The DistRogue

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

SYS-Linux, aka why you should leave distro-making to the pros

In the DistroWatch Weekly comments for this issue, I came across a distribution called "SYS-Linux", which is currently in pre-alpha state. It was an attempt to create an easy-to-use, complete distribution which assumed the user didn't know anything about computing. Its main claim to fame is apparently that it can be installed without a wizard- the user doesn't have to answer any questions. Wow! So the user doesn't have to set up the disks so that they don't lose any data, doesn't have to set up a user account for themselves so that the system isn't completely screwed if it's hacked, and doesn't even have to set up the boot loader (whatever it may happen to be)? Wow... A newbie's dream come true!
Wait, who is this guy? What does he know about Linux? Apparently he knows enough to make a SLAX remaster, but doesn't know how to get the ISO size any smaller than /!\ 2.7GB /!\. Which is how big it is.
Anyways, here are the main issues I see:
-Desktop. He never says what desktop is used. From the Softpedia page, it looks like KDE.
-Partitioning. No partitioning controls means you have no clue how badly the installer will fsck your disk up. That means you risk losing all your data by installing this distribution! Bleh. No thanks, I'll pass. And that's why I didn't bother trying it. That and the /!\ 2.7GB /!\ DVD image.
-Accounts. Since there's no account setup, I assume everything's done via root, which is a whole other story. If you get hacked, that means the hacker will have /!\ TOTAL CONTROL /!\ over your system. And that, my friends, is why we usually set up separate accounts for the regular users. Plus, what if you slip up with a command in the terminal? The results can be dire.
Wait a second, what's the root password? I'm guessing it's either tucked away somewhere on the 'Net, so that you have to look for it for an hour before you can even log in (and not from another OS, obviously, because if there was one, it got wiped off your HD during the partitioning...), or it doesn't exist. In that case, someone could just SSH into your system and instantly have root access. Wow, Linux is really secure, isn't it?
-Elitism. I despise elitism of any kind, especially aesthetic elitism. I quote from this guy's DWW comments:
Just today when I opened this new home page, I saw the new SuSE installer in ugly green color. Impressionant program, with plento options ..... I felt me very glad that users of my distro don't need it !!!

Color choices are subjective. A lot of people like that color scheme, and I bet they outnumber the people that like a grayscale pic of two guys boxing on their desktop, which is what SYS-Linux ships with (according to the Softpedia screenshot). How accurate, though, that that comment on openSUSE's installer was below the belt.
-Packaging. Wow. Packaging on SYS-Linux is a disaster. It says it's built with "a good working mixture of .tgz , .rpm packages and own compiled progs". Whatever that means. It probably means it either has no packaging tools at all or a mix of them. And if that means what I think it does, some package aren't removable. Too bad, since the CDDVD installs to /!\ 11GB /!\. With no package selection. Wow, they make Sabayon look good.
So, how do you upgrade it?
For the most new releases in the future, it's not necessary to download the whole new install DVD. Instead, you can download SYS_Linux-.tgz , install it with #installpkg ... .tgz, go into its main folder, copy thereto the file SYS_Linux.ext3.lzma , and then execute ./mkbootcd . This produces an updated install DVD .iso .

That's right, you do some crap with the image, re-burn it, and re-install it (losing all your data in the process). [sarcasm type="extreme"]That's really user-friendly, isn't it? I think someone with no computing skills could grasp that pretty easily.[/sarcasm]
-"Completeness". He says it's a complete distribution. Way to go. In fact, it seems REALLY "complete". As in it has about 10 programs for each purpose. I mean, GIMP, Krita, AND KIconEdit? 11 different image viewers (not counting the previously-mentioned 3)? It's true- just look at this screenshot. (Caution: May result in your eyes burning. The previous link is not Goatse.)
Okay, what did I say about Zenwalk 5.0 just a day ago? I said that it was a marginally complete desktop even though it was less than a 500MB download. It does this by including only one program for each purpose and by not including stuff that people won't need. Really, how many people use Hydrogen? I personally love it, but I'm a musician. Most people don't need a drum machine on their computer.
My theory on why it's so big? It's impossible to install anything.
-Homepage. I crawled the Web looking for reasons to redeem this distro, info that might change my mind, and guess what I found?
It doesn't have a homepage.
Hmm... Those in glass houses... The domain seems to be somewhat associated with it, but it doesn't even have a homepage.
-The name. Does anyone think that naming a distro "SYS-Linux" will not turn off newbies? As if that's not enough, check it out: the name's taken. Syslinux is a commonly-used boot system used to set up Live USBs, among other things.
I like the idea of a zero-work-to-install distro as much as anyone, but what do you think that work's for? To make you look 1337? Give me a break. Until someone competent decides to spearhead a campaign to get an easy-install OS out there, it remains a dream. Or a nightmare, for anyone who installed it.
Still from Zenwalk 5.0,
The Distrogue.

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