Five years old

Yesterday, on June, 22 the Calculate Linux project was five. First big achievement or baby age? Both, I guess.

Five years ago, what was to become the CL team registered and uploaded the first version of their home-made OS, Calculate Linux 7.6, for free distribution. For two years after that, on the 1st of each month (!) a new version was released, 7.7, 7.8, 7.9, 7.10, 7.11, 8.0, et caetera. And those were not just for the fun of annoying the Linux community: each of those versions included numerous changes, not to speak of the major releases. Progressively, we have adopted LiveCDs, client-server solutions, binary repos and migrated to Git. At the time of our first release announcements, such a rate seemed freaky for every one who heard about it. We could not, however, keep up with this pace as we developed Calculate Utilities 2.

How it all started

Microsoft Windows did not (still doesn’t) satisfy us. We wanted to minimize our costs. And, of course, we were fans of Linux (and still are)!

We were considering, back then, enterprise distros such as RedHat or SuSE, but fell in love with Gentoo. Though one does not need a reason to love, we admired its simplicity and its philosophy of choices. And - yes I know, I’m going to repeat myself - our preferences have not changed much over these five years.

But why add anything to an OS that works fine? First of all, Calculate, Ltd. needed to provide a unique authetication system for their employees, all profiles being securily kept on the server. At the time, no such free solutions were offered. We also wanted a system that could be deployed in a matter of minutes, not hours let alone days; no long configuration, no unexpected failing either.
That’s where using one’s own scripts seemed easier. We also found out that using a separate partition for safe updates would be most convenient. And again, Gentoo, for all its complexity, lookes the best to us. With Gentoo, we could select package versions we found the best, apply patches easily, optimize dependencies… We also appreciated its stability, which makes it, as everyone knows, perfect for servers as well as for desktops.
The next step was to come into the open with our ideas. That’s what we did.

Calculate Linux VS Gentoo

Put simply, Gentoo is what CL is made of. Calculate sticks to some standards that make operations like kernel configuration easier and better automated. The core of Calculate is the utilities we built upon Gentoo. Though you don’t see them most of the time, thay’re active whenever a package is installed. Besides, you need them to configure the system during the installation procedure. All config files are managed by templates, specially developed to make managing numerous packages in the easiest fashion. Time has shown that we were right to choose templates: presently, they are used to set up the system, to configure the desktop environment, the server or user applications, for this matter, to build a new system image, etc, while supporting it all does not get more complicated.

Calculate is fully compatible with Gentoo and stores all modifications in its own overlay, Calculate. Besides the utilities and the templates, it contains distribution profiles, packages, patches, kernel configuration files.

The Portage tree we’re using has been available on Git for some time. On the one hand, it makes Portage syncing much faster; on the other hand, it gives the developers additional time before a release, to verify dependencies and prepare binaries.

Oh yes, we are late with a major release of Calculate Linux, and truly sorry for it. Nevertheless, we prefer tangible, even if humble results to proud New Year’s resolutions that will probably be never put into life. What we want is nicely working Calculate Utilities 3, not just a schedule that we’d have respected!

We have always been determined not to change the format of Calculate templates from version to version. New functionality is added, some other variables are used, but the logic’s the same. Well, this applies to Calculate Utilities as well. The biggest difference brought by CU 2 was that the main executable had been renamed from `@calculate@` to `@cl-install@`. It should be even easier in CU 3: `@cl-install@` will remain operational as a link pointing to `@cl-console@`.
The graphical installer froze for two years, as you could see; it is, in fact, the only program written for Calculate by a third-part developer who volunteered. You will understand that we cannot afford developing functions that are too far beyond our needs.
That’s why we somehow neglected the user-friendly part, I must admit. For a long time, the installer was available from the command line only. But CU 3 are bound to bring in much better usability! We plan on creating graphical interfaces for all Calculate Utilities, such as the build manager, the update manager, the system configurator, etc. GUIs will be supported at no cost whatsoever. In fact, Calculate 3 aspires to combine two notions which have always seemed incompatible: the console and graphical interfaces.
Soon we will be presenting the first CL 12 beta, to be installed with the completely rewritten Calculate Install 3.0. The latter is probably the only existing GUI installer that can manage multiple devices.
You might, for instance, install Calculate Linux simultenuously on your hard disk and on an USB Flash, or try remote installation.

And that is not the end, mind you, that’s just the beginning… I promise.

That’s great! Terrific!