Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Future of Fuduntu

I was pretty sad when I heard Fuduntu was going end-of-life. It seemed like a very promising distro was being mothballed just as it seemed to be gaining attention within the Linux community. I reached out to Lee Ward, who handles communication for Fuduntu, about the future of the distro, and he had some interesting details to reveal, including the idea that the future distro could be a rolling, curated version of OpenSUSE. It’ll be interesting to see what the new distro shapes up to be.

My Linux Rig: What are the plans for the post-Fuduntu distro? Any ideas what it’ll be based upon? Will it be rolling? What will the desktop environment (DE) be?

Lee Ward: Those of us moving on to the new distro have been discussing and evaluating our options. Right now, we are leaning heavily on going with an openSUSE base. Our devs have been working with openSUSE the last few days to see how viable it will be and things are going well. While a final decision has not been made, that is how we are all leaning at the moment. We do plan to continue with the rolling release in the same fashion we did with Fuduntu. That worked very well and we plan on continuing with that. As for the DE, no decision has been made. We’re looking at all the options to see what will fit best for our goal.

What we want to do is keep the same ideals that Fuduntu had alive. We want to be close to our community and be able to offer things that others have decided aren’t important. We want to help keep the low-end systems going and also to help with the gaming on Fuduntu. Many have said that bringing gaming to Linux would be huge. We were one of the first authorized by Valve to redistribute Steam and we think that was a huge step. We want to keep doing that. Keep bringing the community what it wants.

This Sunday (April 21), we will be having a public meeting on the future and the DE will be one of the things discussed. We are hoping to get participation and input from the community. The community was one of the things that made Fuduntu great and we want to include them as much as possible as we move forward. The meeting will be at 3 p.m., Eastern in #fuduntu on Freenode and we strongly encourage users to come in and help us in making this decision.

My Linux Rig: Did you look into keeping Fuduntu going using another DE, like Xfce?

LW: The real issue when it came to the DE was the underlying libraries. Several functions had been deprecated in glibc and glib2 without any consideration for backwards compatibility. In addition, Fedora decided to locate gtk2 headers in /usr/include/gtk-2.0 but left the sources default. This meant building GTK2 packages broke due to the header locations being different than they were installed.

Trying to fix these issues was too much for our small team. It just wasn’t sustainable. Our devs actually started working on it to see what all needed to be done and found that as they were fixing one thing, something else would break. The lack of backwards compatibility hurt us.

My Linux Rig: Do you regret sticking with GNOME 2 as long as you did?

LW: We do not. While, ultimately, we were not able to sustain it, we are glad that we were able to give something to the community that was wanted when everyone else had abandoned the wishes of a large part of the community. The popularity that Fuduntu began receiving and the rave reviews are, in part, because we were delivering what was requested. Unfortunately, upstream did not seem to care as much about that and, being a small distro, we were shut out and we had no chance to survive.

My Linux Rig: Fuduntu seemed to gaining popularity right as you announced it was going EOL — do you think it’ll be hard to regain that momentum with a new distro?

LW: This is a really hard one to answer since it all hinges on speculation. We’ve heard, in a few places, that people will be keeping an eye out for the new distro. We also have some time. We still have one more Fuduntu release and we still have five months before Fuduntu shuts down. We have an opportunity to say, “Fuduntu is closed, but we’ve got the first release of the new distro ready!” We’ll be able to work on trying to get the new system up as well as packages going and such to the point that we can try to smooth the process out as much as possible. Obviously, there may be some hiccups but we’re going to try to minimize that as much as possible.

One of the important things we want to remind people is we haven’t stopped supporting Fuduntu, yet. Our support team is still dedicated to working with people to get issues resolved and our developers and packagers are still dedicated to getting fixes out there as soon as possible. Asking people to reinstall will be rough, but many other distro users are used to reinstalling every time there’s a new release. We’ve been able to keep it as a rolling release for a long time and, even though this would be a new install, it’s the first time in a while where it’ll be required.

All this to say that I think we have the opportunity to get the momentum back. It’s going to be a lot of hard work, but we’re dedicated. Andrew Wyatt brought the community a very stable distro that was what the people asked for. We want to keep that going and we think we can. While I do expect a small drop, I think we’ll be able to get it back and we’ll be able to show that the new distro is as dedicated to stability and the community as Fuduntu was.

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Notes

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