Updated: December 14, 2016
Behold, for this has never been done before on Dedoimedo. Several readers suggested that I perhaps expand my critique of all things open-source into a more personal dimension. Interviews, babe, interviews. I listened, I agreed, and here we are!
This is the first such interview attempt on Dedoimedo. First of many to come. Today, we will be conducting a written Q&A session with a member of the MX Linux team. Now, for those wondering who or what this distribution slash project might be, quote: "MX Linux is a cooperative venture between the antiX and former MEPIS communities, using the best tools and talents from each distro. It is a midweight OS designed to combine an elegant and efficient desktop with simple configuration, high stability, solid performance and medium-sized footprint." MX Linux caught the attention and high praise of Dedoimedo recently, with a very solid MX-15 release, and I had recently titled it as one of the top Xfce releases of 2016. Let us expand, shall we.
Hello, unnamed victim, could you please introduce yourself.
Dolphin Oracle (DO): I go by Dolphin Oracle. I run a Youtube channel devoted mostly to antiX and MX called "Run with the Dolphin." I've been using Linux since 2006, and antiX in particular since 2008. I started out completely inexperienced in Linux, and I'm not a programmer/coder by occupation. I started contributing to Linux by "cheerleading" for antiX, and then later for MX Linux. I was asked to be on the development team for MX Linux during the creation of the initial release, MX-14, in 2014.
In one sentence, what is the MX project all about?
DO: What we say on the Home page: "It is a midweight OS designed to combine an elegant and efficient desktop with simple configuration, high stability, solid performance and medium-sized footprint."
Can you tell us a little more about the distro, its history, its roots, the forking and spinning, the name, and the brand?
DO: You can check out our Wikipedia entry for
a little history. Basically the MX community
has its roots from a distro called MEPIS. MEPIS was a KDE distro, based on Debian stable for most of its run, but more or less "owned" by one person. When his business changed, development of SimplyMEPIS, as it's often called, ceased with a beta version 12. Several community members, not the least of whom are Jerry Bond and anticapitalista (of the antiX project), came together to form a dev team for MX Linux. MX is based on the Debian-stable version of antiX (itself debbootstrapped up from Debian). AntiX supplies
the ISO build system, as well as the live-USB/DVD technology incorporated in MX Linux. The former MEPIS community, now the MX community, chose Xfce for the desktop, and began to assemble the apps that have become known as the MX-Tools. Many were developed specifically for MX, some were forked from existing antiX apps, a couple are existing antiX apps, and a couple were imported with permission from outside sources. Together it's a potent combination.
What do you think is the key selling point (or appeal) of the MX distro?
DO: What people keep praising: the combination of low resource demand, continuously updated applications and ease of use.
MX shares a relatively low resource heritage thanks to its antiX roots. Those looking for a speedy desktop will
be happy with Xfce, which I think it's safe to say is one of the more popular desktop environments. The
MX-Tools help the average user with common tasks that are often complicated or obscure, like installing popular
packages or closed-source packages not otherwise available in Debian (google-chrome, skype), updating Flash,
managing Broadcom drivers, or whatever. Our package team also backports a lot of apps to newer versions than
might otherwise be expected in a Debian-stable distribution, as well as apps not otherwise found in Debian for
whatever reason, like simplescreenrecorder or obs-studio. For instance, MX-16 64-bit will ship with libreoffice
5, xfce 4.12, and a 4.7
DM: MX-16 has gone live, get it!
What do you think people expect from Linux on the desktop?
DO: That is a great question. I think the tinkerers out there are drawn because it's so customizable (that's what original brought me to Linux).
But many of our users just want something that works on their hardware. They don't want to have to upgrade their hardware to have a up-to-date OS. And they want the customization options, without having to modify text files manually. And excellent performance on top of that.
Do you think MX is there yet?
DO: I'm not sure any open-source OS (or maybe more properly small-market-share OS) will ever be "there." In
Linux's case, in general, there is more hardware support than ever before, but driver development still lags on
the newer hardware. Things still have to be
reversed-engineered or the Linux drivers that are provided don't have all the features. And with the major commercial OS players now getting into services, it's both easier and harder. Amazon video on demand works pretty well on my MX systems, but iTunes? Different story.
I can say this, I use a Linux laptop as my primary home computer. And it does everything I need; video editing, photo editing, word-processing and spreadsheets of course. And the big enchilada these days, web-browsing and "web-apps."
If you suddenly had an extra 1,000,000 dollars in budget, what would you change about MX that the current constraints prevent you from doing?
DO: (Dev Team would meet in the Mediterranean or Caribbean somewhere) Not sure about this, but it would be nice
to hire out some of the marketing, website development, product development, that sort of thing. For instance,
we could (use) new features, like encryption, in our installer. A proprietary driver installer GUI development
would also proceed faster with a little cash to back it up. More mirrors would be nice as well (we
operate several around the world now even on a small budget).
Where do you see the distro in 2017, 2020?
DO: Alive would be a good start. I'd like to see MX and antiX both in the top 20 on DW by 2017. By 2020 I would like a strong user base providing quality support on the forum.
Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter?
DM: Wise choice, my son.
What roles does the community play in shaping or developing MX?
DO: Very strongly involved thanks to good response mechanism by the Dev Team. I know that many of the dev team, myself included, often pick up on needs for the project based on activities the forum users post about. And there is a request area that community members can request packages to be backported.
And the dev team are active forum members. If a user posts a question, it's often a dev team member chiming in to help get the issue resolved.
Tell us more about the MX team. How do you guys work? How do you share ideas? Run us through a day in life in the MX world.
DO: I can't speak for everyone, but my own day looks like this. I get up, check the forums for posts that might need attention. I monitor the forum most of the day usually. When it's time to work on some MX-Tool for instance, the coders usually coordinate in the dev-only subforum, where we can hash out coding and/or functionality issues in relative privacy. The MX-Tools code is hosted on github.com/MX-Linux. The antiX code is hosted in a different github, but it's accessible for change suggestions. We generally test new tools or features privately before posting to a public-testing thread. Usually in the evening (US time), we see the package team going to work, bringing over new packages or updating older ones. And we all do our best to squash issues, should they arise.
How well do you cooperate with other distro teams?
DO: We are tightly connected to the antiX project. Most of the MX-tools (at least, the non-Xfce related ones) will run on antiX. And the live and ISO build systems come totally from the antiX project. We also have a "lead" packager, Stevo, who is active in the main Debian world.
There are also project teams we have worked with. We have worked with the Xfce developers, especially ToZ, to get new features working in MX. We also monitor the Xfce blog and forums.
Any other personal details you would like to share? Your hobbies, blood type, etc?
DM: Our victim chose not to tell us their blood type.
Over the years, Dedoimedo has often been vocal and critical of many distributions, and MX has sure crossed its sights. What feedback do you have on Dedoimedo?
DO: We had a hard time in the MX-14 days with criticism. It was new, we had worked hard on it, and criticism, deserved or no, doesn't feel good. I think now that we are a little older and wiser, we can deal with that sort of thing better. I think MX-15 was much improved by addressing much of the criticism from the MX-14 reviews. I hope that MX-16 will be better still.
Do you have a role model out there? And if so, why them?
DO: We admire a number of distros for various achievements: Arch for its Wiki, Mint for its aesthetics, etc.
DO: Often when someone talks about a distro, we talk about packages, and apps, and kernels. But lets not forget the community. In MX's case, the community existed before the project, as we kind of inherited it from MEPIS. We are answerable to them. We listen to them. And we are protective of them. Our community is very knowledgeable. They know when you are B.S.-ing them, so we don't even try. We are rewarded in that regard with a outstanding community. Knowledgeable, friendly, and most importantly active. And may I add, hopefully growing!
There are a few other little bits and pieces and details that I would like to add to this interview. Having exchange a fair deal of emails with the team, and in order not to break the flow of the questions and the answers, here are several more important facts about MX Linux.
The MX team takes pride in their manual, too. The MX manual is not only available online, but it also ships on the ISO. It has received praise for its clarity and detail. You can also always seek help in the forum. Oh, you should also check the videos, too.
They would also like to make a special mention of the MX Community Repo (mxrepo) team, who consistently bring newer packages into their debian-stable base. Another group of hard-working MXers that deserve attention - core packagers. Quoting Jerry Bond, the project manager:
The core packagers (CR) are very important, since they do all the work to make MX "nimble" by backporting,
importing, compiling from GitHub, etc. They will generally meet any reasonable user request.
The aim of the CR is to provide applications that are not included in the default Debian or MX repositories, and/or provide newer (more up to date) versions of existing applications when requested. We do this by either compiling direct from source, backporting from upstream existing Debian packages or adapting packages prepared by other distros in the Debian family.
Last but not the least, the team wants to make sure we do not forget Old Giza and the translations team. They don't get enough credit for the work they do getting localizations done for the mx-tools. As far as branding goes ... the M was originally for MEPIS and the X is for antiX. It's an acknowledgment of the distro's roots. And it sounds kind of sporty [sic]. In fact, everyone, users and developers, deserve a big thank you.
Yes, for this time. It is my turn to thank dolphin_oracle for his time and courage in answering my silly questions. Hopefully, you will all find this interview useful. MX-16 is out there, and I am more than looking forward to testing it. If you like this, feel free to share. If you have any feedback, suggestions or ideas, do contact me. See you around.