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SolusOS: Life Happens…Distros Die

switchboardThe emails began about 7 AM.

“Is Ikey serious. Is this a joke. WTF?”

“Ken, have you seen this?”

“This has got to be a joke…right? Everything was OK yesterday? What happened?”

Here in the US, those of us who follow such things woke up to somber news:

It is with a heavy heart that I must announce the closure of SolusOS. Simply put, there is no longer enough manpower to fulfil [sic] the vision. What began as a Debian derivative evolved into an independent distribution, without the large development team required to back such an effort.”

It was like a kick to the stomach for many of us.

Only 4 days before that Ikey Doherty made a fantastic announcement:

“On behalf of +SolusOS and the Numix Team, I’d like to announce that we are indeed collaborating on the Numix Desktop experience. (Numix DX)…”

What is Numix? See it here. Also, be aware that some of these links to the SolusOS Google+ community may be deleted soon.

So what happened in four short days? The news of SolusOS and Numix collaboration was a pretty big deal. It combined two potential FOSS powerhouses under one roof. It was certainly an exciting partnership.

I’m certain there’s more than meets the eye here, but I’m only certain about it within myself. I really don’t know any more than you at this point and that bothers me a bit. While I was part of the SolusOS “Inner Circle,” this came as bad news to me, just as it did for the rest of you. I was going to actually link to the Google+ SolusOS Inner Circle group, but it seems to have disappeared overnight.

Just like SolusOS

Ikey has struggled for the past year or so…even to the point of putting food on the table. But even through his prolonged unemployment, Ikey worked steadily on SolusOS. Those of us who could donated money via his PayPal account so he could concentrate on his work.

Where I come into play within SolusOS isn’t news. Ikey approached me over a year ago and asked if I would like to help create a customized version of SolusOS for the Reglue project. In that our former Ubuntu LTS was speeding toward end-of-life, I jumped at the chance. I was a SolusOS user already so it was a great offer. Ikey and I became friends.

So what happened? What transpired between October 20th and October 24th that would make Ikey Doherty just slam the door and walk away?

If I were to guess, it would probably be a combination of a couple of things:

Ikey had recently landed a fantastic job. While it is public record for those who want to look, in the last conversation I had with Ikey he asked me not to make a big deal out of it.

So I won’t.

Suffice it to say that it’s probably Ikey’s dream job. I believe the demands of that position, along with the stress and constant shifting of SolusOS collaborators, finally took its toll. I believe that the combined pressure of these things rolled over him like a tsunami.

Ikey and I had a conversation a year ago about the stability of “one man shows,” the distros that are created and maintained by a single person. Reglue needs stability in it’s operating system presentation. With Andrew Wyatt closing the doors of Fuduntu, I was a bit nervous.

Ikey assured me that there wasn’t anything that could come become between him and the people that counted on him.

It appears that either for the reason(s) Ikey stated, or a combination of other things, something drastically changed for Ikey.

So what now?

A few months back, friend and associate Dietrich Schmitz made the point for keeping a wary eye on the smaller distros. In situations where stability is everything, people who administer computers/servers or even people like me who have to count on stability…

It just makes sense to stay with the mainstream projects that have either large businesses behind their development and funding or that have a huge base of people that can step-in should something happen to The Prime Mover. A good case on point is PCLinuxOS. Bill Reynolds, the founder of that project, had to take some time off…a lot of time off. But since there were people that could step in, the project didn’t collapse.

Unfortunately for most of us, SolusOS did collapse.

And most assuredly from it’s own weight.

It appears that Ikey has gone dark. My guess is that he’s unplugged in order to keep focused on his job and not answering the myriad questions inevitably coming his way.

Will SolusOS resurface? Maybe…but for my organization I just cannot take a chance that this might happen again. I have people counting on me to deliver.

But through it all, Ikey Doherty is my friend and whatever decision he makes, I will support him.

So I will wait along with hundreds of other people to see what Ikey has to say further, if anything. According to him, the SolusOS website will be pulled down shortly.

We’ve all just witnessed the death of a distro.

It’s not something I want to witness again.

All-Righty Then…

blueinfinityshadow

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Ken Starks writes and publishes The Blog of Helios, a finalist in our Best FOSS or Linux Blog competition. In addition, he's the person behind the Reglue project that refurbishes older computers and gives them to disadvantaged school kids in the Austin, Texas area.

23 comments to SolusOS: Life Happens…Distros Die

  • Having experience with creating and maintaining a distro on my own, I can attest that is if really really hard and really really time consuming.

    It’s been nearly 4 years since I last released a version of Qimo, and though I had solid plans for releasing in 12.04, there just wasn’t enough time (or energy) for me to make that happen. I’m only just now getting back to thinking about it, and perhaps a Qimo 3.0 release based on Ubuntu 14.04, but it’s all going to depend on how hard that will be and how much help (if any) I can get.

  • Eddie G.

    Its definitely a “dark day” when a distro passes into the Great Beyond….SolusOS will be sorely missed, I still have the second release he did on a DVD somewhere…in .iso format…I might just go ahead and install it on this mediocre laptop I have lying around…just to remember it! Much success to Ikey, your efforts will not soon be forgotten.

  • Jesse

    That’s too bad, I was looking forward to the newest version.

    I’m not sure if I would merely describe Dietrich Schmitz’s attitudes toward small distros as wary. Outrightly hostile is I think a more accurate description.

  • tracyanne

    So where does that leave all the kids you’ve shipped SolusOS based machines to? This is why you need to stay with mainstream distributions, supported by large development teams for ther sort of thing you are doing. Using these tiny botique distros for personal use is fine, but not for general distribution.

  • Paul R.

    I’m not sure why anybody who closely followed the SolusOS project would be very surprised at the news of the shutdown. Nine SolusOS 2 Alpha releases was not an encouraging sign.

    As a one man show, Ikey tried to do too much and his goals and priorities seemed to be constantly changing.

    His brilliance is undisputed and I’m sure he’ll be making significant contributions to the FOSS world again.

  • Slackeee

    I have seen those articles from Dietrich Schmitz and have commented on them. I totally disagree with him. The size of the development team has nothing to do at all with long-time existence of a distro, it is if the team is able to estimate the amount of work and plan accordingly. A small distro can be handled by a small team, if you want to become a new Debian or Ubuntu you need to have a large team. Having a small team means you need to have a small distro. Look no further than Slackware, a small distro with one main developer, nonetheless the oldest existing distro. Because the developers don’t get over-ambitious (like developing a new DE without any good reason).

    If a distro dies it is never because it was only a smal development team, it is always because the developers were not able to plan the amount of work they have to do.

  • Limey pedant

    Hi Ken,

    ‘Fulfil’ is actually the correct spelling for that word in Ikey’s native British English.

    Regards,

    Michael

  • kaddy

    arghhh that sucks man…. well.. for us, I was really looking forward to the independent SolusOS and had high hopes but it is not surprising that it’s a project that didn’t make it for reasons mentioned already. But still… good luck to Icky in his future prospects

  • There’s a lesson to be learned here. The value of perennity. One dollar for every young punk’s private Linux distro that’s gone down the drain, and I’m a rich man. So, a word of advice : before rolling your own, think hard if what you want to do cannot be achieved by an existing distro.

  • I agree with tracyanne. Stick to the main distros as a permanent solution and if you feel froggy to play around with one of these “Hobby” distros, feel free.

  • Tiger

    The strength of Linux could also be a weakness. It’s open source and anyone can modify and build his/her own distro, but at some point the developers will not be able to continue supporting the distro, a if no one else picks up the development the distro will die.

    If you need a custom distro for your business, than you can have team to maintain that distro and pay them from your revenues.

    If you create a distro because of a hobby, unless it becomes popular & get donations (like LinuxMint), you won’t be able to maintain the distro.

  • vellon

    It’s a shame people cannot leave their egos at the door and contribute to some existing projects already short of manpower, rather than reinventing the wheel. Ikey got over-ambitious. If his real aim was to preserve a Gnome2-style environment, he didn’t need to create his own package system, etc, and then find it was too much work.
    All fuel to the fire for those who maintain that there are too many distros.

  • jymm

    I was one of those Solus users. SolusOS was the best OS I have ever used. Solid, stable, easy to use, polished and productive.

    Yet as stated above, I saw the end coming. Ikey tried to give everyone everything. It started with a new Consort desktop, evolved into PISI package manager, and then an independent distro. I agree way to much for one man. Ikey also had personal and health issues. I had alluded that one man cannot keep up with Debian and Red Hat in the forum.

    By coincidence I had installed Point over my Solus install the night before the closing announcement. I keep a list of about 10 distros I have tried on a test box or USB stick for just that purpose. I am still learning and will eventually end up using Debian (which is on my list). I am older and came to computers late in life, and Linux even later.

    I wish Ikey the best of luck. I understand, he must do what is best for him. I forgot who did his artwork, but his splash screens and wallpapers where the best. Some distro should snag that guy. Any other Solus users reading this should give Point a try. Solid, fast and productive, but not as polished. A good alternative to Solus if you are looking for one.

  • Whizard72

    The linux world has 5 gazillion distros and only a few good ones imo. One less fly by night distro is addition by subtraction.

  • Andrew

    It’s unfortunate that so many people just parrot that people should use bigger distros rather than roll up their sleeves and help these smaller distros become the bigger distros.

    I guess it’s easier to run their mouths in a comments section than it would be to get their hands dirty helping.

    Maintaining a distribution is tough work, and arm chair quarterbacks preaching this sort of nonsense just makes it that much harder.

    Ikey definitely bit off more than he could chew, and it’s unfortunate to see SolusOS end. I’m not surprised though, one can only work on a project like this for so long without burning out. Even with a small team at Fuduntu it happened to us.

  • […] Solus has also closed up shop Here in the US, those of us who follow such things woke up to somber news: “It is with a heavy heart that I must announce the closure of SolusOS. Simply put, there is no longer enough manpower to fulfil [sic] the vision. What began as a Debian derivative evolved into an independent distribution, without the large development team required to back such an effort.” […]

  • I have occasionally suggested that many spinoff distributions could be post-install scripts. Apart from his interesting experiments with Pisi, a lot of what Ikey has been doing has been better themeing of desktop and apps. I assume that this can be achieved with a post-install script or an additional repo on top of Fedora, Arch, Debian or any of the family elders.
    Therefore, putting an effort into the very interesting Numix project will help him go in that direction.

    I am currently putting some translation effort into the tools developed by the Manjaro team. They are also an example of a small distribution which could go a long way.

  • “Using the bigger distros” doesn’t mean “becoming an armchair quarterback”. As an example, my company (http://www.microlinux.fr) has a series of 100% GNU/Linux solutions for servers, workstations and desktops. No canned distribution provides these solutions “as is”. So I decided to roll my own, but not in the form of a distro, a thought I had, but which was quickly dismissed. Instead, I chose to start from an existing distribution (Slackware) and build everything from there: post-install configuration scripts and more than 200 extra packages: http://www.microlinux.fr/slackware. Much work also (take a peek at the ChangeLogs), and it’s a better way to contribute directly to the distro than just start from scratch and reinvent the wheel everytime.

    Had Mr Doherty designed his work as a series of scripts and add-on packages and published it, others could have continued it. So the design error here was clearly trying to do everything by himself.

  • Andrew

    Niki, you are contributing to a distribution – my comment was aimed at those who contribute nothing but hot air, not those who actually contribute to projects (large or small). ;)

  • […] without the large development team required to back such an effort.” (networkworld.com) (fossforce.com) (solusos.com – dead […]

  • […] News: Various Ubuntu 13.10s have been released; Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu and Gnome, along with the first release of Ubuntu for phones. Version 25 of Firefox has also been released, now with an added web audio API. Debian is to switch to either systemd or upstart, instead of those old init scripts. The latest beta of OwnCloud 6 includes ODT document collaborative editing. Ben is co-authoring a book called ‘Learning Python with Raspberry Pi‘ with Alex Bradbury of the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the highly-regarded beginner-friendly Solus OS is to shut down. […]

  • Ferniez

    I am sad to see this distro die, but I remember reading in a review of Solus by Dedoimedo where he wondered about whether Ikey could carry the load. As he so correctly pointed out “one man bands” have a tough road to travel to achieve success.

    Here are a couple of quotes from his review:

    “For SolusOS to become anything more than a hobby, there has to be a real reason and sound financial backing, stemming possibly from sound financial reasons. Get it?”

    “And it’s one mighty spin, this one. I hope it succeeds. But I’m a realist and that makes me sad. Let’s hope the passion can overcome the reality.” http://www.dedoimedo.com/computers/solusos.html

    I agree with much of what has been said here about Ikey taking on too much. I think his heart was in the right place and he obviously is a very talented programmer but there is more to creating and maintaining a distro than programming. Having joined the Solus community for a time, I always got the impression that Ikey was continually overwhelmed.

    I think given all that went on with Solus he made the right call. Now that he has a great job, where he can put his considerable skills to work and get paid well for doing so, he may at some point be able to contribute meaningfully in other ways that are less costly emotionally and economically. We all wish him well