[NetBehaviour] pure:dyne discussion

aymeric mansoux aymeric at goto10.org
Sun Oct 19 03:43:56 CEST 2008

Hi Rob,

> You mention that pure:dyne emerged from practical necessity and didn't
> have a grand plan. Did you design its user experience with any model
> or set of requirements in mind? It reminds me of the clean,
> pleasurable, no-nonsense environments of old Mac and SGI systems. Was
> that intentional or a product of evolution in a similar niche?

It was a natural thing to do.

We've always been working on minimal environments, which,
to paraphrase the UNIX philosophy, needs to do one thing and one thing
well. In the context of windows manager that implies to be able to spawn
terminals and start applications, preferrably with as less mouse 
interaction as possible. Nothing else :)

To give you an idea, the wm we like to use are:
 - evilwm http://www.6809.org.uk/evilwm
 - dwm http://www.suckless.org/dwm
 - ratpoison http://www.nongnu.org/ratpoison
 - awesome http://awesome.naquadah.org

Of course, the wms above can be a bit disorientating for people that come
from an OS that has a wm built around the desktop metaphor. That's why
we decided to provide by default XFCE, which is a desktop oriented
windows manager, but comes with very little bloat. So although the other
minimal wms are provided, we had to start right away with something that
workshop participants could interact with, based on their experience
with commercial operating systems, but at the same time light and "to
the point". It was discussed that we would just not use any desktop and
even tried to run some workshops using one of these minimal wm, but
it was too much of a shock. The good thing is that we converted quite a
few users to these minimal wm anyway because they are very handy on a
daily basis but also to provide a simple performance setup or an

The second aspect of this choice, whether it is with a minimal wm or a
light desktop, is the need to have a system that takes as little
ressources as possible. When we run <insert-your-fav-software-here>, we
want the machine to allocate as much resources as possible to
<insert-your-fav-software-here> and certainly not to a collection of 3D
effects, twirling icons, wobbly windows and others industry sponsored
gimmicks. Our aim was right away to provide a fully functionnal 
environment to systems as modests as an old Pentium III.

For the gory tech details, we also use i686 optimisations when compiling
and we have been the first to provide a RT kernel on a live
distribution. We also try to make this effort available for others, for
example our upcoming new release will feature a kernel which config will
be used as a base config for an attempt to provide a unified linuxaudio
kernel that would be shared amongst several multimedia distributions.
(that is for those who are interested in this collaboration).

> And on a boring practical level, now that pure:dyne is Debian based
> can I just install Debian packages or is pure:dyne a different package
> universe? I'm using Fedora on my laptop at the moment and I'm
> frustrated by the lack of some music and animation software as
> packages for it.

It' s not boring at all. 
It's a key characteristic of the new pure:dyne.
pure:dyne is a mix of 3 repos, Debian Lenny, Debian Multimedia and our
own repository, so you can use pure:dyne repos on a Debian install, and
you can add Debian repos on a pure:dyne install. Afterall, this is

With the previous version, our users, were either beginners or experts,
so 2 groups with little common points and both at the extreme of a
normal distribution. For beginners, pure:dyne was great to discover
GNU/Linux and some of the exotic software bundled with it. But as soon
as they wanted to make the switch to use the system more regularly or as
main OS, they would miss several software that:
 - we were not packaging
 - and, we had no interest in packaging, or no time to do it
 - and, would require "advanced" knowledge to package themselves.
So such users would only use pure:dyne for special case and never as
main OS, due to the technical knowledge required to make it fit to their
daily needs. We did package some generic stuff though, for example
OpenOffice, but this is not exciting and a bit a waste of time. Just
like I said in the previous mail, we were using pure:dyne as main OS so
the choice of generic software and design was modelled around our own
needs, and while the software we packaged was common to many artists,
the environment itself is often a matter of taste and personal habits.

With a Debian based environment we are now able to provide a system that
is very modular and that more importantly grow as the user's knowledge
grow. In a nutshell, we have now 4 levels of usability:
 - live* modes (liveCD, liveDVD, liveHD, liveUSB) provides a read-only
   system that can be booted from different medium and in which you can
   access to your hard drives to read/write files.
 - persistence modes, added to the live modes, they allow the user(s) to
   save their home content, or if configured, any changes done to the 
   OS, including adding extra software. This persistence can be a 
   partition on a disk, but also on a USB key or a file on a windows 
   partition (this feature is being tested atm)
 - full installation, we have a documentation explaining how to install
   debian and add the same settings as on the live* systems, so you can
   have a "proper" installation and use the debian package manager to
   update the system, including receiving new packages from our repos.
 - custom, for advanced Debian/Ubuntu users, they can just grab software
   from our repository, including the kernel.

It is good to note that the package manager can also be used in the
live* modes, of course without persistence, the added software will be
lost at the 1st reboot, but it can be very useful to be able to pull a
software from debian during a live session, or even a driver, etc.


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