As part of our KDE and Distributions series (1, 2, 3, 4) KDE Dot News spoke to representatives from Alt Linux. Russia recently announced plans to include GNU/Linux in every school in the country, and ALT Linux hopes to be the chosen distribution. Below CEO Alexey Smirnov and Andrey Cherepanov answer our questions about their relationship with KDE.
Can you tell us about the history of ALT Linux? What
were your initial goals?
ALT Linux was established in 2001 as a result of merger between IP Labs
Linux Team and Linux RuNet, both involved in creation of GNU/Linux-based
solutions since 1997. The primary focus of the company lies in the
sphere of development of Free Software and GNU/Linux-based solutions.
Why did you choose KDE and which version of KDE did you first implement?
Our first distribution included KDE 2.1. At that time we inherited
Mandrake's tradition of having KDE as the default environment.
How did you find initial support for a new distro? Is ALT Linux based
on another existing distro?
ALT Linux started with tailoring of Mandrake Linux for the Russian
market. However, it soon became evident that full-fledged technical
support and more extensive customization were impossible without having
a package repository and establishing the distribution development cycle
of our own. That is why we created Sisyphus, which is now one of world's
5 largest Linux-based Free Software repositories.
What could KDE have done better to help new distros use KDE?
KDE was (and still stays) an attractive environment for both newcomers
migrating from Windows and experienced users. The primary factors that
determined our choice were attractive look-and-feel, customization
features and a rich pack of applications.
What were your first impressions about KDE's documentation and community?
KDE had decent documentation, and its community treated companies and
individual users in an equally friendly manner.
It is an exciting time for ALT Linux. Can you share your opportunities
and recent news?
In mid-2007 we launched a new 4.0 branch of ALT Linux distributions. The
first was ALT Linux 4.0 Server with support for virtualisation and our
own browser-based management framework named ALTerator. By the end of
August we announced a desktop version ALT Linux 4.0 Desktop with KDE as
Now we are working on ALT Linux 4.0 Desktop Lite, a distribution for
less powerful computers and on ALT Linux 4.0 Small Business, which will
include WINE@Etersoft Local, a tool that allows to run accounting and
legislation database software particularly widespread in Russia.
Since 2003 we release distributions targeted at schools and are now
working on a new version of ALT Linux 4.0 Junior for Russian schools
that will include the full set of KDE Edu applications and other Free
Russian Ministry of Education and Ministry of Information Technology and
Communications will soon announce a public tender for development and
deployment of a GNU/Linux distribution for Russian schools. According to
the government plans, this distribution will be installed on all the
school computers in 65,000 schools in Russia (up to 675,000 computers).
We will certainly take part in this tender.
Do you feel that you have a good relationship with the KDE community?
Yes, we maintain a close relationship with the KDE community, particularly
in the area of the Russian localisation. One of the key members of the
Russian KDE translation community, Andrey Cherepanov, is currently
employed by ALT Linux.
What are things that KDE can do to help ALT Linux with all of this
We believe that KDE team should pay more attention to the quality of
applications and their usability (maybe interfaces need to be simplified
a bit without sacrificing their functionality). Special attention needs
to be drawn to the needs of enterprise users, development of deployment
and management tools.
Do you have any user feedback mechanism? If so, what feedback do they
have about ALT Linux and KDE?
Our users communicate with developers directly by means of mailing
lists. We have bugzilla for tracking of bugs and feature requests on our
products. The mailing lists and bugzilla allow users to communicate in
Russian, which brings down the language barrier for many of them.
In what ways do you customise KDE? Any changes that are moved back
upstream to KDE?
We do not change KDE deeply as Novell/SUSE does -- it is nice enough in
its original implementation. However, we include a patch for quick
search in KDE menu and also use a unified icon theme based on Tango and
a unified widget style QTCurve, which allows us to make consistent the
look-and-feel of KDE and GNOME/GTK+ applications.
What KDE applications are the most popular among your users?
Konqueror, Kontact, Kopete, Amarok.
What challenges does ALT Linux have with all of these opportunities?
We will continue developing quality GNU/Linux distributions for servers
and workstations. We are ready to offer our package repository management
technologies to any interested party.
What are your thoughts on KDE 4.0 and how it pertains to ALT Linux' goals?
We hope that KDE 4.0 will increase users' productivity and will offer
developers a powerful environment to realise their ideas. Both KDE and
ALT Linux seek to make user experience in GNU/Linux environment really
Any other plans for your distro in the future?
We plan to take an active part in the programme of deployment of GNU/Linux
on all computers in schools and government. We hope that a new support
infrastructure for GNU/Linux across the whole Russia will be created
within this project, which will make the migration possible not only for
schools, but also for IT infrastructure of government agencies, business
and home users. The Russian government expects to migrate up to 50% of
computers within the government sector to Free Software within the next few