Sunday, May 13, 2012

Brainstorm: "Lend" Linux

Almost all of my ideas for software, products, or services come from a need that I myself run into, and recently, I had one that is exciting for me because it will stretch the limits of my knowledge, but it may also be completely stupid and not worth attempting.

I run a small computer repair shop and I realize that when people drop off their computers to be fixed, it sucks to be computer-less. Whether it be for school or even just feeling disconnected, it's just downright inconvenient. So I had the idea to lend a client a spare computer that I had lying around, and it would be best if it ran some form of Linux since it is older hardware. That got me thinking that it would be nice if there was some kind of Linux utility that would let you:
  1. Build a system to how you want it (Apps installed, bash configuration, etc)
  2. Let the user install whatever they want in terms of applications
  3. Remove the changes they made when it is done.
The first question one might ask is, "Well why not just do a fresh install when you get it back?" First off, that's a hassle, especially if you would want to customize a distro for a newb's needs. Secondly, the nice part about what I listed above is that you're not reverting everything back, you're just undoing changes. That means that you don't have to constantly worry about reinstalling and then updating, and hoping that the updates sit well with the older distro version that you originally had.

It would kind o f work like this: you get it all set up with Firefox and maybe Dropbox and all this crap. Then maybe you snag a small 2.5" drive and mount it as their home folder. You lend it to them for a week, show them how to use the Ubuntu App Center or what have you, let them toy around with it, then when you get it back, you press a button, and it keeps whatever updates there are, but reverts the  preferences, the themes, and the installed applications back to what you had it.

As I said, it seems like it could maybe be useful in some scenarios, but it also seems like solutions may already exist, or maybe it just wouldn't work. And besides, if you lend someone a box with Linux on it and they are a Windows user, (a) is that a good idea and (b) how many people are going to actually change stuff?

The origin of this idea is not necessarily because there is this gaping need in the Linux community for a "Lending" distribution, but rather it's something that is of interest to me that has a small quirk to it; I could try to learn more about Linux by building my own Linux distro, but there are already so many of those out there. I really don't feel I have anything more to offer in that area. But maybe this little niche could be nice.

It's an interesting idea that I'm going to look into, but I'm not quite sure of what path to take at this point. Would it just be an application, or an entire distro? Or maybe it would just be a bunch of scripts that use applications that are already in all standard distributions.

I'm totally open to any comments or suggestions on it.

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