18 Sep

Interview with Salix OS's lead developer George Vlahavas

DuckDuckGo's interview series with our browser, distribution and data partners.

An interview with George Vlahavas of Salix OS -- a DuckDuckGo partner .


1) Who are you, and what do you work on?

I live in Greece and I lecture Statistics in a university. I am married and in my free time I like going on long walks with my dog.

I also have a great passion for free software and I tend to spend a lot of time working on it. I am one of the founders and the lead developer of Salix, a GNU/Linux distribution that is based on Slackware.

2) Tell us more about Salix? Who are your users?

Salix in its heart is 100% pure Slackware. Every single technical aspect of Slackware is preserved in Salix. That means that the simplicity and inherent stability of Slackware is carried over to Salix. Some people might think that this could also be a bad thing, as we are completely bound to Slackware and every technical decision they make. But in honesty, we have never disagreed with any technical decision Slackware has made.

But we also add a lot of things. Salix is not the kind of distribution that takes the parent distribution and just changes the default wallpaper. People not familiar with Slackware might not be aware of that, but there is really a lot of work involved. We have written numerous system configuration tools from scratch, as nothing like that existed for Slackware or Slackware-based distributions. Most of these are available both as graphical applications and as console applications. We add a package manager that resolves dependencies automatically and we also tweak the Slackware repositories to include such dependency information. We add software that makes it very easy to build extra software from source, using the SlackBuild scripts that are available for that purpose. We also add live CDs, that includes a friendly graphical installer that we also built from scratch and several other live session tools.

Reviewers have described Salix as a distribution "for lazy slackers" and I like that description. What they mean by that is that Salix is meant for people that like the simplicity and architectural design of Slackware, but could use a system with some modern features like a package manager with automatic dependency resolution, graphical system administration tools and having more software available one or two mouse clicks away. We definitely do not target beginners though, although we do welcome them if they are willing to make an effort. Beginners will probably be a bit scared of our standard installer, which runs on the console. But we are not going to change it as we see it as the most effective and fast way to install Salix; a full installation on a modern system may take no more than 5 minutes. It simply works and if you have gone through it once, everything is obvious. As I mentioned before the installer in our live CDs is definitely more beginner-friendly and after installation there isn't really anything difficult about using the system.


3) Why did you decide to build Salix? What makes it unique?

We started off as an online group of similarly minded people and we decided to create Salix in order to use it primarily for ourselves and our friends and families. We were all excited about Slackware, from a technical standpoint we believe it's the best distribution out there. But the truth is that it takes a lot of work to set up and customize after the installation. Also, a lot of things that most people expect to find in a distribution are missing, for example libreoffice, or some easy to use system configuration tools. We didn't want to repeat all that work that involved setting up and customizing Slackware every time we wanted to install Slackware in one of our own PCs or a friend's PC. It was easier to create our own distribution, based on Slackware, but exactly as we wanted it to be.

What makes Salix unique, is that it's not just based on Slackware. We make a point at keeping everything 100% compatible with Slackware itself. So, all the software that we have written for Salix, all the packages that we have added to the Salix repositories (which are about as many as Slackware has alone), can be safely used by any Slackware user. It's our way of giving something back to Slackware and the Slackware users. Other Slackware based distributions have also picked up on our system configuration tools and are using a lot of our packages too and that feels very nice.

4) What are your future plans for Salix?

Mainly just keep doing what we're doing and keep up with changes in Slackware. We don't have any ground breaking changes planned for the immediate future. There are some additional system administration tools we are developing and we keep adding features and updating the existing tools we have. Keeping the distribution rock solid stable is our main concern and massive changes do not usually go well with that.

5) What tools do you use to build Salix?

There are a lot of tools that we are using to build Salix. All of them we have developed from scratch. We have written and are using our own tools to build the iso images, including standard installation images and live systems too. We have our own tools to manage our package repositories. We have developed our own tools for creating packages, which are 100% compatible with Slackware and make the package building process as simple as it can be. We have our own tools for finding package dependencies. Thousands of packages have been built using these tools by now.

Of course, the source code for all those tools is available online.

6) What recommendations and tips would you give to someone interested in building a distro?

It really depends on what each person understands of what the process of building a distribution is. For some people that is using a remastering tool, changing the default wallpaper, adding a different calculator app and after a few mouse clicks, uploading the iso they have created. Others go all the way and create everything from scratch, building everything from the ground up.

In any case, the only tip I could give and that really matters in my opinion, is just to have fun doing it.

7) What would your dream distro contain?

That's not too difficult to answer because the answer is already there and it is of course exactly what Salix includes. It's an obvious answer because I built it and of course I shaped it the way I wanted it to be!
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Salix OS is one of the best GNU/Linux distributions available!

Main issues in this interview, by my view, are:
SlackBuild is mentioned but SLKBUILD is not.
Nothing specific to Xfce or MATE was written.

Read about it at http://SLKBUILD.sourceforge.net/

posted by isratine • 5 years and 6 months ago Link