SEUL Manifesto

This is a brief description of why the Simple End-User Linux (SEUL) Project exists: what its goals are, and its formal mission statement. Note that this document will not go into a lot of details about how we're planning to do things, but will rather describe our beliefs and and why we want to do certain things. Thus this is meant to be a long lasting document to guide the operation of SEUL based on a general system of reasoning, values, and beliefs. In other words, this specifies the intent of SEUL project, at a somewhat abstract level; specific plans and implementations may change over time, but they should always promote the intentions outlined here.


The mission statement for the SEUL Project comes in two parts, motives and plans.

  • Motives:

    We believe in software accessibility and affordability, and we think Linux is a mature, robust operating system, which more people should be able to use without having to face technical barriers (such as its lack of a user-friendly interface). We wish to support the development and dissemination of high-quality, free software (or at least affordable, non-monopolistic software), and to increase the accessibility of Linux to the general public. Linux is a good platform for us to use to further the cause of free software, since Linux itself is bound by the GNU copyleft to remain free.

  • Plans:

    We'll gather and distribute information about what's happening with Linux and the free software community in general, to aid communication and coordination between the many different developer groups out there. We will promote free software development and Linux ports of any software, to make Linux a platform with enough software support for general use. We will encourage and coordinate the development of end-user-oriented Linux software, and develop code ourselves if we find the need to fill a gap that no one else will. In the end, we want to have aided the creation of a fully viable publicly useable Linux distribution, which anyone can use as an good alternative to commercial operating systems. Accomplishing this will involve both aiding the creation of the necessary software (through organization of development, and through additional development as necessary), and helping to guide a proper distribution of the final products: they should be well-documented, easy to acquire, easy to install, and easy to use, with no technical knowledge required.

    (*) technical knowledge (tk): "clicking" is not tk -- we can expect that of our user. scripting is tk (excuse the pun), as well as manual editing of any machine- parsed config files -- under no circumstances should the user be required to do either of these on a normal system.

Mission Statement

We consider the target user in two large groups, due to the nature of an OS product: installer and runtime. Some people will never need to actually do much of the system configuration and hardware stuff required for the OS to work -- they just want to buy a machine preloaded/configured and use it (and call the dealer if anything goes wrong). These people need be considered only as target users for the runtime component of the OS. The distinction is useful because people who are runtime users really shouldn't need to know as much as the people who need/want to actually do system installations.

Beyond that, the exact difference between the installer and runtime-only users is still somewhat up for grabs, but there is a basic reasoning for the term "end-user" which applies to either case:

The end-users (as we use the term) are people who just plain use Linux, and the applications and accessories produced for it. Their main goal is not to use Linux for the purpose of creating more Linux, whether for themselves or the public (e.g. hacking around in their config files and scripts, or writing new Linux applications for redistribution, respectively). Thus they are at the "end" of the production line. They want compiled code in the form of an intuitive graphical icon on their screen.

Beyond this, there will be variations in plan, and we will branch out to cater to different segments of the end-user populace. These will include such areas as the professional/scientific users, business users, home users, and educational users. We'll need to consider factors affecting each of these as we weigh the value of targeting various features toward them.

Defining the End-User

This is a bit flexible (in this context, at least), since it is important to mention licensing early, but remember that it is only a detail used to further the goals above. It is a necessary detail, with non-obvious answers however, and thus worthy of some mention in this document.

SEUL will support anyone writing good code for Linux, because we want to strengthen the operating system by providing it with a larger amount of good software. It is quite reasonable for a company that puts a lot of work into a product, possibly requiring a monetary investment, to expect something in return from its users, or at least those who use it to make a profit for themselves. Raising prices to cover advertising campaigns or exploit monopolistic positions, however, is wrong, and will always be frowned upon by SEUL. All the advertising necessary should be able to come from word of mouth and low-cost ads (supported by SEUL, for example), and the cost of software (even moreso than any material product) should be based on its value, not on business tricks.

Of course, we will always be most supportive of free software development, when given a choice that does not compromise quality. Our real priority, though, may be stated as "fair" software development. We want to encourage as much freeness, competition, and lowering in cost to the user as possible while still providing a wide base of high-quality software. Thus, we can be more lenient with licensing on end-products, such as word processors for example, but must be careful to keep development toolkits and other middleware that we adopt well controlled by a fair redistribution and source availability license. At the extreme, the kernel as well as core POSIX utilities should remain under GPL, to ensure that they stay completely free, since otherwise anyone who buys into Linux/SEUL will pay if those policies change.

By default, all software actually developed by SEUL will be under the exact terms of the Gnu Public License (GPL), or Library GPL (LGPL), so it will be publicly available for free, including source code. Other groups developing applications and extensions to SEUL, however, are not restricted from producing for-profit products, as long as treatment of SEUL-authored components follows GPL rules.

Additionally, special cases may be expected to arise where other licensing terms are better suited to the situation (for example, to allow for-profit derivative works, but without compromising the freeness of the code, as with Netscape's source code license).

Although SEUL will remain a non-profit organization, in keeping with the spirit of the Linux operating system, this should not prevent application developers from creating products under their own terms. We recognize the importance of high-quality, end-user targeted application software, and will do what we can to encourage its development for Linux.


$Id: manifesto.html,v 1.2 2001/07/27 21:06:11 arma Exp $