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The Alpha-Male: Interview with Kenneth Granerud of Wolvix

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As you might know, Wolvix recently appeared on the Linux distribution scene and Tuxmachines has been quite taken with this wonderful offering. As I generally prefer qt-based applications to their gtk counterparts, there must be something special about Wolvix Linux to become one of my top three or four favorite distros. We wanted to try and verbalize what it is. Wolvix features xfce4 as its default desktop and has recently undergone some slight changes in philosophy. This not only did not deter Tuxmachines, it seemed to only endear it more. In fact, we wanted to know more about this wonderful distro and its insightful developer, Kenneth Granerud. So, we posed some questions to which he obliged.

For those who still haven't heard of this wonderful distro, it is a livecd said to be, "A fullfeatured portable desktop OS." It has the capability of not only being booted and run from cdr, but also usb key/memory stick. It has some of the most useful applications and features today while remaining less that the 512mb limit required of commonly used usb keys.

Some features of the latest Wolvix include:

  • Graphics:

    • Gimp

    • Blender
    • GQview
  • Games:
    • Frozen Bubble

    • LBreakout2
  • Multimedia:
    • Beep Media Player

    • Mplayer
    • GnomeBaker
  • Office:
    • OpenOffice 2.0

    • Evolution
  • Network:
    • Firefix

    • Gaim
    • Azureus
    • Skype
    • Wifi Radar
  • Much Much More

With more emphasis on gtk applications, Wolven has stated, "I wanted to replace the non GTK2 apps with GTK2 programs to make a more complete look and feel." To that end, "I stared upgrading some applications and libraries on 1.0.3. I had been experimenting a bit with Freerock GNOME a few weeks earlier and I thought I'd upgrade the GNOME packages. Then I started to replace some apps with their GNOME equivalents." Wolvix already had a wonderfully uniform presentation across the once variation in desktop appearances, but now he was taking it to a deeper level, to the applications themselves. As you can see in the following screenshots from a recent review, I believe he has accomplished this.

        

        

Born in Norway, Kenneth Granerud, 29, now resides near the capitol Oslo. He works in home maintenence and construction during the day and developes his distro by night, when his girlfriend of 10 years is not keeping him otherwise engaged. Better known as Wolven, this developer is self-taught and enjoys every minute of it. With future aspirations in the tech industry, he plans to formalize his education in the very near future.

The handle "Wolven" has evolved over time from other nics with wolf references, but mainly derives from his of the species and "was inspired by a CD called "Volven" by Hagalaz' Runedance." He'd been using it for his online gaming nic for quite some time and it had become comfortable, like an old pair of jeans. It was natural to continue its use and the name Wolvix for his distro followed suite.

Kenneth started with a dream. He wanted to make his own distro, one that fit him and his needs like a glove. Having been given a 512mb usb key as a birthday present, he wanted a distro that would fit on it as well. Already fascinated with the livecd technology he states, "the whole concept of being able to boot an OS from a CD really amazed me." Originally taken with Knoppix and later Morphix, his first attempts were at customizing those. Having limited success, his "breakthrough came about a year ago with Feather Linux and a nice "howto remaster feather" guide in their forums. The plan was to also include key applications like Firefox, Gaim, MPlayer, etc, but the main focus was to be on games." Kenneth and his brother had been gamers from way back. Their first machine was a Commodore 64 in the 80's and he "thought it would be very cool to make a games distro."

As you might imagine, this was easier said than done. Many challenges arose. Wolven says, "I spent many hours looking through and testing games featured on The Linux Game Tome trying to find the best and most polished games. Remastering Feather is rather cumbersome since you need to do much of the work in chroot and I ran into limitations with apt and the way RAM is used. I wanted to be able to use apt to add more software when running "live" but I had crammed in so much software that I ran out of RAM when trying to add the dpkg package needed by apt.

I also ran into issues with XVesa and XFbdev which Feather uses instead of Xfree/Xorg. Games could not be viewed properly in full screen and I had no clue on how to get Xfree working with auto detection of hardware. I thought about remastering Knoppix instead since it uses Xfree, but that meant I had to remove about a gazillion packages and I was not up to it.

Next I tried creating a LiveCD from Gentoo, using a guide in the forums, I got it to work partially on my own system, but I had problems getting Xorg to auto detect hardware and compiling everything from source make the process of developing quite time consuming. So I now had a two alpha versions of Wolvix and about 500 coasters and I took a break from the whole project."

After a rest, he began to search again. He tried several different distros, yet none could quite fill the bill. Once dismissed, his attention was now focused on Slax. The rest as they say is history. Although his new 'home' wasn't without its own problems, he soon overcame them and the distro we now know as Wolvix was born. "I wasn't able to get it running on my USB stick at first, but I ran it from a CD and started to make modules for it. When I finally got SLAX running on my USB stick I started upgrading and adding applications and games to it. Remastering SLAX is very easy due to it's modularity and I decided to use the Popcorn Edition as the base for my own project. Xfce is a very nice and feature rich DE and it's small size makes it perfect for a LiveCD."

Wolvix 1.0.4 is based on Slax 5.0.6 Popcorn Edition. While retaining the Slax kernel, most applications and libraries have been updated.

After some success and some critical acclaim, Wolven is now focusing his attentions on creating 3 separate versions. The beginnings of this project we have already seen. The latest Wolvix 1.0.4 saw the addition of OpenOffice.org, the subtraction of extra window managers and some applications, and some of the very games he began developing his distro to use. It brought with it a higher concentration on gtk and the elimination of qt where possible. These game losses wouldn't be felt long. In addition to this current 'desktop edition', Wolven is currently developing his 'gaming edition' and plans for a 'multimedia edition' in the near future as well.

His 'gaming edition' is due out very shortly. "I'm mostly done adding applications and games. What's left is to tweak some settings like the panel, theme/background color and the menu. I've spent close to three days trying to get XMame and GXMame to play nicely together and to work properly with my game pad," Kenneth reports.

Some of the applications retained in the gaming edition so far included:

  • SciTE

  • Gimp
  • cbrPager
  • GQview
  • gPDF
  • Beep Media Player
  • MPlayer
  • Grip
  • GnomeBaker
  • Firefox
  • Gaim
  • gFTP
  • LinNeighborhood
  • WiFi Radar
  • gcalctool
  • X File Explorer
  • File Roller
  • Gslapt/slapt-get
  • Most of the console apps from DE

So as you can see, it may have a concentration on gaming, but it certainly won't be crippled. The system will still have most of the major areas of computer interest included. In addition, the emulators include DOSBox, ZSNES, ScummVM; while the game count is up to 43.

His 'media edition' is still in its planning stages, but most assuredly will retain as many useful applications as the soon to be released 'gaming edition'. We look forward to each.

Kenneth is very "interested in how users interact with their computers and what can be done to make it easier and more intuitive to use." In addition he hopes his distros help to promote "open source projects and Linux as an OS to users new to computers and users coming from Windows. I hope Wolvix can become a stable, user friendly, well designed LiveCD which can be used by desktop users either as a tool or for entertainment. I'm trying to find a balance between everyday computing tasks, work and enjoyment." I think he has accomplished this too.

Tuxmachines: Are there any plans for an automated/guided harddrive installer?

"Yes, I want to have a easy to use GUI for installing Wolvix to a hard drive and to a USB flash device, and there is a guy working on a Perl script for hdd install. But he's rather busy with school and work ATM and I haven't spoken with him in a while. So I do the best I can with providing HOWTOs for doing it manually. In the future I hope for Wolvix to go beyond being a LiveCD and become a regular distro, or at least have an easy way of installing and upgrading the
distro once it's installed.
"

Not only has Wolven been hard at work on his distro, but he has recently upgraded his site, http://www.wolvix.org. It's a magnificent looking site retaining his original color scheme and matching his distro's color scheme rather well. I noticed it looked very much like Drupal and he confirmed it was. About using Drupal 4.6, he states, "It looked like Drupal was just what I needed for a new site when I was to expand the project to three editions. It's also well documented and easy to setup and administer, plus it's a open source project. What more could I want? =) "

Tuxmachines: How did you come up with the color scheme, not just of the site since it matches your distro really well, but your overall theme/look & feel?

"I wanted to make the site and distro to match each other and to have a clean relaxed look. I can't stand busy wallpapers or website with too much contrast making them hard on the eyes to read. I struggled quite a bit trying to find a color for the text that would not be in too much contrast to the dark background I'd decided to use for the site.

I like things clean and simple while still looking good. I believe there is a link between a well designed look/feel and being user friendly when it comes to a desktop environment. It relaxes the user and makes it easier to navigate. I've also tried to find a background color which doesn't create to high contrast when reading white websites or writing documents on white backgrounds.

Wolvix is just made to look the way I prefer it myself. I spend a lot of time creating menu entries and icons for applications/packages which lack this, since it bugs me if there are missing icons in my menu. =) "

Tuxmachines: How has using Drupal helped with development of your distro?

"It has made it much easier for me to update the site when I release new versions and to include more information about the project. It has been quite a time saver after got it up and running. Updating and administering is not the "chore" I felt it was before."

As you can see, Kenneth is not only multi-talented, but also a nice guy. He thinks not of himself, but of computer users in general and worthy open-source projects. He provides his wonderful livecd for download free of charge, but is not averse to donations. When asked if he'd like to add or say anything to anyone, he stated, "I'd like to give credit to Tomas Matejicek the creator of SLAX for making his excellent and easy to remaster distro, the users in the SLAX forums, the creators of all the packages on LinuxPackages.net and last but not least everyone who uses Wolvix and gives me feedback and suggestions. I also want to thank all the lamers from Clan Lame, my Quake3 clan and a special thanks to D1sn3y for hosting the ISO on his server."

I've tried a couple of versions of Wolven's products, and I have been really impressed. His systems are light, complete, attractive and stable. I encourage each one of you to test them out for yourselves. Visit his charming site and download the latest, Wolvix 1.0.4.

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