Making Online Possible Offline

In the midst of the Ubuntu Developer Summit for the forthcoming long-term support release named Lucid Lynx, a new issue arose. This was an issue of intense partisanship perhaps. The GNU Image Manipulation Program, otherwise known as GIMP, was proposed for removal from the default installation on the distributed live CD.

Documentation for this is skimpy at the moment. The desktop team's blueprint does not explicitly state that this will happen. The Internet Relay Chat log for that particular session has barely any details except that the popularity contest package for measuring usage ranked GIMP on par with F-Spot. Although the session was filmed, the relevant Ogg Theora video file has not tumbled down the podcast distribution chute yet for review. A blog post at fan site unaffiliated with Canonical is what broke word for those not attending the summit.

Opinions on were across a bit of a range from being okay with the change to opposition through thoughts of counter-proposal to sadness. One user on noted that it is a big difference between stripping something from a live CD and removing something from repositories.

This whole matter presents concerns from the perspective of the Ubuntu NGO Team's blueprint. One of the areas of work enunciated in that plan was that the team would work on offline documentation. Offline repositories are something also considered in a discussion paper on the team's wiki site.

How can the GIMP be made available for those with sub-optimal Internet access? A case might be made that stripping GIMP off the live CD would reduce access to the package for those with less than optimal access to the Internet or no access at all. Unfortunately such is anecdotal at present and there is no hard data to properly back such a notion up.

The first tool to surmount this issue is the Ubuntu Customization Kit. At present that package's own project site shows examples of use in creating localized editions by language. For putting GIMP back into a live CD while stripping out other packages would create a derivative version of the distributed disc images which can over time create things like Linux Mint, CrunchBang Linux, and Katian.

A different work-around that may work better would be to go the route of APTonCD. APTonCD is one option for off-line movement of packages that does not require access to the Internet for installing anything. A similar tool for a command-line world would be AptZip that instead may allow shifting the download burden elsewhere such as to perhaps run on a public access computer at a public library.

As an overarching shift in live CD design, the inclusion by default of APTonCD would alleviate any worries like this in the future perhaps. Backers of GIMP and other packages that might not fit on the disc but still have strong communities can make images of APTonCD discs available. This is a short run solution, though. Increasing the availability of repository mirrors in public access Internet service settings would be a far more preferable solution in the long run.

Within the Ubuntu project, this would be a matter of liaison between the NGO Team and the Desktop Team, perhaps, as it touches upon the matter of trying to make the Ubuntu experience as equal as possible between the industrialized West and the Global South. Outside the Ubuntu project, this remains a matter of knowing what is going on with what you use. Just as it may seem simple to drive an automobile, quite a lot is going on under the hood. Compared to Windows or MacOS, Linux in general is the hotrod that you can upgrade and change just as drivers in the 1960s and 1970s could fuss over vehicles from manufacturers like AMX.

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Making Online Possible Offline by Stephen Michael Kellat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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