Kongoni: A new Linux distro from Africa

By   |  February 23, 2009

We’ve had Ubuntu and Impi, now there is a new African-named Linux distribution. South African developers today announced the first cut of a new Linux distro which they are calling Kongoni. Named after the Shona word for the GNU, Kongoni has a strong BSD-Unix influence and includes a ports-like package management system. The underlying code is, however, based on Slackware and the makers are promising to keep the distribution free of proprietary software.

The initial “baseline” release of Kongoni is codenamed Aristotle and is more a base for future developments than an end-user-focused release. Lead developer AJ Venter says that the idea behind the baseline release “is to establish a common working platform for the further development of the system. A previous baseline release was made available only to current developers of the system while this second baseline is being made available to the public at large.”

He says that from this point on Kongoni will follow a more traditional release pattern with alpha, beta and stable releases.

“The baseline release is not intended for end-users except as a curiosity but rather for interested developers and GNU/Linux experts. It does not fully represent the ideas or unique features of kongoni, but instead a platform on which those ideas can be created.” Venter says that while the release is aimed at developers it is nevertheless fully installable and usable.

BSD inspiration
Technically, says Venter, Kongoni adopts a BSD ports-like approach to package management. “Ports represent a powerful way to distribute software as a set of tools that automatically fetch the sources of the program and then compile it locally,” he says. “This is more bandwidth friendly for users as source code is usually smaller than prebuilt packages. This benefit is particularly useful in Africa where bandwidth is expensive, and since Kongoni came from Africa this was a major concern.”

Ports also allow power-users to manage the compilation of applications, allowing them greater control over the performance and capabilities of the software, he says.

The core system includes a KDE 4.2 desktop as the default desktop manager but the system intended to be easy to remaster, says Venter. Users can easily build and replicate the system with their own preferred setups and desktops.

The Kongoni baseline release is available as both an installable and live CD for both 32-bit and 64-bit systems. Torrents for 32-bit and 64-bit systems are also available.

Venter says that Kongoni is intended to be a “truly free distribution” with strict Free Software Foundation compliance. He says that FSF chairman Richard Stallman was involved in the discussions that led to the foundation of the project and his input was sought on critical decisions to ensure the system really was free software.

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Comments

12 Responses to “Kongoni: A new Linux distro from Africa”

  1. Dwayne Bailey
    February 23rd, 2009 @ 7:42 pm

    When I read slackware I just new AJ must be behind this. Congrats AJ will be fun to see where this leads.

  2. Wogan
    February 23rd, 2009 @ 7:59 pm

    Now this does look interesting. Given our evident bandwidth problems in SA, I wonder if Kongoni made allowances for it – especially when it comes to downloading updates and the like.

    As soon as I get my dsl upgraded, it’ll be one of the first thing I test.

  3. cmantito
    February 24th, 2009 @ 2:22 am

    Congrats AJ & co. Looks good :P

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    February 24th, 2009 @ 5:37 am

    [...] Kongoni: A new Linux distro from Africa We’ve had Ubuntu and Impi, now there is a new African-named Linux distribution. South African developers today announced the first cut of a new Linux distro which they are calling Kongoni. Named after the Shona word for the GNU, Kongoni has a strong BSD-Unix influence and includes a ports-like package management system. The underlying code is, however, based on Slackware and the makers are promising to keep the distribution free of proprietary software. [...]

  5. RGA
    February 24th, 2009 @ 7:58 am

    What a complete waste of time. Africa and the world really doesn’t need another Linux distro. Slackware based and keeping it clear of proprietary software will make its uptake marginal at best.
    I don’t see this solving any problem or catering to any sort of niche.
    Unless this is for pure entertainment value?

  6. Makh
    February 24th, 2009 @ 2:37 pm

    I would like to disagree with RGA on saying that its another wastage of time. If Linux in the first place didn’t have that many distributions it could be less than 0.2% percent used (IMHO). I look at a distribution like Ubuntu which is relatively new but has pushed Linux into the limelight and realize Ideas need to be experimented. Who knows, something new might come up and the next big bang is achieved. Lastly, I doubt if there is any one who tinkers with code at that level just for pure entertainment value. I just wish A.J and Co. cogrants and say go for it.

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  8. Graham
    February 24th, 2009 @ 9:51 pm

    With a ports-like package manager and slackware basis an strict FSF-compliance popularity seems to be low down on the list of priorities. In the best user-scenario, it could compete for Gentoo users, but I think it is aiming at people who wouldn’t use Ubuntu anyway, hence not competing directly with Ubuntu.

    For developers that take Kongoni up, go ahead as a platform to experiment with ideas, and if Kongoni proves productive, the results will at least be “free as in freedom” and can be taken on to improve more popular Linux distros.

    Best of luck.

    BTW.. who besides AJ is working on it?

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  10. A.J. Venter
    March 2nd, 2009 @ 4:24 pm

    Let me try to and answer the comments so far.

    Dwayne: Well we didn’t just jump to slackware without thought – it was chosen for being the most BSD-like linux around – we completely overhauled the package handling though to get even closer to the BSD world.

    Wogan: Well indeed one of the reasons we went ports based is because it reduces bandwith needs for updates, this is the same reason we use rolling-release-with-yearly-iso’ approach as well – always up to date with minimal bandwidth cost. We also chose to use git as our ports-version-control system, because it can be easily mirrored -meaning you can work entirely from local mirror (both IS and Tenet are mirroring already).

    Cmantito: Thanks amigo – but I think you may be slightly biased:p

    RGA: Obviously, I disagree with you. If you really want to know my thinking – check my blog posts on this exact topic: http://silentcoder.co.za/silentcoder/?p=381 and http://silentcoder.co.za/silentcoder/?p=387.

    Makh: To an extent entertainment value is a major motivation, I said so in my interview with opensourcereleasefeed as well. But it’s not the only one – this is entertainment value with purpose. We’re trying to make something good, something fun to work with – and fun to tinker with and very good for those it’s aimed at. Something with long term value, if some of that value is entertainment value – well I don’t see anything wrong with that.

    @Graham, well define popularity ? The classic windows mistake is to think there is only one kind of desktop user and one approach to work will suit them all. GNU/Linux is becoming in danger of the same mistake. VectorLinux for example is something most people never heard off – but among it’s target users it is very popular. That group may only be a few thousand in size – but if they weren’t using Vector – they may not have been using FOSS at all ! Well kongoni is like that, for now at least, aimed at those users for whom it feels right. I would guess a lot of the same people who like mac’s but are a bit more tech-savvy will be in that group but not exclusively (personally – I really don’t like any apple products).
    As for a platform for ideas, I agree kongoni will be great for that, being really easy to remaster and easy to customize and giving you the power of source-based packaging makes it possible to really play with it.
    As for who is working on it, there are about 15 regulars on the mailing list. Most of them are from the Western Cape, and obviously since we’re all volunteers the amount and nature of our involvement varies. Apart from our large Cape Town contingent, we also have core contributors in Sydney (Australia) and even as far as Germany.
    It’s still a small group (though the baseline is changing that as we hoped) but it’s a focussed group who really want to see what we’re building make it big.
    I don’t want to name names here because I would probably leave somebody out who really deserves to be mentioned. A quick look at the mailinglist archives should give an idea though.

    Ciao
    A.J.

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