For our January “Community Choice” Project of the Month, the community elected Bodhi Linux, a minimalist, enlightened Linux distribution. Project author Jeff Hoogland shared his thoughts about the project’s history, purpose, and direction.
SourceForge (SF): What made you start this project?
Jeff Hoogland (JH): When I was in college I started using the Enlightenment Desktop on all of my Linux computers. At the time there was no easy way to install Linux distributions that featured this desktop as their primary interface. In fact, many did not even have an up to date version of the desktop in their repositories.
This led to me regularly building E from source on my 4~ different computers I had at the time. Always looking to do things in an optimal manner I started creating my own packaged sets for the desktop and figured I might as well take the short bit of extra time required to spin up a live CD with said packages installed / configured nicely.
SF: Has the original vision been achieved?
JH: I think we accomplished our goal quite well. We aim to provide a fast / sleek user interface on top of the powerful and flexible Ubuntu base and that is exactly what we provide.
SF: Who can benefit the most from your project?
JH: Unlike many Linux distributions we are not targeting novice users with Bodhi Linux. People who are looking for an operating system that will get the most out of their system resources will enjoy using Bodhi. From systems that need something slim, all the way up to modern gaming systems Bodhi flies on computers of all speeds. Just because your computer has 16gigs of RAM doesn’t mean you want your operating system using a large portion of it. The less resources your interface occupies, the more resources your applications you care about have access to.
SF: What core need does Bodhi Linux fulfill?
JH: Bodhi fills a nice middle ground between Linux distributions like Ubuntu (that come with a bulky desktop and lots of pre-installed applications) and something like Arch Linux that starts you with just a command prompt. We are just about as minimal as a fully-functional operating system can be without requiring use of a command prompt.
SF: What has your project team done to help build and nurture your community?
JH: Responding to feedback in a timely manner is ideal for building a community. I am very active in our user forums. Even when I do not have an answer to a question I make sure to try and point users in the right direction to find proper help with their issue.
SF: Have you all found that more frequent releases helps build up your community of users?
JH: While more releases are good for exposure to your project, I do think “updates for the sake of updating” that many projects do today is silly. With Bodhi our version numbers have meaning – whenever our first version number increases you know there is an entire base change for the operating system.
SF: What was the first big thing that happened for your project?
JH: Getting recognition from the site DistroWatch jumped our traffic by a good deal. It’s the site many people use to search for Linux distributions based on different parameters.
SF: What helped make that happen?
JH: They list distributions once they have proven they are here to stay and are not just a flash in the pan. Having regular relevant updates and releases for several months got us this recognition.
SF: How has SourceForge and its tools helped your project reach that success?
JH: SourceForge provides something for free that most places do not – bandwidth. Our operating system is smaller than most, but our five release discs are at least 600MB each. Multiply this by the over 7000 downloads we see per week and you are looking at over 15 TB of bandwidth which SourceForge provides us per month.
SourceForge also does a good job of making the data I provide above readily available to me as a project owner.
SF: What is the next big thing for Bodhi Linux?
JH: The next major change we have planned for Bodhi is a rewrite of our desktop’s settings panel.
SF: How long do you think that will take?
JH: Since Bodhi is powered by volunteers our timelines are never firm. All of our code is written on a “as time permits” basis. Ideally our new settings panel will be ready for inclusion in Bodhi by default by the end of 2017.
SF: Do you have the resources you need to make that happen?
JH: Time is our only bottleneck. We have a team of dedicated folks though who are more than capable of getting the work done.
SF: If you had to do it over again, what would you do differently for Bodhi Linux?
JH: I would use consistent naming schemes from the start for our repositories. We bounced between “main” and “stable” and “testing” and “unstable” for various things. With our 4.0.0 release we standardized to “b4main” and “b4testing” which will then change to “b5main” and “b5testing” with our 5.0.0 release in 2018.
SF: Is there anything else we should know?
JH: Bodhi is a Live CD! This means you can load it up on a CD or a USB drive and give it a try on your computer without changing the contents of your hard drive. Give it a go and see how fast it is for yourself.