Disclaimer: this post is not about the current PCLInuxOS hoopla. Apparently many people are upset and there’s much ruffling of feathers. It makes the latest Distrowatch a very entertaining read, especially the comments, but what really grabbed my eye was this:
In related news, Derrick Devine, former administrator of the community project site MyPCLinuxOS, recently handed over control of the project and announced work on a new Linux distribution, called Unity, with many of the other former PCLinuxOS developers: “What it will be is a new Linux distribution that takes an incremental approach to desktop Linux. It will provide a central core and use the mklivecd scripts that PCLinuxOS uses and it will provide a base from which to build just about any desktop you want out there.“
At the moment, it’s not yet very clear whether that means it’ll be a base for other distributions, or one for the everyday user. I really hope it’s the latter, where you’d install a base system, on top of that you’d install everything else you want, and most importantly, you could leave out everything you don’t want. This is the easiest way to provide the complete richness of the Linux desktop, and it’s one of the main reasons I use Arch. In Kmandla’s words, “everybody hates the default desktop no matter what distro, release or version it is, so just get over it, change it to what you like, and move forward in life.”
There are other advantages. In the same way it’s easier to take something apart if you built it yourself, “creating” your own Linux desktop solution makes it easier to switch DE/WM. I know metapackages exist, but there’s always some command line wizardry to be done afterwards, even if it’s just switching login managers, cleaning up cruft, or simply trying to figure out what went wrong and why you end up in twm and your PC looks like it has been barfed upon in the eighties.
It’s easier for the developers too. You don’t patch the hell out of everything, you just provide packages for vanilla software (critical/safety patches being the exception), and let the user do the configuration.
In short, I think Unity is taking a very good approach here. Of course, at this time Unity doesn’t really exist. It’s a concept, a Distrowatch article, and a webpage. I’ll be keeping an eye on it though.