Several weeks ago, desktop Linux distributor Linspire Inc. announced that it was going to open up CNR (Click N Run), its Web-based software downloader/manager, to other distributions. Now, the company is revealing more about what this new Linux software distribution system will look like.
First, in a letter to Linspire customers, Kevin Carmony, Linspire’s CEO and president, wrote, “Because the new CNR.com system was designed from the beginning with the intention of supporting multiple distributions (both Debian and RPM), most of the work for supporting a new distribution will already be done. The vast majority of the work is in building the overall system and has nothing to do with a specific distribution. This means that with just the small additional effort specific to a new distribution, we can leverage 100% of the CNR system.”
Thus, once the universal CNR is in place, we can expect to see new distribution support rolled out quickly. Why would Linspire, which supports both its own self-named distribution and the community-based Freespire, support other desktop Linux distributions?
Carmony explained, “We want Linux to succeed on the desktop. We want Debian, Fedora, openSUSE, Ubuntu, and all other Linux distributions to get as many users as possible. The real challenge for Linspire isn’t from the other Linux distributions, but from the legacy hold Microsoft has on the desktop.”
“The other Linux distributions are our brothers in arms,” Carmony added. “Helping fight the monopoly of the mind Microsoft has over so many PC users. CNR.com will solve many problems for all desktop Linux distributions, such as providing hardware drivers and multimedia codecs, which will help them grow and succeed.”
There will also be “one key difference” in this open CNR. Much of the content will be “wiki-ized,” according to Carmony. This, he explained, allows “anyone to help contribute to the content of product pages. The new CNR.com is designed to be very open and allow for contributions in most areas, including screenshots, user reviews, support information, descriptions, developer info, release notes, and so on. Each product page has a mini forum/wiki where invaluable information can be learned and shared about each product.”
In an email interview, Carmony explained what he meant. “All the content in the CNR Warehouse system that we have had in the past was controlled exclusively by Linspire. This meant we maintained all the product pages, screenshots, descriptions, categorization, etc. However, the new CNR.com Warehouse: (1) has a lot more information on each product page, and (2) 80 percent of it can be changed by anyone, and it keeps a history, way to revert, etc., hence me saying ‘wiki-ized’.”
The new CNR will also put a spotlight on Linux software developers. “Another very cool feature that CNR.com will have is what we call the ‘Developer’s Who Is Database.’ Think of the IMDB (Internet Movie Database), but instead of movies, we have software programs, and instead of actors, directors, writers, etc., we have developers and contributors,” Carmony explained.
In this Developer’s Who’s Who, “Everything is cross referenced, ala IMDB. So, for example, you could look up GIMP, click on the Who Is tab, and see a list of ‘credits’ of who has worked on and contributed to GIMP and in what way (code, graphics, QA, funding, etc.). You could then click on any of those names, and be taken to that person’s info page (again, all wiki-ized), and learn more about them, see photos, links to their home pages, blogs, etc. as well as a list of all the other programs they have worked on or contributed to,” said Carmony. We think this will prove to be a fun and interesting aspect to get developers excited about Linux software.”
Linspire’s goal for this new system? “We really want CNR.com to be THE place to not just one-click install Linux software, but also just to find it, learn about it, research it, etc. The community will be able to help it grow and expand,” Carmony said.
The new CNR.com Web site is now active with an informational placeholder where users can learn more about the plans for the multi-distribution CNR. It is expected to go live in the second quarter of 2007. Debian, Fedora, openSUSE, and Ubuntu will be the first supported non-Linspire-based Linux distributions.