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Interview with Jean-Philippe Guillemin, Zenwalk´s creator

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Zenwalk is one of the most promising Linux distribution. Based on Slackware, the distro is lightweight, simple and stable.

We decided to make some questions to Jean-Philippe Guillemin, Zenwalk´s creator, regarding future plans and developments about this "GNU-Linux Operating System".

First of all, could you tell us something about yourself, for a brief introduction?

I am 36 years old, married, and working as Security Engineer for the Telindus Corporation. When I started the Zenwalk project I used to handle everything from packaging, mirroring, coding, and Web administration. Now most tasks are handled by the Zenwalk team (including regular project management). My job in Zenwalk is reduced to the administration tools development, kernel configuration, Desktop design, and strategic evolving decisions. This organization allows me to spend most of my free time on my main hobby: guitar (ìm part in two Jazz-fusion trio bands), as well as some readings (SF), and taking care of my family.

Why did you decide to develop Zenwalk? What´s wrong with Slackware?

I started the Zenwalk project (formerly Minislack) as a way to learn the internals of GNU-Linux. Building an operating system is a great way to understand IT deeply because yoùre on your own to solve the problems when things don´t work as expected.

In my opinion Slackware is the best Linux "Distribution" in the world (a "Distribution" is a collection of applications and GNU tools, compiled on top of the Linux kernel and the Glibc). Slackware is fast, reliable, secure, up to date, and built with respect for the Unix spirit. Thanks to Patrick Volkerding, the Slackware founder and maintainer, for his hard work.

Zenwalk is not really designed to be a "GNU Linux Distribution", rather a "GNU-Linux Operating System". When you install Zenwalk, you immediately get one application for each task, optimized and ready to use, along with a refined look and feel. The pre-selected packages are carefully chosen by Zenwalk developers to provide the user with only the best and most usable applications.

Which are, in your opinion, Zenwalk´s most important features?

Rationality and performance! Zenwalk is designed to be a rational system by providing only one application for a given task. The applications that provide the easiest and fastest way to perform the task are chosen. This also has a positive side effect on installation: Zenwalk can be installed in as little as 15 minutes on modern systems. Developers can really begin working immediately on a project since Zenwalk comes with editors and the most commonly used libraries. Average users can use IT efficiently for word processing (Gnome Office) or playing multimedia
(all Mplayer codecs are included) without adding anything. If they want to add, for example, Openoffice or Inkscape (a very good SVG authoring tool), IT´s easily installed with netpkg in just a few minutes if you have a decent DSL connection.

Performance goal is achieved through the system global design. As opposed to large Linux Distributions, where every packages are provided with several graphical libraries, ultra-generic kernel, Zenwalk is designed for performance from the kernel configuration (CPU and I/O schedullers, driver selection, filesystems,...) to the tuning of the graphical environment. That´s
why, in most situations, Zenwalk is usually noticed to be faster than other modern Linux systems.

Could you tell us something about netpkg´s future development goals?

Netpkg has been redesigned in Zenwalk 5.2. The new GUI provides a new way of managing packages with only one big button to press to perform nearly any package manipulation. I believe that this layout is close to be optimal so there will be very few GUI improvements. 2 main new features will be developed: the "system cleaner" (orphan dependencies resolution to remove unused packages) will be added, and the port of the complete GTK GUI to ncurses as an optional mode of

And what about Zenpanel´s future development?

Zenpanel is mostly a shell for administration applets like Xnetconf, and as far as no more bugs are reported, IT seems to be stable and so IT won´t evolve very far in the future. On the other side, applets will evolve. The main technical evolution will be an overall redesign in gtk-perl. From the functional point of view: the main challenge for Zenpanel will be a fusion between Xnetconf (legacy Ethernet network configuration GUI) and Wicd (profile based WiFi-browser/ethernet configuration GUI).

Are you planning to include KDE 4 as an alternative desktop environment for Zenwalk?

Of course. Our KDE maintainer is already working on IT. As soon as KDE4 packages
have proven to be stable, the Zenwalk community will get them through Netpkg.

What could we expect after Zenwalk 5.2?

Some summer holiday?

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