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Libranet's last goodbye

By Bruce Byfield on June 09, 2006 (8:00:00 AM)

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After six months, the Libranet community has learned that its wait for the revival of the distribution was futile. Tal Danzig, Libranet's owner and chief developer, has announced that he is discontinuing the development of Libranet.

Libranet was one of the oldest surviving Debian-derived distributions. First released in 1999, it developed a loyal following because of its easy installation and comprehensive set of packages. The distribution reached its peak in April 2005 with the release of version 3.0, but suffered a major setback when its founder, Jon Danzig, died of cancer a few weeks later. Tal Danzig, his son and partner, continued the distribution, but announced in November 2005 that the company was "restructuring" -- continuing support and keeping its forum open, but discontinuing development and sales while he considered what to do with the business and took a two-month trip to Israel.

Despite this announcement, many members of the Libranet community retained their interest in the distribution, hoping that it would be revived. Some expressed hopes that the distribution could make the transition from a business to a community project. An informal poll in April showed that 37% of those who responded were continuing to use Libranet 3.0 as their main distribution, and another 9% were using an older version. Another 26% had migrated to another distribution, but said they would consider returning to Libranet if a new version was released. Although 16% said that they would not return to a revived Libranet, the fact that they answered the poll shows that they continued to be involved with the community.

Tal Danzig began with an apology to the community. "I realize it's been a long while since I've posted here," he said. "My life has changed a lot since I last posted here." He then explained that his decision "is not to continue with Libranet. I'm not in the position in my life or career where running Libranet would make sense." He ended by hoping that the community "can understand and respect this decision."

Danzig did not elaborate on how his life had changed, referring his audience to his blog. From that source, it is evident that, during his trip to Israel, Danzig began a relationship with another traveler. He is moving from Vancouver, Canada, to Edmonton to be with her, and currently looking for work as a programmer.

Nor did Danzig explain why he finally broke his prolonged silence. However, the announcement may have been sparked by the announcement a few days earlier by Daniel de Kok, a former Libranet employee, that he would no longer moderate the Libranet forums. In his announcement, de Kok cited lack of communication from Danzig as one of his reasons for stepping down.

For the time being, Danzig promised to keep the Libranet forums going. However, he expressed concern over the lack of moderators and the cost of keeping the servers running.

A few forum members reacted angrily to the announcement. One said that Libranet's recent difficulties "taught me never, never rely on proprietary (non-free) software." However, the vast majority of responses were supportive and nostalgic. Typical responses referred to Libranet as "the best distribution that I have used" and "the finest GNU/Linux distribution ever created." Others alluded to the days when Debian had a reputation for being difficult to install, with one of them calling Libranet "the first Linux distro I was able to install." Almost all responses, even a few of the angry ones, praised the friendliness and helpfulness of the Libranet community.

Some responses focused on more practical concerns. A thread with the title "Which distro is most like Libranet?" has been running for several months, and a Libranet section has been set up on Debian Questions. Others offered to donate money to keep the original forum open, asking where they could send money. Several asked that Libranet's installer and control center-like Adminmenu, and possibly even the entire Libranet 3.0 code base, be released.

Danzig has yet to reply to any of these requests. Meanwhile, the Libranet home page continues to show the message from six months ago that the distribution is restructuring.

All in all, it was a quiet, if long-expected, ending for a distribution that once received widespread coverage from the free software media.

Bruce Byfield is a course designer and instructor, and a computer journalist who writes regularly for NewsForge, Linux.com and IT Manager's Journal.

Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist who writes regularly for Linux.com.

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Fragmenting

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on June 09, 2006 08:41 PM
Of course it's open-source, but what did it in is the fact that they're other distributions.

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Libranet

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on June 09, 2006 09:37 PM
This is old news. The referenced post is three weeks old. Thirty people have replied to it and nearly 2,500 of the Libranet community have viewed it.

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Re:Libranet

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on June 09, 2006 10:18 PM
It was news to me.

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Re: Libranet

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.3.132.199] on August 21, 2007 05:42 PM
*A similar thing happened to the distro "Beatrix". After a period of time "The Faithful" forked and continued to develope Beatrix into "Befanatix". Jon Danzig's son may not have the dreams or the values his father had. period. The keeper of the last forum may have/had more invested in Libranet. HHmmmm, i wonder what CentOS is like now? mike

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Not unexpected but a little sad.

Posted by: regeya on June 09, 2006 10:21 PM
One of only two Linux distributions I ever paid for, and the only one I never regretted.

Nowadays I'd feel like a fool for paying $50 for Libranet as it was back then, but at the time, it was great to have such a nice system and removed the tedium of getting various pieces from different Debian releases to work together. I don't know if Ted & Co. ever made any money on it, but I hope they did.

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given up

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on June 09, 2006 11:32 PM
I understand that Mr. Danzig ha been through some tough times, but it seems that he has just given up. He has the responsibility to the people who pazed for distribution. I find it hard to belive that he could not sell that solid distribition to some company, or if not sell just give it for free, if he had no interest at all.

I tend to belive that he just turned his back to the whole thing, which is probable the easiest thing to do, but irresponsible.

DG

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Re:given up

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on June 10, 2006 01:05 AM
Actually under General U.S. Law, the death of any principle partner or the sole proprietor disovles a business with the exception of a corporation. It is possible to structure a partnership with death in mind but it needs to be setup that way from the beginning in order to allow a business to continue operating afterwards. In this respect, Ted has no obligation unless Libranet was structured as a Corporation or Partnership with continuity after death of any principle, to continue operations, particullary if he doesn't have any contractual obligation to provide support and the business is unable to break even or make any profit.

Now based on these points and the GPL under which most of the Libranet code was developed, he does have the obligation to release the source code derived from any GPL licensed code back to the community but in no way is he required to provide it to individuals. Right now the two options I see that make sense is to first provide all GPL derived code to the Debian project since Libranet was derived from debian and to ask the FSF to accept the responsibility for retaining that code per the GPL requirements and assist in transitioning the Libranet Distro to a community supported project. If that was done, I suspect it would be quite possible to get several of the debian devs and others interested in taking up on some of the advances made by Libranet and possibly refining things enough to actually be incorporated into the Debian Project itself.

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Re:given up

Posted by: nanday on June 10, 2006 02:06 AM
Libranet was based in North Vancouver, Canada. I'm not sure whether Canada has a similar law or not.

- Bruce Byfield

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Re:given up

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on June 10, 2006 12:08 PM
His dad died of cancer. Give the guy a break.

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Re:given up

Posted by: Joseph Cooper on June 11, 2006 03:08 PM
I second that.

It's open source anyway. It's user maintainable.

So some people paid $50 or something for it. It feels weird to have to tell a FOSS fanatic this but if he can't let the guy off over a few tens he's obsessing over money.

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Re:given up

Posted by: Joseph Cooper on June 11, 2006 03:10 PM
It's just a distribution. They're a dime a dozen. Do you have any idea what the dude's going through?

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Re:given up

Posted by: amosbatto on June 13, 2006 07:15 AM
I doubt that Libranet has much of a resale value. All you are buying is a userbase and a name, but that userbase is dwindling very quickly and switching to other distros. Libranet is no longer the only Debian distro which is easy to install. The best way is to take the libranet proprietary bits of libranet and GPL them, then turn the whole kit and kaboodle into community-based project. Even then, I wonder whether it would continue. You have to develop a strong community of developers. Otherwise, it would be better to donate an unique libranet code to debian to maintain, but I wonder if Debian would really want it. For instance, the libranet installer was supposed to be really user friendly, but Debian now has their own user-friendly installer.

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Will be missed

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on June 15, 2006 01:28 AM
Libranet indeed made it easier, especially for newbies, to install Debian. This was prior to Sarge entering stable. So it was woody that was stable at the time.



I had occasion to speak to what I now believe was the son. I had some questions about the educational discount, as I was setting up an install for a younger cousin that was just entering high school at the time. The young man I spoke with was kind, polite, took the time to talk to me, was completely competent on GNU/Linux and Debian, and was an all around pleasure to talk to.



The distro cost was a real value at the time considering what you got and what alternatives were with running Debian. Let's not forget that another company went out of business trying to sell and support Debian (I downloaded their docs once, but I can't even remember their name right now). They were selling and supporting their own distro of Debian.



What you got with Libranet is similar to what you got last year with Mepis. That's when I tried Mepis for the first time, and if the Mepis developer(s) kept the distro the same or similar, then currently Mepis is a good alternative to Libranet.



I followed the issues the Libranet developer team ran into. It was sad then, and is sad now. For those of us who have lost a loved one to cancer, you know what the son and the rest of the family went through and must still be in mourning today. When you see the devastation that cancer brings upon a body, it takes a long time to recover from the feelings brought on by this killer disease, especially when that person is a relative or close friend and you are there on a daily basis over a long period of time to experience the deterioration.



Tal Danzig, thank you and your father for your work in making Debian easier. Your work was and is greatly appreciated.



As for others complaining about what they paid and not getting continual support, what's wrong with you? For the price you paid, how long did you expect to get free support? For the amount of money the distro cost, and considering the value it provided, how can you possibly expect more than a year's worth of free support? Consider what a proprietary operating system would cost for a support contract. Or what Red Hat's Enterprise support contracts cost for a year of support. You can get the system updated through Debian's repositories into a Debian system, which is better than other distros' upgrade methods of the time, where they expected you to wipe the old install and install from scratch again to move to the next major point release.



So you don't get the sources for the couple of administrative apps. Should've asked for them earlier. I doubt those bitching and complaining about the lack of sources would actually pick up and continue full development. Its just so you can bitch and moan. You got tremendous value for your dollar (if you paid for the current distro and not used the older release which was available for free download), and you still aren't happy. Grow up.

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Libranet forum archive

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on July 28, 2006 05:54 PM
FWIW: Jeff Greer and I have migrated the Libranet forum archive to <a href="http://debianquestions.com/ln-archive/" title="debianquestions.com">http://debianquestions.com/ln-archive/</a debianquestions.com> after we have received a database dump from Tal Danzig. This will keep the discussions available for some time to come.

~ Daniel

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Re:Libranet forum archive

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 05, 2006 01:18 AM
I would ike to purchase the company and keep it up in running. Any serious contacts or informations should contact me A.S.A.P. We will keep the Distro name and continuie with new and improved products.
Please serious inquires only.

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Libranet's last goodbye

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 4.255.74.60] on November 22, 2007 12:42 PM
I still use Libranet. I guess I'm just lazy. Never had a problem with it. I upgraded from 2.2 several years ago to 2.7 Woody ver and still use it.
I tried many distros and then I tried Libranet and it was like wow! I was so sad to see it go. The Libranet community
were so helpfull and friendly. I think I'll use Debian as my next Distro and just stay with it.

Clay

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