2021 State of the Adélie Linux Distribution

AUSTIN (July 22, 2021) — The Adélie Linux distribution is announcing a strategic change in leadership to further refine and drive its mission. Zach van Rijn, former software engineer at IBM and computational modeler at Sanofi, will succeed A. Wilcox as the project’s lead.

A. Wilcox has been the driving force behind Adélie since ca. September 2015, who along with Elizabeth Myers, Max Rees, and Horst Burkhardt, transformed what began as a custom Gentoo overlay into a practical musl-based Linux desktop distribution with a community.

This is in addition to innumerable upstream software contributions. The Adélie team is grateful for your service and we wish you the absolute best in your future endeavors.

Zach has been working with the Adélie team behind the scenes since March to evaluate and reorganize the project. He has an extensive background in computer science and has worked in R&D for some of the world’s largest technology and research companies. He founded a private web hosting and software company in 2012 and has been active in FOSS for a decade. His mission is to accelerate Adélie toward its long-anticipated 1.0 release.

The Adélie project has undergone many changes in recent months, and we’re excited to announce some of them today. Please subscribe to our RSS feed as we’ll be sharing status updates regularly again. Our social media accounts will begin to reflect these as well.

Funding has been scarce up to this point due to the nature of the Linux desktop market. It is our most significant constraint and our biggest challenge to date. But check this out.

Adélie has been invited to join Software in the Public Interest, Inc. (SPI) as an associated project. SPI is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity based in New York state and is equipped to accept donations on our behalf and provide basic legal services should the need arise.

Please read our announcement about this important matter. You can find additional information on our donations page and the SPI project page (donations welcome).

Now with a mechanism to accept monetary and hardware donations in a legitimate and transparent manner, we are better prepared to serve our community. Our affiliation with SPI does not restrict us in any way, and we are free to seek other avenues of funding.

To better serve the musl and broader open-source software communities, we have expanded our focus to include servers, scientific, and high-performance computing applications. This is not to suggest that we are deprioritizing desktop support, rather, we believe they are complementary. The intersection is workstation computing. Adélie’s commitment remains the same: delivering a high-quality Linux platform to our users.

Adélie will remain an independent project, however to better accommodate businesses and customers who demand a certain standard of service and support, we will be branching out to offer enterprise support. This will come in two flavors. When a business or university has needs that strictly overlap with our own goals, we will consider these requests on a pro bono basis. When service guarantees are needed, we will refer these requests to third-party contractors with the hope that they will, in turn, consider donating to our project.

The second major change is our new website design. This currently covers our main site, blog, and package listing, with more to come. The new design will allow us to better pursue our objectives and distribute our work, and make it easier for visitors to find information.

To improve community engagement experience, we have consolidated our mailing lists in order to reduce the number of lists to which one subscribes and better focus discussion. You can read more about this change, including how to access the old list archives.

We have been revamping our core infrastructure, making it easier for us to manage, but more importantly, more secure. This is facilitated both by design and regular updates.

A new colocation facility has been opened in Austin, Texas, USA with an unmetered gigabit fiber connection. While the Adélie team is distributed around the world, this initial location was chosen for practical purposes (cost, amenities, network, and geography).

This facility will also accommodate both short- and long- term projects as we expand into scientific computing and research collaborations. It supplements other facilities we use.

Several powerful servers were donated to Adélie for use in this facility, and Zach currently oversees them. These Adélie-owned servers mitigate serious reliability issues we’d been having with leased servers from other hosting providers.

If additional hardware (e.g., ARM, POWER, SPARC) is donated to the project, the costs of operating at this facility are low enough that we can sustain it with minimal extra funding.

We currently have two 10 Gbit mirrors and an up-to-date distribution mirror listing. Bandwidth is not an issue, though we have smaller mirrors in select geographic locations to better serve those regions. We are looking to add more of these regional mirrors.

In terms of our software and services infrastructure, we have consolidated the number of distinct services we use. For example, we now track bugs alongside our source code. This is a departure from Bugzilla, which required additional database servers and separate user accounts. Other improvements to our infrastructure make it easier for us to keep our software secure as well as to recover or migrate in the event of a disaster.

We’ve migrated away from a shared GitLab instance to our own dedicated instance, which means Adélie’s code and CI/CD infrastructure is no longer under the physical control of any third-party entity. Accounts have been migrated and we recommend a password change.

Our ARM and POWER servers have been, or are in the process of being, reimaged and reconfigured to better align with our goal of automating more of our infrastructure. This framework will allow us to more easily provision, integrate, and test new hardware.

Documentation has been a sore spot for our users and we’re making progress to create, improve, and reorganize it. Moving forward, we’ll be migrating most of our documentation to GitLab. In some cases, it will make sense to choose another medium.

You can also look forward to a manual pages platform like that of Arch Linux. This will improve user and developer experience in furtherance of our mission.

These changes will be announced at a later date, and we are receptive to community suggestions on how to best achieve our goal of being as accessible as possible.

Other important operational changes include tightening feedback loops in several areas like package building and testing, streamlining the process for soliciting user feedback, automating almost every part of our core infrastructure, and reducing time spent on tasks that could be more easily and accurately performed by machines like regression testing.

We will be announcing cryptographic package and image signing changes in due course.

The 1.0 release train is steaming along. Stay tuned; we’re planning for a third release candidate. As a closing thought, we are also considering offering a bleeding-edge rolling release in addition to the continued stable releases that we’ve been putting out.

With these changes, we hope to speed up our ability to port packages to musl and to Adélie, grow our community, effect real change in the free software ecosystem, and show that a Linux distribution can do much more than just distribute Linux software.

Finally, I’d like to give a huge shoutout to the Adélie core team. Thanks for your hard work!

Independent by design.

Adélie is an independent Linux distribution committed to integrity, privacy, and user freedom. Your donation might be tax-deductible.