Your favorite distro is not our favorite distro

Every so often the Koha and Evergreen (and Drupal, and Plone, and $ANY_LARGE_COMPLICATED_FOSS_PROJECT) mailing lists and IRC channels will see requests for help from somebody who wants to install the software on a Linux distribution that isn’t one of the ones commonly recommended for that ILS. That’s fine; we don’t all have to run Debian or Ubuntu. But occasionally the requestor forgets one important fact:

Your favorite distro is not our favorite distro.

In other words, most active contributors to a large F/OSS project will tend to settle on one or two flavors of Linux for active development. While most projects will at least try to provide installation instructions or packages for most of the popular distros, ultimately if something is to be packaged and maintained for a distro that isn’t the one used by the majority of developers, somebody has to champion and maintain support for that distro. That somebody might not be one of the core developers.

So, if your favorite distribution isn’t the one best supported by the project, please consider the following tips:

  • If you’re evaluating the software, please consider setting up a temporary VM using the recommended distribution, then follow the installation instructions exactly as written. Also, many projects provide pre-built VM images or LiveCDs for evaluation purposes.
  • When asking for help, please remember that other users and developers may not be familiar with the quirks of your distro.
  • If you get past any roadblocks to getting the software working, please write up how you did it for the next person.
  • If you want your favorite distro to become one of our favorite distros, please be prepared to help get it there by maintaining installation instructions or packages.
  • What ever you do, please don’t just complain that the software isn’t packaged for your favorite distribution. It may be a perfectly good distribution, but few projects can package for every distro. If the software doesn’t work out for you and you don’t have the time or knowledge to figure out how to install it on your favorite distro, it’s perfectly fine to pass it by. But please don’t be rude about it.

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