Interview with the openSUSE derivative Cloverleaf Linux Team: Working upstream is extremely important
openSUSE is one of the few very few ‘original’ GNU/Linux distributions which are driving some of the core developments in the free software world, whether it be the kernel or office suite like LibreOffice. openSUSE also offers one of the most polished GNU/Linux experience. So when a team of developers decided to create an openSUSE derivative, tentatively called FuSE Linux Cloverleaf Linux, curiosity rose what value will they add to the already awesome distribution? I reached out to the team with a set of questions. Here is the interview with Mark “Kigurame Gallifrey” van Tinteren and the FuSE team.
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Swapnil: Why did you choose the name FuSE Linux? What is the meaning of it? Are in you touch with the openSUSE board about branding and trademark?
FuSE Team: It is meant to stand for Fuduntu in SUSE. But we have been getting a lot of negative feedback and SUSE Gmbh, which owns the SUSE trademark, has offered a mild objection. So we actually will most likely change it. There have been some brief informal exchanges between us and the openSUSE board and the are pretty friendly about these things.
Swapnil: Why did you choose openSUSE as the base, why not Ubuntu or Debian? What value does openSUSE bring to the project?
FuSE Team: The reason for this was rather simple: it’s a solid rpm based distribution that means minimal retraining for our support staff and packagers, not to mention easy transition for Fuduntu users. The added benefit of the open build service and the general niceness of the openSUSE board and community sealed the deal.
Swapnil: Is there really any need or yet another distro? Should not the energy be used on making one particular distro better than creating a derivative? In a nutshell, what will FuSE do which openSUSE can’t? What problem is FuSE trying to solve?
FuSE Team: This is the fun one. This distro will follow the footsteps of Fuduntu in the terms of being a power efficient distro edged towards gaming and a easy to use conventional desktop.
So what’s the big deal? We are slightly ahead of (and in some cases a lot) of many distro’s in these things. openSUSE, for one, will get to benefit from that. We can also do things openSUSE can’t legally do – offering Netflix can be one example. Additionally, I’m [Shawn] always somewhat confused, when somebody asks “why don’t you just contribute to $bigger_project? I’ve been involved in various Linux distros since the early 90s, and in general, the desktop innovation isn’t happening in the Big Name distributions at the speed needed for the desktop, in our opinion. It could be mainly because they have too broad a spectrum to cover.
Debian, Fedora, Ubuntu, openSUSE, Slackware, Gentoo, Arch… they’re all great distros, but they are also “generalist” distros, they do *everything*, and that’s a good thing, but they don’t necessarily do *everything* well, as they can’t due to their size.
If Ubuntu, for instance (I’m not picking on Ubuntu here), had put together the perfect distro that was good stuff for *everybody*, there would be no need for projects like LinuxMint, or Kubuntu to exist; but they didn’t. They can’t.
That’s where niche distros have an edge as they can have a tighter, narrower focus and can innovate to cater to a smaller audience. Though, not all of the small guys technically last, but they’re the ones pushing the envelope, and trying new things out.
Swapnil: A blog stated that one openSUSE member was present during the meeting, can you tell us what is his/her contribution to FuSE?
FuSE Team: There were two members present during the meeting Ilmethar and mrdocs. They act as our guide in the world of openSUSE, especially infrastructure wise and we are eternally grateful for that.
Swapnil: Can you tell us about the team behind FuSE and their roles and responsibilities? Are any of these members are openSUSE developers?
FuSE Team: All of these members are from the Fuduntu team, here is the list of FuSE Linux core team:.
- Mihai Petracovici – Support/Testing
- Mark van Tinteren – Project Lead/Devel
- Shawn W Dunn – Project Lead/Devel/Packaging
- Lee Ward – Communications
- Jeremiah Yongue – Web/Packaging
- Jhonny Brinsko – Packaging
- Nick Bryda – Packaging
- Pedro Mateus – Communications
- Sean Thames – Web/Accounting
Blair Zimmerman – Communications/Support
Swapnil: I see that you are still considering the default DE for FuSE. Consort and KDE seems to be in consideration. What is your criterion for choosing a DE and what lead you to these two?
FuSE Team: Consort is honestly a major consideration for us because of the similarities with Gnome 2. Our user-base, what’s left of it, is used to it and would have a much easier transition. We consider KDE because of the fact that it is a great full featured desktop and with our own little touch it’s amazing for gaming, as Pedro Mateus of L.G.C will attest.
Swapnil: Have you considered KLyDE which is focusing on light-weight? How about making FuSE a KLyDE distro (it’s already an openSUSE driven project) .which may get you many more users who are already interested in KLyDE?
FuSE Team: Yes this is also being considered, and one of our team members is actually smitten with it.
Swapnil: To what extend to you plan on collaborating with openSUSE? Do you see benefit in that?
FuSE Team: We intend to upstream a lot of our work. The benefit to the project would be that we would know we are solidifying the base which we use, which in turn will prevent quite a lot of problems that we faced before. We benefit in multiple ways – the use of their infrastructure reduces our operating costs and offers a solid base to work upon. Not to mention the aid of the very smart and helpful people at openSUSE.
Swapnil: Will FuSE be based on stable openSUSE repos or will you be using Tumbleweed or Factory?
FuSE Team: We intend to remain rolling release, so Tumbleweed is the logical place for us to base out of. We will initially mirror tumbleweed’s development but probably end up diverging from that greatly.
Swapnil: What enhancements are expected on top of openSUSE experience?
FuSE Team: Users can expect a much better power consumption for notebooks and laptops. FuSE will offer simple ways of installing vendor drivers. You can expect better openGL performance and performance in general packages like Netflix and, of course, a classic desktop.
Also we will be working on overall “Out of the Box” experience on install, and try to provide the best default experience we can. We have quite some experience with it as we have already done it successfully with Fuduntu.
Working upstream is extremely important, why have development if it doesn’t improve things for everyone?
Swapnil: Since you are talking about working upstream, how important is it to work upstream? Will you be making efforts (even if it can be challenging at times) to push changes to upstream instead of implementing them on downstream? Do you see any benefits of working with upstream?
FuSE Team: Working upstream is extremely important, why have development if it doesn’t improve things for everyone? The main benefit here is to the community at large The benefits are far stretching – less patches to maintain and apply for everyone. Better and more secure software. Not to mention the ability to see what’s coming and what you should plan for.
Swapnil: FuSE is being created by the same team that worked on Fuduntu. How can you ensure users that FuSE won’t meet the same fate of Fuduntu? What have you learned from the demise of Fuduntu?
FuSE Team: We have learned a lot of things and one of them was that something started as a joke could turn into greatness.
Fuduntu’s main problem was forking and maintaining our own base as we worked on features and bugfixes, what lay underneath grew stale not to mention the after effects of the actual fork recursive deps and all. In addition to that teh upstream changes and a bunch of EOL code due to using Gnome2 made it impossible to move forward.
So the lesson learned was don’t do it all alone and openSUSE is kind enough to aid us.
We are not intending to fork openSUSE and do it alone. Spinning and maintaining a distro is a huge amount of work and it becomes easier if you rely on and work with upstream so you can concentrate on things you want to polish – such as overall desktop environment instead of worrying about or investing limited resources in core technologies. This allows us to focus on things which can be more “creative” or “fun” like Gaming, or Multimedia, or Graphical Environment… for our end users.
Swapnil: What’s the funding model of FuSE?
FuSE Team: we are working on a 501c3 so we take donations but right now it’s been my and the team’s not so deep pockets.
Swapnil: By when can we expect the first release?
FuSE Team: As of yet it is not yet certain when we can put out a stable release. We will however have an alpha out after we finish setting up our infrastructure and such. That hopefully will be soon.