instructions. Let's see.
Yes, please do it. I reckon that at the end of the day this will help to close the breach between the pure-slack approach and the all-easy-for-end-user approach of other distros. I prefer to use KDE (I have come to really nice terms with it), and I do have a decent machine to have speed even out of KDE. I suppose this does not conflict with the final result from your Slackware-compiled-"DISTRO", does it?

Martinus2u 09-13-2012 01:59 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by kikinovak (Post 4779569)
Over the last few years, I've had a more or less clear idea of what the "perfect" Linux desktop would look like. Your mileage may vary, of course, but here's mine:
  • Slackware-based
  • Xfce desktop environment with bells and whistles
  • Choice selection of best-of-the-breed applications, one per task
  • Complete collection of codecs, plugins, fonts, etc.
  • Intuitive and user-friendly default settings, so even Joe Sixpack can be immediately productive
  • Integrate some elegant and professional artwork (icon themes, GTK themes, mouse pointer themes)
  • Must run reasonably fast on ten-year-old hardware

very commendable goals, kiki. Despite running stock Slackware at home I have turned to Salix in the past when doing a really carefree installation elsewhere. Will keep an eye on Microlinux. Do you include sub-pixel-rendering? One more serious question: do you really have the time to maintain yet another distro? Why not use Salix and done with it? :)

kikinovak 09-13-2012 03:49 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by caduqued (Post 4779624)
I prefer to use KDE (I have come to really nice terms with it), and I do have a decent machine to have speed even out of KDE. I suppose this does not conflict with the final result from your Slackware-compiled-"DISTRO", does it?

I've been using KDE4 exclusively for a year or so, and I really like it. There's a few personal reasons I've come to prefer Xfce. KDE's release cycle is very fast, with new features galore. Since I'm looking for something "enterprise-class" (think: long support cycles), I really appreciate Xfce for their approach of taking time between releases, polishing them up, and introducing new features only in small incremental steps. Another reason is that here in South France, I'm often confronted with low-end hardware. If I was the only person to use this system, I'd probably have opted for KDE as main desktop environment.

kikinovak 09-13-2012 03:55 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Martinus2u (Post 4779646)
One more serious question: do you really have the time to maintain yet another distro? Why not use Salix and done with it? :)

I tried Salix, and I think it's by far the best Slackware derivative distro. Yes, I could have chosen Salix, but I prefer to support Slackware directly. The point in my project is that it's not another distro, but an addon to Slackware. Currently there's 153 packages for the 13.37. Contrary to projects like gnomeslackbuild.org, I don't replace any core stuff - except one update for the vte package maybe - and since 14.0 has a very nice packaging of Xfce 4.10 ready, the addons for 14.0 will be much easier to handle.

kikinovak 09-13-2012 04:06 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Some more detail. Here's the content of the 'packages' file, e. g. stuff that gets built, in this order.

Code:

# Custom shell configuration
user-settings-console

# Some basic command-line utilities
sbopkg
recode
unrar
p7zip

# Eye candy
aero
faenza-icon-theme
faenza-xfce
murrine
murrine-themes
slack-wallpapers

# Fonts
webcore-fonts
google-droid-fonts

# Basic multimedia stuff
lame
a52dec
xvidcore
libdvdcss
opencore-amr
x264
libdv
libmp4v2
faac
live555
speex
libvpx
orc
schroedinger
dirac
libdca
gsm
openjpeg
twolame
libmusicbrainz
libmusicbrainz3
libdc1394
faad2
rtmpdump
celt
frei0r
ffmpeg
mjpegtools
libquicktime
libmpeg2
transcode
vcdimager
libmpcdec
mplayer-codecs

# Xfce reqs
ORBit2
GConf
libtasn1
libgnome-keyring
gnome-keyring
libatasmart
sg3_utils
udisks
upower
glade3
libdaemon
libunique
avahi
nspr
js185
libproxy
glib-networking
libsoup
gnome-disk-utility
gvfs
lua
keybinder
media-player-info
perl-extutils-depends
perl-extutils-pkgconfig
perl-glib
vte

# Application reqs
dconf
libburn
libisofs
libisoburn
gst-ffmpeg
gst-plugins-bad
gst-plugins-ugly
totem-pl-parser
sound-theme-freedesktop
libcanberra
libgnomecanvas
libgnomecups
libgnomeprint
libgnomeprintui
soundtouch
wxGTK
gc
gsl
libsigc++
glibmm
atkmm
cairomm
pangomm
mm-common
gtkmm
pysetuptools
Cython
BeautifulSoup
lxml
numpy
mlt
goocanvas
pygoocanvas
pyxdg
scons
tolua++
imlib2
libevent

# Xfce desktop
xfce
thunar-volman
Terminal
orage
xfce4-mixer
xfce4-power-manager
xfce4-notifyd
xfce4-clipman-plugin
xfce4-volumed
xfce4-notes-plugin
xfce4-screenshooter
xfce4-taskmanager
xfce4-weather-plugin
xfce4-xkb-plugin
xarchiver
thunar-archive-plugin

# Login manager
slim

# NetworkManager
NetworkManager
network-manager-applet

# Internet apps
transmission
flash-player-plugin
user-settings-seamonkey

# Office apps
openoffice
openoffice-langpack
evince

# Graphics apps
simple-scan
gcolor2
inkscape

# Multimedia apps
MPlayer
smplayer
audacity
asunder
openshot

# Utilities
leafpad
brasero
galculator
catfish
conky

# Development
geany
geany-plugins

# Desktop defaults
user-settings-desktop

And here's a screenshot of the Xfce desktop in its default tweaked configuration.

Martinus2u 09-13-2012 06:24 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by kikinovak (Post 4779700)
Another reason is that here in South France, I'm often confronted with low-end hardware.

well, you've got the good weather and the good food, so it's only fair you're confronted with low-end hardware. :D To be honest, I'm impressed with the wisdom of your local schools stretching their budget by going for low-end hardware and open source software.

Regarding the other sub thread, I can follow your reasoning why you opted for a Slackware add-on. Keep up the good work. :)

damgar 09-14-2012 12:22 AM

Looks interesting. Can it be modularized, so that say if I just want a quick and dirty way to get the multimedia portion?

kikinovak 09-14-2012 01:05 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Martinus2u (Post 4779783)
well, you've got the good weather and the good food, so it's only fair you're confronted with low-end hardware. :D To be honest, I'm impressed with the wisdom of your local schools stretching their budget by going for low-end hardware and open source software.

It's a private school, with a very tight budget. The first year (2010) I made the initial install using a beefed-up version of CentOS 5.3 on both servers and desktops. A year later I was quite fed up with CentOS for a variety of reasons (6.x didn't boot on some of my machines anymore, text installer crippled down to something next to unusable, unreasonable update delays), so I went for Slackware 13.37 with KDE 4.6.5. Though this install meant a lot more work than, say, the equivalent made with Debian or Ubuntu LTS, it has also turned out to be the most hassle-free. So during the last days and weeks, I've been busy migrating these client machines to the new Xfce-based environment. A significant part of the work I do there is for free.

As for public schools in France, their IT policy is just about as stupid as in most parts of the planet. It's basically Microsoft products everywhere. Though there's hope in Spain nowadays, I read.

http://ostatic.com/blog/in-spain-hun...-ubuntu-access

kikinovak 09-14-2012 01:07 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by damgar (Post 4779938)
Looks interesting. Can it be modularized, so that say if I just want a quick and dirty way to get the multimedia portion?

I will think about that. In the meantime, you can download the SVN, open the package file, comment out the packages you don't want to build, and then fire up build.sh.

Martinus2u 09-14-2012 07:21 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by kikinovak (Post 4779960)
As for public schools in France, their IT policy is just about as stupid as in most parts of the planet. It's basically Microsoft products everywhere. [/url]

Pity. At least at my kids' school here in Germany they started using the Windows version of OpenOffice or LibreOffice...

glorsplitz 09-15-2012 02:27 PM

that's really cool!
 
That's really cool how your getting Slackware out and noticed.

I got Slackware Case Plates on all my Slackware computers, maybe you could do the same.

kikinovak 09-15-2012 04:13 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by glorsplitz (Post 4781154)
I got Slackware Case Plates on all my Slackware computers, maybe you could do the same.

I've ordered the complete gear about a month ago: case plates, bumper sticker, t-shirts, baseball cap. I've been checking my mail daily since, but it looks like the whole load will ship along with the DVDs from the subscription.

kikinovak 09-25-2012 10:49 AM

I just finished the online presentation of the Slackware-based Enterprise Desktop:

General idea: Slackware can be as "slick" as any Ubuntu, openSUSE or Fedora... but it's much more lightweight and reliable.


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