Thirty days with PCLinuxOS – The case of Ultumix or How not to remaster PCLinuxOS
One of the core principles of open source development is “freedom”. As such, there are few limitations for developers and end users to take the work of others and move it into a direction they deem better. This has led to a proliferation of Linux distributions, remasters and scores of applications that sometimes are hard to distinguish from other distributions, remasters or applications. It’s not an ideal situation but somehow quality material always seems to stick around, while the rest sinks back into oblivion.
Another core principle is perhaps “respect”. Freedom is never an absolute. You can fork a distribution or an application, but you don’t have the freedom to remove or change the underlying licenses. You respect that. Why this introduction?
The case of Ultumix
In preparation for the series about PCLinuxOS I ran into Ultumix, a remaster of PCLinuxOS. I have nothing against remasters. In fact, I created a customized version of Ubuntu for the book about Linux. Hence, I know it is not easy to do, though far easier than to create a new distribution of your own. I wouldn’t dream of rebranding it with another name. It’s Ubuntu and it stays Ubuntu. However, bread crumbs of Ultumix do give an insight into why it’s website says the following:
WARNING! PCLinuxOS Forums and IRC Chat
The PCLinuxOS community has informed me that they do not want users of Ultumix getting support from their forum or IRC chat. If you want assistance please use the links at the top of this page. Thanks.
What caused this stern stand by the PCLinuxOS community? Well, the first iteration of the Ultumix remaster had Cedega in it. Cedega is a commercial implementation of Wine that enables Linux users to play a selection of Windows-based games. It’s subscription-based and it is definitely not allowed to distribute it with your distribution unless you have persmission to do so (and -most likely- paid Transgaming for it). For this reason Ultumix was banned from Linux Tracker in November 2007.
Learning from your mistakes?
Now, everyone is entitled to make a mistake. What would you do after a foul up like this? Yes, you would read up on free and open source licensing and make sure that the next iteration would at least be free of problems. Apparently, the producer of Ultumix forgot to do that, because early December 2007 he released a new version of Ultumix without Cedega, but with a nice logo that stated that this distribution was released under the GPL v3. “Say again?”. Yes, he decided that the kernel, the tools, the applications everything should be released under the GPL v3. Fortunately a few people got in touch with him, so he could post in the Linux Questions forum:
Some have pointed out that I will make people angry if I release this under the GPLv3 so as of this moment on 12/03/07 at 04:23 PM Pacific Standard Time any software that is released under the GPLv2 will stay under the GPLv2. Also any software I created or released myself will be under the GPLv3. I just needed to get that out of the way.
People getting angry? You mean: getting sued for blatant violations of underlying licenses. Ignorance is not bliss. Too bad that this tainted version was released via The Pirate Bay where it will be available for quite a long time.
Installing PCLinuxOS…. oh… sorry. Ultumix of course.
But, everyone is entitled to make a mistake, even two. If you have vision and strong ideas about the ideal Linux distribution every lesson learned is a valuable one. In this case, the slogan “For Windows Users By Previous Windows Users.” might not the most inspiring one, but at least the target audience is clearly defined. With that in mind I downloaded the most recent version of Ultumix and installed it. It is a remaster of PCLinuxOS and you are reminded of that again and again.
The splash screen is the first sign that you are installing something else than PCLinuxOS:
After that you think you are booting into Windows XP:
Only to end up at the KDE desktop with a Vista-like theme:
The software collection is somewhat larger that a default PCLinuxOS install. Maybe I am getting cynical, but when I see this quote on the website:
Your Windows users should have a lot of fun with this OS. Do you like the new Start Kmenu button?
and then see nothing more than a badly designed icon consisting of a really low quality picture of a globe and the word “Start” on it, I wonder whether the target audience is really jumping up and down with joy.
“Innovation” for Windows users
Apparently. the Ultumix collector tried to make an effort by using Packman as package manager, so as to make it possible to install both RPM and DEB packages. But then:
I managed to install packman and gpackman in /usr/share/packman and it installed where it is suppose to go. Technically you should be able to install debain and RPM packages in this distro now. Proceed with caution as packman can not figure out what packages the synaptic has installed because it’s not configured for this distro. Unless someone steps forward and helps me get this done I will release this as the final version of Ultumix Standard Edition 2008.
Translated: “I could install Packman, but you -the Windows user- have to find out for yourself how to install and manage software through it. If you are a smart Windows user and found out how to do it, please let me know.” Sigh.
Bringing God and Jesus into the scheme
The worst was yet to come. I found a blog post by mr. Ultumix himself. Better read it for yourself, but this quote really rattled my cage:
I give all the credit for my project to the rest of the Linux community and Jesus Christ. The ideas I had for Ultumix didnâ€™t come from me. These ideas came from other distros and from the knowledge that God has given me. I am very thankful to be a part of something bigger and I donâ€™t ask for credit.
So, after first stealing software and illegally redistributing it, then illegally relicensing all open source software and redistributing it and finally bringing out a PCLinuxOS version with minimal window(s) dressing and still calling it Ultumix, this person has the audacity to bring God and Jesus Christ into the scheme as well. Not asking for any credit? Go figure! Maybe some more time should be spend on meditating on some core Christian principles like honesty, respect and humility.
How not to remaster PCLInuxOS
Anyway, stumbling upon Ultumix was only a side-effect of research PCLinuxOS. It doesn’t say anything about the PCLinuxOS project itself. It is however an example of how not to proceed when trying to remaster PCLinuxOS or any other distribution