The move surprised even the most ardent followers of the Gentoo Linux
distribution. As the
about the resignation of Daniel Robbins (also known as "drobbins") from
his position as Gentoo's Chief Architect quickly spread around the
Internet, many users expressed utter surprise, even doubts about the
future of what has become one of the fastest growing Linux distributions.
Will our beloved Gentoo survive? Will we still be able to get
fast security updates and keep our installations up-to-date with the
latest software? Will we still be able to "emerge"? Yes, we will.
While the initial reaction of users is understandable, there is little
need to panic. Let's look at the situation through a similar event in
the history of another
Linux distribution - Debian GNU/Linux.
Debian's founder Ian Murdock created the project in 1993, and left the
project some three years
later, even before the first official Debian release, version 1.1, hit
the FTP servers in June 1996. But despite the sudden absence of the
project's founder, Debian did not collapse; instead it went on to
become one of the most widely-used Linux distributions, with hundreds
of developers and thousands of users in all corners of the world.
Ironically, it was Murdock's second attempt at creating a Linux
distribution that proved to be a failure: Progeny Linux, a commercial
offspring of Debian, launched in early 2000, was discontinued 6 months
later (although there is an ongoing effort to revive the product, thanks to
Murdock's new development initiatives of grouping individual software
packages into logical components).
Like Murdock, Daniel Robbins is one of the greatest contributors to the
success of Linux that we are witnessing today. He first came into
contact with Linux while working as a system administrator at the
University of New Mexico, and it wasn't long before he was confident
enough to join the development team of Stampede Linux, his preferred
distribution at the time. This experience was later transposed into
Daniel's own distribution, originally called Enoch Linux.
Unfortunately, its development encountered a number of early setbacks
and it wasn't until after a lengthy foray into the world of FreeBSD
that this new project, now renamed to Gentoo Linux, began to take
shape. Little by little, Gentoo was turning out to be a huge success.
One of the main reasons for it was the fact that it incorporated
several ideas from FreeBSD, notably the FreeBSD ports system (called
"portage" in Gentoo) which provided users with sophisticated tools to
compile all applications from source code, instead of installing
precompiled binary packages. This gave Gentoo the innovative edge over
most mainstream distributions, attracting many users who found Gentoo's
ease of software installation and instant package availability highly
Up until recently, the development of Gentoo Linux was largely
determined by its fearless leader, but this model is about to change.
The work will be taken over by Gentoo Foundation, Inc, a new Not For
Profit (NFP) organization, or more precisely, by the foundation's Board
of Trustees: "The purpose of this foundation is to hold the
intellectual property of the Gentoo free software project. It will have
a Board of Trustees. This not-for-profit will be an open membership
trade association." Originally Daniel Robbins intended
to become a member of the Board of Trustees, at least during the
initial period, but changed his
mind later. The board will have around 20 members.
The resignation of Gentoo's founder wasn't the only news coming out from
Albuquerque this week, as the Gentoo project also announced
a new release of Gentoo Linux, version 2004.1. To many, this was far
more reassuring news, especially since unlike most previous Gentoo
releases, this one came out on schedule. What's new in the latest
version? Besides the usual package updates, security and bug fixes,
some of the more visible changes include newly introduced GPG
signatures for online listing of packages, availability of "LiveCD" and
"PackageCD" sets for every architecture, and substantial improvements in
Catalyst, the Gentoo tool for generating stage installation tarballs
and LiveCDs. Gentoo Linux is now fully compatible with kernel 2.6,
version 2.6.5 of which is included as an option on the Universal
LiveCD, together with kernel 2.4.26.
The events this week prompted some users to revisit Zynot, a high-profile attempt of an
unsatisfied Gentoo developer to fork Gentoo Linux in June 2003. Long on
idealistic writing reminiscent of naïve revolutionaries of
yesteryear, the founder of Zynot went on explaining how the new fork
would soon become the best thing since sliced bread. Unfortunately, 10
months later the project has little to show for its work. With a poorly
designed web site, inactive user forums and a broken Wiki, Zynot has a
long way to go before it starts delivering on those ideals, let alone
becomes a viable alternative to Gentoo Linux.
The current changes within the management structure of Gentoo Linux
represent a natural evolution of a highly successful project and won't
have any major impact on the users of the distribution. With 200 active
developers and a well-defined development framework firmly in place,
there is no reason to believe that the project will suddenly disappear.
Instead, Gentoo Linux will become a more democratic institution,
perhaps with some inevitable political bickering on occasions, but
definitely a better place to further advance the already excellent
to post comments)