[Gllug] Esotericism (was: Could you build a distro?)

John Edwards john at cornerstonelinux.co.uk
Mon Jun 6 20:19:43 UTC 2011

On Mon, Jun 06, 2011 at 07:27:16PM +0000, Krishna Birth wrote:
> On Mon, Jun 6, 2011 at 10:45 AM, Jason Clifford <jason at ukfsn.org> wrote:
> This distro is based on an esoteric philosophy.  Opensource software /
> hardware and esoteric philosophy are nice.

I'm not sure what philosophy you are talking about, but most
dictionaries define "esoteric" as mystical, secretive, or difficult
to understand.

These are things that many people associate with Linux/UNIX (and
other complex computer technologies), especially if they are not
familiar with the history or technology.

But really the Open Source philosophy is more about liberty,
transparency and equality:

Open Source allows *anyone* access to the code, and use it to learn or
modify it for their own use. This seem the exact opposite of much that
has been called "esoteric", which involves secrecy and restriction of

Because of this I suspect it is probably easier for someone who knows
your "esoteric philosophy" to learn about building a new Linux
distribution than it would be for someone involved in Linux to learn
what the requirements of your philosophy.

Fedora, Debian and Ubuntu all have plenty of spin-off distributions
and there is lots of documentation on how to build them.

If you want someone else to do the work, and maintain it in te future,
than I suspect it will cost a lot more than 1500 GBP. Ubuntu costs
millions a year, and most of their packages are just rebuilds of
Debian packages.

Your best bet may be to get a student to do this as a project or
summer job, but someone else will have to take over the maintenance.
With security updates and bug fixes you will be rebuilding and
releasing packages several times every week, even if you rely on
Fedora/Debian/Ubuntu to do the patching and testing for you.

If this maintenance is not done then you could be exposing your users
to some serious security holes, embarassment and even financial loss.

ps. The Devil's Dictionary has an interesting slant of esoteric:
    ESOTERIC, adj.  Very particularly abstruse and consummately
    occult. The ancient philosophies were of two kinds, _exoteric_,
    those that the philosophers themselves could partly understand,
    and _esoteric_, those that nobody could understand. It is the
    latter that have most profoundly affected modern thought and 
    found greatest acceptance in our time.

|    John Edwards   Email: john at cornerstonelinux.co.uk    |
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