I like the idea
I've been wanting to do something like this for a while. I've made a few comments above, but this one's my big rant.
This is something thats been needed since the eighties. If it had been done when the GNU project was formed, it would already have been a standard when Linux was first being put together.
There is a lot of archaic mess that Linux inherited from various other Unices, depending on which (if any) version particular developers were familiar with. So now GNU/Linux is a little of everything and not a lot of anything (standards wise).
I think that there are three big steps involved with making this happening.
First, review the specs for directory layout for AT&T Unix. Then review the way the BSD's do it, then compare layouts from the big 4 of Linux (Redhat, Mandrake, Slackware and Debian) and maybe SuSe as well.
Second, now that we have an idea of how different disto's do it, sit down and highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the various layouts. Then we can come up with a layout that will actually work well. This means two things, first the partition that has the config stuff on can be mounted read-only with out worry of messing anything up, and second it means that most user programs and help files can live on the network.
Thirdly, and I think this is the one point that everyone has been debating, develop a standard config file layout. I would strongly recommend not using XML and come up with a better way. There are several reasons for this. The first is that although XML is OK for use with a GUI, its no fun in a text editor. I don't think that an ncurses based UI is good here either. Ever try to use Linuxconf on a text only terminal over a packet radio link? Well written shell scripts can be just as easy, if not easier to read than XML, and its not too difficult to get a program to read them either.
A nice graphical config is good, and I think neccissary as well as an ncurses based one, but I think we still need the ability to easily tweak things from a text editor. With a standard API, a web based config would be a piece of cake. The webmin people would probably help out there.
I would be willing to coordinate a project like this, if anyone wants to help out, please contact me. I forsee the need for at least a half dozen people to start and then a lot more to get the config files set up the way we decide. Obviously, community input is essential so getting a website and mailing list going would be nice.
Being able to move from one version of Linux to another and maybe even on to BSD without having to think about how things are layed out would make a lot people a lot happier as well as make the transition to Linux a whole lot smoother (for windows people anyway). If you start to learn on one distro and then switch to another, you shouldn't have to start all over again. Being able to pick up where you left off would be a huge help.
I don't know if my email is on my profile, so if you want to contact me, its firstname.lastname@example.org.NOSPAM.org (mailto:email@example.com.NOSPAM.org), obviously, take out the ".NOSPAM" part.
Re: And what about using "Brain"
> As it is, Linux needs to be made
> easier, even for the
> "experts." I think the author
> of the above article missed the boat,
> bigtime. It's not the *format* of the
> configuration files that a problem.
> Okay, well, it is, but not THE problem.
> THE problem is that configuration files
> (and, well, if you think about it,
> APPLICATION files are strewn all over
> the damned disk seemingly without any
> rhyme or reason. I've been running
> Linux now for at least 6 years. I've
> built web servers. I've built database
> servers. I've built VPN routers. And
> you know what? I STILL have to do a
> "find" every time I need to
> edit a damned apache or postgres config
> or god forbid start a daemon manually.
> Even worse if it's something I *dont*
> use as much.
> No, the big problem with ease of use
> is that there's no one place to find
> config data or applications.
TrebleJunkie made a lot of good points, but this one I think is key. There are certain defined ways that the directory structure and thus the config files on a *nix system are supposed to be layed out. Unfortunately a lot of developers have strayed from this. Yeah, one set way of writing config files would be nice, but if you can't remember where the files are your job won't be any easier.