Interview with the founder of LinuxBeta.com
Editors of Linux news sites like LXer see a lot of new community websites come up. Most new sites are good, but occasionally you find that real jewel of a site which is unique, new, and most importantly, useful. Chris Haney's new website, LinuxBeta.com is one such site. The idea of a website that focuses on 0.x beta distributions and Linux software packages, along with screenshot slideshows of the same, is an idea whose time has come.
I like LinuxBeta.com and what Chris has done. It is a good service that he is doing for the community and I recognize that he spends some significant amount of energy on his website. I had some questions for him regarding his new website, and he was kind enough to take the time to respond.
DW: I know that you have announcements and such, but is the main idea of the site the slideshows? What exactly is the entire focus of the site?
The main idea of LinuxBeta.com is to be a resource for that which is up and coming with the various Linux distributions. Like many great Linux news sites, I include announcements of the newest distribution releases. I differ in that I focus on pre-production releases. These include betas, release candidates, and 0.x production releases that haven't yet reached 1.0. You might ask, "Why betas?" Quite simply, I can't wait to see what distributions have up their sleeves. I believe there are many people out there just like me, who eagerly wait for the next release of their favorite distribution, or distributions. The pace at which Linux evolves amazes me and I can't wait to see what is coming next.
LinuxBeta.com is more than a news site. It includes other resources including screenshot slideshows (more about that in a minute), a large listing of distributions and their websites, which currently includes 370 distributions, and links to screenshots of 145 distributions. Besides distributions I list 2-D and 3-D desktop environments, window managers, so-called killer applications, and PDAs running various distributions. I also include news feeds from 16 Linux news sites.
There is no doubt that our screenshot slideshows have become our main feature. While there are many great sites out there doing informative reviews of various distributions, I take a different approach. I prepare slideshow presentations of distributions using screenshots. These screenshots progress from boot to desktop configuration. They vary greatly depending on what the distribution being reviewed has to offer. While conventional reviews are great, a picture is worth a thousand words. I intend to supplement conventional reviews with our slideshows. I am currently seeking a partnership to fulfill this need.
At this time I focus on beta distributions and desktop environments. Our partner, OSDir.com, is a great place to see screenshots of various open source applications.
DW: Will you also handle final releases?
This is something that I am still evaluating. As I currently review final release candidates, which are virtually that same as production releases, I am not sure if covering production releases is necessary. But yes, this is something you may see in the future.
DW: How do you take the screenshots? Surely not by holding a camera in front of your monitor.
Some days using a digital camera would be a great solution, compared to the work involved in getting these slideshows together :)
How the screenshots are taken really depends on the situation. Loading the operating system into a virtual machine is usually the first attempt at getting some nice screenshots. However, many distributions don't install well in virtual machines. This leads me to other efforts including screenshots taken from with the distribution itself, and VNC session windows. Let it be known, that this can be a difficult task. It may appear that each distribution installs effortlessly, which is one of my goals. I wish this were the case. As I'm dealing with betas, it sometimes takes many installs to get all the images I am able to capture.
Yes, I do all the slideshows myself.
DW: How long does it take you to prepare each slideshow?
This really depends on how friendly a distribution wants to be. It is not only the new distributions that sometimes make me dig to get good images. Well known distributions can be a lot of work. There are many new distributions out that install beautifully and are truly a site to see.
DW: How many different distros have you installed?
I have no idea. A lot. I've been installing different distributions for years. Since I've put together LinuxBeta.com, a couple of months ago, I've prepared slideshows of 19 different distributions. If you want to quickly compare installations and desktops of various distributions head over to our site and have a look. If you want to try a new distribution for the first time, have a look at our site before you start downloading. If I haven't already done a distribution's slideshow, I'm probably working on it.
Another of my goals is to make LinuxBeta.com a way to help people save time. It takes time, not to mention an extra computer or partition, to download a CD image and install a distribution to have a look at it. I archive these slideshows so you don't have to try to remember which features of which distributions you liked. You only have to pop open the slideshow on our site for a quick reminder of what the distribution is like. If you are trying to introduce family and friends to Linux, it's much easier to do with screenshots. Many distributions today look much like Windows and Mac desktops. Looking like other operating systems is not a requirement for the Linux desktop but will help users move from one to the other.
I knew this question would come up. I don't want to get myself in trouble here by picking favorites. My opinion doesn't matter anyway. Different installers and distributions are suited for different people. I am impressed, however, at how easy Debian has become to install with the Debian-Installer release candidate 1. I also think it is important to look at international distributions. Some of the slickest desktops I've seen aren't English by default.
DW: How long have you been using Linux?
I first installed RedHat in 1999. It was tough to track down a CD set in stores but I managed to order a copy. Since then I've kept trying different distributions as they announced their great new features.
DW: Have you been involved with any other projects? Do you work for a company now? Who?
I've recently joined forces with OSDir.com, working together on slideshows of desktop environments and other great open source software.
There are a few other exciting projects that I've worked on, with Crocus Plains Software Ltd., in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
I also worked on 'Punch', which is a web-based time card entry and reporting application for small to medium sized businesses. A free version will soon be available at http://www.CrocusPlains.com.
I continue to work on other great projects with Crocus Plains, which are in beta stage. We are wrapping up development on a client/server program, which manages the execution of applications and tasks across an intranet. Other beta project is a powerful, and free, website statistics application. You're sure to hear about this app in the future.
DW: LinuxBeta.com is cool, and unique as far as I know. Thank you for making these contributions to the community!
Thank you for your comments. I'm always looking for feedback. I'm working hard to make LinuxBeta.com a valuable resource for Linux users and those interested in making the switch from Microsoft Windows.
I need to thank the various partnering news and distribution sites, which have contributed in making LinuxBeta.com a success. Head over to http://www.LinuxBeta.com to have a look at what I have to offer :)
You cannot post until you login.