After my first post about creating my own Linux distribution as a learning project, I received a lot of extremely positive letters from readers, many of whom had suggestions about particular distributions to use as the core for the project. Here's some of what they had to say.
My first distribution of choice, Linux from Scratch, met with a good deal of approval. Not everyone agreed that it would be the easiest way to go (one fellow cited Rock Linux as a contrasting offering, which does look like it's worth investigating), but I did want to make this into a fairly advanced exercise if I could. If it meant an initially steep climb, I didn't mind -- my goal wasn't to have a bootable distribution on the first day. (I also received a number of e-mails from people who have already walked the LFS path and are willing to help -- thank you to all of you as well, as I know your aid will come in handy!)
More than a few people, such as "Matt H" on the forums and some folks in e-mail, mentioned Puppy Linux -- which I've actually been a fan of for quite some time now, and have used to breathe new life into old PCs for impoverished friends. I don't know that I would use it in this particular instance, as a building/self-teaching distribution, but as I wrote in my recent "Linux Lite" article, it's the sort of distro that reminds me what Linux can be all about. I might actually have started with Puppy if I were that much less experienced with PCs generally (although don't take that as a slap against Puppy itself).
A number of people also chimed in about ArchLinux, another distribution built to be light and simple, and which can be used as a starting point for many things. From "sp4d" in e-mail: "If you want a good customizable, small, and easy-to-learn Linux distribution, I would recommend ArchLinux. It's based on the KISS philosophy, it's slightly different then other Linuxes in its init system (more like the BSDs), and you can have a basic system set up in minutes, then start tinkering away to your hearts content. This distro is not as cumbersome and difficult to setup for a newcomer, as LFS and Gentoo would be, but it is every bit as flexible as those distros."
And a guest on the forum agreed: ArchLinux "has a great binary package manager, pacman, and a build system sort of like FreeBSD's ports system called ABS. The build system is a little rough around the edges, maintenance wise, but it's very easy to make your own ABS/PKGBUILD addon if you want."
The package-management features are absolutely crucial for what I'm doing here, so I'm paying particularly close attention to how that's implemented in any given distribution. One of the things I want to enable is a high degree of customizability for the distribution after it's already "done" -- i.e., when it's already running on someone's desktop, whether mine or not.
One thing I want to re-emphasize: This isn't about creating something that will be used to knock another distribution, or Windows, out of the box, any more than building my own PC would be about trying to displace Dell. This is about learning Linux from the inside out, and what better way to do it than by building it with my own hands? (I may have soured on building my own PCs, but that's another story.)
I'll sort through more of the suggestions I received in upcoming posts.