For our March “Community Choice” Project of the Month, the community elected SparkyLinux, a lightweight and fast Debian-based Linux distribution. Pawel Pijanowski, founder and developer of SparkyLinux, shared his thoughts about the project’s history, purpose, and direction.
SourceForge (SF): Tell me about the SparkyLinux project please.
Pawel Pijanowski (Pijanowski): SparkyLinux is an open-sourced project, which provides a Linux distribution slightly customized from the Debian GNU/Linux for end users. The ‘slightly customized’ means that it’s a pure Debian base with a special Sparky touch to make it as beginner-friendly as possible. This is a very short description of Sparky, but I hope it gives the Sparky spirit.
SF: What made you start this?
Pijanowski: The project started as a personal experiment in 2011. My hunger for knowledge pushed me to get more experiences around Linux distributions in general, but testing and using existing ones wasn’t enough for me. I needed something else that could make me work on top of the power and give possibilities to create something that could make other guys happy.
SF: Has the original vision been achieved?
Pijanowski: Yes, it has. All versions starting from No. 2 are archived on the SourceForge server. Older ones – Sparky 1 and its parent ue17r (Ubuntu Enlightenment 17 Remix – my first project) are still stored on my local drive. If someone would be interested in that, they can be re-published, no problem.
SF: Who spearheaded this project?
Pijanowski: Most of the job is [done] by me. A few things are made by MoroS, and many of the most important ideas and solutions have been made and used thanks to his consulting.
On the other side, without our forums and fan pages run by our community members (The Black Pig, Liz Mills, Albedo 0.64, and others), contact with our users and helping them could be difficult. So the one guy who put all the software pieces into an iso image is nothing without the strong backup given by many guys working [behind the scenes].
SF: What core need does SparkyLinux fulfill?
Pijanowski: The main purpose of Sparky is, as somebody already said: “to make Debian more easy to manage, configure and use, specially for new Linux and/or Debian users.” Pre-installed Wifi drivers, multimedia codecs and applications for any task makes Sparky the perfect choice for home and small business users that want to replace other, proprietary driven operating systems with the open-source.
SF: What’s the best way to get the most out of using SparkyLinux?
Pijanowski: There are a few ways to do so, for example:
1. Simply try it out without making any changes on your existing hard drive structure – run Sparky from a CD/DVD or USB drive in live mode
2. Try it out in a virtual machine software
3. Add Sparky repository to an existing Debian testing/Sid based operating system and try Sparky solutions/tools
4. Install Sparky to a hard drive to get all the benefits available from the live/installation media.
SF: What has your project team done to help build and nurture your community?
Pijanowski: The most important is activity and sharing knowledge (does not matter how small) to others, especially to new Sparky and general Linux users. The next one is the Linux and open-source popularity. The third one is cooperation between others, similar projects, sharing the knowledge and finding solutions. All these things are [being done] by the team and our community members.
SF: Have you all found that more frequent releases helps build up your community of users?
Pijanowski: No… Due to Sparky using the rolling release model and also, if it is already installed on a hard drive, there is no reason to download a newer iso image and reinstall the system. New iso images provide an up-to-date installation media for new users to test it and install on a hard drive. Creating new iso images more often (one per month/two months) could only confuse users and [require unnecessary work]. It’s much better to focus on new features and fix reported bugs. That’s what really makes [people] happy, than releasing another iso image.
SF: What was the first big thing that happened for your project?
Pijanowski: Don’t know… There were a few big steps in the past which pushed the project forward.
SF: What helped make those happen?
Pijanowski: A few things, for example: we kept improving Sparky, adding new features and versions, added Sparky’s own site (in English, before it was only a Polish page), added forums, added to the biggest Linux services data base around – DistroWatch, listing Sparky as a candidate to the project of the week and month of SourceForge. All together, every one of these things made Sparky more recognized than before. Even if some of the guys will not stay with us, some of them will find something interesting in the Linux and the open-source world. That’s a really good point to keep Sparky running.
SF: How has SourceForge and its tools helped your project reach that success?
Pijanowski: I found in SourceForge a few very useful things for me and my project.
1. The file hosting – my server usage is limited so putting the iso files would stop it quickly
2. The git repository – all the Sparky tools are open-sourced so it is good place to keep and share them
3. Bug tracker, Wiki pages, Forums and other tools [make] SourceForge useful as a project page
4. SourceForge is well-known, so keeping the project page here is good point in general to find more users and contributors
SF: What is the next big thing for SparkyLinux?
Pijanowski: I received many emails asking me to make more Sparky spins with other desktops. Unfortunately, there are too many Sparky spins already existing to make more now.
After [some] consulting and looking at the forum discussions (still open), the next move is to find a compromise between the other spins/desktops requests and keeping the same number of Sparky versions (no bigger number, better if smaller). It’ll be made via a minimal iso image with re-configured systems installer which will give a choice to install any desktop environment/window manager with as small a number of additional applications as possible, to give users the possibility to configure any desktop as they wish.
SF: How long do you think that will take?
Pijanowski: It’s already in progress, should be available for testing very soon.
SF: Do you have the resources you need to make that happen?
Pijanowski: All I need to finish it, is the time and a lot of testings.
SF: If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently for SparkyLinux?
Pijanowski: Nothing. I still believe that I’ve chosen right and the present way is correct.
But all the things change depending on the time, so the time will show.
SF: Is there anything else we should know?
Pijanowski: The biggest Sparky problem, as with similar projects is finding money.
Even I ask the community every year for donations to cover the VPS and domains fees, [but] what always happens is, the rest of the year is usually empty (of money). The best way to fix it, would be to find a sponsor/sponsors that could be interested in helping the project, or donations from community members every month. It could be really helpful to keep the Sparky project alive as long as possible.