The venezuelan government was looking for a way to migrate their infrastructure to a free and open-source operating system. They needed a method that could allow them to deploy software in a secure, centralized and reliable way to their millions of users across the country.
Debian as an operating system, provided the stability and security that the government was looking for. However, the process of being accepted as a maintainer in Debian was long and tedious. The government needed to introduce hundreds of packages, without having to wait for the Debian maintainers to accept their packages.
Leading a team of developers to create a Linux distribution is a tough job, but in the case of Canaima was even harder because we had to reach consensus with the user community while at the same time we had to meet the requirements of the government. We had annual events called "Cayapas" were we tried to get the community involved in the development of the distribution.
We had to develop our own infraestructure to support the growing of the features we were adding to the distribution. We had to develop our own build system, our own package repository, and our own website.
Canaima GNU/Linux had several components that needed to be functioning properly so that the distribution could be used. It had a website, a wiki, a forum, a mailing list, a bug tracker, a source code repository, a build system, a package repository, a download server, and a documentation server. All of these components needed to be working together in order to provide a good experience to the users.
The build system was based on Debian's build system. We called it "Canaima Semilla". It was a set of scripts that would build the packages and the ISO images. The build system was able to build the packages for different architectures, and it was able to build the ISO images for different flavors of the distribution.
We also made our own web browser, called "Cunaguaro". It was based on Firefox, but it had a different logo and it had some customizations that were specific to the distribution.
Canaima enjoyed a lot of popularity in Venezuela. It was used in schools, universities, government offices, and even in the military. On the first month of release of Canaima 3.0, it had 110,000 downloads and subsequent releases were also popular.
As a Canaima developer, I was able to assist to the 12th annual debian developers conference, which was held in Managua, Nicaragua. I was able to meet other Debian developers, including the creator of Live Build, which was the base for Canaima Semilla.
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