Igloo Linux

Linux for your granny...


Linux has traditionally been somewhat hard to install and administer. While in recent months, many Linux distributions have made great strides in ease of installation, ease of administration has only increased incrementally. While ease of administration is approaching that of other server Operating Systems rapidly, it has yet to be easy enough for my grandma to use.

Actually, my grandma is already using Linux. Specifically, she is using a customized version of Mandrake Linux that I installed for her. The desktop is KDE. It is running Juno Email via Windows emulation, allowing her low-cost access to email. That's all she uses it for.

In the year or so since I installed it for her, we've had few difficulties. However, the ones we have had, she's been unable to manage by herself.

Obviously, this is a different category of user from the "average" Linux user. Nevertheless, I believe it is an important and growing segment of the userbase. It is my goal, with the Igloo Linux distribution, to further grow that user population, of all the grandmas and grandpas who may be somewhat technophobes, but wish to join the information age (or at least check their email).

It is my goal to produce a distribution that handles most administration by itself, rather than requiring occasional attention from a human administrator with above average computer skills. In addition, I wish to make this a distribution *I* might wish to use, even though I am a programmer, and quite able to administer my system myself. However, I could certainly make better use of my time programming, rather than administering, my system.

It is not my goal to produce another server, programmer's workstation, etc. (For my own use, I will probably have a set of add-on programmer's tools, which I may eventually make into a separate package that can be added to the distribution).

What's the point?

Okay, many of you are asking, "Why another distribution?" It has been my experience in the years I've used Linux (since 1994 in college, and since 1997 on my own system) that there have been many distributions that have come close to my ideal in one area or another. However, even if you combined the best features of all the distributions, there are some features which I haven't seen in any distribution, which I intend to add. Most of these features have to do with reducing system administration time on the part of the user.

I won't bother listing all the possible areas for improvement at this time, but I'll start by listing areas that I haven't seen in any distribution.

There are many more areas which I could add to the above list, in addition to the areas various distributions have already focused on. One improvement I've undertaken is making it easier to install Linux on top of Windows. While distributions such as Caldera have added easy resizing of Windows partitions (and I want to include this as well), there needs to be a mainstream option for installation into a loopback filesystem on a DOS partition.

I started on this by writing an installer for Mandrake Linux, called Lnx4Win, which provides a Windows-based program to choose the filesystem size, verify sufficient freespace, and kick off the install by dropping to DOS mode. Then, a modified /linuxrc detects the specified partition by auto-scanning all partitions for DOS-mountable ones containing the install files.

This is the technique used by Armed LINUX (incidentally using my script nearly verbatim). However, I have started on a program to improve the DOS partition detection (it autodetects all mountable partitions that aren't already mounted, creates mount points for them, and mounts them). This will probably also be used for the auto drive mounting mentioned in the list above.

Another tool I have begun is ezrpm. This is a tool for resolving dependencies in RPM files, and installing all required files automatically, locating them in any of the target directories, or in a search path specified by the RPMPATH enviroment variable. At present, this is a command-line program, but work is underway on a GTK-based version as well.

Check this page occasionally to see how Igloo Linux is progressing. I hope to have at least an initial release ready before the end of this year.