First I must admit that I don't like a certain serious and cold style in which lots of manuals are written. The author often tries not be political at all and does not tell the reader anything about her or his motivation. The open community around GNU/Linux, coming from an absolutely political backround, changed this "objectivist" or rather "posivist" tradition. I want to introduce you not only into the Red Penguins project but above all into GNU/Linux as a whole and my concerns about it.
Since I've known GNU/Linux for the first time I've been really impressed by its capility of working on small and very old PC systems. I did like very much the small distros like tiny or myLinux. Above all I learned to appreciate Tom's Root Boot, which I have already used pretty often, and I've tested all the different Floppy Firewall "distros". Nobody could stop my fascination after once I installed a Red Hat 7.0 on an 80386 (with 20 MB RAM and a Harddisk with about 400 MB of capacity) the X Window system did start automatically on the first boot. The K Desktop Environment (KDE for brief), the most popular M$FT Windows clone for Unix OSes, was quite smooth and Netscape (pronounce "Mozilla") was not at all that slow as described in many magazines. WOW!, I said to myself.
Today, I am an ambitionated console freak, using mainly pine (or mutt), a text-based mail-client, lynx (or links), a text-based web-browser, vi (or the MC-editor) for writing and/or editing texts and the Midnight Commander (ie. MC), a Norton Commander clone for Unix, for browsing through my files, editing and viewing my scripts, html-files etc. (as it understands the syntax and displays it coloured) or just for executing my music-files, pictures, .rtf and .doc-files, spreadsheets and so on (ie. opening it with the concerning console-programme).
Nevertheless, I like to play with the GUI (short for "graphical user interface") and all the coloured themes a lot and beside that I still know many "windozers" (mainly within my political party), who think they can't live without all the funny stuff from Redmont and all its "advantages". I can remember myself the fascination the look and feel of the new M$FT Windows XP theme Luna had to me when I saw it for the first time and I still like a lot changing my XMMS-skins and others, today. (XMMS is a WinAmp-like music-player.) On the other hand, I found that even GNOME (GNU Network Object Model Environment) used to many resources (no matter what Window Manager I used) and that there was too much stuff I would not need.
BTW the K Desktop Environment uses a very bad (ie. semi-commercial or capitalist) licence for its software. For instance, you must pay them if you want to produce anything based on their applications. Besides, it is based on the Qt toolkit from Trolltech as other commercial programmes are (eg. Opera, still my favorite web-browser), and not on the GIMP toolkit GTK. What, you do not know the GIMP - the GNOME Image Manipulation Programme? It is miles better than Photoshop, open and free and above all it does not require that much PC recourses.
In the Red Penguins project I will try not to use commercial software at all, only such released under the GPL - the GNU General Public Licence. GNU stands for GNU's Not Unix (that's pc dialectics - an acronym which makes it a self-referential or recursive) is primarily a collection of Unix-compatible software developed and maintained by the Free Software Foundation. (Not necessery to mention that it's a philosophy as well. And last not least we should not forget the nice animal that decorates the entrance to their website). However, not to use commercial software at all might not always be possible. - To find out more on this difficult topic just seek the debates within the mailinglists of the GNU/DebIan Linux Distribution.
Not happy with KDE, GNOME, fvwm, WindowMaker and other Desktop Environments (respectively Window Managers) I stood with IceWM, a small, very nice and widely configurable Window Manager that tries to imitate the M$FT Windows look and feel (useless to say that it is miles better). It is absolutely compatible with every single GNOME or rather GTK application and togehter with several file managers (just as dfm - a drag-and-drop file- and desktopmanager for X11) it may even act as Desktop Environment.
One thing many people (so called Linux newbies who just swapped from Windows) are missing in Debian GNU/Linux (still the best GNU/Linux ever) is an easier installation routine. I tried SuSE (made in Germany), which is the most Windows-like, but it did too often change my configuration arbitrarily and was not really compatible with the other distributions. Trying Red Hat (the _big_ one - also based in Redmont, California) and Mandrake (a French derivate of Red Hat) I got happy but did, however, not stop seeking for a non-commercial distribution that would fit to my desires. Thus, I installed Storm Linux, which is based on Debian GNU/Linux and has a very good installation procedure. But as I've already said, I do not like capitalist entrepreneurs very much, not even small ones, no matter whether they produce free open source software or not. (BTW Storm Linux has broken already.) Not the products they sell make them capitalists but the fact that they exploit their employees and participate in the so called "free" market with its brutal and inhuman or rather misanthrop profit logics.
Hence, I decided to create my own non propietary operating system. As many Linuxers, I have the dream of a perfect operating system. I experimented with the tomsrtbt Floppy Linux - putting it onto an own partition of my harddisk. After having read the book Linux from scratch (short LFS) and the Filesystem Hirarchy Standard (FHS) I went on selectioning the sources, compiled them together with the necessary libraries etc. and put it into an own root partition. The same with the kernel and its modules. After having a working system I could continue with the daemons - not the devil but the services that shall run on my box - and finally with the user applications.
So far my motivation for this project! But what's the result, you may ask. First, it is clear that everyone of us has different requirements. Many might have found their perfect OS already (who believes). Others might still want to create an OS of their own after having tested out this one. Others, finally, (like myself) will never be absolutely content with what you (in this case me) offer them (or even me); always asking for more, never getting satisfied. With the growing standards grow our claims; the never ending source of research and progress. You've been warned!
This introduction was written in 2001. As you might expect, the aim of creating an absolutely new GNU/Linux from scratch is quite time-intensif and I do also have a lot of work with both my political activism and my university study. Thus, the project will have to wait or maybe is going to merge with a similar project in the future. I now took the Debian GNU/Linux Woody sources and started working with them instead of doing everything by myself. Instead I thought more on the different concepts of an office suite, a mailing system, the perfect GUI and file-manager etc. Here is the first attemp of a realization of those concerns ...
Test it out and share your experiences with all of us. Then you must make some changes and improve the system. Done so, exchange your experience. Now, make it better! Be patient. Ask questions. Explain me what I've done wrong. Tell me, what I should know. Join the project. Discuss your experiences. Join other existing projects or create your own ones. Improve the system and infect others with your grippe, eh, enthusiasm - the non ending fascination of GNU/Linux and the open mind. You're still having time? Well, then (after years) you might have achieved your perfect operating system - but, is this still important? What about an artificial housekeeper? What about converting your trade union into a fighting and vital organism of the working class? What about building the revolutionary party of the working class, the immigrants, women and youth, that will enforce the transformation process of society - the permanent process of socialist world revolution? I'll leave you with this. Just think about it ... ;-)
Open minded greetings,
Pablo Hörtner aka Red Tux