Roll your own Linux distribution with Novell's SUSE Studio

It's easier than ever to make your own Linux distribution or appliance. Novell first annual "Dister" Awards, to groups that built Linux-based software appliances using SUSE Studio, shows just much you can do with an easy-to-use Linux development tool.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

One of the advantages of Linux is that you've always been able to build your own Linux distribution... if you were an expert programmer. But, today thanks to programs like Novell's SUSE Studio it's easier than ever to create Linux appliances or your house-brand Linux.

For proof that you can use SUSE Studio to create useful applications look no further than the winners of Novell's Dister Awards. The two $10,000 grand prizes went to software companies, Radical Breeze and Anderware.

Radical Breeze, won in the "Commercial" category for its Illumination Software Creation Station. This program lets non-developers design their own software applications with no programming experience required. Anderware, a software company from Sweden, won in the "Community" category for its Hypergrid to Go appliance, which allows users to easily set up an extension to the OpenSim platform to create a multi-user 3D world similar to Second Life.

In addition to the winners, Novell and its independent panel of judges also named a pair of appliances for honorable mentions. In the commercial category, the honorable mention went to EasySpooler Appliance, an advanced printer spooler to handle multiple printers by ROC Software's Paul Scripko. In the community category, the honorable mention went to BrowserBox. This application appliance, by Opera Software's Jacob Rask enables Web developers and quality assurance staff to do cross browser testing of Web sites and applications with 22 versions of 13 different Web browsers. I've tried both of these honorable mentions myself, and I can see businesses liking the print spooler a lot and BrowserBox would be great for anyone doing Web page design and development.

The contest also handed out a "Spirit Award" - recognizing a creative and innovative use of SUSE Studio that's useful to the community at large - to Gourav Shah of Efficient Frontier in India for his FreeSWITCHBOX appliance. This is an interesting VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) in a box appliance. If you find Asterisk, the open-source PBX (private branch exchange) program, to be over-kill for your phone needs, I'd give FreeSWITCHBOX a try.

None of those appliances do anything for you? Well, build one that does with SUSE Studio. Sure, you could do it the hard way, but if you have an idea that vanilla Linux and open-source software can't quite do right for you, SUSE Studio makes it easy to come up with just the right blend of ingredients to create an application that will work for you. If you come up with one that you think there's a market for you can always sell via Novell's SUSE Appliance Program.

SUSE Studio gives you access to most of the same programs that you can bake into any Linux distribution. The foundation Linux, is, of course, Novell's own SUSE Linux 11. You can then deploy it in a variety of formats including CD, DVD and USB-drive images; virtualization images and even on the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).

Of course, you need to know something about Linux works to build applications, but you don't need to be a Linux programming guru to put together a working appliance. So, if you know something about Linux and open-source software, and you've always thought you could build a better Linux mouse-trap, here's your chance. Go for it! Who knows maybe next year you'll win a Dister.

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