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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
- About you
- Since when have you been using Grml?
- How did you stumble upon Grml?
- Where are you located?
- Level of Linux knowledge
- Which operating systems do you use?
- If you are using Linux, which distributions do you use?
- Did you start your own Open Source project?
- Are you involved in any FLOSS projects? If so in which areas?
- Company & Use case
- Questions about Grml
- Tools & Programs
- Future of Grml
- Anything else?
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.
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.
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.
Most people classify themselves as experts or intermediate. This fits well in our focus. We think we are on track with our user base.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.)
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.
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.
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:
- The simplicity of grml often astonishes people around me when I am doing a 1:1 backup using dd or recovering their presumably lost data with testdisk
- Pure Awesome in tiny ~700 MB :D Seriously, lots of big thanks for maintaing such a great project! Also; kudos for the great naming convention!
- A real Swiss Army Knife for Linux sysadmins.
- Best utility Live distro ever.
- It just fits. Everything is in place and ready to use. From drivers to firmwares (like wifi, fibre channel), programs: ddrhelp, irssi and many others not available elsewhere
- Reliable, stable and powerful Linux live CD/USB distro. Great for auto write blocking hardware for forensic acquisitions
- In the past I used knoppix as rescue, since I know grml, I do not need knoppix any more
- Great work. Thank you so much. Btw, I have just "chsh --shell zsh" because of your great zsh configuration
Questions about Grml
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:
- ISO on harddisk if the main installation is broken. Comment: now directly supported with grml-rescueboot
- DVD Comment: someone using grml2iso
- cd image in a VM
- multiboot usb (grml2usb/local.cfg for the rescue)
- image via toram= (good choice to use debian-live)
- virtual cd drive. Comment: seems to be also used in a virtual environment (IBM RSA, HP iLO,...)
- iso on hd from grub2. Comment: check out grml-rescueboot
- Remote boot via iso.
- isofrom (hard disk)
- iso file
- .ISO within Virtual Machine
- Compact Flash
- Boot from iso
We should promote the grml-rescueboot feature more prominently as it seems that there is a market for it.
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.
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:
- My desktop system is basically a USB disk that boots my (remastered) grml (one partition contains the grml & grml64 ISOs) and has all user data on another partition (grml-crypt is another neat tool to secure that data). That way, I have my desktop with me everywhere.
- We set up a grml PXE server in a VM on VSphere 4, because if a client doesn't boot, grml is the first thing we need.
- PXE-Server which automatically installed Debian via FAI to multiple machines.
- Grml makes it easy to configure and manage a network of 20+ servers: 20+ vmware machines all boot from a single copy of grml.
- grml64micro, a stripped down remastered version of grml to fit into some few free MB in /boot
- When I started using it, it was primarily for installing Gentoo.
- We wrote some auto-install scripts that can non-interactively install certain flavours of Linux on the computer we booted grml on.
- I like my phone-home image which boots up with X and opens a tunnel to me. I had nothing to hack since you guys have so many possibilities to modify behaviour. THANKS!
- automatic boot into an remote application server for idle/unused workstation PC
- plug in grml stick, plug in network card, boot it, it will ask you what system you want to install using dialog(1) then it automatically partitions the disk, pulls all the packages and custom software, makes it bootable, configures IP addresses. Reboot, enjoy.
- public surf station (kiosk)
Most solutions are related to deployment and rescue. But some are also using it for other purpose like a modified desktop systems.
Also just a short overview but it seems that the most important reasons for using Grml are:
- Based on Debian
- Command-line interface
- Ships all necessary command-line tools
This means we are on the right track. An excerpt of the answers:
- Great terminal tools, great choice of X environments (I use dwm and evilwm), very well configured out of the box to discover and give me information on any box or network I boot it from.
- because it`s based on debian, it early had amd64 support, zsh rocks, in rescue mission its important to have a distri, which supports LVM2 and raid systems oftb, the team reacts very quick on suggestions and answers
- moved from Knoppix to grml (less X and Office -> more SHELL and Tools) - love debian - love the many, many grml-.... scripts that make it so handy to use - love the names (Funkenzutzler 4 the win !!!elf)
- It's debian-like; I couldn't get debian-live to work for me; It's easy to customize; It contains *all* the packages I needed
- Meets my basic requirements for a rescue distribution: Debian based, bootable from USB with data persistence, customizable... and it has Emacs!
- I love GRML. I love what you guys do. I love GRML. I really, really love GRML. This distro has deeply affected my interest in Linux by providing me with out-of-the-box customized professional linux awsomeness. I will never be as good as you guys at anything that you do, I will never be as smart as you guys and I have a fraction of the talent. I could never write a single one of these scripts or customizations.I will never be a professional programmer and I will never be as good at anything as you are at this. But you have allowed me to see what you do and get right in there and do it to, you have allowed me to this extremely advanced stuff that I would never have the chance to access otherwise, let alone even be aware of.
- 1) It boots without X11. 2) Every tool I ever expected to be there, was there.
- release names :)
- GRML converted me to zsh. Now I use GRML because of zsh.
- We tried other live system, of course Knoppix and Kanotix, but Grml just rocks the machines better!
- Several reasons, in no particular order: * Debian based. * Updated regularly (recent kernel, recent userspace readily available in daily snapshots). * No GUI bloat I wouldn't need anyway. * Excellent zsh config (I now install grml-scripts by default on most of my systems). * Approachable developers. * grml2usb. * grml2ram. * 64bit flavour available.
- At a first view it seems to have a lot of possibilities in one place - ready to use, The best I ever have seen, I may say: Wonderful.
- This was the more interesting part to me: "Grml includes a collection of GNU/Linux software especially for system administrators and users of texttools"...
- Great hardware support and includes all the tools a sysadmin might need.
Tools & Programs
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
As already stated this question was not that helpful. Nothing to comment besides the graphics and what has been mentioned already.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is again mainly positive things, so just some examples:
- I hate to disagree with the devs oft stated opinion, but grml is still the best desktop installer to create a usable desktop environment, because everything just works out of the box, and has no distro specific absurdities, like the famous debian forks.
- Great distro, truley a masterpiece of work.
- grml is 2 percent Jazz, 98 percent funky stuff ...
- It is great and it is debian
- Why don't you get rid of this strange ZSH and switch to the industry standard bash?!?! Haha, j/k :-)
- Simple: Grml rocks! Thanks for the great work.
- The answer must be, of course, 42.
- United as one! Divided by zero!
- I like the cool distribution names!
- Thanks guys, I appreciate the work you've put into this distro.