Unless you’re a motorhead to a varying degree — and an older one at that — you probably don’t know who John Cooper is. His contributions in racing circles — putting the engine behind the driver in his Cooper Formula 1 cars in the late 1950s — would normally cement his place in automotive history, but he didn’t stop there.
The thing for which Cooper is more widely known is modifying the British Motor Corporation’s Mini in the 1960s, adding his name to make it the Mini Cooper while adding a higher degree of performance that won the little car that could a warehouse full of rally trophies and Sports Car Club of America club racing victories.
Around the same time as the development of the first Mini Coopers, across the pond in America Carroll Shelby took the Ford Mustang and with a vision of making it faster and better, he gave us the Shelby Mustang along with the whole Shelby Cobra series (not to mention, later, the Dodge Viper). Shelby’s association with Ford started a trend in the U.S. of taking a mass produced car and making it into a high performance machine.
So go ahead and ask: “Larry the Free Software Guy, what the heck does this have to do with Linux and FOSS?”
It’s simple. Linux and FOSS has their own versions of John Cooper and Carroll Shelby making high performance versions of mass produced distros, building on the foundation of one of the “big three” Linux distros to make fire-breathing, pixel-burning distros; distros that are the digital equivalent of vehicles that are more than just for taking the kids to soccer practice or zipping over to the grocery store.
Not everyone can drive a Cobra or a Testarossa, nor does everyone want to. But knowing that the option is there, and that there are people out there providing those options, is one of Linux/FOSS’s strengths.
We see this in distros like Kororaa, where Chris Smart and his team once based their distro on Gentoo and switched “manufacturers” to use Fedora in producing a solid, quick distro that works well right out of the box.
Jeff Hoogland and his band of developers at Bodhi Linux marry the lightweight Enlightenment desktop environment to Ubuntu. A combination of the lightweight desktop and the users’ choice of what to include in their own digital vehicle makes this perhaps the best combination of getting the best performance out of one’s machine.
Pixel-burning performance is one of the hallmarks at Crunchbang. Philip Newborough, a web developer and GNU/Linux enthusiast living and working in Lincoln, England, takes John Cooper’s legacy to heart — in a digital sense — while he and his team provide a Openbox-based window manager with Debian rumbling under the hood.
We even see this high performance riff on the enterprise Linux side, where in a digital “garage” Derek Carter, Clint Savage and others are gearing up GoOSe Linux. This project deserves special mention because not only is the performance measured on the instruments, but also on the community building process in an enterprise realm.
Examples are abundant, and forgive me if I don’t get to all of them. There are others who deserve mention: Salix OS provides a distro worthy of flamed fenders and racing stripes. Kenneth Granerud had a high performance distro in Wolvix which, due to some personal upheavals, became dormant, but in talking with him recently we might see it come back sometime soon.
So when someone complains about the fact that there are 320-something distros out there, bear in mind many of them are not for everyone.
So buckle up, and let’s be careful out there.
Several weeks ago, I put Kororaa 14 “Nemo” through its paces and liked it a lot. Chris Smart and his colleages at Kororaa do a great job in producing a distro based on Fedora, and Smart announced last week the release of Kororaa Linux 15 “Squirt.”
Based on the Fedora 15 release, Squirt features both KDE SC 4.6 and GNOME 3 desktop environments (as well as including a desktop switcher for GNOME 3, so that users can switch between the new Shell interface and the 2.x style Fallback mode), and it is available for download for both 32-bit and 64-bit architectures.
Squirt highlights include:
Want to take a look? Download it here.
During the course of running the beta for Fedora 15 KDE — Fedora 15 is out now, by the way, and you can get this outstanding release here — I had many problems with connectivity on some hardware running the beta, which forced me to look at alternatives.
It’s not that I wasn’t filing bug reports — I was — but I know enough about my abilities to realize that any contributions I might make to solving the problem would be outweighed by the fact that I’d clearly be in the way were I to try to fix them. Someday that may not be the case, but until then I let those with the heavier developer chops fix the big stuff and I’ll just be over there bowing in homage.
Be that as it may, for several days the Fedora KDE folks were trying to overcome a NetworkManager fiasco which, as far as I could tell as an innocent bystander, stemmed from the Fedora Project’s “GNOME 3 uber alles” focus in Fedora 15. During that time, I took another Fedora-based distro for a few laps.
Kororaa Linux 14 Beta 6, code named Nemo, was — and still is — a pleasant surprise.
Once a Gentoo-based distro that went into hiatus in 2007, Australian Chris Smart brought it back to life on Christmas 2010, basing it on Fedora. Why Fedora? Says Smart: “Essentially, Kororaa has been reborn as a Fedora remix, inspired by Rahul Sundaram’s Omega GNOME remix. It aims to provide all general computing uses out of the box and it aims to include software packages that most users will want.”
Smart and the other contributors at Kororaa hit the mark; in fact, the Kororaa team hits the bullseye in providing a distro with packages that just work out of the box. With the distro based on Fedora 14, it has a solid foundation from which to build, and the Kororaa team has built a solid operating system that those who.
There is an attention to detail balanced by a degree of whimiscal outlook in this distro. First off, the name itself is a variation of the Maori korora, meaning “little penguin.” Focusing on the new user, there are eye-candy features, like the rotating desktop which, for those of us in the AARP set, may be a little disconcerting. One thing I particularly liked — and I’m a sucker for stuff like this — is a default in the terminal that provides color characters. Nice touch.
Running on a ThinkPad R32, Kororaa handles everything I throw at it in typical Fedora fashion — with a “thank you, sir, may I have another?” ability and enthusiasm. Not once did the hardware complain or did programs fail under the trials.
Kororaa has a huge potential to grow to be a player on the Linux scene, and Smart and the Kororaa community can go places with Kororaa should enough people get on board and contribute. Count me in. I see a happy and healthy future for the little penguin.