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New to Source Mage

Welcome to Source Mage GNU/Linux! (If you're feeling impatient please proceed directly to our installation page)

Source Mage is a free and open source project founded on the principle of returning control back to System Administrators.
Our main project, Source Mage GNU/Linux, is an operating system distribution.


This is a brief introduction to Source Mage GNU/Linux (SMGL). It will only cover those subjects required for basic use. For a more in-depth look, please see the manpages, current web-documentation, and the mailing lists. You are also welcome to join our IRC channel #sourcemage on Libera.Chat, where you'll find active support for most of the time.

Who's it for

System administrators, power-users and others who really want control over their systems and want to understand better how "things" work.

A source-based distribution

We are primarily "source-based" which means that our package installation directly compiles the source code on the user's machine. This is in contrast to traditional "binary" distributions that use pre-compiled packages. However, even though we are source-based, we are not a Gentoo clone (another source-based distribution you may have heard of). The similarities tend to end beyond the abstraction of "download and compile from source". You can read more about the differences at Comparison with Gentoo.

Our values

Our core philosophies are based on software freedom and returning choice to the administrator, you can read more about our philosophy in our Social Contract.

As we only want to support free software, our main package collection (known as a "grimoire") contains exclusively open source software, which means any software in there is distributed under one of these licences listed here. No package included in the main grimoire requires a closed-source package to function. Of course our package management system itself, "Sorcery", is also GPL software. However, we also have a collection of non-free packages (the so-called "z-rejected" grimoire, containing packages such as java binaries, or nvidia drivers), most of them up to date, even though we do not officially maintain them.

To ensure an administrator oriented system, our packages are written with the intention of staying as close to upstream vendor's vision as possible. We avoid over-complicating things with additional, and often intrusive, scripting and padding many popular binary distro's include. You are the administrator and you know how best to deploy and configure software. We handle the installation.

How we do it

The package management core is first-tier, feature-complete, and well-designed. Packages are easy to write because of a rich set of libraries and interfaces into the package manager that is balanced with the need for simplicity for simple packages. It allows for a great ease in custom configuration for needy administrators and hackers of all kinds. The package management system and the packages are written entirely in bash. A common concern is that bash is slow. We beg to differ in that anything that runs too slow simply means we're doing it wrong. We have shown this time and time again.

Additionnaly, the distribution is provided with an easy-to-use basic system installer from which administrators can not only install but rebuild to their specification. It is also possible to install from alternative methods, like from a chroot. We currently support x86 and x86_64 architectures. We support ppc as well, but it's getting less activity lately.

Our community

We have a strong and vibrant community of developers and users. We primarily congregate in IRC where everyone is welcome. We have been told we are one of the most friendly channel and we like to discuss a lot of things when not helping newcomers. We also frequently collaborate on our mailing lists and in our bug-tracker. Our source code repository is freely viewable and modifiable. We welcome patches and guide them through peer review and compliance with our core principles and policies.

If you're ready for GNU/Linux so advanced, it may as well be magic, then it's time you tried Source Mage GNU/Linux.

Basic terminology

The Source Mage tagline is: "Linux so advanced, it may as well be magic.". Basic terminology is similarly magic-oriented. Program packages are called spells, and a collection of spells is called a Grimoire. All installed grimoires likewise make up the Codex.

Installing a spell is called "casting", and removing it is called "dispelling". Such terms are not only figures of speech, though: cast and dispel are also the programs used to perform the said tasks.


A spell is simply a directory containing script files that are used for downloading, unpacking, configuring, compiling, and installing a program. The actual source is not included in the spell, but is downloaded directly from the program's own website.

Spells are stored in section directories inside the grimoire directories. The grimoires themselves are located in the codex directory /var/lib/sorcery/codex. For instance, the spell from stable grimoire for the GNU C compiler, called "gcc", is located in /var/lib/sorcery/codex/stable/gnu/gcc.

Different grimoires exist for different kinds of spells. The stable and test grimoires contain spells for most programs. Non-Free and binary spells belong in the z-rejected and binary grimoires respectively, and games belong in the games grimoire.

The Sorcery suite of scripts

The Source Mage collection of system tools is called Sorcery. It contains utilities for different system management tasks whose names reflect SMGL's "magical" theme.

The main program, used for modifying core system behavior, is also named "sorcery".

The utilities you'll need the most in everyday use are:

The command sorcery opens a menu where you can modify the behavior and appearance of all sorcery tools. Also available are e.g. compiler optimization settings, as well as a menu-based interface for spell management. sorcery also has command-line options that are used e.g. for doing system updates.

Casting spells, an activity most other distributions refer to as "installing packages", is done with cast. Generally this means typing cast <spell>, answering some queries pertaining to the spell, and allowing the cast to download, compile, and install the program.

Uninstalling spells is done with dispel. It operates like cast, with the difference that there usually aren't any queries to answer, and it takes a lot less time than casting.

gaze is used to retrieve information about spells or about your system. For example you can use gaze search <phrase> and gaze will search all available packages for mention of the phrase you entered. You can read any spell's description by doing gaze what <spell>.

Scribe is a utility for controlling the grimoires in your codex, and the spells in your grimoires. For example, you can use scribe add stable to add "stable" to your grimoires. scribe remove stable would then remove it. Scribe is also used for updating the spells in your grimoire using the command scribe update.

Note: You can see all available options for each utility by typing <utility> --help.