Thursday, January 8, 2009
Q&A with PC/OS developer
1) First, introduce yourself.
A) My name is Roberto J. Dohnert, I am the lead developer for the PC/OS operating environment. I am an IT contractor among other things in North Carolina
2) What is PC/OS?
A) PC/OS is a Xubuntu derivative. We echo and extend the Xubuntu experience by trying to make it as easy as possible for users who have absolutely no experience with Linux or who aren't exactly technically inclined to use it out of box. We also serve as a starting point for small businesses or anyone who wants to use or deploy a Linux based desktop.
3) Why did you choose 'PC/OS' and not, lets say, Pcbuntu or something else
A) Actually the distribution started life as a private distribution for a local company that actually got acquired by another. The original name was OS/4 which wasn't a play on OS/2. It was a play on 'OS for You'. Considering IBM and Microsoft jointly own the trademarks and copyrights on OS/2, I didn't think it would be liked and wanted to avoid any kind of cease and desist, although I did find out from an IBM'er that they really could have cared less unless I decided to use the word 'Warp'. PC/OS was chosen because the original plan was to also do a PowerPC release and the PC could have stood for 'Power Computing' or 'Personal Computing'. I wanted to avoid the word Ubuntu because there are just enough names out there with a word and 'buntu attached.
4) Speaking of the PC/OS PowerStation, release what happened? Do you consider it a failure?
A) PowerStation was discontinued because of limited resources and the scope of usage of PowerPC processors and the fact that there are a number of PowerPC Linux desktops out there. There was absolutely nothing new PC/OS could have brought to the table for that platform. For PowerPC users I recommend Yellowdog Linux, for G3 owners Fedora is a nice release. Do I consider it a failure? No I dont. It was a learning experience and allowed me to network and work with people I never would have before.
5) You said you would have brought nothing new to that platform, the same could have been said for the x86 platform.
A) Well that's a point of view. The reality is this. Take an Ubuntu live CD and a PC/OS liveCD, run them side by side now try to connect to an AD tree, Install a windows wireless driver, watch a flash video, listen to an MP3, watch a .WMV file and tell me which one allows you to do that out of box without having to fire up Synaptic.
6) There are just some people who claim you dont contribute anything. Who just compare you to and I quote “a ticket scalper at a rock concert”.
A) Like before, a point of view, did they figure out the framebuffer issue that caused nvidia cards to go black when run from a liveCD? Nope. Now the Intel 915 issue is an interesting one. Do they go through long periods of testing and refinement to bring a better experience? No. Do they go through hours of compiling and looking at code just to bring a solid release? Probably not. Its easy to be an outsider looking in and not being involved than it is getting your hands in it. One guy actually said I just image my own PC and release that which is so far from the truth its not even funny. My development team can attest to that.
7) Speaking of development team, how many people work on this project?
A) 3 full time, 2 part time. We actually have weekly Skype pow wows and discussions on how we can extend PC/OS. I don't release the betas online and rely more on insiders and a control group to do the beta testing this way I limit how much e-mail I get and we lower frustrations with the system by releasing a product that works. Do we still have issues that arise after release? Yep we do. Nobody's perfect but most of the time the feedback we get is generally positive.
8) There has been a lively discussion on your forums regarding revenue. Is your project profitable?
A) At this time we don't make much revenue wise. I do understand everyone involved had hopes for PC/OS. After Linspire closed doors we picked up a lot of their users so people were expecting that to generate revenue, it hasn't. We haven't generated much from ad revenue, we haven't generated much from sales. We have generated a little from licensing but not a whole lot. PC/OS 2009v2 OpenWorksation will be a for sale product only, with OpenDesktop being a free download so that should help a little, hopefully..please buy. Anyhow, my plan is to keep moving forward and to get people interested in PC/OS.
9) Speaking of PC/OS 2009v2. You just recently scrapped the redesigned interface for 2009v2 and went back with your traditional 2009 interface, why?
A) When we first started everyone was comparing us to BeOS because we used a BeOS type window decoration. That was done out of a tribute more than an actual “ Hey look at us, we are replacing BeOS” people took it as the latter and really hammered the community for that. Do we share a lot in common with BeOS? Yes, we have a multimedia focus and an ease of use focus. PC/OS was never meant to pick up where Be Inc. left off. Some understood this, others didn't. So during testing we redid the entire interface, went back to a two shelf layout etc. Well some of the ingredients, using Icon Box instead of Tasklist caused some headaches. In Iconbox you cant group tasks and people like that idea of grouping tasks. If they are using OpenOffice for example they can have the spreadsheet, document and presentation grouped in tasklist, with Iconbox it generated a mess in terms of organization. Then I started getting e-mails where people were like “OMG, its just like the AmigaOS!!!! Thats cool!!!” I had the privilege of using MorphOS and AmigaOS 4.1 due to my testing of PowerStation on an efika and Sam 440 board. Both were nice OS's and I had wrote a blog post about the state of Amiga. Had AmigaOS 4.1 been widely available PC/OS probably wouldn't exist. But anyhow, myself and the team decided for technical reasons and to keep from warring with an alternative OS community, not to go that route. In fact Cris our GUI guy created some Amiga type window decorations as a parody of those e-mails. The interface layout in 2009 had been the most popular and we decided to stay that course but instead of Nodoka themes we are using Murrina themes similar to what the Xubuntu team uses again. During the testing some elements were kept, the video player and the music player are now on the Taskbar and elements like the trash can and the system monitor have been removed. The trash can was removed because with it on the taskbar people had 4 areas to manipulate the trash can. Is that necessary? I don't think so. During testing a request to add a root file manager, the web browser and e-mail client on the menu. So those were added. Testing really helps us refine the OS and to figure out from average users what we are and aren't doing right..
10) What releases will 2009v2 have?
A) There will be the traditional releases. OpenDesktop, OpenWorkstation and Appliance. We are also adding WebStation which has mostly online apps for documents, e-mail, photo management etc. Things that make sense like Movie Player, Music Player will stay offline.
11) What about OpenCore, and what is OpenCore? What about OpenServer System?
A) OpenCore was one of those accidental releases that I didn't think would take off but has. OpenCore is what I call the geeks release. You have the ability to tailor a desktop or server system to your liking. It doesn't contain any word processing, web or multimedia applications In fact many use it for storage systems, some use it for a simple web or database server, others use it for a host VM system,which was the original focus, and some just use it as a console ie command line only release since it boots to the command line. For that three apps have been added . Midnight Commander, elinks and cnetworkmanager, a utility for manipulating networkmanager from the command line. If you want the traditional easy to use desktop use OpenDesktop or OpenWorkstation. OpenCore does have a cut down XFCE desktop and X server but they like OpenServer system are turned off by default. OpenServer System is not getting a major release due to the fact that people don't upgrade servers like they do desktops. OpenServer System just gets a maintenance release which is an offline apt repository which updates the core system and core applications. OpenServer System is what I call the recycling release. Its sole purpose is so that users or small businesses can take old computers and reuse them as file and print servers, web servers or as a database server. It doesn't scale like Ubuntu Server, or Red Hat Enterprise Server would. The small businesses that use it are happy with it, in fact there are a few that never upgraded from 7.10 and run that to this day. OpenServer System has gotten a lot of attention for what it is.
12) When can we expect a release of PC/OS 2009v2?
A) March 1st 2009
13) You are a member of Channel 9, from your profile up there, for awhile. You also have said somethings regarding Windows 7 which some might find curious for a Linux distributor. You also participate in Port 25 and one guy, a gNewSense developer, in particular says you are sponsored by Microsoft. How true is that?
A) I get no revenue from Microsoft. Do I talk to their developers? Of course. Do I like the Microsoft guys? Of course. Some of their developers offer some advice on PC/OS and some have been nicer to me actually than some other Linux developers. Windows 7, for their current users of Windows is an awesome release. I do have a copy and its very fast and usable. When Windows 7 is released PC/OS development will not cease. Lets face it, not everyone is interested in Linux, PC/OS or even the Mac. So for those that love Windows, Windows 7 will be a worthwhile release. Will I snub Microsoft when they release Windows 7? hell no. I will shake the hands of the Microsoft employees that I do know and will send a congratulatory e-mail to Charles Torres, PaoloM, littleguru, Minh and any others that I have forgotten from Channel 9. Don't expect any blog posts or e-mails from me calling Windows 7 a piece of crap unless it turns out to be so. So far Microsoft seems to be on the right track for the sake of their users. I did offer assistance in getting Zune working on PC/OS and Linux by extension but those e-mails have gone pretty much unanswered. PC/OS also has a web app for accessing Live mail and Live drive which I think are awesome Microsoft services. I don't participate much anymore in Channel 9 not because I'm a Linux guy but because of time. I work close to 80 hrs a week and just don't have time. I miss the guys and some of them are PC/OS users. To answer a certain guy on Channel9, if Microsoft used PC/OS in their OpenSource labs would I be outraged? Nope, I would be honored but if they upgrade to 2009v2 they will, like everyone else, pay for it.
14) Now that we have covered Windows, what about Mac OS X and Solaris? Do you talk to gNewSense developers or the FSF?
A) I dont like Leopard, it has wreaked so much havoc on my MacBook. Solaris is nice enough, OpenSolaris is actually a pretty good release although I just run it in a VM. I do communicate quite a bit with Sun Microsystems and they have been very helpful in ensuring that PC/OS runs well on their hardware which I am thankful for. Sun doesn't sponsor PC/OS. I have had one communication with the FSF, needless to say, well we wont delve into the conversation. We are not sponsored or acknowledged by the FSF.
15) If someone wanted to sponsor PC/OS how would they do it?
A) For sponsorship contact me directly, for donations use the donate link on the homepage.
16) Well I'm sure PC/OS 2009v2 will be a great release, I'm a user and have followed the release cycles very closely and it keeps getting better. Good luck.
A) Thanks. We try and thanks for the Q&A. Here's to 2009.
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