The beta version of the UserLinux operating system, which can be downloaded and written to CD, was released on Tuesday.
The project, which is led by open-source advocate Bruce Perens, aims to give businesses a high quality Linux operating system that is accompanied by certifications and support options, but without the price and licensing policies associated with Linux distributions from commercial vendors.
The operating system is based on Debian Linux and includes only one version of each type of popular productivity application, in order to cut down on support costs.
GNOME has been chosen as the desktop, PostgreSQL as the database, Mozilla as the browser and OpenOffice as the office suite. In a white paper on UserLinux, Bruce Perens said these choices were generally made to keep down licensing costs, not because the applications were best of breed.
"PostgreSQL is BSD licensed," said Perens, "MySQL is a great product but the software vendors who support UserLinux will always have to pay a licence fee (albeit a comparatively nominal one) if their products are not open source. This will present a barrier to adoption."
Perens says that UserLinux will be kept free, but support for the product will be provided by profit-making companies. The UserLinux Web site lists 16 vendors who will provide support to the operating system and eight that are planning to support it.
Perens hopes that UserLinux will eventually win ISO 9000 or 9001 certification, as this is often a requirement when tendering for lucrative European government IT contracts. Another certification that is required by numerous governments is Common Criteria. Common Criteria has been achieved by both SuSE and Red Hat, but Perens admits that so far UserLinux doesn't have the resources to achieve this.
"We won't approach Common Criteria until we're big enough."