I decided to realize this article after reading the text Salix OS - Parádní Slackware s Xfce (Salix OS – Wonderful Slackware with Xfce). Salix has enriched the offer of distros based on Slackware – Zenwalk, Wolvix... All these systems prefer minimalism and stability. I like Zen as a philosophy and as a distro too. That's why I decided to make an interview with Salix developers. Perhaps I'll discover the reasons for creating another small distro based on the art of simplicity.
Can you explain the name of your distribution – Salix ?
Thorsten: We had a long discussion about possible names with a lot of suggestions but at first we of course could not get a real consensus about it. Some wanted our name to reflect our KISS philosophy, others wanted the name not to be so geeky and others again didn't want the name to include the full word Linux. Finally we've found the name Salix, which is the Latin name for the willow tree. At the same time we have found some nice artwork including a tree. Things went quickly then, apparently we are all some kind of tree lovers :-) .
And the Bonsai in your subtitle?
Pierrick: A Bonsai is a miniature version of a venerable tree, though it is small and light, it takes infinite care for it to develop and flourish. Likewise, Salix is a small simplified version of the most stable and time-proofed distro out there, namely Slackware, and we are giving it our infinite care.
Thorsten: And as our name is derived from a tree, the Bonsai subtitle fits perfectly.
What is your philosophy?
George: We all wanted to create a small, lightweight and fully usable distribution. I would also say that part of our philosophy is to stay fully backwards compatible to Slackware.
Pierrick: It can be resumed in the famous KISS adage (Keep It Super Simple)!
Simple to develop. Being based on Slackware which transparently keeps all its internal system easily accessible via mere bash scripts, a real paradise for the hobbyist hacker who can personalize it to the nth degree. (This is why in spite of wouldbe detractors who do not find it modern or sexy enough, Slackware constantly and regularly serves as a base for new distros.)
Simple to maintain. Again being completely compatible and in sync with Slackware, which is known for its unequaled stability and security, all the heavy handed work of security updates and bugfixes is taken care of upstream.
Simple to use. As great as Slackware is in many ways, an actual feature of its design which expects you to be in complete control and will not do things in your stead can be arduous for some folks. Especially the kind who seek a system that 'simply works' without getting their hands in the motor. This is where we want to serve as a relay, by providing fully localized system tools, package dependency management as well a vast repository of good quality packages.
What are the criteria you are using to choose the applications for your system?
George: When doing a "full" mode installation you get a choice of default applications. This is a collection of applications that we think fits best in an Xfce desktop environment. We all like the one-app-per-task philosophy, so for each task we chose the application that gets the work done in the best way, but also remaining as lightweight as possible and also fits right in Xfce.
There are of course exceptions to the "lightweight" part, as unfortunately there is no real alternative to the OpenOffice.org office suite or the Firefox web browser. Alternatives exist, but they don't offer nowhere near the same level of features or functionality.
Someone might of course argue that this is not the perfect choice of apps for his own purposes and that's why we are also offering a "basic" installation mode (in the same CD), where no apps are installed, except a browser and the package manager on top of the Xfce desktop. That way anyone can install his favorite choice of applications using the package repositories.
What public is your distro targeted to?
Thorsten: Even if we are trying to simplify some things in Slackware, we are still targeting intermediate and experienced users. Probably also novice users willing to learn more about how their system works. We don't plan to turn Slackware in a distribution, where everything is automated and over-simplified.
Do you think your conception is unique or do you see any competition?
George: I don't think there is any other distribution that aims to be fully backwards compatible with Slackware. The concept of creating a package repository that functions as an additional source of software for Slackware users is certainly not unique, the same concept exists in other projects, like Gnome Slackbuilds for example. There are lots of distributions that are based on Slackware of course. But I personally believe that the big number of linux distributions is a good thing; one can find exactly what he/she wants. So no, I don't see other distributions as competition. In fact, I would be very glad if other Slackware based distributions used the Salix repositories to enrich the collection of software they offer to their users.
Thorsten: Of course there are a lot of distributions out there, that are targeting the same user base or having similar goals. But as George already has said: I don't see them as competitors. We can help each other to improve our work.
What are their weakness or advantage compared to SalixOS?
Thorsten: As everyone likes other flavours, everyone should try the distributions he is interested in and decide for himself, which one fits best for his needs.
How did you put your creating team together?
George: All current members of the Salix team were members of the Zenwalk development team. We were all working very close to each other in Zenwalk and we enjoyed doing so very much. So, when we decided to leave Zenwalk we had some talks about possibly creating something new, and the result of our work is now called Salix.
Of course we are open to anyone else that might be interested in working with us.
Thorsten: We rather did not put it together. It just happened that some people who had fun at working together on Zenwalk tried to do something similar in the future, too. Everybody was free to join, so the team has been put together on it's own.
Why did you leave Zenwalk project?
Pierrick: While to this day we keep Jean-Philippe Guillemin in very high esteem regarding his coding, creativity and aesthetic skills, we had some objections with an autocratic and sometimes erratic style of project management. Suffice it to say that after a certain time it simply killed the fun and let's not forget that often, fun is what hobbyist contributors are really after, the fun of comradeship based on the enthusiasm of building something 'out of this world' together, in a situation where everyone is important and complementary and can brings his stone to the edifice.
Is there something special uniting you?
Pierrick: As George said, we are a bunch of friends that came to appreciate each others by working together around a common passion.
Thanks for your answers.