From Greg Phillips on Tue, 12 Oct 1999
I've been using Doslinux for quite some time now, and am quite impressed. Unfortunately, Kent Robotti doesn't answer his email, it seems =)
I'm a member of a mailing list, which pertains to Euphoria. No, not intense joy, but a relatively new and unknown programming language. While the number of users is small, we're very passionate about Euphoria. Recently, a linux version was released, and many users wanted to use it. A fair chunk of them were hesitant to repartition their hardrive and install a new OS, so I recommended Doslinux. While it worked well for some users, others had trouble installing Euphoria, and other applications. This was no fault of their own: Doslinux documentation is a little bit skimpy, if you're new to Linux and don't know where to look. Being the resident Doslinux veteran, I was soon flooded with questions (How do I install X? How can I get KDE to run? How do I log in? Why doesn't this work?). So I opted to make a CD for the Eu community, with Doslinux, all the extras (gcc, x, kde or gnome, euphoria, etc.) already installed. Unfortunately this proved to be a lot of work. Trying to stuff a bunch of software into a pre-made distribution was getting to be painful.
So, after some reading, experimenting, etc., I decided to create EuLinux. The same idea as Doslinux, but customized towards Euphoria users. So, here's my question: How?
I've read everything I can get my eyes on, and, as I understand it, this is how DOSLinux works in a nutshell: It uses a loopback filesystem as the root device.
To install the whole system, a ramdisk device is mounted, which is used to create an empty file of a fixed size on the dos partition. The linux system can then be copied into that empty file, which can be booted with LOADLIN.
I know there's a lot more to that, but I hope I've got the basics correct.
Am I right? Can you point me to some documentation? Is it even worth trying?
Thank you, Greg Phillips
Well, it certainly sounds like an interesting and worthwhile project. However, I might suggest a slightly different approach.
It would be nice if Debian could be installed on a FAT filesystem (sort of a blend of DOSLinux and Debian). Then you could create a Debian package (and an RPM). This would make Euphoria accessible to most Linux users with a minimum of fuss while make DOSLinux capable of installing a very large number of well-maintained packages.
I suggest the DOSLinux/Debian merge for a couple of reasons.
First Debian has more packages that Red Hat, S.u.S.E. etc. Many Debian packages are smaller and more focused, while Red Hat tends to put more stuff in a given package. That leads to coarser dependency granularity for Red Hat.
Also Debian has developed "virtual packages" and "alternatives" which allow for more choices without having to work around the dependency/conflict management features of its packaging system. (For example in Debian some packages depend on "MTA" which is a virtual package that can be provided by exim, sendmail, qmail, etc).
Debian packages tend to "fit together" a bit better than those from Red Hat and other RPM distributions. Debian are hundreds of volunteer maintainers. Many of those maintainers tend to more proactively patch the base sources and feed their patches "upstream" (to the program authors). They seem to have closer ties between their package maintainers and the software authors (probably since there are so many maintainers, so each can afford a bit more time on the few packages that each one maintains).
Meanwhile Red Hat, Caldera, S.u.S.E., TurboLinux and other distribution maintainers each have a smaller number of professional developers. The various RPM distributions tend not to have compatible package dependencies and they duplicate quite a bit of the packaging effort.
Keep in mind that the core software among all of these is mostly the same. The differences show up in packaging, dependency and conflict management, and configuration tools. Debian package configuration mostly falls into the "it's ugly but it works" model --- where a package might prompt for one to five answers (with reasonable defaults). This is done basically as a simple list of "echo/read" (shell script) questions. It's not pretty, but it is elegant and minimal --- and it works better than linuxconf.
(Don't get me started about linuxconf. I've banned that from my systems until further notice!)
So, that's what I'd like to see. A DOSLinux that could be used as the base system for a Debian system. (For that matter any improvement to the Debian bases system install would be welcome. It's a really good system once you get it up --- but that first step is still a bit of a doozy.