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Grml User Survey 2011

Preface

In the beginning of 2011 we started a Grml user survey. From our point of view it was an overwhelming success. As promised we will share the results and discuss the feedback we got in detail.

tl;dr? Skip to the conclusion. Interested in all the answers?

The Good

First of all some numbers regarding our user survey. 28 questions, answered by more than 300 users in a timeframe of less than one month. This means more than 8000 entries. On the day of the announcement more than 70 people answered our survey. For our last user survey back in 2007 103 people answered in one month. Long story short: it was an overwhelming success.

Due to the many open questions we got some interesting, fun and exciting answers. We also got some nice use cases for Grml.

The overall quality of the provided answers, especially in the custom texts were astonishing and we all enjoyed them.

The Bad

Obviously some questions could have been asked in a better way, for example the DVD question. Instead of asking "should we produce DVD Images" we could have asked if its worthwhile to keep the 700MB limit for the CDs. Nevertheless we now know that a DVD-image is not really important and worthwhile as most of you want to get CD-sized images these days.

As we used Google Forms we did not get the IP address of the participant. So we weren't able to gather geographic information about the participants. We fixed this after we noticed the problem by adding another question asking participants about their location.

We did not ask about contact information but it would have been worthwhile in some cases to get back to our users and provide answers or hints. We did not change the survey as we were unsure if its appropriate to ask for contact information in a survey.

Most answers did not result in immediate actions but we already discussed the inclusion of provided packages and had a look at provided URLs.

The Ugly

We used Google Forms and had many "Other options" available. Unfortunately Google automatically translates predefined labels. This means for e.g. persons from german speaking countries the "Other" label was called "Andere" or the submit button "Absenden". It would be great to disable that feature or provide proper multi language form support in Google Docs. Also the evaluation of custom answers turned out to be a lot of work.

Conclusion

Our strong focus on system administration tasks has been affirmed by our users in 2007 and today. We will continue to aim to be the best speciality Debian-based distribution for these use cases. Desktop users will continue to be supported on the same level as always.

While our user base is strong in Europe, we must expand further into US and Asia. A first step, namely new mirrors closer to these regions, has already been made.

A lot of awesome software has been suggested and some of it already made it to the daily Grml builds. We will continue to work on adding new software, but the important "One CD" (700MB) limit is obviously a hard barrier.

We still want your feedback on all topics, but especially from users of non-Debian-based distros. What do you like, what's missing, what's bad for you? Send and share your feedback or drop us a message!

Thanks to everyone taking part in our survey!

Table of Content - the Answers

About you

Since when have you been using Grml?

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We seem to have a healthy mixture out of longstanding as well as newer users which we consider a good sign to provide high quality together with enough innovation.

How did you stumble upon Grml?

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Most users come from suggestions by friends or on IRC as well as independent websites. Just about a quarter stumbled upon Grml through official media press. We consider this result as a healthy combination and a proof of the rule how important word-of-mouth recommendations are. Our favourite custom answer: The internet.

Where are you located?

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The first 65 survey results lacked this question and 5% didn't answer this question. As the chart shows we cover all continents but Europe is the place with the largest user base. At the last Grml developer meeting we decided to put effort into providing mirrors outside Europe. Thanks to people providing mirrors rit.edu (New York/US) and ftp.tw.debian.org (Taiwan) our mirror coverage improved a bit already, but our efforts toward improving Grml's coverage outside Europe won't stop.

Level of Linux knowledge

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Most people classify themselves as experts or intermediate. This fits well in our focus. We think we are on track with our user base.

Which operating systems do you use?

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99% of Grml's users use Linux and interestingly BSD got a better result than Mac OS. Amongst the answers in "others" have been Solaris, Haiku, Netware, HPUX, AIX, MS-DOS/FreeDOS, irix, Palm OS5 and Symbian S40, whereas Solaris was the leading answer in "others" with an overall count of 23.

If you are using Linux, which distributions do you use?

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With a leading 86% our users are Debian users. Nearly half of them also use Ubuntu (or any Ubuntu based derivative) whereas other Linux distributions have a coverage of less than 20% each. The answers "others" included 21x Arch Linux, 10x Grml (hehe! :)), 5x (Free/Open/....)WRT, 3x LFS, 3x Knoppix, 3x Maemo, 2x puppy, 2x MEPIS, 2x Mint, 1x DSL, 1x Slacks, 1x Aptosid, 1x Archbang, 1x Quirky, 1x Mandriva, 1x Scientific Linux, 1x Sabayon, 1x OpenBSD (huh? :)), 1x SLiTaz, 1x CrunchBang, 1x AntiX. As a result we can say that most of our users seem to be used to Debian(-based) distributions.

Did you start your own Open Source project?

We got 32 answers, which namely included the following Open source projects: bley, wApua, unburden_home_dir, xpt, Hag (hag-linux.eu.org, Grml derivative or rather a remix BTW, now kinda dead, but I still have some plans), baculafs, undbx, HOG-Man (scientific software), more than 15 ones (the currently most popular being jpdftweak), variety of very small projects, IdyllaOS, timecalc, rffc, bwm-ng, immv, FAI, i3, goldbach, FVWM-Crystal, FDTD, Nagiosms, MirBSD, My personal gooogle, SNPpy, bixfile, ngircd, MikeBrother, HME, gocr, octopus-window-manager, wedabecha, libgpmi / v7us / libmawk / scconfig / libporty and a lot more.

Are you involved in any FLOSS projects? If so in which areas?

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Most of our user are directly involved in development with code 62%, documentation 47% and support 44%. Quite some are also involved in packaging (36%) which is no surprise given that Grml is based on Debian and got featured several times on planet.debian.org.

Company & Use case

In which environments do you use Grml?

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Nearly all Grml users do use Grml for personal use (94%), whereas 53% use Grml in a business environment. 19% of Grml users are using it in an educational environment. This means that most people use Grml for work as well as in their personal environment. Maybe we should provide some examples how to use Grml in different environments (Rescue system for virtualised systems, deployment etc.)

If you are using Grml in a company, what is the name of the company?

We got several names of companies using Grml. Amongst them are established universities as well as well known companies. Thanks for your feedback, we plan to provide the list through a separate webpage in the near future.

Size of the company

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Industry of the company

No big surprises - most companies are IT related. However there are some non-IT related industries like ecology, healthcare, online gambling and tourism as well. Now we are sure that Grml is used in all different kinds of industries and well accepted.

Is there anything you and/or your company would like to say about Grml?

First of all, thanks for all the nice and interesting answers. This was one of the most fun parts to read in the whole survey.

Some example quotes:

Questions about Grml

Which boot media are you using for Grml?

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CDs are still the most important boot media at 79%, followed by USB with 76%. This means we are on the right track with providing easy to use solutions with grml2usb and dd for our users. Network/PXE setups with 28% and hard-disk installations (18%) are not as common as CDs and USB sticks but still often used. Especially considering the fact that network/PXE environments typically serve larger environments we consider 28% to be an excellent value.

Answers filed under "Other" included:

We should promote the grml-rescueboot feature more prominently as it seems that there is a market for it.

Ever used Grml for...

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While we had a look at the answers we immediately noticed that most people (>90%) used Grml for more than one task. This shows that Grml is quite flexible and can be used in several different areas. While the high percentages for Recovery (92%), Hardware diagnostic (77%), Backup (62%) and Network analysis (52%) are no big surprises, the percentages for Forensic (40%), Linux Desktop (29%) and Programming (16%) truly are. This result means that we should keep the Linux Desktop and Programming tasks in mind though the main focus is still on the classic use cases.

What's your most creative solution with Grml?

Ok guys, again. Your answers were really cool and nice, and we are sorry to only give you some quotes but it would take up several pages:

Most solutions are related to deployment and rescue. But some are also using it for other purpose like a modified desktop systems.

Why are you using Grml?

Also just a short overview but it seems that the most important reasons for using Grml are:

This means we are on the right track. An excerpt of the answers:

Tools & Programs

Which programs did you use at least once?

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Unsurprisingly grml-x is the most used program. Second most used Grml script is grml2usb which is a little bit surprising as it means that for installing Grml to an usb stick it wins over the dd(1) method for many people. grml-network respectively netcardconfig is also expected as you sometimes need to configure your network. grml-live is used more often than grml2hd (which BTW is unsupported) and grml-debootstrap. This means that (at least for our participants) remastering is more common than installing Grml/Debian from within Grml..This clearly shows that Grml can be considered as a framework for generating and maintaining flexible Live Distributions.

Surprisingly MirBSD is used less often than FreeDOS and gPXE.

For "other" mostly non Grml-specific tools were mentioned, as well as some not so well known Grml tools like grml-crypt (wrapper for cryptsetup) and grml-chroot (wrapper for chroot, binding /sys, /proc and /dev to the chroot) as well as grml-quickstart. We plan to improve our documentation to cover those not so well known tools.

Which bootoptions do you use?

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ssh (start an ssh server while booting), toram (copy the whole cd into ram) and lang (set the language) are the most commonly used bootoptions, covering the common use cases. nofb at 20% was unexpected. Probably there are quite a few machines where our default console configuration (framebuffer) does not work.

As one user requested a way to automatically start user-supplied scripts, we want to mention that there's already the "script" bootoption (see grml-cheatcodes.txt).

Surprisingly "forensic" is also quite often mentioned as bootoption. If you're interested in a special product on IT forensics you might want to check out Grml-Forensic.

Which windowmanagers do you use on Grml?

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Most common answers were fluxbox / wm-ng (Grml default) and None, right in line with our design target: a proper console. Others mention several small window manager like ratpoison, dwm, i3 etc.

Because many window managers were mentioned we may reassess the (re)inclusion of some small window managers.

Which tools would you like to see on Grml?

Several tools mentioned here are already included in Grml like for example KVM, others will not be included due to licensing issues. For a complete list of packages shipped by Grml have a look at http://grml.org/files/release-2010.12/dpkg_get_selections

We are currently in the process of reviewing all suggested packages and may come up with details at a later date.

Future of Grml

Which Grml-flavors make sense?

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Grml-full seems to make sense as well as grml-small. Grml-medium is not quite often used. One interesting suggestion is to combine grml-small and grml-full on one CD. We don't have any plans to ship this, but you can easily do this yourself with grml2iso. Another suggestion was to create a special version for virtualised environments named grml-virt.

While grml-medium is not as well accepted as grml-small and grml-full in our community, we will continue to ship grml-medium as it's the perfect and recommended starting point for customized Grml distributions.

Should we produce a DVD image instead of a CD image?

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As already stated this question was not that helpful. Nothing to comment besides the graphics and what has been mentioned already.

Should we ship multiple window managers?

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Although the X server isn't used that often on Grml, its users commonly want to use their favourite window manager. As already stated we will reassess the (re)inclusion of some small window managers because of your answers.

Do you use Grml packages on Debian-Stable?

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Installation of Grml packages on Debian is a rare occurrence, except for grml2usb on Debian stable. Consensus is to not put too much effort into it.

What else should be changed in Grml?

Besides some UX things like better artwork/no links (the browser) after startup in X.org etc. most feedback was quite positive. We got some detailed suggestions like better wireless configuration, automatic selection of the kernel in multiarch environments, and others. We are looking into your requests.

Anything else?

Wishlist for improvements on Grml

We got some really nice ideas like inclusion of support for other boot images in our GRUB environment or multiarch CDs. Better documentation as well as some How-tos was also mentioned several times. Oh and more professionalism for our wallpapers. It seems that at least in one work environment our wallpaper caused some blush.

Did we forget anything? Any famous last words?

This is again mainly positive things, so just some examples:

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Sponsors

Grml is sponsored by several companies. For more information about our sponors check out the Sponsors webpage. Our main sponsor is:

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