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Frequently Answered Questions of the RULE project

1: Hardware is so cheap today, why bother?

Primarily for two reasons:

  • This is a very limited and egoistic attitude. Eigthy per cent of the world population still has to work many months or years to afford a computer that can run decently the majority of modern, apparently “Free” software.
  • Many people who could afford a new computer every two years rightly prefer to buy something else, like vacations, for example…. Hardware should be changed only when it breaks, or when the user’s needs increase a lot (for example when one starts to do video editing). Not because “Free” Software requires more and more expensive hardware every year.

2: Are you out of your mind? Those people need food, medicines and shelter, not computers

Of course. By all means, let’s keep things in the right perspective, and do whatever we can to guarantee survival first. Don’t forget, however, that:

  • software which doesn’t force you to hardware upgrades leaves more money for donations.
  • in the long run, these people need to become self sufficient, i.e. able to make a decent living by themselves. For better or for worse, in modern world this almost always requires computing. If you teach a man to fish he’ll never be hungry again.. unless the only useable fishing rods are too expensive.

3: By the time you’ve finished, Moore’s law will have made obsolete and available for a few bucks 1 GHz systems, so just wait…

First of all, if we don’t start to do something now, by that time Linux distributions will require 1 GB of RAM to install, and 2 to startx. In the second place, who ever said that “limited RAM” always means “junk PC”? Why not place a full desktop inside a 2003 cell phone? And what about single board computers? There is a lot of new and cool stuff which is “limited”

4: Are you starting yet another GNU/Linux distribution?

Absolutely no, because:

  • We (the project founders) don’t have enough time and skills
  • Good, optimized distributions already exist, even if most of them are de facto reserved to people with enough time and skills to build everything from scratch, or compile and upgrade manually all their packages.

5: Why Red Hat and now Fedora?

Because they are very popular mainstream distributions, as defined above, and because the project founders are all Red Hat users.

6: I don’t use Red Hat or Fedora, so I don’t care, right?

Absolutely wrong!!

Many of the reasons for the problems we want to solve are more a consequence of misguided programming (as in “done thinking only to powerful new computers”, not “low quality”) than of the “limits” of this or that distro. Consequently, much of our activity will be about:

  • find which program has the best feature to HW needs ratio for a particular task.
  • Help to clean some code so that it doesnt’ force you to copy on disk three different 100 MB library packages when it really needs only ten per cent of each.
  • configure it to achieve the maximum functionality on a per user basis, i.e. placing in the home directory of each user, at the end of installation, .rc files much more powerful than the default ones.

All this eventually benefits all GNU/Linux distributions. In short, regardless of what you are using now, you are welcome to port what we do to your favourite distribution, join our lists, suggest neat tricks, help as explained below, or just drop by now and then..

7: What is your relationship with Red Hat or Fedora?

We are an independent group of Red Hat / Fedora users, and started this of our initiative. However, we hope to cooperate as much as possible with Red Hat, so that this project eventually does merge into the standard distribution, for all the reasons explained above.

8: Why don’t you just install an older, smaller version of the same distribution?

Because (in no particular order):

  • We wanted a general purpose distribution, not something that does (very well) only one thing
  • Target users include grade school students, and in general people without enough competence or RAM to compile anything
  • For the same reasons, and to allow expansion we wanted a distribution with plenty of documentation and ready binary packages
  • It has to be a *real* distribution, i.e. a complete set of (hopefully) self installing software ready for desktop use since the first login, not a collection of tips, a newbie portal, or something that requires two more weeks of customization
  • Why should we? We do want xinetd, iptables firewalling, journaling file systems, secure SMTP and print server and so on, all compiled with modern libraries. In the user space, for example, we also want to print color with the latest Postscript drivers.

9: Are you going to support non x86 hardware?

This a perfectly legitimate question, since there are many, many such machines lying around, unable to support modern software. Unfortunately, today we have no resources for this. It would be a much, MUCH bigger task, considering that some of those platforms have never been supported by Red Hat in the past. We are focusing on adding a new install option to Red Hat for x86 hardware, because it does cover a lot of old computers, and it’s all we can realistically think to do.

Of course, we encourage and wish every success to projects attempting to do the same things as RULE on other platforms, and welcome every possible cooperation (exchanging informations, system setup scripts, whatever)

10: How can I help?

In many, many ways. For example:

  • testing the RULE installer and ISO images
  • if you already made a heavily customized Red Hat or Fedora install, please join us, or, if you don’t have time now, send us all the relevant files.
  • signalling interesting applications (see our Package selection criteria and package list)
  • providing smart configuration files which add real functionality without forcing the user to upgrade to a much heavier application. Example: how do I get automatic paragraph numbering with standard emacs or vim? Do I really need to go to an office suite just for that?

11: I know nothing about programming but am very interested in this project, how can I help?

You can still do a lot, for example:

  • testing the installer doesn’t require any specific skills. If you have an old computer, go to our testing page, and follow those instructions
  • Contact your local LUG, and ask them to help you and/on the project as explained above
  • Submit any requirement you might have as a RULE end user. For example, if you are a teacher, submit any Free Software program you find useful for educational or teacher support purposes.

12: RULE is great, but it doesn’t install program XYZ. Will you add it?

The short answer is “probably not”. The reason is not that we hate you, but simply that, very probably, there is no need to
ask for it. For a complete explanation, please read the “RULE is not a GNU/Linux distribution” page.

RULE = Run Up to Date Linux Everywhere
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