29 Mar 2012

AgiliaLinux: No More Interviews!

I have done interviews with different people all around the world. But these were interviews with individuals: Linux writers, bloggers, developers. Today I open another page, and my interview is with whole team who works on Linux distribution.
Please meet: Agilia Linux Team.

DarkDuck: Hello, Agilia Linux team. Could you please introduce yourselves?

fat0troll: My name is Valdos. I live in Smolensk, a town in central Russia. I am musician-saxophonist.

pztrn: Hello, my name is Stanislav, and my nickname is "pztrn". I'm from Moscow. I'm maintaining all the XFCE-related stuff.

K900: K900, a generic Linux/android/anime geek with an (almost lifelong) affection for cats, Japanese music and Terry Pratchett books.

DarkDuck: Agilia Linux grew from the now-defunct MOPS project. What has happened to it?

K900: It sank. ©

fat0troll: MOPSLinux was created by NPO Set’. As soon as this distribution became unnecessary for the NPO, the project was shut down.

DarkDuck: What is the main difference between MOPS and Agilia?

fat0troll: The Slackware compatibility was important during MOPS' time. Agilia continues MOPS, although it has a very important difference. We’re no longer bound by strict compatibility restrictions. We can experiment more.

pztrn: There are many differences now - rolling release, community development, new developers and maintainers, big plans for the future…

K900: In its current state, Agilia 8 is pretty much MOPS++, that is, it evolved from MOPS, it has a lot in common with MOPS and it suffers from many problems that were carried over from MOPS and Slackware.
Agilia 9.0 will be something completely fresh. We're rebuilding the system from scratch and it'll be more awesome than ever.
It's hard to explain stuff we had to deal with, but I'll just try to give an example. Many packages actually depended on kdewebdev for a really long time, and no one bothered figuring out why. It turned out that libtidy (that's a library for pretty printing and verifying HTML) was INSIDE kdewebdev, as Slackware maintainers thought it wasn't used anywhere else. But now it's used in Plasma, and I think even kdelibs, which means kdelibs depends on kdewebdev. Awesome. We fixed that one for 4.8, though.

DarkDuck: Is Agilia Linux based on its own code, or is it a remix of some big distro like Debian, Arch or Slackware?

pztrn: MOPS was based on Slackware (the packages were compatible), but with its own package manager. Agilia is similar, but we no longer guarantee the package compatibility. There is a converter, but no one can predict the behaviour of that converter.

K900: Our own code + Slackware heritage (that's bad) + a lot of Arch and Gentoo influence (that's good). In addition, we use OpenRC, which is native to Gentoo because it's really awesome.

DarkDuck: Agilia Linux is currently on about 120th place in the 6-months DistroWatch rating. Is it a well-deserved place, or do you expect a better one?

fat0troll: Distrowatch rating is very ephemeral. One can increase it by using more press-releases. We don’t issue many press-releases, and that’s why our rating is quite low. I think our distribution deserves a place in Top 50.

K900: For the current state of things it's great. We never advertised publicly and we don't have many active users. We have all the crap left over from Slackware, and I don't think anyone outside Russia ever heard the name. So, it's really great. Thank you guys for voting.

DarkDuck: Do you have any idea about the number of users/installations you have worldwide?

fat0troll: About 10 thousand.

K900: More than three. That's my laptop, desktop and server.

DarkDuck: Not talking about the global presence, but even in Russia you have competitors, (if this word is acceptable in the Open Source community), like ALT Linux, Simply Linux, and to some extent Rubuntu, Puppyrus. How do you position yourselves?

fat0troll: They are not our competitors, generally speaking. We position ourselves as a distribution with a good community. Just a fact: an average time to look for a person with a computer with a different architecture, in order to compile a package and run a test at 4am Moscow time, is 10 minutes.

pztrn: I'm positioning our distro as "frendly, yet not so easy", due to some Slackware heritage. We are open for any questions, ideas and suggestions, we ready to explain how our distribution works and what you have to do to make something work. About "competition" - I think, we must not compete, but work with, by exchanging ideas, tools, etc.

K900: ALT Linux is mostly enterprise-ish, so we have different goals and probably different target audiences. Simply Linux is mostly about ALT Linux trying to do what we do. That is, a desktop distro for half-geeks and their friends. For me, Agilia is still much better than Simply or ALT, the important reasons being RPM (I really, really don't like it) and a not-KISS internal structure. We can't compete with Ubuntu just yet, but we're slowly getting there.

DarkDuck: Any plans to go commercial? What are your funding options now?

fat0troll: There are no plans to go commercial just yet. Currently, we only exist on our own money and time.

pztrn: We accept donations. And we do not want to go commercial now. There is a lot of work to do.

K900: We're mostly crowdfunded, if you can say that.

DarkDuck: Do you read the blog Linux notes from DarkDuck? Do you like it? Is there anything, which you would like to add to or change there?

K900: *opens Google Reader* *subscribes* Yep!

DarkDuck: I have published two reviews of Agilia Linux already. Do you agree with my view on your product?

fat0troll: I was actively commenting on your posts, you should have noticed that.

pztrn: Well, I can agree with something. At the moment, we have fixed some annoying bugs, but not all.

K900: Yes, most things are true. Some things are already fixed (I think), so it should be better now, and even better in 8.1.

DarkDuck: Your last version 8.0 was released several months later than it was initially planned. Any particular reason for that?

pztrn: We have 3 developers/maintainers and 8 maintainers. And it's hard to follow any plan.

K900: We're non-professionals, we don't have a schedule and we seem to argue a lot about what and when to release. That's probably it.

DarkDuck: Are there any plans for the next version now?

fat0troll: There will be 8.1.0… soon. ;-)

pztrn: Yes, we have one big plan - to rebuild the system. It will bring compatibility with some programs (like Mono), and will make our life easier. And we will rewrite our package manager to help increase the number of developers we have, using the C++ backend and lua/python frontend.

K900: 9.0 - awesomeness.

DarkDuck: Does your team and, probably, users meet off-line?

pztrn: Yes, in Moscow. 5 of our maintainers and all our developers live here. We count ~7-12 people on meet-ups, I think due to low popularity.

DarkDuck: Are there any girls in your team? Or this is a boys-only project?

fat0troll: There are only men in the team. Girls are only using our results, and sometimes troll us.

K900: Sammy, huh. There also was Nadia, but I haven't seen her for quite a long time. I'm also not sure about viki's gender (sorry!), but he/she helped us clean up the wiki and is an active user.

DarkDuck: Thanks for coming! And I wish you all the best in development of your distribution.

fat0troll: And thank you, tovaristch! Good luck! Wait for the 8.1.0! ;-)

pztrn: Thanks, good luck to you, too!

Just a few days after the interview, the team fell apart. The message appeared on the Agilia Linux forum in Russian, saying that part of the team left the project. Here is my translation:

Because we cannot continue to provide adequate results, it's impossible to tolerate slowness and uncertainty in development, and because we don't like the current development policy, which we tried to influence for 1.5 years, - we declare that we are leaving the AgiliaLinux Team. The new project will appear soon, which will, we hope, attract everyone who was with us for all this time.

We thank everyone who stays here for their experience and great time. Good bye and thanks for all the fish!


• NomerUNO, maintainer since pre-Agilia times, OpenboxDE, 103 packages

• Drakmail, maintainer since 21.08.2010, Java and similar stuff, 89 packages

• K900, maintainer since 06.12.2010, 197 packages

• fat0troll, maintainer since 19.05.2010, 299 packages

• pztrn, maintainer since 18.07.2011, XFCE, 99 packages

• medved, maintainer since 08.11.2011, 10 packages

• Necromant, maintainer since 11.01.2012, 39 packages

Together: 2 desktop environments, 836 packages.

For those who stay with us: linux@conference.pztrn.ru. Stay tuned!

It is likely that I will interview the new distribution team in some time.

This post was edited by djohnston.