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Perfect OS

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libervisco's picture
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I have a weakness and it is an inability to settle on one thing, its pros and cons and be still. Cons always get me looking for something new and different. If there is even a slight irritation or an envisioned possibility of something significantly better I have a desire to pursue that even if I'm not sure I'd be able or motivated enough to go all the way.

OK, to translate this into english and in a way that makes sense to these forums, I can't and just can't settle on one GNU/Linux distribution. The abundance of choice available in the world of Free Software tends to spoil as it is, and especially someone who doesn't need a lot to get all picky. I've been from Mandriva to Slackware to Arch to Ubuntu Hoary to Arch to Ubuntu Dapper and I am still not settled.

The idea in this thread is to discuss each others vision of a perfect operating system which is free. We can compliment each others ideas and further discuss them even, rather than just spell out the official description of what we find ideal. Maybe something tangible even comes out of the discussion, who knows.

At this point, I am stretching myself between two seemingly contradicting concepts, an easy to use mostly GUI operating system where everything that can be reasonably automated is automated (for example Ubuntu, OS X) and a simple system fully under users control where everything is set up the way the user wants to by modifying pristine configuration files directly (a prime example of this is Arch, possibly Slackware). On one hand, I very much appreciate an OS that anticipates and does routine tasks for me, like Ubuntu, but on the other side I would also appreciate if the underlying system was clean and simple to interface with if I wanted to directly. In a way I would want to merge the "Ubuntu" concept and the "Arch" concept into something new that would perfectly operate, but so far I am not sure this is possible.

I would like to think it is though. The closest to this that I can imagine at this point is Arch with a gentle layer of GUI configuration tools pulled over it. But instead of creating bloat and complexity as mostly GUI distros like Ubuntu tend to do, it would still preserve the pristine form of the configuration files these GUIs modify so that the user can choose sometimes, if he wishes, to modify it by hand without GUI tools starting to get cranky about it. Also, such a system could practically be as user friendly as OS X and Ubuntu with routine tasks automated and an awesome integrated desktop environment, but not at the expense of creating bloat and complexity on the system beneath that surface as is usually the case.

Anyway, I've ranted enough. In a way I'd like a perfect OS to be the one which unites the simple (simplicity of the system underneath) with easy and attractive (GUIs at work on the surface) without the two having to deny each other.

libervisco's picture
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Ok I had to post this too, I

Ok I had to post this too, I wont be long. Sticking out tongue

What I would pretty much like to see is a new GNU/Linux distribution project which would among its goals state something like this:

Our goal is not only to create an easy to use operating system for the average Joe User (the masses), but for the average "geek" user as well. To do this, rather than focusing only on making good looking easy to use GUI environment at the expense of the simplicity of the underlying system environment or focusing on simple system environment at the expense of lack of easy GUI environments we focus on creating a perfect combination of both. This not only brings us the true general purpose operating system that is fast, powerful, fully flexible and still incredibly easy to use, but we get a *clean* system both below and above the surface. Whoever wants to look only above, sees beauty. Whoever wants to look below, still sees beauty.

I think Ubuntu does a great easy to use GUI environment but at the expense of underlying system environment complexity. On the other hand, Arch does a great simple system environment, but doesn't offer an Ubuntu-like easy to use GUI environment to go with it. I anticipate a solution that will provide both environments and not at the expense of each other. Smiling

tbuitenh's picture
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Sure, give me a team of

Sure, give me a team of efficient programmers, a big bag of money to pay them, and a year or two Eye . It won't be as easy to use as Ubuntu, but it will be far easier than Arch. Also, it won't feel familiar to ex windows users, because that can't be done while also creating an elegant system that doesn't force the user not to tinker with it.

Before Ubuntu, most people thought having a good quality truly easy to use GNU/Linux wasn't possible. Then one guy put a lot of money into it, and we got Ubuntu.

libervisco's picture
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And because one guy did it

And because one guy did it with a lot of money it isn't possible otherwise? I beg to differ. The community has expanded and in addition to all the hackers and programmers we now have quite a few artists and designers as well or aspiring ones like me.

It can be done if you choose an efficient methodology of doing it.

tbuitenh's picture
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It will require a lot of

It will require a lot of programming work, and most programmers can't be bothered to work for free on something they don't need themselves. They might do it if it entertains them, but then don't expect it to be finished soon.

Artists and designers can't make software fundamentally more easy to use. They can make a frontend pretty and intelligible, but it will still be a braindead frontend. They can make a desktop look awesome, but it will still be a concept cloned from some proprietary OS that aims to hide how things work instead of making it easy to understand.

Don't get me wrong, I think artists and designers are incredibly important, but the layer they work in is not the only one that is broken, and they have come quite close to fixing it (just look at Tango... awesome!).

Back to the Ubuntu example. Ubuntu isn't easy to use just because it looks great. It is easy to use because someone paid programmers to make all the pieces work together. The programmers already could do this for their own systems, so there was not too much reason for them to make it easier.

"Community" does not mean "charity", it means "cooperation". A group will not cooperate to make something none of its members needs.

libervisco's picture
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I agree and I understand. I

I agree and I understand. I just think (or maybe just hope) I may not be the only one anticipating this kind of system and if I'm not the only one with that itch, then maybe there are others to cooperate with to make it happen.

As seen in another thread, the whole concept doesn't even roughly need that much work. It is just about putting all pieces together. Ubuntu has done an awesome job at producing certain things that even other distros can use. We can integrate some of this stuff into our "Perfect OS". We could add usplash, use ubuntulooks-based theme in default install, and drive inspiration from the way they made it all work together. They've done the usability research for us and created a kind of desktop interface standard which we can now further drive inspiration and build from.

But instead of Ubuntu's underlying configuration system complexity we can have a simpler, faster and cleaner base.

I think most of the pieces are already there. We just have to put them together into an unique and "perfect" combination. Smiling

Btw, when I say "we" I don't imply that I expect anyone here to suddently start working on this or something. It's all just ideas right now and I might or might not at some point when I'll be able work on something like this, but ideas wont hurt anyone. Smiling

tbuitenh's picture
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If nobody is scratching your

If nobody is scratching your itch, learn to code and do it yourself, or pay someone to do it.

tbuitenh's picture
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I agree with what you said

I agree with what you said in the other thread, a combination of things from ubuntu and arch would be perfect. First choice should always be tools that don't need manual configuration at all (networkmanager, maybe upstart, etc), second choice are the tools with easy to understand configuration files, and third choice... well... Laughing out loud

I'm not so sure about using pacman for package management though. It seems to get slower and slower with every update, and also I think package management could be made far more user friendly than anything we have ever seen.
For example I'd like packages that contain things like fonts or icon sets to include a preview image in their descriptions.
And it would be simply awesome to have a package filesystem like QNX has. (this makes it possible to do things like disabling a package without deleting its files, easily discovering modifications to files owned by packages and undoing those modifications, etc etc, trust me it's cool).

tbuitenh's picture
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Hey, here's one idea. We

Hey, here's one idea. We could make a wiki with a specification for a complete OS. Maybe people are more likely to adopt ideas when they see how they all fit together. And maybe, just maybe, they will also adopt the programmers who thought of the ideas but didn't have the resources to implement them Laughing out loud .

libervisco's picture
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I've also noticed a pacman

I've also noticed a pacman slowdown as number of packages to handle grew. I suppose the performance is now in range of apt-get while pacman was before supposed to be faster than that.

I didn't think so much about the package manager as long as there is a good GUI front end to it, but you're right, if we're conceptualizing a perfect OS, some package management innovations should be considered as well. Smiling

And that QNX-like package file system does sound quite awesome. Smiling

A wiki specifying a new OS is a good idea I think. There's something new and cool to add to the to-do list. I suppose Libervis Wiki could be suitable host for that, and then we can just link it from here, our signatures and give the link to people who might be interested. Smiling

tbuitenh's picture
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I'm a big fan of the design

I'm a big fan of the design of EVERYTHING in QNX. They must have some geniuses working for them. If it wasn't proprietary and if it had a driver for my ethernet card, I would need about 0.0000001 seconds to decide what OS to use Smiling . I just hope they don't have a patent on the concept of a package filesystem.

Okay, maybe I'll write a bit on the libervis wiki when I find some time.

libervisco's picture
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Certainly does seem like QNX

Certainly does seem like QNX had some smart people working on it. Anyway, I'll be probably putting something up on Libervis Wiki at some point as well..

tbuitenh's picture
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http://www.libervis.com/wiki/
libervisco's picture
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Cool. One thing about

Cool. Smiling

One thing about package management though that should be of concern for a perfect distro is that if it would require a completely new package format we and whoever would be involved with such a project would have virtually no packages for the distro.

One of the big advantages of Ubuntu is how many packages it has available for it, not only in repositories, but outside of it. .deb is becoming almost a standard installation format on GNU/Linux because of it.

Arch has a fair share of packages as well as Frugalware, and since its package format is rather simple maybe whatever innovative package management system we would use it would be good to make it support current pacman packages.

tbuitenh's picture
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Maybe not pacman packages,

Maybe not pacman packages, but it's certainly a good idea to let it support abs scripts, or build scripts of some other distro. Packages that have configuration files in them can't be taken from other distributions unmodified anyway.

libervisco's picture
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Yeah, build scripts would be

Yeah, build scripts would be good.

But then maybe the build system should really be enhanced considerably, made easy to use and with a GUI front end that average users can use. Maybe just improving ABS and making a frontend to it would do it.

Also, maybe it would be good to have a converter from popular package formats like deb and rpm to the native one of "Perfect OS". Smiling

tbuitenh's picture
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In principle it is possible

In principle it is possible to write a package manager that can install any popular format. But there remains the problem that packages expect to be installed on the distribution they were made for.

AndrewB's picture
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daniel pointed me to this

daniel pointed me to this thread, after a very small talk on a distro, maybe a collaboration of Libervis Network users. So, the ideas you have are good, and I think that Ubuntu does not even satisfy your need for a flawless GUI. I find that in GNU/Linux and BSD systems, each project is worked on independantly. Things like system-session-config, is a completely different project to gnome-wireless. Why? Because different hackers have different interests. People sitting programming GAIM in their free time prob do not give a monkeys as to how the FireFox Dev team are doing. They are un-related. They are "miles" apart, and people don't really care. Now you will say "many people work on many GNU projects." Yes they do, but do any really try and integrate the two projects they are working on? Not really.
A perfect example of proper integration is the all seeing all doing all dancing control panel YaST. YaST takes all your problems, and sorts them for you. You need to edit hardware? Click the hardware tab, software - another tab away. Done. Simple. YaST is not perfect though. It is heavy, it is sluggish, it uses RPM's [which are not all that bad really considering they are infact very safe, as they do gpg checks on EVERYTHING. Which then stops crackers making you an easy target, cause who really checks ALL md5sums?]. Anyway, it is no where even close to perfect. Infact it is a million miles away from it.
There is alot of talk of MacOSX recently, why? Because it is so pimps easy to use. EVERYTHING is integrated, and works in harmony. I make a new dir in a folder named ~/Sites/ and what happens? Cycberduck puts it on my webserver via FTP. No stupid errors, no "sorry dude but gnome-packages-i-don't-care-no-more-app deals with that...not me!"
I am not even saying OSX is perfect. But it is very good. People can get so much more out of it than using GNU/Linux/BSD. I know all the con's and stuff, so dont blag me off with them, cause really on a users point of view..... I DONT CARE.
I think alot of GNU/Linux problems are the "its not my job" kinda way. This may be because there is such a broad spectrum of applications, but it will never get better. People should be free to choose to use their computer as they wish. But the way you guys are talking, you don't want much more than a working system, that gives you a quick show of flesh when you want it. Which is not going to come from current systems.
Another example. You run OO.o and it starts meaning cause you havn't got aspell. You need to close it, fire up another app, such as yumex, look op aspell, get that. Hear that complain abut every other Dep under the sun. Finally get done. And you add that extra single word you had to do on that essay.
Everything is dislocated. You want to run xfce? haha unlucky, you must first run xfce-sessions, xfce-panel, xfce-bloodyHadEnoughYet?
Fair enough this can be ran with one command. But it is still running all these things. Whyu not have them in one? Why? Cause that would mean a BIG dev team, messing up one big project. People would bitch cause it is bloated and is bursting their system up. Cause the code is unclean more than likely. Not much is perfect in the GNU/World. Firefox is pretty good, but they have a development gang working.
I have written alot here and sound like I am climaxing for a big end. But I do not have an end. I dunno where the hell this post was supposed to go, it is me just mindlessly typing. Which I will soon stop. I have prob completely missed the point of the posts, pissed off god knows many developers, and the whole FOSS world.

this post seems arrogant, it is not ment like that.

libervisco's picture
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Well, where to begin. I

Well, where to begin. Eye I think most of what you're saying revolves around the decentralized nature of Free Software development being an impediment to making a fully integrated easy to use system.

It is definitely one point to consider and address. If we'd believe that in such a decentralized system it is impossible to develop a fully integrated system like Mac OS X then I suppose GNU/Linux could soon hit its limits, but no I wouldn't believe that.

And Ubuntu just reassures me that it actually is possible. Even if a millionaire from space had to go and start pushing it, it is now there and it is now a great base for further evolution of GNU/Linux. I mean, alot of GNOME improvements probably have something to do with Ubuntu and same probably goes with other projects that are integral to Ubuntu. There is also a new shiny ubuntulooks theme, the new icon set, the new vision of how a GNU/Linux OS can look and all of this is free for any new or old distro to implement. This is why GNU/Linux now does have a chance of churning out a perfect integrated OS, because alot of the work is already being done and shared to the community, from usability research to UI integration development.

Kudos to Mark Shuttleworth, Canonical and the Ubuntu Community for doing it.

And now that we've got this base, why not look further forward to something possibly even better! This is what this thread has pretty much turned out to be about...

As for dependancies I think current package managers proved that dependancy issues can be dealt with pretty flawlessly. I don't think there are many users which would now complaint that they had problems installing software due to dependancies, except of course for those who willingly chose to use a distro that doesn't have a package manager with dependancy resolution (like Slackware), but that's their choice. Eye

AndrewB's picture
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Response
libervisco wrote:

And Ubuntu just reassures me that it actually is possible. Even if a millionaire from space had to go and start pushing it, it is now there and it is now a great base for further evolution of GNU/Linux.

No, ubuntu is major heavy. It demands good specs. And ubuntu is not a god-among-linux. The last two releases have been crap. But incase you havn't noticed, alot of GNU/Linux distro's go like that. Maybe not now, but when FC3 was released, people would bitch about it being so instable and useless. Debian became tooo stable, and too old. Slackware is more complicated and not easy to use. SuSE was taken over by a stupid ass company. But yet each one of these linux main stream distro's have had their hay day.

libervisco wrote:

I mean, alot of GNOME improvements probably have something to do with Ubuntu and same probably goes with other projects that are integral to Ubuntu. There is also a new shiny ubuntulooks theme, the new icon set, the new vision of how a GNU/Linux OS can look and all of this is free for any new or old distro to implement. This is why GNU/Linux now does have a chance of churning out a perfect integrated OS, because alot of the work is already being done and shared to the community, from usability research to UI integration development.

Yes but it is all in separate parts still, like a jigsaw.

libervisco wrote:

Kudos to Mark Shuttleworth, Canonical and the Ubuntu Community for doing it.

*sighs* Every1 loves Ubuntu.

libervisco wrote:

And now that we've got this base, why not look further forward to something possibly even better! This is what this thread has pretty much turned out to be about...

Look how great projects like Gentoo went. Down the pan.
It is not an all so good base either.

libervisco wrote:

As for dependancies I think current package managers proved that dependancy issues can be dealt with pretty flawlessly. I don't think there are many users which would now complaint that they had problems installing software due to dependancies, except of course for those who willingly chose to use a distro that doesn't have a package manager with dependancy resolution (like Slackware), but that's their choice. Eye

The deps may be picked up, but why are they deps and not there in the first place?

A kernel compiled with what it needs works faster than a kernel with everything as a module.

Linux is a kernel, with a base. Attached with all these annoying little modules.

libervisco's picture
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AndrewB wrote: No, ubuntu
AndrewB wrote:

No, ubuntu is major heavy. It demands good specs. And ubuntu is not a god-among-linux. The last two releases have been crap.

I didn't say Ubuntu is perfect, just that it has done the job of integrating the user interface into something quite easy to use and coming close to that OS X experience. Also, only the edgy release has had some problems. I consider dapper to be the best Ubuntu release so far.

AndrewB wrote:

But incase you havn't noticed, alot of GNU/Linux distro's go like that.

Hey, world is not fixed. Things sometimes get better and sometimes worse. It's the end result that counts and whether it marks an overall advancement or not. I think that in most cases it has always been an advancement.

So sure Ubuntu may go downhill from here, but it has already built something that wasn't there before, from software itself to concepts and experiences. Other distros have contributed something of their own too. They may even wither away, but what they built can and often does go into something entirely new. It's Free Software, no matter how things turn out on the next move, what is already created is there for everyone to build upon.

AndrewB wrote:

Yes but it is all in separate parts still, like a jigsaw.

Jigsaw that can be put together into a beautiful image. It has been done countless times before and is being done as we speak. And distros are getting better and better at doing it.

Besides, what are we to expect? Should the whole community of Free Software developers suddenly get together and create one massive coordinate OS project? In your dreams. Is this why closed proprietary software development is better? Well, just look at Windows. So why is OS X as good as it is? Because they use the free UNIX core (Darwin BSD) which means that they've actually used the ready made base, because they focus on only one hardware type and yes because there is a concerted effort behind it (backed by lots of money).

But to do this they are under some considerable trade offs. Their platform is locked up and limited to only certain computer types and it lacks the freedom and flexibility of GNU/Linux.

We don't need that. GNU/Linux is already better than Windows for the mass of diverse PCs and it is showing signs that it could provide for an experience as good as OS X without the OS X trade offs.

It simply can't be just that black as you paint it. Eye

tbuitenh's picture
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Let me throw some oil on the

Let me throw some oil on the fire.

Integrated systems suck. They may be very easy to use, but they make it so by letting everything work like magic. And everything that the devs did not integrate in their massive monolithic UI will be a pain to use. I know it's usually not doing everything in a single process, but it is very hard to see in the user interface what components there are and how they are connected.

In a heavily integrated system, you can't hope to quickly change or fix something, because you'll have to study some books first because the system tries the best it can to hide how it works and because everything is connected to everything as if it's spaghetti.

Old school UNIX is powerful because it gives the user a toolbox that can be used for many not previously thought of tasks. One could say it is like Lego. The old school Lego that is, not the new that has lots of special single purpose pieces.
There are two problems with it now:
1 - the toolbox has become way too big to be known entirely by an average user
2 - the user interfaces of many tools are not so suitable for modern uses

The solutions I propose:
2a - add user interface tools. this makes 1 worse, but I have a solution for that too...
2b - create multiple levels of programming, where the experience of the easier levels can be taken to the harder ones. First level is just drag'n'dropping some boxes, second level is scripting with a library containing the elements from level 1, third level is non-scripting programming with a library to interface with the scripting language, and so on...
1 - instead of a box full of loose pieces, provide a set of finished models that can easily be taken apart, even taken apart entirely if necessary.

To sum it up, everyone can dive in as deep or shallow as they need and are comfortable with.
For comparison, expert distros require you to dive deep whatever you want to do, and "newbie" distros put a heavy concrete layer on top of the water. It's the easiest to walk on, but unless you invest a lot of effort, you'll always depend on the creator of the concrete.

I think this rant did go somewhere Smiling

libervisco's picture
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You explain it very well,

You explain it very well, and I like your concept. I suppose I still easily mix integration with ease of use or maybe we just have slightly different understandings of "integration".

As long as this perfect general purpose OS can suit the needs of newbie to intermediary to advanced users at the same time while not compromising with bloat, complexity and nonstandards it would be something I'd call a perfect OS.

That's pretty hard to achieve probably, but perfection never is so easy. Eye

tbuitenh's picture
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I haven't tried it yet, but

I haven't tried it yet, but here's an app that looks like a good example of "how things should be done": article about searchmonkey

libervisco's picture
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Interesting. I installed it

Interesting. I installed it and am going to use it as my default search application. With all this extra power it may really help in searching some files or text lines in files. Smiling

It might seem a bit confusing for newbies at first though, but still, it's so much better and less scary than showing them that horror of command line. Eye

tbuitenh's picture
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Searchmonkey segfaulted

Searchmonkey segfaulted when I told it to look for all .h files in my home directory. I think this app still needs some work.... The interface seems a bit strange in some places too. Still, I think it's a nice way to learn regular expressions.

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Bug fixed with version 0.7.3!

Hi tbuitenh,

I am sorry that you experienced a bug with searchmonkey - I tried to improve the file reading function, but caused more problems in doing so!

I've just released version 0.7.3 which reverts to the previous, safe file read function, and hopefully this will clear up the problem you were experiencing.

As for the strange GUI, I am currently recruiting volunteers to help with that - so watch this space!

It may take a couple of weeks for the debian/rpm packages to all be updated, so why not download the latest source code directly?
http://downloads.sourceforge.net/searchmonkey/searchmonkey-0.7.3.tar.gz?use_mirror=osdn

Any problems, remember to visit the homepage - or put your feature requests/bugs directly on the sourceforge site:
http://searchmonkey.sf.net
http://www.sf.net/projects/searchmonkey

Enjoy!

Adam Cottrell - searchmonkey founder

tbuitenh's picture
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Hi Adam,It's always good

Hi Adam,

It's always good to see developers are watching nuxified!

I use archlinux, here are instructions for the other archlinux users on nuxified for getting the latest version:

aurbuild -s searchmonkey
edit PKGBUILD: change pkgver=0.7.2 to pkgver=0.7.3 , remove md5sums line
then build

But it still segfaults! See if you can reproduce it:
file name -> expr. wizard -> text ends: the phrase .h that occurs once
(resulting expression: ((\.h))$ )
ok -> find -> segmentation fault!

configure options: --prefix=/usr
environment variables set while compiling (archlinux defaults):

CARCH="i686"
CHOST="i686-pc-linux-gnu"
CFLAGS="-march=i686 -O2 -pipe"
CXXFLAGS="-march=i686 -O2 -pipe"

note GNU should be lowercase, drupal makes a tooltip thing out of it even when I put code tags around it Sad

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