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Propossed Project: Odyssey

Note: this may be a bit long, but i hope you will read it and give
feedback about your opinon on the subject(s) discussed. And sorry for
crossposting, just wanting everones 2cents. forgive me :)

Fellow Debian-users/developers!

Lets start by telling something about myself and the reason i am posting
this proposal.

For some time now i work (ICT) at a highschool in Amsterdam, the
Netherlands. It's not a very large department (mostly
social/juristiction education) and, well, the cashflow is drying up a
bit. My colleague (actually, he's my boss) and i talked about this
yesterday and this set of some kind of spark in me. This is the result
of that small spark.

Normally, our school pays about 100k guilders ($50k) each year for
licenses, mostly thanks to a not further mentioned Operating System.
Now, the maker of this OS has a nice plan to squeeze more cash out of
it's installed base throughout the world. Our school is going to have to
pay nearly 1000k guilders ($500k) for licences. Thats half a million
dollars people, for one year. A simple small public highschool has more
than enough way's to spend this without problems with licenses. And this
school isn't the only one...

Now, my boss is going to get most of the heat, and he and his managers
are looking for alternatives. He hit the subject: as a linux/BSD geek
(not using $$$-OS, simply refusing ;) he asked if Linux was an
alternative for this $$$-OS. The reaction was forseeable. YES! But then
i put my support/propaganda aside. 

Ofcourse my thoughts went directly out to Debian, as a personal
favorite. It would take some time to create an enviroment where all
these (simple) users would be content in, it would take even more time,
testing and support for them to be glad with it, but that wouldnt be
much of a problem. The problem is that it should be simple to
install/administer/configure/upgrade (not everyone likes digging in
/etc/ or answering all these questions to install an OS), and using it
should feel like second nature! Most of these things are not yet here or
easy in Debian GNU/Linux, or in any distro in general, and that is a
pity, from a user-perspective.

Here, with Debian, we have the collective packages to make these
systems. Throughout the whole open-source community, there are countless
efforts taking place to make great software, nice to look at and easy to
use. These are succeding moderatly, and many of us use versions of them
(evolution, office clones, etc). There have also been companies
(Progeny, Corel) who have tried to make easy installers on top of
Debian. These have also moderatly succeded, but these efforts now all
but died out, as we all know...

How about updating? Apt-get and the frontends do this very nicely for
Debian, excellent as a matter of fact. A (small) problem here is the
huge amount of packages, nothing a good sorting and filtering wouldn't
be able to better, imho.
Configuration has been an Achilles' tendon/heel of all *nix in my humble
opinion. Editting configuration files is still the most reliable way to
change your system. There are some tools (YAST, Linuxconf, Webmin, etc)
that attempt to change this, and they too work (only) moderatly. For

But now for the main part: the user. If you are reading this, than i
don't regard you as a real user anymore. Real users use computers as a
tool to do their humble wordprocessing, e-mail, and surfing. Some time
ago, i read something about having your aunt being able to use Linux,
and she should be able to. Not because it is free, but because it is
BETTER! With that i mean more coherent, easier navigation, the ability
to do what the user wants: to accomplish a task. As easy as possible. As
fast as possible. No strings attached.

Now, where am i going to? 

We have the building blocks, the collective effort and the possibility
to make the world a better place: making a truely easy to use Free
Operating System. This is long due from our (the community's) side, but
it just doesn't seem to work out as well as everyone hoped for. Now,
with the tentacles of this Other OS grasping and squeezing the cash and
freedom from our fellow human beings, should we just let it happen?

Therefore, I propose a new project: Project Odyssey. 
To take the long road from where we (the geeks) now are to create a true
alternative for the user. For long the road it will be, it may never be
accomplished. But with everything coming together as stated above, and
no viable alternative, I thought it must be better to act than to hold

The goal of this propossed project:

To create a viable alternative to our main competetor, based on Debian

Not in the way of power and possibilities, but to help the users to
accomplish their tasks that they use the pc for.

Not in the way of "just" an installer, or "just" a e-mail client, but as
a total solution. (sounds very business IT, i know...)

Not made by a company, but as a united community, knowing that although
we may not get paid for our work, the reward afterward will be worth
every second of work.

Not as an OS made for geeks to administer, and users to use, but to make
an OS simple enough for even users to be able to understand. And even
simple enough for them to install and configure to their needs.

Not as a system just used at school or work, but that is easy enough to
use at home. No, not easy enough. easier! For every user!

I know that this will take an huge effort, if we accept this project. It
will have all sorts of problems that i couldn't even dream of. But NOW
it is possible...

Now, i will halt my rant/manifesto/speach, and let you give your
opinions and feedback. Speak now, or forever hold thy tongue! :)

greetings, TIA,

Alex de Landgraaf (aka AdeL)
the Netherlands

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