A Linux for every trade…

While puttering around the internet the other day I came upon this software AptonCD and while going through it – a set of light bulbs went off in my head and I actually had an idea ! I was so excited by this that I thought I’d blog about it :-)

I participate in the Free Software Users Group, Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) and one if it’s main activities is making Linux available to the general populace. As part of this activity a local company Zyxware Technologies (these really cool guys BTW) put together vending machine (Freedom Toaster) which burns various Linux distributions on CD/DVD media. This proved to be a very successful project (broadband is still limited and expensive in India so downloading distributions is quite difficult).

One of my challenges as a developer has been around setting up the development environment. All developers have a certain toolkit that they are comfortable with. Depending on their level of  sophistication this can be as simple as a text editor to a full blown IDE…  The challenge for me was finding and setting up equivalent tools in the Linux platform to the ones I used in Windows.

It occurred to me  that the challenge I detailed above would be a common one for anyone that is using a set of software tools for their trade.  It would also be useful to people in other professions (other than programming software) that are switching to Linux from another OS platform like Windows to get a set of equivalent tools in Linux for the ones they use in Windows. In fact there are lists out there that detail Linux equivalents to Windows tools.

So here is my idea – We could leverage AptonCD to create meta-packages that people could simply install over the base Linux distribution. These packages would be prepared separately from the base Debian install (Apt is the Debian package manager) and applied after the distribution is installed.

This is not a new idea – in fact here in Kerala we already have a custom Debian distribution that is targeted for schools – IT@School .  The twist here is that while the IT@School is a custom Debian distribution what I have in mind is more in terms of meta-packages that can be installed over a base Debian distribution like Ubuntu. We can leverage the Freedom Toaster to distribute these packages for people. The packages would be created by professionals in a trade  for other professionals who want to use Linux but are not sure how to get all the tools of their trade on it. These people can simply install the OS distribution and install the meta-package for their trade and voila – they can get to work :-)

Of course there are still challenges – Linux often has several tools for a particular task and there may be version conflicts as well. I have also not accounted for the learning curve in getting used to these tools. Nonetheless, I think this would at least give a head-start to professionals wanting to use Linux as a platform for their trade and drive adoption of Linux.

The ultimate aim IMHO is not to make everyone in the world a super-duper Linux hacker but to make people productive in Linux :-)